SWAMP PEOPLE How much money does an Alligator Hunter make?

Swamp People Troy Landry Clint Landry Jacob Landry

Anyone who watches Swamp People knows that alligator hunters care about how much money they make. Sure, they hunt for their love of the land, but they do it for their living, too. And they’re not shy about it. With the notable exception of the Guist brothers, the hunters featured on the show are quick to talk about what makes the difference between a profit and a loss during the one-month alligator season in Louisiana.

As the show’s narrator often reminds us, many of these men make half their income for the year from the alligator we see them catch on the show. We hear about tags and maps and the quality of an alligator’s skin, as well as the all important question of its size.  But how much are these guys really making?   What kind of money are we talking about?

Swamp People Liz Cavalier

Well . . . its complicated. As it turns out, the alligator business is pretty volatile.  The market fluctuates wildly, and the alligator hunters’ fortunes come an go with it, if they’re not careful. The Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council has all the information (and more!) that you would ever want about how to lawfully hunt wild alligators in Louisiana and sell their hides and meat for a profit, but they tell a little bit rosier story about the industry than any of my other sources.  According to their site, alligator hunting has become steadily more profitable over the years.  While skins went for $6/foot in the 1960’s and $9/foot in the early 1980’s, they rose to over $40/foot in the late 1980’s.

Louisiana Alligator

What the Louisiana Advisory Council fails to mention is that prices have come down since the late ’80’s.  Way down.  One Louisiana newspaper, Vermilion Today, reports that in the 2010 season

“A wild gator that is seven feet or longer sells for around $12 to $15 a foot. A 10-foot gator at $13 per foot will be purchased for $130. When the price was $40 per foot, that same gator was purchased for $400.”

So, according to these estimates,  when Troy Landry pulls a 12 foot monster alligator out of the swamp, risking his life and straining his body, he might get up to $180 for a perfect hide.  If the gator has lived hard and has the scars to show for it, he’ll get less.  And, if there’s a little alligator on his line, he has wasted a precious tag on a hide that won’t bring in enough to cover the cost of catching it.

UPDATE – Click here for an updated 2011 alligator price chart! (As mentioned in Swamp People Season 3, the prices have gone way up since Season 2!)

UPDATE – The prices continue to inch up in the Swamp People Season 4 Alligator Price Chart!

Swamp People Bruce Mitchell Nick Payne

Hunters can harvest as many alligators as they have alligator tags. That’s why you hear folks on the show talking about tags all the time. Each tag represents a potentially profitable alligator. Each lost tag represents a loss, since they cannot be replaced. (Which is why Bruce’s helper dove into alligator invested waters to retrieve some tags that had fallen overboard, and why Bruce didn’t stop him.) When you catch a gator, no matter what the size, you have to put one of your tags on it. You can’t cut the little ones loose and save your tags for the big boys. That’s why the hunters get a little disgusted when they put small alligators into the boat; each one takes a tag that could’ve gone on a monster (and earned them a lot more money).

Alligator tags don’t cost anything if you own your own hunting grounds. All you have to do is prove ownership of a piece of land deemed sufficient to sustain alligators, get a $25 Alligator Hunting license, and make an application. The number of tags you’re assigned is based on the size of your land and (if applicable) the number of tags you filled the previous year. The hunters on the show often talk about “tagging out,” which means using all your assigned tags. If you don’t “tag out,” then you aren’t likely to get as many tags the following year, so a bad alligator season one year also means fewer tags in the next. Ouch.

Swamp People Blake McDonald and Austyn Yoches

While we’re on the subject of the costs of alligator hunting, don’t forget the equipment, the help you have to hire (or raise), and the time you have to take off of work to be out on the swamp for a month every year.  When you add it all up, there’s not much of a margin in Alligator hunting.

But, let’s do the math. The alligator season lasts 30 days, but serious hunters stretch that to 37 days by owning land in both the East and the West regions, since the Western region’s 30 days starts a week later than the Eastern region’s. Troy Landry, who is the big daddy tag-rich King of the Swamp got 320 tags in 2010, but most professional hunters have far fewer. Let’s say our hypothetical hunter has a healthy allotment of 200 tags and property in both regions (for a 37 day season). So, that means, he needs to average 5.5 alligators a day. Let’s also assume that he’s a really skilled hunter and that 1 out every 10 alligators he catches is a 11+ foot monster. Hunting is hunting, though, so we’ll say that 2 out of every 10 is a baby 5-6 footer. Everything else (7 out of 10) is 7-10 feet.

