Source: NY Post
What is it about History’s “Swamp People” that makes it such a draw? Is it the allure of the alligators? The wacky things the southern Louisana hunters do to catch them? Or is it just the hardworking nature of the people who appear in the series? In an effort to figure it out, we had a lovely chat with one of the series stars, Troy Landry, when he was in New York last week – marking his first trip to the Big Apple. Along the way, we chit-chatted about alligator hunting history, spinoffs and a potential new career in stuntboatmanship. (We also talked about the merits of cowboy boots, but that’s a different story.)
The man, the myth, the gator hunting legend: Troy Landry!
The Post: What have we got to look forward to this season?
Troy Landry: We went after some big alligators that we hadn’t caught in a few years – we were able to catch some of them, some of them we didn’t catch. We did stunts with the boats. You’d swear to God I was a stunt man. I jumped my whole boat – it came ‘bout five foot out of the water – like Evel Knievel. I knew I wanted to catch some big alligators this year to top what we done last year and I knew a couple of holes where they had some big ones, but we couldn’t normally get in there with a boat, ok? I told my boys, “This year, we’re going to get in there, one way or another we’re going to get in.” And I got in. Once I got in and caught all them alligators, guess what? I had trouble to get out. That was another problem. Getting in light was one thing, but coming out with a boat load of alligators was another. But, anyhow, we got the job done. I told my kids when I finished that, “Don’t you all ever try this at home.” I left them on the bank [before jumping], I was scared they were going to get hurt. I did the jump by myself and then picked them up after. It was scary, but we caught some big ones back there, that’s why I did it.
The Post: Since “Swamp People” has gotten so popular, have you changed the way you hunt gators?
Troy Landry: The first couple of years, we would just do our thing and didn’t worry about our cameraman. If he got the footage, good. If he didn’t, oh well. But, now that we realize how well the show is doing and how important it is for him to get the good footage, we slow down a little bit. [This season] I think we’re going to have the best footage we ever had. We went outta our way to make sure our camera man was able to get what he needed to get and get the good shots. I’m not a photographer, but I’m sure you can take 1,000 pictures and there might be one that really stands out. We have to make sure that our cameraman gets that one every time.
The Post: Is hunting alligators the kind of thing that’s handed down from generation to generation?
Troy Landry: Yeah, gator hunting is something I grew up. People ask me, “How you got into that?” I didn’t get into it, I was raised in it. It’s not something that one day I decided, “I want to be an alligator hunter.” When I was growing up, it was different – you didn’t go out and catch a boat load of alligators like we do now. We’d go out and hunt two or three gators at a time, to bring them and eat. We hunt for the meat, it was totally different. Now, we hunt ‘em because we can sell the hides more than the meat. The hides are worth way more than the meat’s worth. We hunt now for a different reason, but it’s something that my grandpa and my uncles used to do. My daddy was a commercial fisherman, he hunted alligators, but my daddy was more of a shrimper and a catfisherman.
The Post: Are you seeing more people trying to get into alligator hunting now?
Troy Landry: People want to try it and what they don’t realize is that you have to have a license, there’s a season for it, you have to have tags. A lot of people go out there now that they see the show, especially the young people, they think, “Wow, I want to go alligator hunting!” They don’t stop and find out what kind of license they need and what they need to do legally and a lot of people are getting in trouble for going out there, hunting alligators without the proper licenses.
The Post: What’s with all the rules and regulations?
Troy Landry: My dad and my uncles, when I was growing up, they would hunt alligators just for food and they were almost hunted to extinction in the late ‘60s and ’70s. They were put on the endangered species list and you couldn’t hunt them at all – none, not even for food. In the mid ‘70s, they reopened the season, but under strict federal regulations. Anytime an animal’s placed on the engendered species list and the population comes back strong and healthy enough for them to allow a hunting season, you can believe it, it’s very closely regulated and that’s where we at today. You don’t just go out and shoot a bunch of gators and hunt a bunch of gators and try to make money. Every year, [the regulators] look at it, whatever they think is surplus population, that’s how many tags they issue. They want a health population and having too many is not a healthy population. Just like anything else, you have to keep the numbers in check and that’s what we do. I’m doing the same thing that my family’s done forever, but much more regulated and for a different reason than they used to do it.
