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Stories Added - October 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
5-year-old slays enormous alligator
Polk County Enterprise - October 2009
BY CHARLES K. FRANKLIN
LIVINGSTON – A local 5- year-old boy bagged an 800- pound-plus male alligator over the weekend on a ranch in South Polk County. The gator measured 12 feet, six inches and some are saying it’s the biggest they have seen in Polk County. Simon Todd Cochran-Hughes, 5, son of Scott and Toni Hughes and grandson to Livingston City Councilwoman Judy Cochran, shot the animal with a .410 shotgun on the Cochran family ranch in South Polk County with the help of guide and family friend Chuck Cotton. The family received two permits for the short Texas season which runs from Sept. 10 through Sept. 30, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Wildlife Biologist Chris Gregory. Gregory is the county biologist for Polk, Trinity and San Jacinto Counties. “What they are legally able to do is put out a hook and a line or shoot it with a bow and arrow or get it with a gig,” Gregory said.
“Most everybody does it with a hook and line. You’re gonna set it out over night because they are active at night. You’ll have that rope tied off, probably to a tree stump, so if he is going to leave he’s going to meet some resistance.” The gator was caught on Sunday but the actual hunt began the night before. A baited hook was placed along the shoreline. The line was then secured to a tree. “There was actually another hunter out on Saturday and he had left a hook out there,” Cotton said.
“He asked me to check on it, so Sunday morning we went out to check on it and the hook was in the water. That’s when I contacted Simon Hughes and his father Scott Hughes to see if Simon wanted to shoot the alligator.” Cotton said the alligator never did surface while he waited for the pair to arrive. “They can stay under for about 45 minutes,” Gregory said. “He’s gonna swallow that bait and there’s going to be a line on it but it’s not like he’s going to be in any danger. He’s still going to be able to breathe and do everything he needs to do, he’s just hooked.” What they didn’t expect, though when they hauled it in, was the enormity of the beast. They had only seen eight-footers prior to that day. Alligators hide in the water and pounce on deer and wild hogs as they come for a drink. “I’ve worked down here at the ranch for nine years and I’ve never seen that alligator,” Scott Hughes said. “That’s how smart he was. We’ve seen eight-footers and a lot of juveniles. The biggest I’ve seen is probably 10 feet.” Gregory, who did the survey of the alligator population on the property didn’t see it either, although he did see several smaller ones.
He estimated the alligator was between 35 and 40 years old. “We saw a number of alligators over four-foot,” Gregory said. There’s plenty of room for an alligator to hide, though. The water where it had been living winds through the countryside. “It wasn’t a pond, it’s the backend of a 13 acre slough. There’s an artesian well and a mile of winding slough,” Scott Hughes said. “We shot the alligator on the back part of our field. It’s not a stock tank, it’s a slough.” When Scott and Simon Hughes arrived, Simon went out in a rowboat with Cotton to check the line to see what was on it while Simon’s father Scott stayed on shore. “I was up on the bank,” Scott said. “I was the official picture taker.” “We hooked the rope to a winch and began to pull it in,” Cotton said. “When the alligator surfaced we noticed it was a very large alligator. It fought for a little bit and then it calmed down enough so we could pull it next to the bank.”
“It was so big when it got near the boat,” Simon said. “We didn’t know it was that big and we had to get that boat to shore. Our rowboat was too little so we took it near land and winched it back up.” When the two hunters got the animal to shore it was none too pleased. “It was trying to come up on the bank,” Scott Hughes said. “It looked like a black bass coming out of the water, jumping on the bank.” The alligator was hooked, though, so there was never any fear it would get away. “Once we got it to the bank, Simon was able to get a good clean shot of his head,” Gregory said. “It was a .410 that I killed it with,” Simon said. “Right behind the eye.” “Simon hit him right where he was supposed to hit him on the temple,” Scott said. “Then the alligator went into his death-roll. It was the wildest thing.” “His father gave a backup shot and I gave a backup shot just to ensure it was a dead alligator, I guess you could say,” Cotton said. The official measurement was 12 feet, 6 inches. From the girth size of the alligator the biologist estimated it to be 800 pounds.” “I’ve seen longer alligators, but I just haven’t seen one that big around,” Gregory said.
“I’m sure there’s other ones around but I just haven’t seen any that fat. He was a healthy alligator.” “It was a pretty big alligator,” Simon said. “I didn’t know it was that big, no one knew it. We didn’t even know it was there.” Anyone wishing to hunt an alligator on their property should contact the Texas Parks & Wildlife office. A wildlife biologist will do a survey of the congregation of alligators on the property and determine the number of tags the property owner is eligible for. “Basically you have to make a request to us, to Parks and Wildlife,” Gregory said. “We’ll run our surveys in June or July. The survey is free, we do lots of free stuff being a state agency. But the tag itself costs $21. There’s no guarantee for a tag. If we go down and see just three alligators you’re not going to get an alligator tag.”
An alligator the size of the one Simon killed will make a lot of leather items. “They’ve already skinned it and we are going to have the hide tanned,” Livingston City Councilwoman Judy Cochran said. “We’ll have boots and wallets and belts and stuff, they only use the belly for that. They don’t use the back and the ridge for that. They cut the legs off and they are going to make book-ends for the two other boys in the family, and Simon’s sister will probably get a purse.” One brother, Hunter, is in the Army and just finished a tour of duty in Iraq. He and brother Jeffrey will each get the book-ends. Sister Becca will get a purse. Simon wants a pair of boots for himself, even though his feet are far from being full-grown. “If Simon wants boots, by God he’s getting boots. We’ll just have them made a little big so he can grow into them.” Simon’s mother Toni Cochran-Hughes said. “We are going to mount the head and the rest that they don’t use they will just sort of tan out.” Alligators came off the endangered-species list in 1978 in the United States. Today, Louisiana and Florida have more than a million alligators in each state. Although they are still a protected species, hunting in limited numbers is allowed with a permit.