Here’s how that would look: 20 monsters, 40 babies, and 140 respectable gators.

Pricing is also tough to estimate, but I’ll go out on a limb and take an educated guess. The average price for a respectable gator in 2010 was $11-$12 per foot, but monster gators went for $15/foot or more and babies went for a touch less, say $9/foot. So, more math . . .

20 monsters @ 11 feet each x $15/foot=$3300
40 babies @ 6 feet each x $9/foot=$2160
140 respectable gators @ 8 feet each x $12/foot=$13440

That’s a grand total of $18,900.

This is the profit off the hides, alone. Besides frying up into a nice dinner, the meat has some value that could also be added to the alligator hunters’ profits. And, of course, the more big gators you get, the more this total goes up. On the other hand, you have to pay for all your equipment and all your help out of this total. I’m guessing you have to pay normal income taxes, too.

CLICK HERE to find out exactly where the mythical “quarter-sized kill spot” mentioned numerous times on Swamp People is located!

Swamp People RJ and Jay Paul Molinere

When you watch your first episode or two of Swamp People, the connections to the crab fishing portrayed on The Deadliest Catch jump to the fore.  Here are incredibly tough men (and a woman or two) throwing themselves at an incomprehensibly hostile world and wrestling with it until it gives them a living.  But the more you watch, the more the similarities evaporate.  Successful crab hunters go home with tens of thousands of dollars in their pockets, if they can stand the stress and effort of the work (which most people, of course, can’t).  Most don’t live anywhere near Alaska (unless Seattle counts), and few can trace their connection to crabbing back more than a couple of generations. (The Hansens, with their Norwegian roots, may be an exception to this, but that just proves the rule.)

Alligator hunters, on the other hand, have to either have some other gig or have to live very simply in order to stay in the hunt. RJ Molinere fishes for shrimp and hunts for every sort of game that will turn a profit that lives on his family’s 500 acres.  The Landrys own a gas station and buy crawfish from local fisherman.  The Guists?  Well, they go the “live simply” route.

Glen and Mitchell Guist

Alligator hunting really isn’t a great way to make a living, at least by most middle class Americans’ standards.  And, despite what any of them might say, they’re really not in it for the money. It runs deeper than that. It’s a way of life.

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69 thoughts on “SWAMP PEOPLE How much money does an Alligator Hunter make?

  1. I love how you guys are writing about Swamp People. :]
    What I want to know is how big ARE those History Channel paychecks?

    1. why isent there any cajun women like me on there shootin da gators, i have done it before its easy ; love the show guys keep it up 🙂 Rajun cajun hugs to ya

  2. This show cracks me up how they havet to translate for them underneath when there talking LMAO!!! Its a good one!

    1. hahahahaha lmao im cajun myself and talk the same ! when i lived in Reno they couldnt understand what i was saying either lol

  3. We do it for the fun, but its not really a living, Lousiana has gator farms all over the bayou area. They make more money raising them on a farm.

  4. In comparison, how much do the production people make? Are they some fancy crew from Hollywood or are they local folk? Producer, director, narrator, camera people, editors, music, etc. Do they make their entire living off of one show or are they working on more than one show? Or do they own gas stations too?

    And then how about the gator skin users- like that Italian designer. How much dough is he rolling in? I bet he’s the cash cow.

    I bet they don’t get much for the meat.

    1. The production people don’t make much, their annual wage is about what a gator hunter makes in 30 days 25 to 30 k.. The crews aren’t “fancy” just rank and file blue collar folk like the gator hunters. The gator hunters welcome the paycheck from those “fancy” folks. No Italian designers equals no money for gator hunters. The idea that film crews and designers are the elite and the gator hunters are good hard working oppressed Americans that do all the work and others get rich off them is a ridiculous statement.

      1. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s the way the system works with the rich making the lions share off anything is extremly niave! Tell me which farmer gets paid more than the ultra rich retailing the product?? There are NONE!!! Family is generations of farmers and no one here is on the Forbes list!!!

  5. I love the show and cant wait for Thursday night so I can watch it!! Troy is my favorite and i would love to gator hunt with him!! My husband likes Bruce and Tyler!lol Go Swamp People, My favorite Show!!!!!

      1. My fav from Troy is “shoot ’em ‘Lizbeth…shoot ’em!” Great team…as they all have great attitudes toward life and what they do. I admire that.

