Swamp People ushered in a new era of reality television. The series, which follows alligator hunters from several Southern states, trod on the heels of hit shows like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers. It also brought a mix of curious characters and unusual lifestyles into living rooms across the globe.
The show's success did not come without pushback. Swamp People has been accused by both fans and professionals of glorifying cruel hunting methods and subjecting animals to unnecessary distress. The show has also been criticized for stereotyping the South and the people who live there.
Despite its flaws, Swamp People celebrates a rural brand of Americana that cherishes hard work and simple living. Its success paved the way for shows like Duck Dynasty and Alaskan Bush People and contributed to a new wave of American idealism. On a local level, the show sparked interest in an age-old trade and may have helped boost Louisiana's tourism industry.
After 9 season, viewers have grown attached to the crazy and one-of-a-kind cast of Swamp People. We tune in, season after season, as much for the Landrys, the Edgars, the Molineres, Willie, Bigfoot, and the rest of the alligator hunters as we do for their prey.
History Channel describes the Louisiana swamps as a "hidden world where nature rules... and man fights back." Although their pray may dominate the marshy lands that surround them, the people who hunt alligators are kept on a much tighter rein. From the bayou to the TV screen, the cast of Swamp People have to follow strict rules and regulations at every turn.
Here are 21 Crazy Rules Swamp People Must Follow.
21 They Can Only Hunt For 30 Days
Alligator hunting has been legal in Louisiana for 46 years. Before that, it was outlawed for a decade because of overhunting.
The alligator population thrived during the years hunting was outlawed. Since then, the industry has been heavily regulated. One of the restrictions put on alligator hunters is a limited hunting season. The season only lasts for 30 days each year and in this short period hunters must rush to fill their yearly quota.
The regulations enforced by the state of Louisiana are considered a successful chapter in the history of American wildlife preservation. The regulations are used as an aspiration for wildlife preservation elsewhere.
20 They Have To Dress For Continuity
Troy Landry has stood out among Swamp People's numerous cast. He has been on the show since the very first season and even has his own spin-off show. Throughout his 8-year run on Swamp People, fans have been enamored by his indecipherable accent and intrigued by his fashion choices.
Viewers had come to believe that a certain striped shirt Landry often wears was his lucky shirt. A Facebook post by the famed gator hunter set the record straight.
According to Landry, he often wears the same shirt for editing purposes.
He also states that several of the cast members wear the same clothes too, but that the distinct striping of his shirt attracted the audience's curiosity.
19 They Have To Stage Shots To Create Drama
Reality television shows have often been accused of dabbling in suggestive editing and crafting drama. Unsurprisingly, Swamp People has not escaped the puppeteering hands of reality producers.
Several critics have claimed that many of the scenes in Swamp People are manipulated for entertainment. Shots where cast members stick their arms into alligator infested waters have come under fire for being particularly deceitful.
Alligators have powerful jaws and can easily bite through bones. Anyone willing to stick an arm into waters where hungry alligators roam should also be prepared for that arm to not come back up. These shots are most likely taken when there are no alligators around and have been edited in later to create suspense.
18 They Have To Slow Down For The Cameras
Anyone who watches Swamp People will surely be amazed by the amount of detailed shots that capture the struggles of the swamp.
In an interview with the New York Post, Landry explains that he has learnt to slow down so the cameramen can get the best possible footage. It is hard to get an overall view of a tussle with an angry alligator in the heat of the moment, so the cast has had to learn how to create compelling images.
Swamp People takes a slow and steady approach to alligator hunting in order to give viewers an optimal experience.
17 They give up their rights
When the show made it big, Landry did not rest on his laurels: he swiftly copyrighted his name and catch phrases. Since then, Landry has taken anyone who tries to benefit from his fame to court.
Perhaps because of Landry's success, the show now seems to have added a new clause to the cast's contracts. An appearance release from the show's casting calls revealed that participants had to sign away the rights to their name and likeness.
These attributes could be used for both marketing purposes and merchandizing.
History Channel obviously does not want to share potential earnings with new additions to the cast.
16 They Need A License To Hunt
Viewers might be tempted to head out into the swamps on their own, with a shotgun in hand, looking for an alligator to kill. According to news reports, several amateur hunters have done just that.
