Swamp People

Season 1 Episode 1

Big Head Bites It

Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Aug 22, 2010 on The History Channel

Episode Recap

The episode begins with a narration of the swamplands. The narrator says that in the farthest corner of America is the nation's largest swamp. A man says that there are times when he hears noises at night and he doesn't know what they are. The swamp is a dangerous world where nature rules over all else and man continue to fight back. The narrator says that only the toughest live in the swamp and they are about to begin their hardest season.

The swamps of Louisiana are one million acres of flooded forest, marshlands, and bayou where there are no roadways or maps. This means that getting lost could mean death, but the secrets are known to a select few. Swamp Hunter Tommy Chauvin states that there are no maps out on the swamp and getting lost can mean death. The narrator states that most of the swamp hunters are descendants of Cajuns that originally started in the business. Swamp Hunter Troy Landry says that most of the Cajuns descended from Canada and they were all considered rejects and were exported. Chauvin says that he lives off the land and relies on the land to make his money.

The narrator says that for the last 250 years, many have prospered off of the swamp lands and have passed down the skills for many generations. Chauvin says that they do tough things out on the swamp, but he will do this job until the day he dies. As the summer season starts to close, all of the swamp hunters have one thing on their minds: getting ready for the alligator hunting season. Alligators can grow over fourteen feet and can weigh one thousand pounds. The alligators have the most powerful jaws on the planet and are hard-wired to kill. Scientists realized that if the alligators were left alone the population would grow enormously and would put humans in terrible danger. As the solution, there is a thirty day season that allows the hunters to hunt the alligators. While the risks are huge, the rewards are worth it since bringing in alligators could bring in half of their income for the year. This is only if nothing goes wrong.

Less than 24 hours before the start of the season, many hunters are getting ready for the job. One of the greatest alligator hunters, Troy Landry, is out on the water to check the territory. The narrator says that Troy's alligator hunting has gone back three generations. Troy says he's spent his whole life out on the swamp like his ancestors and he's been hunting and fishing his entire life. Troy's son, Jacob Landry, is with him on the hunts. Jacob says that a person has to have a wild side to them in order to catch alligators because alligators will try and attack and put up a fight. Jacob says that if they weren't catching the alligators, more incidents of people getting eaten would pop up. Troy says that the population would grow too high and the food would run out. As a result, the alligators would travel to the shores where people are at and they would eat them. Troy has caught some of the biggest alligators, but an eight hundred pound monster named Big Head has avoided him for a long time. Troy says that he's been hunting Big Head for years and he's been around longer than they have. Troy wants to catch Big Head this year.

In Myrtle Grove, team Joe LaFont and Tommy Chauvin get ready for the season. Joe LaFont has been hunting alligators for over thirty years. LaFont says that he used to hunt alligators with his father until he passed away. LaFont has been teaching his stepson, Chauvin, how to hunt as well. Chauvin has hunted alligators for over twenty years, but he still has plenty to learn. LaFont says that his father guided him through catching alligators when he was younger and he has stepped in that role for Chauvin. The two head out to plant their bait.

In the swamp, LaFont and Chauvin set out to plant their bait. The narrator says that most alligators feed at night so traps have to be set the day before. LaFont and Chauvin set thirty baited hooks to see if they have caught any alligators. They plant pieces of chicken on the hooks so the alligators will take the bait. LaFont says that alligators will swallow the hook and once it hooks in their stomach, they are caught. Chauvin says that the alligators are attracted by the smell of the chicken from miles away and they will come over and clamp on the chicken and the hook. LaFont says that they need to put their bait on the side the wind is blowing towards the swamp because if they put it the other way, the smell won't travel to the alligators.