The Post: How much of a dent do you make in the alligator population after the 30 day hunting season ends?
Troy Landry: At the end of them 30 days, you can ride with your boat through the areas that we just finished fishing, and you can’t tell that we fished there. You see so many alligators you think, “Wow. Troy Landry must’ve not come here.” Troy Landry has come here, but they only allow me to catch a certain percentage of the population.
The Post: Troy Landry has fished responsibly.
Troy Landry: That’s right.
The Post: So, how many alligators did you catch this year?
Troy Landry: My boys and I – I think I can tell you this, without getting in trouble – we caught more than we ever caught before. But, we had the biggest challenge we ever had, we had a tropical storm move in for a few days, caught like 15 inches of rain. We had so many tags, even though the weather was so bad, we couldn’t take a day off. Thunder, lightening, we were out there every day.
The Post: Why do you think “Swamp People” is such a big hit?
Troy Landry: It’s the excitement and the danger of the alligators that fascinates a lot of people. Alligators have been around since the time of dinosaurs, they’re one of the few animals that’ve survived since the time of dinosaurs. Some people really like the culture and the people that are on the show…[and] it shows you a little part of the country, where somebody somewhere is doing something totally different from what you’re doing.”
The Post: What about the macho man aspect of actually hunting alligators?
Troy Landry: There’s nothing much macho about Troy Landry, but I think it captures people’s interest. They love the people on the show, they love watching us, our family, our culture, talking about how our ancestors used to do it.
The Post: Is there’s something special about your corner of the Bayou that makes it so interesting?
Troy Landry: Not my corner of the Bayou that is special, but it’s different. We all come from South Louisiana, okay, which is a big area, it’s not like we live on top of each other. What the History channel tries to do, they try to grab somebody from different parts of the South and show how they [catch gators]. Everybody has a different technique for how they fish and hunt alligator. Even though we’re all from South Louisiana, we all have a different culture, a different background. Some of the guys on the show, their families been in the wood as long as mine’s been in the woods, but they do things totally different, that’s just the way they were brought up. Not to say that my technique and my family done it any better than theirs, we just done it differently. Everybody has their own way of living down there and their own way of surviving and catching and hunting alligators.
If you crawfish or catfish, it’s the same thing. I was a commercial fisherman and I was still crawfishing until a few years ago. I had the record in my hometown of catching the most crawfish. I’m sure there were other fishermen who were just as good as I was, but they didn’t spend as many hours in the wood, they didn’t work as hard as I did. So at the end of the day, even though they were as good a fisherman as I was, I’d come out with twice as much as them. Because, at twelve or one o’clock, they was back home and Troy Landry didn’t come out the woods until dark. That’s what separates out the different groups.
The Post: What do you do when alligator season is over?
Troy Landry: Whatever’s seasonal. We do catfish, a lot of crawfish. Mostly what I do seven or eight months out of the year, when I’m not fishing alligator, is crawfish. Years ago, we would shrimp a lot. We had shrimp boats, I had a shrimp boat, a small one, my daddy had one, my granddaddy had two of them. My daddy was a commercial fisherman, he had a little fish factory, we’d skin all the fish he would catch, we’d work until 10 or 11 almost every night when I was growing up.
The Post: Ever think you should do a spinoff about crawfishing?
Troy Landry: I really think I could – I don’t know if it’d be something that would last for years, but I really think I could make an awesome show on fishing crawfish in the swamps. Crawfishing is totally different than alligator hunting. Alligator hunting, you fish the bayous, crawfishing you go straight through the middle of the swamps. You don’t fish the bayous, you’re fishing in the woods.
The Post: Have you pitched a spinoff to the producers of “Swamp People?”
Troy Landry: No, but I think one day they might mix it up a little bit, put some of that other stuff in [the series]. I think that’s why they named the show “Swamp People,” instead of anything to do with gators, because the original plan was to mix it up a little bit, to show different parts of what we do in the swamp. But, the alligator deal is so big and so hot right now, they’re not even thinking of changing it right now.
“Swamp People” airs on History, Thursdays at 9 p.m.