Casarah Graves Corey didn’t just kill an alligator last weekend, she ended a long-time relationship with an animal that has caused problems for a lot of people who frequent the Leaf River near New Augusta.
“I have a long relationship, quite a bit of history with that alligator,” said Corey, of Brooklyn. “I grew up with that gator. I first remember him when I went swimming with mom and dad when I was 5 or 6 years old. I’m 27 now, and he was decent-sized back then, about 7 or 8 feet.”
When Corey and her hunting party caught and killed the gator last Friday during the opening night of the Mississippi alligator season, the reptile was 10 feet, 4 inches long. No telling how big he should have been, she said, because it was missing the end of its tail.
It’s a gator that everyone on that stretch of the river knows. He made sure of it.
“The last two summers, he’s been like ‘I’m the only gator in this part of the river and you’re gonna know I’m here,’” Corey said. “He was past the point where he considered humans a threat. No doubt, if he lived in an area that was more populated, he would have been considered a nuisance alligator.
“He was not scared of nobody. He’s come out and challenged people. Last year, my husband and I were out running trotlines, and he came out in the river and charged to within two feet. I said let’s go.
“And he’s been known to come to other boats, and even to bump canoes. He scared a bunch of tubers on the river this spring, too.”
The gator didn’t limit his harassment to boaters or floaters, either.
“He comes to fish camps and houses on the river and eats the fish right out of their fish boxes,” she said. “People couldn’t run trotlines in his stretch of the river because he’d come and eat the fish right off the line. There weren’t any other gators in that stretch of the river either. He was the boss and he ran them out.”
She said the gator was easily identifiable, even if other gators had been around: “He was lighter in color than most gators, and he had some spots. I’d have known him anywhere.”
The Coreys targeted the gator in the 2014 season, the first time they’d ever scored a permit. Without experience and any guidance from others, they struck out. They spotted the gator once, but never came close to a hook up.
“That’s why when I got another permit in the Southeast Zone this year, I immediately sought help,” Casarah Corey said. “I went to the Facebook page, Mississippi Alligator Hunters, that I had joined last year and looked up a guy I had been talking to on the page and contacted him.”
That guy was veteran alligator hunter Ken Martin of Brandon, who has hunted nearly every year since the first season in Mississippi in 2005 and has caught or helped others catch over 100 gators.
“Casarah contacted me after she joined the page last year,” Martin said. “One of the first things I told her was that she needed experience in the boat, but they tried it on their own last year. This year, they got tags again and she contacted me. I had been unsuccessful in getting a permit.
“She told me about this alligator and he was absolutely a nuisance gator. I found out that one of the local conservation officers, Billy Smith, has been tasked with removing him, but he gave us this opportunity first.”
It took only one night. The gator was king of that part of the Leaf and was right where he was supposed to be.
“I spotted him under some small branches in a big old tree that had fallen from the bank,” Martin said. “That gator was brazen to begin with, and he did not seem the least bit concerned about us, and I got to within 15 feet of him. The way he was turned I couldn’t see his eyes shine in Bubba’s light. I pulled out my light and put in on him and saw his eyes.”
Though under the limbs, Martin knew he needed to take a shot.
“I hooked up on first cast,” he said. “It was an old tree and not extremely thick and I got him. He immediately ran out to open water and stayed in it. He tried to get to some logs and debris but the river was extremely shallow and he couldn’t get under them.”
The Corey party had another boat in the water, a 15-footer, which was a foot longer than the one engaged with the gator. The other boat came down immediately and they tied the nose of that boat to the rear of the other.
“I got out and got in the other boat,” said Casarah Corey. “Everything inside of me was telling me to get away from him. I wanted out of that boat, but I was working the whole time, getting them everything they wanted or needed, and I loaded the gun when it was time.”
A friend, Huey Murray, also from Brooklyn, traded places with Casarah and grabbed a rod and got a second hook in the gator. Bubba Corey later added a third line with a shot from a crossbow.
Only one nervous moment came before the fight ended about an hour after it started.
“The gator made a quick run under our boat and my original line got caught in the motor and it broke,” Martin said. “I got another rod and was hooked back up in 30 seconds.”
After dispatching the gator, they realized there was no way that three guys and a big gator were going to fit in the 14- or 15-foot boat.
“So they got in the bigger boat and had him tied securely to the side and we used the 14-foot boat and towed him half an hour to a nearby sandbar for pictures,” Casarah Corey said. “I can’t tell you how happy I’m going to be to have that alligator gone from that river, and I can’t thank Mr. Ken enough for the way he came and helped us out. He has the right gear and everything and the smarts to get it done.”
The alligator, which was estimated at about 400 pounds, had a belly girth of 50½ inches and a tail girth of 34 inches.