  6. Troy is the man!!!! I could listen to him talk forever. Love that cajun accent! Just thought i’d let ya’ll know We have a short gator season here in Mississippi and you have to draw a tag which is not easy (Lots of folks applying but only a few are chosen) I was lucky enough last year to draw a tag to fish a reservoir near my hometown and caught a 12 ft. 395 lb beast and let me tell you adrenaline rush doesn’t even think about describing it. If this is something you think you might want to try or just tag along during a catch AI highly recommend it. Most fun you can have with your pants on. Sorry for ramblin but thought i’d i’d share a little story and say I love the show keep it going!!!!!!

  7. This is definately the best show on cable. I thought pawn stars was my fave but its in 2nd now! I live by the port everglades in miami,and every night on the news here you hear about a gator in someones back yard,or on thier porch. I wish the would “shoot em” here, but they dont. Its all about tourist here. Not me buddy! One comes into my yard I will be aiming for that quarter size kill shot. BELIEVE THAT! Keep up the good work boys.{and liz} And as far a willie goes he is a tuff little guy. I always think he is gonna go in,but he always seems to pull through.Kinda makes me think of Steve Irwin.God bless him too.

  8. I forgot to say that if they ever do anything for the fans, I would love to go out with them just 1 time. If I ever make it to Myrtle Grove,which is where Tommy and Trapper Joe are, PLEASE PLEASE take me out with you guys. I wont get in the way, I promise. But Tommy needs to tighten up cause hes about to be replaced I think. They need to stay together as a team and family. And the 2 brothers,well they are just a trip. Do them boys ever eat McDonalds? Probley not

  9. Love the show! Thanks for the info. Was always curious what those guys make. Wonder about those History channel paychecks too.

  10. Great cast, great show, great Southern entertainment. Hope that the recent floods didn’t have any effect on the Attachfalya Basin.
    Go get’em.

  11. Love the show, Liz is HOT ! Tommy needs to cool down, like all the guys but Willie is my fave, he’s got more balls than pounds, has great work an family ethics. Guist brothers one reason I watch the show, I’m a fisher hunter an like to eat da deers, da frogs, da squirrels, dabaths, keep up the good Cajun viewing.

  12. best show ever, my husband wants to move here for the simple life. if we get to louisanna next year my husband wants to look up one of you guys and get a ride in the bayou…its so beautiful and your so lucky. keep up the great work and hope to see you many more seasons. the covenys

  13. Swamp People is my favorite tv show by far.Alligator hunting has got to be tough but I’m a little bit jealous of those folks.Life ain’t worth a piddler’s damn without adventure.Good luck and God bless.Choot ’em!

  14. love the show an would like to hunt gators with ya’ll done it in the back waters of alabama years ago with my daddy before he pass it would be fun to go out an do it again just for the fun an memories so send me a invite it would be fun later,robert

  15. I’m from Bogalusa, La. and live i Ohio now for the past 22yrs. My northern wife just adores the show, especially Troy and Lizbeth. My question is, if there is no charges for the necessary “TAGS”, why is it so important to use all the tags you have before the season ends? Is it just pride?

  16. Love the show, Troy’s the man, would love to go gator hunting with him and Liz and then go eat some wonderful food made by Troy….choot’em Elizabeth!!!!!
    PS. I think the show needs to let average joes go out gator hunting with the cast…I’ll volunteer first!!!!!

  17. I love the show. Last weekend I enjoyed the 2day marathon, I could watch it all day. I already miss it. Can’t wait for season #3.

  18. Boy am I glad I got netflix, I don’t have any cable and I was dying to watch this show. It was fantastic, I used to be an avid hunter and really enjoyed the show, it is really hunting when that which is being hunted, may actualy be hunting you. Kind of scary, but that is what makes it all worth it.
    Wished you got the money you deserve from the big guys that are really pulling in the bucks selling off your hard work.

  19. I started watching this show with my husband, we have been married 42 years and we love it..can’t wait for next season. I feel like we are part of their families.

  20. I tried to watch the show when it first came on, I can’t.
    To me it is cruel, I guess it is just me, I can not enjoy killing an animal or seeing one suffer all because of money.

    1. I wish they wouldn’t be so happy to kill something…They should be thankful toward the animal for providing them income.

    2. I agree! I hope karma comes back around & good ‘ol Troy gets what he deserves!! It’s a shame to kill such a beautiful creature! Leave it alone & let it live in peace!