The next day, the first day of alligator season has begun. Several hunters begin their day. Troy, Jacob, and hired gunner Clint Landry, no relation to Troy or Jacob, begin their day early. History says that alligator hunting the Cajun way hasn't changed at all in the last one hundred years. Troy says that when they get caught on a line alligators get mad and will try to escape. He says that this can put people in danger and they need to be extremely careful. The three find a taut bait line and determine that they've caught an alligator. They don't know if it's Big Head or another alligator. The three pull up and snag the alligator with their line. The alligator tries to role and get off the hook. Clint takes aim with his gun. The narrator says that the longer the alligator is allowed to fight gives them more time to get loose from the hook. Clint takes aim at the vulnerable spot on the alligator which is at the back of the head. Clint hits the alligator dead in the back of the head. They pull the alligator onto the boat and they see that it is a big alligator. It is not Big Head. Troy is still happy that they are off to a good start on the season.

Seventy miles away, LaFont and Chauvin haven't caught a single alligator in four hours. They finally come across a taut line and wonder if it's an alligator. They realize that it might not be an alligator because anything could be at the end of the line. They pull the line up and find that the alligator is under the tree. They have to get into the marsh to get the alligator. The alligator is faster at moving than a human so one wrong move and LaFont and Chauvin would be done for. LaFont tries to figure out where the alligator is and they see that the alligator is on the bank. Chauvin and LaFont find the alligator hooked and stuck on the bank. Chauvin has a pistol and needs to make the first shot count in order to catch the alligator. The alligator starts to move around to try and get away from the two. Chauvin fires one shot, but the alligator is still moving. Chauvin tries to fire again, but there's a misfire. LaFont says that this is a rookie mistake that could cost a person their life. Chauvin fires with the second gun and gets the alligator. LaFont realizes that the alligator was ready to take off his foot. Chauvin apologizes and says that it's his mistake. He realizes that he needs to be doing his job better so that LaFont doesn't lose his foot. LaFont tells Chauvin that there can't be anymore misfires. Chauvin says that LaFont is a serious man about hunting, but he wants to have fun doing the hunting. However, he does understand why they need to be serious.

Eight miles away in Bayou Sorrel, legendary hunter Junior Edwards is Troy Landry's biggest rival and he hopes to best Landry this year. Junior says that nobody is on his back telling him what he needs to do and it allows him to live the life he wants to live. Junior is out to beat 189 alligators that were caught last season. Helping him is his son, Willie, who wants to learn the craft of alligator hunting from his father. Willie says that many people in town will tell him that Junior is the best alligator hunter in the state of Louisiana. Junior catches alligators with baited lines, but he has a secret weapon he uses as well. He uses a three pronged hook that is used to catch gators on the open water. Junior actually makes his own hooks and they are three times as stronger as store bought hooks. The hooks can withstand 2,000 pounds of force and he'll need to make several in order to have a good season.

Troy, Jacob, and Clint come across a taut line, but they don't know what's on the end of it. They pull on the line and find that they have an alligator. Troy shoots the alligator, and they find that it is only a small alligator. Troy says that bigger ones are worth three times as much so they prefer catching bigger alligators in order to make more of a profit. The state of Louisiana will only issue a certain amount of tags and one has to be placed on every alligator. Alligators are paid out by the foot so killing a small one means wasting a tag and losing money. When a hunter runs out of tags, the season is over. As they continue down the swamp, a boatman comes upon Troy. He tells him that he was just fishing on the other side of the marsh when he saw a huge alligator. Troy gets excited thinking it might be Big Head.

The destination at Point A Joe, Louisiana, is where they're heading. Jacob says that they've heard that there was a big alligator lurking around in the Point A Joe area and that they haven't seen it lately. Clint says that people bring their boats to the Point A Joe and they spend the weekend fishing and swimming. Clint adds that many people don't think about the fact that there are alligators in the water and the alligators love seeing people swimming back and forth because they think it's food. Troy says that Big Head could eat a kid in a few bites and they need to find him before someone is hurt.

