COOPER RIVER, SC (WTAT) - What looked to be a third day of unsuccessful gator hunting quickly changed for one South Carolina family.
Deborah Swails and her family were on the Cooper River for the third day, but were giving up hope. But out of the water came something they never expected.
Deborah, two of her grandsons, and her son, Joe had gone gator hunting.
"I completely regretted going gator hunting, I was like, 'this was a waste of time,'” Deborah’s grandson, Jackson said.
This is the first season she's hunted. Friday was her third trip.
"This is my first experience gator hunting. This season, these three times, that's it," Debora said.
And just when she had given up hope of catching a gator this season, out of the water came the massive reptile.
"And when the head came up it was like, 'Ahh this is huge!'" Deborah recalled.
And then just as quickly as they saw the gator, he vanished. But a short time later, his massive tail appeared.
"We hear this (hit) underneath the boat and the alligator hit the underside of the boat," Deborah said. "Put the bullets in the gun! Put the bullets in the gun!"
It would take three rods and the entire family just to get the gator under control.
They shot the gator. Deborah then suggested they wrap his jaws with electrical tape.
"Mom hands me this to wrap up the jaws. She hands me this," her son, Joe laughed.
And at 3:00 a.m. they called Deborah’s other son for back-up.
With the whole family’s help, out they pulled a 12-foot one-inch gator; only a few feet shorter than the 17-foot boat they were on.
It was the moment they'd all been waiting for.
Joe says it was just like a scene from their favorite show, “Swamp People.”
"Watching 'Swamp People.' I love watching that show and I was waiting for someone to say, 'shoot 'em, shoot 'em.' But nobody did. We were all so excited we forgot to say that," Joe said.
Once the gator was out of the water and the sun had come up, the whole family posed with their trophy. Deborah’s other son, nephew, granddaughter Callie, and the rest of the grandkids all posed – head to tail- behind the alligator.
The gator has since been processed. They'll be able to eat the meat, and though she's not one to boast, Deborah plans to keep the head.