  21. I like how it says “and the time you have to take off of work to be out on the swamp for a month every year.”
    Like it’s a big expense for these guys/gals
    Lets see do I work for 500 a week and bring in 2000 for the month or do I bring in potentially 15-20K for that month. We see who the smart ones are.
    However, I love the show and can’t wait till next season.

  22. The show is a big hit in South Georgia. Can’t wait til next season.Keep it up guys/gals.

  23. Willie, I don’t think you need to let your daddy shoot, somehow you get hit a little too often.

  24. Love the show. I hope all those alligator hunters are getting a nice check from the History Channel, seeing that they don’t make a lot of profit on the gators. Looking forward to going hunting down there one day soon. We love the show in Detroit, Michigan

  25. Great show!

    Troy is the man.
    Hope they all get together & have a gator festival!!!
    Heck, they could make a bundle off T-shirts, board & video games based on their show 😉
    Thanks to all that made the show what it is.


  26. Will someone tell Willie to use something other than his hands when snake hunting. Low level venom can accumulate and I would hate to see Willie fall over the boat and become a snack for some Gator with revenge on his mind. I stumbled on this show and became addicted and this from someone who hate reality shows. How about some more about the families. They must be pretty special to be married to these swampers. I hope you are keeping the same cast for next season!!!

    1. Jere the snakes Willie catches are not poisonous they are yellow bellied water snakes but are pretty aggressive and will give you a pretty nasty bit but no where poisonous there’s not such thing as a low level venom snake in louisiana or in the United states period there’s only 4 breeds in United states, 6 if you want to count all three types of rattle snakes.So you have the water moccasin” also called a cotton mouth”,coral snake,rattle snake,copper head,and the two out of the 4 snakes that would be found in water are the coral and water moccasin and I’m pretty sure Willie is sharper than people think and he can tell the difference between a moccasin and a yellow belly and no way you can put a coral in the equation but any way the bit from the snakes Willie catches are no more dangerous than your common chicken snake, king snake,bull snake so Willie know what he’s doing, he’ll be just fine. And good job on the show it’s a blast to watch.

      1. Just FYI no snake is “poisonous” snakes inject venom so they are venomous – plants have poison like poison ivy…

  27. I love the show. You go Troy and Lizzy. Onefether needs to realize if the gators were not harvested, eventually gator populations would increase to the point to where there would be no food for their existance and then the gators would starve to death.
    My favorite History Channel show by far. I hope these fine examples of hard working Americans never get rich from their popularity on the History Channel, for if they did, they would have to contend with the tax man.


  28. Love the show – I stumbled upon the show and have been a fan ever since. Hopefully, I’ll catch the next marathon! Troy is my favorite even though you have to really pay attention to understand what he’s saying! Also can’t believe Willie snake hunting at night with his bare hands! Waiting patiently for the new season!

    Choot em Liz!!

  29. I live in Michigan, I love the program. I don’t care how much these men and women make. By the looks of it, they deserve every cent they make.

    Signed; Dean White
    Three Rivers, Mi

  30. I’m from east coast Canada….not too many gators up here,,,, best show on t. v. …..I would love to go gator huntin’ with Troy Landry…by the way my mothers maiden name is Landry…we could be related…..alot of the cajun people were banished from the maritimes of canada and ended up in Louisisana ( originally they were called Acadians up here )……..tim

  31. I’m from The West coast and we don’t have gators here but I do enjoy watching the show. I have a question though. I can see that the tag goes on a gators tail but it looks like there is some kind of special spot for it. Is there? If so please explain where the tag goes. I don’t know why I want to know. It’s just a question that’s been bugging me.

  32. Alligator meat is expensive! Retail is like $15 per pound. I can’t believe that the meat isn’t the largest source of income to these good old boys.

    1. yea, well think of this an average 6 ft gator possibly gives 15-20 lbs of good meat. Break open the stomach and it is ruined!
      15 lbs is enough to feed a family of 4 about….10 days more or less. So to eat gator as your main substance you need 2-3 larger than 5.5 ft per month..25-40 gators a year average?
      Or..take the wholesale meat value..what 8-10 a pound..same price as most meat except pork and chicken.

  33. I would laugh if a saltwater croc had slipped into that swamp see how they fair against a 18ft Aussie croc. Look up Brutus the croc on google

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      1. if they could write a better paragraph i might trust them more.i am no grammar scholar,but this is some sad writing.

  35. Okay Guys the show must make the dough or your all crazy like me eat sleep fish eat many of what you catch

  36. WOW! That means I HATE the show so much!!!! All animals have the right to live!!!!
    Ya f murderers!

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