Troy Landry owns 16 beagles, is an avid deer hunter and makes most of his living through crayfish. He does a bit of alligator hunting on the show “Swamp People,” too. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of my trip to Pierre Part, La. When I made the trip in September 2012 I hoped to do a little alligator hunting with Landry and his gang — but due to the popularity of “Swamp People” on the History Channel, they’re obviously busy people during alligator season. During our last conversation, Landry told me that if I couldn’t get on his boat, he felt confident I could go with his brother. That there was no certainty of me getting on a boat nearly made me back out of the deal, but I decided to go anyway.
Pierre Part is pretty much like any other small town. There are a few gas stations (including Duffy’s Market, the one the Landry family owns and operates) and a few restaurants. That’s about it. But I bet the population of the town nearly doubles during alligator season. The reason is simply due to visitors who make long treks to watch the King of the Swamp bring in his haul. If it weren’t for the show, Pierre Part would just be a simple small town of friends and family.
There is nothing unassuming about Landry. In fact, one look — one firm handshake — and one knows this guy is real. The oldest of four brothers, Landry is the most intense. This intensity showed itself a time or two as he addressed the camera crew that follows his every move. They scurried around as he was weighing in gators at the market, and he showed little patience for holding up the process. “Hey, get the shot you need and hurry,” he hollered at one point. “If you don’t, then too bad. I’m not going to let these gators spoil waiting on you.”
Landry is known as “The King of the Swamp,” and for good reason. He consistently outsmarts huge gators year after year.
“You know, a big alligator is like a big buck. If you’re a deer hunter, you know how hard it is to outsmart a 6-, 7-, or 8-year-old buck. Imagine trying to outsmart a 60-, 70-, or even 80-year-old buck,” he said.
“A big alligator is like a big buck in a lot of ways. He’s going to lie up in the dirtiest, thickest places along the bayou. If there is an area with a bunch of trash or downed trees, that’s where he’s going to hide during the daylight hours — where the boats can go right past him and nobody will even know he’s there. Just like a big buck will hide right next to a highway or train tracks if he thinks he’s safe; those alligators will do the same thing.”
Landry recalled an event from a week prior.
“Clint and I caught a big alligator last week that I would bet my right arm was 100 years old. We hung probably 20 lines in the area we knew he was in and baited them with rotten chicken and beef melt. Ninety percent of the alligators out there simply can’t resist either the chicken or the beef melt,” he said. “But after several days we still hadn’t caught that alligator. So, when we were getting down to the last couple of days before we had to pull our lines and relocate, I knew we had to try something else. I figured a more natural bait to this environment would be required in order to fool the old gator, so I started searching the bayou for a rotting fish. I found one, and we let it hang on the line in the water so the current would carry the smell. The next day we caught that big alligator on that line.”
He also had a few tips that helped him stand out.
“I like to tie long, white ribbons near my lines because a big part of the alligator’s diet are the white herons that you see all the time along the bank,” he said. “Alligators don’t see good. They can smell really good but they don’t see good, so if you put a 2- or 3-foot-long white ribbon hanging on a tree branch that moves when the wind blows, they think it’s a big white heron.
“We usually catch alligators when nobody else is catching any. I don’t think it’s because we are better hunters, I think it’s just because we have a little more experience and a few little tricks up our sleeves, just like the ones I am sharing with you, that others may not always think of. We manage to catch five or six really big ones every year. Most hunters only catch one every 10 years. Paying attention to the little things makes a difference.”
Gator hunting is 90 percent work and 10 percent fun, according to Landry. The audience of “Swamp People” only gets to the see the 10 percent of fun for the most part.
The majority of Landry’s career actually centers on crayfish, taking up eight or nine months out of the year. Having fished for them for years, a couple of years ago, he gave up his traps and is now brokering them. Before he quit fishing them, not surprisingly, he set a new record by catching 4,500 pounds of the crustaceans in one day.
With crayfish season taking up nine months of the year and gator season taking up the other three, one wouldn’t think Landry has much time for anything else. But he manages to squeeze in time for his passion: deer hunting. He shares this love with all his brothers as well, making annual trips to Mississippi and Nebraska to hunt whitetails.
Landry loves beagles and has raised them his whole life. He finds relaxation in listening to them belt out their soulful howls when on a rabbit’s scent. I’m a beagle man too, and after the interview was over, Landry invited me to his house to see his dogs.
Once we were there, he loosened up a bit. Though he was still “working,” he began to relax and just talk. His granddaughter was there, and he lit up in her presence. She made sure to show me which beagle is hers and what her name is.
Before parting ways, he said, “Here, give these to your boy.” He handed me a couple of hooks that he had used to pull gators out of the Louisiana bayous. That’s just the kind of genuine guy he is.