By DANIEL SUDDEATH
Shawn Schuppert and his fiancee Lisa Jewell spent a week in the swamp lands of Louisiana, and while hunting the menacing alligators that roam the wetlands there, happened to bump into a family with national fame for its ability to track down the reptiles.
This year marked the third season for the History Channel’s reality show “Swamp People.” The show focuses on the 30-day alligator hunting season in Louisiana, which begins on the first Wednesday each September.
And it was last month when Schuppert and Jewell headed south for a taste of alligator hunting in the same swamps where the Landry family, who are the focus of the show, hunt each year.
It’s safe to say the couple got more than they bargained for.
Not only did Hurricane Isaac creep up the Gulf Coast and wreak havoc on travel plans, but a huge sinkhole opened near where the couple had rented a cabin. More than 400 feet wide, the sinkhole swallowed trees and led to evacuations in the bayou, but with the help of their tour guide, Schuppert and Jewell were able to find lodging and continued on their quest.
It didn’t take long for them to bump into the Landrys. On the first day of their expedition, the couple found Troy Landry, one of the stars of “Swamp People,” after he had returned from a hunting trip.
Landry’s success on the first day was as measured as Schuppert’s, as high levels in oxygen in the water due to the hurricane handicapped the ability of hunters to track alligators. Of course, the main difference was that Schuppert and his guide didn’t have a camera crew following his every move, as Landry and his family did as they hunted through the swamp land.
Throughout their trip, the couple frequented the Landry’s family bait shop, Duffy’s Shell Station in Pierre Part, La., which was near where they stayed.
“You go in there and it’s just like a coffee shop,” Schuppert said.
Jewell spent several hours in Duffy’s speaking with Troy Landry’s mother and his brothers.
“What’s amazing is the Landrys, they’re just the nicest people,” she said. “You can sit down and talk to them like you’ve known them for years.”
Southern charm and hospitality were easy to find on the bayou, Schuppert said. While traveling around the swamp via boat, Schuppert said they encountered several tiny communities of “backwards country people that live off the land,” yet they never felt out of place.
“We went down there and stayed right on the swamp, and we never met a rude person,” Schuppert said.
While he came to Louisiana in part to meet the stars of one of his favorite television shows, Schuppert also was there to hunt. After an unsuccessful first day, his guide decided to step it up a notch. Instead of relying on lines to help reel in the reptiles, Schuppert headed for open water where he would have to shoot an alligator from a boat if he planned on killing one.
After skimming the water for several minutes in hopes of finding his prey, Schuppert got his chance, and he didn’t miss. Shooting an alligator in open water isn’t easy, he said.
He compared the target to a submarine sandwich bun, except it’s black and enveloped in murky, dark water. After he shot the alligator, he waited with his guide in the boat for about 40 minutes until the tide brought his kill back to the surface.
He said it was an 8 1/2-foot alligator, and its head and feet are in Schuppert’s freezer. The hide of the alligator has been sent to a tannery in Georgia to be prepared for Schuppert to keep.
The couple enjoyed their stay in Southern Louisiana, and had several opportunities to talk to the Landry family and take pictures with the stars of “Swamp People.”
Schuppert said he would love to go again next year, and possibly take his father along with him for alligator hunting season. As if he weren’t a fan already, Schuppert said the trip has only driven his admiration of “Swamp People” that much more.
“It was great — just being there, being a part of that and being that close,” he said.