“Let’s Go Swimming In The St. Johns River”

Robert Gatling is a Jacksonville dentist with a passion for Florida alligator hunting. He’s been after them over the last seven years, and annually takes some heavyweights, including many over 10 feet long weighing hundreds of pounds. But the brute he and three buddies located Sept. 20 in the St. Johns River about 30 miles south of Jacksonville near the town of Palatka was not your average lake-living “lizard.”Gatling and area friends Andy Burns, Larry Geiger and Keith Price launched their 17-foot Stumpknocker skiff in Palatka at sunset. Then they headed south toward sprawling Lake George looking for gators.

The night was dark, but gators were scarce. They’d only seen one set of glowing eyes in their boat spotlight until they saw this giant (shown here with Gatling and Burns) cruising parallel to shore well off the bank. Old, huge gators like this are cagey, so the hunters approached it slowly and quietly. Using a 10-foot wooden pole, with a detachable metal harpoon head, Gatling speared the beast in the back behind the shoulder. Attached to the harpoon head was 50 feet of rope with a large plastic boat bumper tied to its end..

The gator swam away fast, but the hunters closed the distance and sent two more harpoons with bumpers into the “dragon.” They battled the creature for 30 minutes before bringing it near their small boat, shooting it in the head with a .44 magnum bang stick. The “fun” began after they’d killed the alligator, as it took 90 minutes to load the estimated 800+ pound beast into their boat. Then another 90 minutes passed as they ran their boat at idle speed back to the ramp because the skiff would not get up on plane due to the excessive gator weight.

The next morning Robert’s son Bobby (shown here) was stunned at the size of the creature. Alligators grow as old as humans, so it easily could have been 60 or 70 years of age. The alligator was so old half its teeth were missing, and most were worn way down. The head is enormous, easily as large as a big man’s torso, as shown here by Robert and Bobby Gatlin. If you look closely at the gator’s head you’ll see a pair of ..44 magnum holes between its eyes.

This scaly paw and gnarly claws look like something out of a B-rated dragon horror movie.. The following day the giant was taken to a local fish market for processing. The distance between eyes and snout is over 13 inches. At 13-feet, 4-inches, the gator’s tail is as large as a man. The head of the gator will be preserved as a trophy, but Robert Gatlin is still hunting for another big one. His Florida hunting permit is good for two gators, and he won’t settle for one under 10-feet long.