Skip to main content

Living Dinosaur Dream

High school senior bags Texas state record alligator

Living Dinosaur Dream
Braxton Bielski, 18, killed the Texas record alligator. (Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife)

AUSTIN, Texas – A young hunter who grew up with a fascination about dinosaurs and a dream of hunting what some call “living dinosaurs” has harvested the largest alligator ever certified in Texas. Braxton Bielski, an 18-year-old high school senior on his first alligator hunt, bagged the behemoth 800-pound, 14-foot, 3-inch gator during a recent public hunt on the James E. Daughtrey Wildlife Management Area.

Braxton and his father, Troy Bielski, were among 481 applicants vying for 10 alligator permits issued through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s public hunting program for a five-day hunt at the Daughtrey WMA.

Braxton Bielski, 18, killed the Texas record alligator. (Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Braxton Bielski, 18, killed the Texas record alligator.
(Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife)

“He’s wanted to hunt alligators for years,” said Troy, a Houston police officer who has applied annually to TPWD’s special drawing hunts for the chance to fulfill his son’s dream. “We got selected one year to go on a youth hunt at the J.D. Murphree WMA, but I didn’t get the permit in on time. I remember Brax was very disappointed. This is the first year we’ve had to enter him as an adult and we got drawn.”


The coveted permit provides the only opportunity to hunt and harvest an alligator on Choke Canyon Reservoir, situated within the Daughtrey WMA boundary.


Each year, TPWD’s public hunting program provides access to some of the state’s high-quality managed wildlife habitat to about 5,500 hunters selected through random computer drawings. Wildlife management areas, state parks and leased private property are available for these supervised hunts for a variety of game, including: white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, javelina, alligator, exotics, feral hog and spring turkey.

Through an application process, hunters select from 29 different hunt categories, including eight specifically for youth only, and choose a preferred hunt date and location from hunt areas stretching across the state. There’s even a provision for hunting buddies to apply as a group — in some cases up to four hunters can apply together on one application.

This season TPWD processed 998 applications for 2,340 hopeful applicants in the alligator hunt category. The department offered 165 permits to go alligator hunting on five WMAs (Angelina Neches/Dam B, James Daughtrey, Guadalupe Delta, Mad Island, and J.D. Murphree).

Because alligator hunting in Texas is conservatively managed, most hunters selected for these public hunts are first-timers and many have never seen an alligator in the wild. For that reason, TPWD biologists go through an intensive orientation process and provide greater guidance than they would for more common hunts, like for deer or waterfowl.


“We went through a two-hour orientation and it was very thorough,” Braxton recalled. “My dad did a lot of research online about alligator hunting and we asked a lot of questions.”

Troy said he knew some about the area they would be hunting, having done some bass fishing on Choke Canyon years ago, but with current low water levels, the landscape was completely different from what he remembered.

“We spent a lot of time scouting some of the pastures in the compartment we were assigned, looking for likely spots to set our lines,” Troy said.


At one point, the pair observed what they believed to be a large gator in a cove and decided to place their baited lines nearby.

“We didn’t pressure it, but while we were putting up our cane poles we could see it watching us 30 yards away,” Braxton said.


A Texas wildlife officer checks out Braxton Bielski's record gator. (Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife).

Choke Canyon has a reputation for holding some big old gators. Unlike the alligator populations along their core range in southeast Texas, these creatures are left alone to live to a ripe old age. A 14-footer is estimated to be between 30-50 years old, according to TPWD alligator program leader Amos Cooper.

“Choke Canyon has a larger size class than other areas because they have just began to hunt the area,” said Cooper. “A large alligator in Choke Canyon is not unusual but expected. You won’t see a lot of alligators on Choke Canyon but the alligators that you do see are relatively large.”

In the five years TPWD has hunted gators on the Daughtrey WMA, several huge specimens have been harvested, including two in 2011 measuring over 13-feet and another in that size class last year.

Living in Fort Bend County, Troy and his son routinely saw alligators while jogging but being able to judge their size was tough.

“I had no idea,” he noted. “The WMA staff did a really good job of explaining what we needed to do. We knew this gator was big and wanted to be sure we set the bait high enough out of the water.”

Braxton chose one of the lines as his set; the other would be his dad’s. When the two hunters returned the next morning, they realized they had their work cut out as both lines were down indicating they had two alligators hooked. A hook and line set baited with raw meat is used to catch the alligator; only after it has been hooked can a gator be dispatched at close range with a firearm.

They weren’t the only ones having a successful first day. All the hunters participating in the hunt had landed gators, which proved equally challenging for the WMA staff.

“We only have 5-10 hunters out during these drawn hunts and most of them are new to alligator hunting so I try to stay in close touch with them,” Daughtrey WMA area manager Chris Mostyn said. “I tell them to have a strategy in place because they may have to haul a big one out. Turns out we had four gators taken that morning; it was wild. The Bielskis did a good job.”

Troy’s gator turned out to be a huge female measuring 10 ½ feet long, which, as it turned out was dwarfed by his son’s catch.

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

More information about TPWD’s public hunting program and the application process for special drawing hunts is available online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe Wild Game

Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use it as needed.Venison Chorizo Recipe Wild Game

Venison Chorizo Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths.5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Last year alone, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was responsible for $100 million in funding to benefit game, fish and other wildlife in the United States.At Issue: Greenbacks for Greenheads (and Other Game) Conservation & Politics

At Issue: Greenbacks for Greenheads (and Other Game)

Andrew McKean - August 04, 2020

Last year alone, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was responsible for $100 million...

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season.Oklahoma's Big Archery Bucks of 2018 Whitetail

Oklahoma's Big Archery Bucks of 2018

Kelly Bostian

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season.

No longbeards, but entertainment aplenty with forming Texas tornado!Texas Turkey Hunting With a Spring "Twist"

Texas Turkey Hunting With a Spring "Twist"

Lynn Burkhead - April 27, 2020

No longbeards, but entertainment aplenty with forming Texas tornado!

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos Gomez. In this article, Gomez recounts his experiences from his first nighttime poaching bust.Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust Stories

Behind the Badge: A Warden's First Night-Poaching Bust

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 30, 2018

Behind the Badge is a regular series of perspective stories by Oklahoma game warden Carlos...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now