Junior and Willie head out onto the water to hook an alligator with their three pronged hooks. Junior sees an alligator swimming in the bayou and they throw the hook out. Few hunters will risk doing this, but Junior is gutsy enough to catch it in the open water. Junior says that he can cast the hook out and it will snag the alligator. Willie says that they are the only ones that snag alligators. He adds that if they don't do it right, things can go bad. They throw the line, but they don't catch the alligator. They see the tail sticking out of the water and they throw the hook again. Willie is not throwing the hook far enough to reach the alligator. Junior states that if a person doesn't do it right the first time, they can lose out on any chance of catching the alligator. Willie says that when he throws the hook out, he has to pull it back slowly and hope that it snags on something. They throw the hook out again and Willie throws the hook again, but he misses again. The narrator says that an alligator's basic instinct will tell it to hide in deep water if it senses danger. The alligator can stay under the water for one hour before it has to come up for air so Junior has to wait and see if it will resurface.

Troy, Jacob, and Clint are still hoping to catch Big Head. They arrive in the area and try to spot the alligator. Troy thinks he's spotted the alligator near the treetops resting. They know it is Big Head and this may be the only chance to catch him. However, shooting an alligator out in the open is not easy to do. Clint grabs the rifle and levels it at Big Head. He takes aim and fires his shot. He misses and Big Head goes into the water to go into the deep end. Clint is disappointed for missing. Troy knows that they need to catch Big Head before he eats a child. Troy and Clint set out several lines to try and lure Big Head back to the area since this is where he likes to live.

LaFont and Chauvin have checked twenty lines to find that most of the hooks were empty. They hope that their luck changes. They get in their boat to try and check the waters again. LaFont knows some alligator hot spots where they might be able to catch several alligators even without all of the lines. LaFont says that being out on the waters for over thirty years has helped him identify several spots where alligators love to nest. They get to the spot only to find out that Chauvin left the bait in the truck. LaFont is very upset that Chauvin left it back at the truck even when he was reminded to load the bait. This is Chauvin's second mistake of the day. Chauvin states that this is the first time he's ever left the bait in the truck.

Junior and Willie aren't having the best of luck either on their first day of the season. They are still waiting for the alligator to pop up. They finally spot the alligator coming up for air. Willie gets the hook ready and hopes to make the catch. He throws the hook and this time he hooks it. The alligator starts to fight and roll around. Alligators could easily flip over a boat or take Willie or Junior into the water with it by sheer force. Willie can see the rope starting to unravel as they try to pull it in. While the alligator is a large animal, the kill shot is very small on the back of the head. Willie grabs another hook and casts it in. Junior needs to shoot the alligator before it gets away. The alligator almost gets his jaws around Junior's gun. Junior levels a shot and fires at the alligator. He hits it in the head. Three hours after they first spotted it, Junior and Willie have finally caught the alligator. They have to hoist the alligator onto the boat without capsizing it or falling into the water. Willie says that when they hoist the alligator into the boat, they need to get the head in first. Once the head is in, then they can use it as counter weight. If they grab the tail and then the head, it wouldn't work the same way. The three have to pull the head in first and roll the alligator into the boat. They are finally successful at bringing the alligator onto the boat, but not without an injury. Junior ended up slicing his hand on one of the hooks that was in the alligator. They realize that the alligator is still alive as the tail is flapping around. They end up having to shoot it again.

Elsewhere, Troy continues to search for Big Head, but he hasn't come back. They come to the last line to find that the alligator and the bait are gone. Troy realizes that the hook has been stringed and they lost Big Head again. Clint says that Big Head took their bait and left. Clint says that Big Head has continued to string their hooks and take the bait from them. Jacob is hoping that this year their new hooks will be able to get Big Head.

Junior and Willie head to the market to sell their alligators. Alligators are sold for meat, but the skins are more expensive as alligator skin is used by tanneries. The bigger skins are worth more than the smaller skins and the big one can really pay off for Junior and Willie. The alligator is twelve feet and two inches and weighs 760 pounds. Junior finds out that he's made $1,430 for his first day. Junior says that he's right on target to match last year's pace.

