Brian Albert Broom, ClarionLedger.com
Having a state record for an alligator in Mississippi is a lot like living in a glass house - it's going to get broken.
Last week the whole world seemed to be in awe when Beth Trammell of Madison took the title for Mississippi's heaviest alligator with her 723.5-pound harvest, only to be bested an hour later by Dustin Bockman of Vicksburg with his massive 727-pound beast.
Then came Sunday. Word started circulating that a new state record for the longest male alligator had been harvested by rookie hunter Dalco Turner of Gluckstadt. Turner and members of Team Gatorslayer had taken a monstrous gator Sunday morning from a backwater area of the Mississippi River near Port Gibson.
According to their unofficial measurements, it was 13-feet, 7-inches, which beat the current record by half an inch. The group then called Ricky Flynt, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' Alligator Program coordinator, to ask if he would officially measure it.
When Flynt arrived, the gator was lifted with an excavator and the moment of truth came - 741.5 pounds. Gatorslayers Turner, John Ratcliff of Canton, Jennifer Ratcliff of Canton and Jimmy Greer of Canton had the new state record for the heaviest male alligator.
But there was a twist of fate. When Flynt officially measured the length, it came to 13-feet, 6.5-inches, only tying the current record.
Now, if the names Greer and Ratcliff ring a bell, there is probably a reason why. The Clarion-Ledger Outdoors reported Sunday about Greer's marriage proposal to Elizabeth Ratcliff of Canton as they prepared for their first gator hunt of the season. His bride-to-be is the daughter of John and Jennifer Ratcliff and is also a member of Team Gatorslayer.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth Ratcliff was not able to attend the record-breaking hunt due to work. It was unfortunate for the rest of the team as well; another hunter to assist in the fight would have been welcome.
"It was around midnight when we initially saw this one," said Turner. "We passed it by the first time. We really didn't think he was big enough to go after."
The team moved on and filled Turner's tag for a gator under 7 feet, but then they saw lights. "There were more boats ahead of us, so we just turned around because we didn't want to disturb them."
That meant the team was hunting the same water that had not produced a big gator sighting when they came through the first time. That's when when they saw the gator again, but this time, they took a closer look.
The team quickly got three hooks and lines on the gator, and he began towing them toward the Mississippi River. About as fast as they got lines on him, he was breaking them. "He broke three lines, and I had the only hook that stayed in him the whole time," said Turner.
Retying hooks, working in the dark and fighting a record-book gator at the same time proved interesting. "It was mass confusion," said Jennifer Ratcliff. "As organized as you think you are, when you hook one, everything goes crazy."
"They said they were going as fast as they could," said Turner, "but it seemed like forever."
It got even crazier when the big boy neared the boat. The behemoth began snapping and biting the boat so hard he was breaking teeth.
Still, the group had the gator secured and dispatched in a little more than an hour, but with only four hunters, they knew there was no way to bring him into the boat.
With the gator secured to one side, the party slowly dragged him into shallow water. "We couldn't even pull him onto the bank," said Turner. "We tried to pull him (ashore) with the boat, we tried everything."
John and Jennifer Ratcliff went for help.
The Ratcliffs returned with fresh troops, but with the aid of two additional men, it still took another 30 minutes to load the lizard.
"Even with with these two guys, it was very hard, and we were wore out," said John Ratcliff. "If it wouldn't have been for those two guys, we would have never gotten him in the boat."