Source: The Advocate
DENHAM SPRINGS — Blake McDonald seemed a bit overwhelmed by the packed house that showed up to support him and his cousin Austyn Yoches during a debut party Thursday evening at Big Mike’s Bar & Grill in Denham Springs.
Both McDonald and Yoches — the newest and youngest characters to duo on The History Channel’s popular “Swamp People” — signed pictures and T-shirts made specially for the debut event, as people gathered to watch the show, which premiered that evening.
Tyler Burkett, 10, of Denham Springs, stood in line to get his picture and T-shirt signed by the parish’s newest stars.
A big fan of the show, Tyler said that he liked “how they hunt, and how they catch the gators.”
“We are so excited for them,” said Annie Fugler, a Denham Springs councilwoman and Yoches’ grandmother.
The cousins are Livingston Parish natives, and attended Walker schools but they lived every possible minute since they were born at a camp in the swamp, Fugler said. The duo now live on a houseboat they built deep in the back of Bayou Pigeon, making a living off everything that lives in that swamp, she said.
“These gator hunters are the real deal, not reality show make-believe,” Fugler said.
To be chosen for the show, McDonald and Yoches attended an open casting call in August in Lafayette. Local casting calls were held in Lafayette, Houma and Deridder. The two were the only ones from the state chosen for the show’s new season.
“They were looking for something different,” said Danielle Berthelot, McDonald and Yoches’ press agent.
The difference, the two said they believe, is their age. McDonald is 26 and Yoches is 21. Also, the two live on a houseboat, a distinguishing difference from characters in the two previous seasons.
The History Channel crew filmed the cousins’ quest for alligators during the 30-day season, and filmed about 20 to 22 episodes, Yoches said.
“They filmed every day,” Yoches said. And while the two were cognizant of the filming when it first began, “It didn’t take long before we got back to our normal routine,” Yoches said.
While the two were excited about the upcoming season, although somewhat oblivious to their new-found fame, both said they hope their stint on the show introduces young people to a different type of career.
“We’d like for people our age to experience something different,” McDonald said.
When the cousins aren’t hunting alligators, they are catching crawfish, frogs, catfish and snakes, Yoches said.
“I actually like going there and making an honest living,” Yoches said of the swamp, adding that the swamp is a peaceful place, without electricity or cellphone service.
“You don’t hear nothing,” McDonald said.
Viewers of previous seasons are used to the characters’ accents on the show, and have even begun to use the phrase “Choot ’em.”
McDonald and Yoches said they’re not sure what phrase will be coined “theirs” but Yoches said there are things they often repeat.
“Swamp People” is now one of the hottest shows on The History Channel, with close to 5.4 million viewers after only two seasons, Berthelot said.
The alligator hunters didn’t appear in Thursday’s premiere but that didn’t dampen the spirits of those who showed up at the gathering to support them. McDonald and Yoches do not yet know in what episodes they will appear. The History Channel did not give them specific details about the airing of each show, they said.
For Pat Crabtree, the moments leading up to the start of the show were unimaginable.
“I can’t believe it,” said the grandmother of both McDonald and Yoches. “I’m so proud of those two boys.”
“They’ve been doing this since they were in Pampers,” Crabtree recalled.
“We raised them in the woods,” Crabtree continued. “They can camp, they can fish, they can hunt.”
McDonald said he began hunting alligators when he was 18, when his cousin Yoches was just 13.
For Becky McDonald, Blake’s “maw maw,” the show is a dream come true.
“This is just what I thought he would want to do,” Becky McDonald said. “He’s loved the swamp since he was a baby. He would stay in the swamp 24/7 if he could. His ‘paw paw,’ Earl Crabtree, took him to the swamp, and I took him to church.”
“We’re hoping this is all Blake wants it to be, and he’ll want to stay in the swamp even more,” Becky McDonald said.
For more information about the local alligator hunters, log on to http://www.history.com. The show airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays on The History Channel.