Outdoor Corner: 'Choot 'Em' yourself

Lyle Johnson

One of the most popular TV shows ever to appear on the History Channel is based right here out of south Louisiana. The series opener of “Swamp People” premiered Aug. 22, 2010, and set a ratings record for The History Channel. “Choot 'em” became two words that were on the lips of any red-blooded Cajun for many years.

This is how it’s done. Set a line baited with chicken, hook it and “Choot 'em.”

The series premiere surprisingly garnered 3.1 million total viewers, 2.5 million adults aged 25–54 and 2.3 million adults in the18–49 bracket driving The History Channel to No. 1 in cable within the 10-11 p.m. time period in total viewers and Adults aged 25–54.

Episode 1 of season 2 premiered on March 31, 2011. The second season premiere drew 3.9 million total viewers, and increased 26 percent versus the season 1 average (3.1 million). It was the series' most-watched episode ever.

The final episode of season 2 was met with record breaking viewers and ratings. The final episode drew 5.5 million viewers. It drew 2.8 million adults 25-54 and adults 18-49 – scoring the No. 1 show on cable for the night and the No. 2 spot in all of television. The season overall averaged 4.1 million viewers for the season.

The salty characters led, by Pierre Part legend Troy Landry, influenced Louisiana and Louisianians in ways never before imagined. There’s no doubt that the popularity of the wildly popular show certainly boosted tourism in the Atchafalaya Basin.

According to then Lt Governor Jay Dardenne, who was in charge of promoting tourism in Louisiana, “There is an interest and fascination in the beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin and the characters they show on TV.”

Ben Berthelot, then executive director of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, agreed with Dardenne’s assessment. “In speaking to some of our members and attractions, they have seen an increase in the buzz and curiosity because of things like 'Swamp People.' Louisiana became everything alligator all over the U.S."

Like it or not, these shows create a buzz around the nation and has the ability to influence folks’ actions, but it’s not all positive. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division has saw a steady rise in alligator violations since the premier of the show.

According to LDWF violation statistics, Enforcement Division agents have issued over 200 alligator related violations in 2012.  “The increase of alligator citations is of concern, and the department is doing their best to catch these violators,” said Col. Winton Vidrine, then head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. The popularity in outdoor reality TV shows seems to be one of the reasons why there have been more alligator violations in the past couple of years.

“In some of our cases the subjects have admitted to watching a reality TV show and then wanting to replicate what they watched,” said Col. Vidrine.  “While these shows offer a high level of entertainment, they do not offer a lot of information on how to legally harvest an alligator.”

The majority of these alligator violations are classified as possession of an alligator during a closed season, failing to possess a license and possession of an alligator without a license. 

Six-year-old Olivia Bergeron caught this bass on a jig under a cork in the Amite River Canal at the end of Summerfield South in late May.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has managed our alligator population so well that there is now ways for the public to obtain a permit and license to hunt those gators and “Choot 'em” ourselves.

There are lottery hunts that LDWF will conduct on 19 LDWF Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), 28 public lakes and one U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) property Aug. 25-Oct. 30, 2021. Applications are now available and are due by June 30th

Alligator lottery applications are only available on the LDWF website at https://la-web.s3licensing.com/. Those wanting to apply should click on the Lottery Applications tab, update or create their customer record similar to purchasing a license, and then submit an application.

There is a $5 application fee and a $2 transaction fee. Only one alligator lottery application may be submitted per customer. Paper applications will no longer be accepted.

Applicants must be legal Louisiana residents and 16 years of age or older. If selected, you will be required to purchase an alligator hunting license ($25) and to submit payment of $40 for each alligator tag allocated to the chosen location.

The most popular way is to use baited hooks and lines are suspended above the water by some type of structure. In most cases, alligator hunters will use poles, branches, or trees to suspend baits and provide a stationary object for securing the end of the line. The most commonly used baits are chicken quarters and beef melt. Hunters can use a rifled firearm (no shotguns allowed) or a bow and arrow to dispatch the gator. The gators should be dispatched immediately upon checking lines. Shot placement should be centered directly behind the skull. 

To assist applicants in selecting specific WMAs/public lakes, LDWF has posted the percentage of lottery alligator harvest applicants selected in 2021 by WMA or public lake as well as a map showing the general location of each area and the appropriate area manager’s contact information on its website at https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov.

For more information concerning lottery alligator harvests on LDWF WMAs or public lakes, contact the appropriate LDWF Field Office or email LAalligatorprogram@wlf.la.gov.

An easier way is to hire a professional guide service. Most offer several package hunts that start off with a half day hunt, usually providing breakfast and lunch. There are others that offer overnight experiences with all the amenities provided.

This way can be quite expensive, so make sure you do some research online to find one suitable that meets your budget requirements. The prices do vary quite a bit. There is also a listing of guides at  wlf.louisiana.gov/page/alligator-hunting-guides.

Louisiana offers lots of unique outdoor adventures, so take a chance, find an alligator and “Choot 'em” Yourself. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • Tuesday Evening Bass Tournament; St James Boat Club; Fishers of men tournament trail will be hosting through August, with a Classic. 5 p.m. until dark. All info on Facebook Tuesday evening Blind River bass.
  • Red Snapper Season — Open for private recreational fishermen and for state charter boat operations. Friday-through-Sunday seasons.
  • CCA Statewide Anglers’ Rodeo: Through Sept. 6. CCA Louisiana saltwater rodeo with divisions and numerous categories. Must be CCA member. Website: www.ccalouisiana.com. 
  • South La Highpower Club Match: 7:30 a.m. June 27, squadding; 8 a.m. on the range, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Email Rick Mol: southlahighpower@hotmail.com
  • La WMA Alligator Lottery Deadline: June 30 — Tags for take of alligators on 19 state wildlife management areas, 28 public lakes and one Corp of Engineers property to take place Aug. 25-Oct. 30. $5 application fee. $2 transaction fee. Website: la-web.s3licensing.com/
  • Golden Meadow Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo; July 1 through 3 hosted at Moran’s Marina in Fourchon, La. Tickets $35 and all get all tournament information on www.fourchontarpon.com.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net