The public would be well advised to leave the hunting to the professionals. Alligators are dangerous animals that should not be provoked, and hunting and skinning a gator requires knowledge and training.
Anyone who wants to participate in Louisiana's yearly hunt must apply for a specific license. The cast of Swamp People have years of experience and all their papers in order. If audiences want to get a taste of Bayou living, they should sign up for a guided hunting tour instead.
15 They Must Follow Local Regulations, wherever they are
According to regulations enforced by the state of Louisiana, where most of the show takes place, alligators can only be harvested between sunrise and sunset. In Florida, on the other hand, alligator harvesting takes place between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. Louisiana hunters can use lines with bated hooks to trap alligators, while this is strictly prohibited in South Carolina.
Laws that regulate alligator harvesting change drastically from state to state.
The cast and crew of Swamp People have to make sure they are always following the latest regulations in whichever area they are in. Since most of the show is filmed in Louisiana, this list focuses mainly on the restrictions put on the cast in this state.
14 They Have To Sacrifice Their Spare Time
The alligator hunting season may be brief, but this does not mean that the cast can take the rest of the year off. Many of the stars you see on Swamp People make hundreds of public appearances each year at trade shows and conventions.
RJ Molinere has said that he now has less time to work out and go on hunting trips, but he still enjoys meeting fans. Landry also visits an impressive number of conventions each year and claims he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Even though they have to sacrifice their spare time, the cast of Swamp People have probably made up for it in monetary terms.
13 They Have To Tag All The Gators They Catch
Fans of the show will likely remember the disappointment on a cast member's face when they pull up a baby alligator. By law, all alligators caught on the line during hunting season must be tagged, no matter the size.
A hunter cannot release a small catch and save his tags for the big alligators.
The hooks from the lines strung up to ensnare alligators usually end up getting lodged in the their stomachs, which is probably why all of these animals must be hunted and counted. Letting small alligators roam free with hooks in their stomachs would be an inhumane way to conduct the hunt.
This means that alligator hunting is often a gamble – bigger alligators are worth more per feet than the small ones and you never know what you will end up with when the season is over.
12 Always Wear Boots
A hungry alligator is as discerning as any reptile and will try to consume anything that moves. Jay Paul Molinere has even stated that he once found a license plate inside one of them. Hunters have to take as many precautions as they can when they are dealing with such relentless predators.
Molinere has confessed that he never goes out hunting without his steel toed boots and claims they even saved his foot once.
A rubber boot also comes to Troy Landry's rescue on the show when he has a dangerous run in with an alligator.
To avoid serving up a plump toe for dinner, the cast of Swamp People always make sure they wear a pair of sturdy boots.
11 They Have To Stay In Shape
Hunting alligators requires quick thinking, steady nerves and raw strength.
Many of the gators caught on the show weigh hundreds of pounds and have to be hauled out of the waters and into the boats.
Hunters also have to hold reluctant alligators still in the water to get a clean shot. All of these tasks require serious muscle power, so the cast of Swamp People have to stay in tip-top shape.
The Molineres always make sure they are up to the task. On their down time, RJ competes in arm wrestling tournaments while Jay Paul practices both boxing and mixed martial arts.
10 They Cannot Openly Discuss Their Employment
After the show's sixth season, History Channel decided to do an inexplicable cast overhaul. Eight cast members were given the boot and not all of them were pleased about it.
In the wake of the incident, Elizabeth Cavalier and several other cast members took to Facebook to express their confusion and disappointment with the channel's decision.
In a following post, Cavalier claims that the network contacted her in an attempt to get her to remove her statements. Even though they never gave any public explanation as to why so many of Swamp People's stars were sacked, the network obviously did not want anyone else commenting on it either.
9 They Need A Second Job
A season of alligator hunting may be profitable, but it is rarely enough to live on for the rest of the year.
Landry’s family, for example, runs a gas station and sells crayfish in the off-season.
The Molineres spend most of the year shrimping, trapping, and crabbing.
Some cast members have more common day jobs. David La Dart works as a concrete finisher, while his co-star Jeromy Pruitt works for his father’s heating and ventilation company.
The value of an alligator fluctuates wildly, so it is important that hunters have a second income to guarantee that they will get by.
8 They Must Take Antibiotics
Getting an arm chewed off by a peckish gator makes for chilling imagery, but these creatures actually carry with them a more dangerous, albeit less obvious, threat.