LaFont and Chauvin have to pick up the pace. LaFont says that this has been the slowest start he's had to an alligator season. Citing Chauvin's mistakes, LaFont says that it's alright to have fun, but when getting out on the water he needs to be serious so they can get the alligators. Chauvin says that LaFont likes things to be done his way and LaFont states that he needs things done the right way. Chauvin wants to prove to LaFont that he can do this on his own and he is dependable. They've heard of a nine foot alligator living near the sewers and they find the alligator that they were looking for. The best place to control a rope is on the shore, but it also leaves a hunter exposed to the alligator if it decides to attack. The line is covered with vegetation which can provide camouflage for the alligator. They see bubbles and see that they've caught the alligator. LaFont pulls the alligator up to expose its head and Chauvin fires his gun. The alligator is hit, but it still continues to fight. Chauvin aims the rifle again hoping to get his shot off before the alligator breaks the hook. Chauvin fires again and this time he gets the kill shot. They pull the alligator up and realize that the hook actually went into the alligator's shoulder not in its mouth. LaFont says that Chauvin has been showing a lot of skills in the trade and he thinks that Chauvin has learned a lot from him growing up.

Elsewhere, Junior and Willie have finished a great first day and they are heading home. Junior says that he has to rest for a little while and then get back out on the water. Theresa Edwards, Junior's wife, listens to Junior's first successful day. Theresa says that she's been married to Junior for 28 years and when he's had a hard day on the water he expects home cooked food. Theresa cooks Junior some marsh hen that he shot the other day. Theresa says that they do buy some food at the store, but most of the time they rely on eating food off of the land from hunting. Junior enjoys his meal and asks if there is any coffee. Theresa notes that she is trying to finish her dinner and will get it ready when she's finished. Junior says that he's too lazy to get up and make it himself. Theresa admits that being the wife of a fisherman is not the easiest job because Junior is very demanding. She admits that she does worry when Junior, Randy, and Willie head out onto the water because there are a lot of things out on the swamp that will kill a human.

Troy, Jacob, and Clint can see a tree shaking on the bayou and they know that a huge alligator is there. They get everything ready and they note that the line was set specifically for Big Head. They note that if it is Big Head, Troy and Big Head will finally face off and they will see who wins. Troy tells Clint to shoot Big Head before he gets loose. Troy pulls Big Head up and Clint shoots into the water. Big Head has been hit and Troy can finally claim his alligator. Troy says that for the last two years Big Head has been stringing his hooks and they've finally got him. They pull Big Head onto the boat and realize that they are taking on a little water with all of the alligators they have caught. Troy sees where children go swimming one hundred yards away and realizes that Big Head could have easily grabbed one of the children.

Two years into the hunt for Big Head, Troy is finally taking him to market. The crowd has gathered to see Big Head and they think it's the biggest that they've ever seen. Big Head measures out to twelve feet eleven inches. Troy is paid $3,900 for all of the alligators that he caught. Troy is very happy with the day and heads home.

LaFont and Chauvin bring their first day's catches into the shop. LaFont and Chauvin have a tradition of skinning the first big catch of the season. LaFont custom crafts his own tools and says that it's about making something he owns. A note says that traditions die hard out in the swamp. LaFont says that he's never missed an alligator season since he started hunting and states that he never intends on missing any as long as he lives. LaFont hopes that Chauvin steps into his place. They take the hook in the alligator and put it in the truck for tomorrow's good luck. Chauvin says that LaFont is a great man and he thinks that they have become great friends over the years. Chauvin says that he's even quit jobs just so he could go alligator hunting with LaFont.

Troy hosts another family party to celebrate the start of alligator season. There is a huge gathering with plenty of food and plenty of relatives. Troy is glad to see all of his family and friends. Jacob says that the town knows they can go to Troy if they need anything. A relative states that Troy is the kind of man that will give a person the shirt off his back. They see a snake attacking a fish and the family heads over to watch it. Troy states that he wants his family to learn the same things that he has learned over the years. Troy says that family comes first and there's nothing more important than his family. Troy says that if something ever happens to him and they give his heart to someone in another city, they are going to want to come down and hunt alligators. Troy says that's how much alligator hunting means to him. The episode ends with Troy listening for an alligator out in the swamp.

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