Close Encounters Man vs. Nature

Young Texas hunter bags 800-pound alligator

Reptile measuring 14 feet, 3 inches is a state record; for high school senior on first gator hunt, it's a dream come true

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A young hunter in Texas has bagged the largest alligator ever certified in the state, weighing 800 pounds and measuring 14 feet, 3 inches.

For Braxton Bielski, 18, it was a dream come true because he had grown up with a fascination for dinosaurs and always wanted to hunt prehistoric-looking alligators, sometimes referred to as “living dinosaurs.”

“He’s wanted to hunt alligators for years,” said his father, Troy, a Houston policeman who has annually entered a special lottery in the hope that he and his son would be chosen to participate in this particular hunt. “We got selected one year…but I didn’t get the permit on time. I remember Brax was very disappointed.”

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Both images show record-setting alligator (800 pounds) harvested by a Texas 18-year-old on first gator hunt. Photos by ©James Daughtrey/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The Bielskis were among 481 applicants for a coveted Texas Parks and Wildlife Department public hunt that allows only 10 permits. Both father and son each bagged a gator using lines baited with raw meat.

The hunt occurred on Choke Canyon Reservoir as a means of keeping gator numbers in check. (This season, Texas offered 165 permits statewide to hunt gators on five wildlife management areas.)

Braxton Bielski said in a news release that he and his dad scouted the reservoir and sat through a two-hour orientation process before setting out with their bait, lines, and hooks.

“My dad did a lot of research online about alligator hunting, and we asked a lot of questions,” the younger Bielski said.

Choke Canyon is known for its big gators—two that were harvested in 2011 measured 13-plus feet—but nobody expected a first-timer to bag a state record.

Braxton and his dad set lines in areas along the shore where they thought they had the best chance for success. When they arrived the next morning, both lines were submerged, meaning there were gators on each of them.

It required lots of effort, but both specimens were hauled close enough to be dispatched with firearms. Troy’s gator was a female measuring 10.5 feet.

It was considered a large alligator, but it looked small next to Braxton’s.

“If we had caught just the one, I would have been happy for Brax,” Troy Bielski said. “He’s the reason I was out there.”