The mouth of an alligator contains the fecal bacteria of its prey and poses a high risk of causing dangerous infections. Even the smallest of bites must be immediately treated with a mix of antibiotics.
The hunters on Swamp People may know how to handle alligators, but that does not make them immune to infections.
If they get bitten, they must seek out urgent medical attention.
Alligator harvesting is a hazardous occupation and hunters have to be informed of the risks they are exposed to.
7 They Can Only Hunt A Limited Number Of Gators
During the open season, hunters receive a set number of tags that are used to mark their catch. Each alligator is marked by a tag that is fastened to its tail.
Alligators have to be tagged on the spot when they are caught. If a hunter loses any tags, they must report it to wildlife regulators by the end of the season.
Lost tags will, however, not be restored. Fans of the show may remember when Bruce’s helper dove into the water to grab tags that had fallen overboard.
A lost tag equals a lost profit, which means that these straps of plastic are very valuable to the hunters.
6 They Have To Work Under All Conditions
Working the swamps is not for the faint of heart-- nor is it for those of us who dread a little drizzle. Throughout the seasons, the cast of Swamp People have had to work under challenging conditions. In season nine, Troy, RJ, and Bruce joined forces and traveled to Texas to help Harlan "Bigfoot" Hatcher. The devastation of Hurricane Harvey had left this local hunter in desperate need of help to fill his tags.
Troy has also had to go out hunting in the middle of a tropical storm. He explained that he had so many tags left to fill that he could simply not take a day off, no matter the weather.
It seems like there might be more than one reason as to why these outdoorsmen always keep their wellingtons on.
5 They Must Use All Their Tags
Readers may start to wonder what makes these alligator tags so important that hunters will brave storms to fill them all up.
An unused tag does not only correspond with the lost profits from one alligator, it may also affect the hunter's next season. Hunters are rewarded tags based on how many alligators they caught the previous year and how much land they have access to.
If a hunter does not fill all his tags during one season, he may receive less tags for the following year.
Hunters looking to boost their profits and expand their business have to make sure they do not let any tags go to waste.
4 They Can Only Hunt In Restricted Areas
Hunters are not only restricted by the number of alligators they can harvest, they must also stick to designated areas.
To receive tags for the season, hunters must either own their own land where they can hunt or receive permission from a landowner to hunt on their land. They cannot, however, set out to hunt for nuisance alligators in their neighbors' backyards; hunting grounds must be classified as wetland habitats.
Hunters looking to optimize the season can acquire land in both the eastern and western hunting zones. The hunt in the east starts and finishes a week earlier, giving the professional hunters some extra days to fill their quota.
3 They Need At Least 50 Tags To Be On The Show
The producers of Swamp People are not only searching for unique rural characters when they are looking to add to the cas they also want hunters who will bring in scores of gators.
During a casting call, the show announced that they were only looking for hunters that had at least 50 tags for the season.
Swamp People devotes most of its screen time to hauling in big alligators, so it makes sense that they would want to focus on well-established hunters. Filming a rookie reeling in half a dozen baby alligators probably does not make for thrilling TV.
2 They Cannot Keep An Alligator As A Pet
They may ensnare them, "choot 'em," and skin them - but the cast of Swamp People cannot keep an alligator as a pet. Production has no hand in this decision, as it has been established by Louisiana law.
When you take into account how many amateurs that have tried to go out on their own to hunt an alligator after seeing the show, it is probably for the best that they are not inspired to keep one as a pet as well.
They may look harmless when they are young, but alligators grow up to become undiscerning predators.
They are neither soft nor cuddly and should stay in the swamps where they belong.
1 Amp Up Their Spirituality For The Show
RJ and Jay Paul Molinere were added to the cast to showcase the lives of the Houma, a Native American tribe that comes from Louisiana. The tribe has been living off the land in the area for centuries, and was supposed to infuse the show with a bit of Southern authenticity.
On the show, the duo has engaged in various spiritual rituals to help them succeed in their endeavors. But according to several sources, most of this spiritualism was exaggerated for the cameras.
Their romanticized spiritualism does not take away from the fact that the Molineres are proud members of a native tribe and represent an often overlooked and underrepresented segment of the population.
Do you know of any other rules Swamp People have to follow? Let us know in the comments!