Huntin’, Fishin’ and Cookin’ with Alligator Man Bruce Mitchell
For Alligator Man Bruce Mitchell making a living off the land was just always what his family did in south Louisiana—from hunting and fishing to farming and trapping. He caught the outdoor bug as a kid on visits to his grandmother’s river camp then married into a gator-and-turtle farm in Hammond, Louisiana before eventually becoming one of the best wild gator hunters south Louisiana. It all seemed like a natural path and true to his roots—but the surprise was the celebrity that came with a nine-year-run as one of the most popular characters on the History Channel series Swamp People.
For nine seasons, Bruce’s work during wild gator season turned him into someone millions of viewers saw as one of their people. Bruce’s outgoing, personality earned him instant friendships throughout the country and a Facebook community with more than 350 thousand followers that interact with him as part of an extended family. But through it all he’s stayed true to his roots, his family and where’s he’s from—and that’s what his community is all about. From his weekly Front Porch Cooking Show to daily interactions, Bruce shines a light on who he is and what he does—completely unfiltered. With Bruce, what you see is what you get—and for decades he’s done it all in Libertys.
Tell us where you're from and what you like about living here in south Louisiana.
Well, I was born and raised in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, which is right next to Hammond. We live at Hammond now, which is right on the border of Ponchatoula. So we kinda live on the line. We actually have a Ponchatoula phone and a Hammond address, so we live right on the line here. But I’ve just been here all my life and it's a good place to hunt and fish, trap—that's just my lifestyle. I like to do that.
Family? All your family's here.
All our family's right here. So we have a bunch of family right here. So we can always get together cookin' and cuttin' up and havin' fun.
Well, how did you get into huntin' and fishin'?
Well, my grandpa—grandpa Hebert—was a big hunter, trapper and fisherman. That's how he made his livin' and I just kinda followed in his footsteps. And my other grandpa Mitchell was a farmer, so I did a lot of stuff with him workin' on tractors and lawnmowers and this and that, and that's, you know, that's how I learned how to work on a lot of stuff.
Well, how did you get picked for the Swamp People Show?
Well, they say Swamp People, when they picked me, they had a list of statements to put out, who caught the most and the biggest gators all the time, and I was always on that list. So that's how I got picked for Swamp People.
And it was actually supposed to be just a documentary?
It was actually supposed to be like two-hour documentary was what they told us, and I wasn't gonna do it, but I had a boat motor start knockin', makin' a funny noise. Anyway they come down one day and they told me this boat motor would cost around $5,000. So what happened was that they came here and I didn't want to do it because I didn't want nobody else on my boats and because we was busy. What happened was they said they’d pay me $5,000 and I said, “really?” So they got my attention—that's mainly the reason I was on Swamp People because of the boat motor.
What was it like being on the show and how did it change things for you and for huntin' gators in general?
Huntin' gators in general, the show didn't really do nothin'. We mainly had follow boats that followed us around and just shot what we doing. I mainly just had people following me in the swamp all day, and it was a little weird at first. At first, you want to act. But then – then you – then you realize, you know, you're not no actor. We're country boys. We ain't no actors. So once we loosened up and just realized that they just shoot what we do, you know. The cameraman would tell us just pretend like we're not even here. So that's what we did. We pretended that the cameraman wasn't even there and after a while, we didn't even notice them. We just done what we did.
Why did you start wearing the Liberty Bibs and why does it fit your life?
Woo, I started probably in the '70s or '80s wearing Libertys. I wore 'em a little bit on and off all my life, but back in the '80s, I started workin' on the farm here every day. It was easier to have overalls because you had all the pockets. You can haul, you know, put your gun and your knives and your tools and stuff in all the pockets, and, you know, the zipper pocket, you put you a little gun in there and you didn't lose it.
And they last a long time?
And they last. Yes, they last a long time and that's the funny part about it. I used to wear my overalls until I just wore 'em out, the knees and stuff. Now, I cut 'em off. Once I cut 'em off, then I had short overalls I mainly wore down around here, around the farm and now it's got to be a big thing. Since I started doin' it, everybody's wearin' cut-off overalls, you know. That's pretty cool.
Tell us about your cookin' and how did you get into it?
I started cookin' years and years and years ago. Mom made us cook, made us cook. That's what I'll say, made us cook, made us wash dishes, made us wash clothes, made us do all kinds of stuff. Miss Janet thanks me for it – thanks her for it every time she sees her. But we just learned how to cook because we was always campin' and goin' in the swamps. If you're out somewhere, you have to learn how to cook or you have to come home every night, so we just learned how to cook as kids. You know, all of us brothers and sisters know how to cook. We just always cooked and I love cookin', love eatin', and it gets people together. You feed people and it makes people happy.
What's your favorite meal to cook?
Oh. I would have to say jambalaya because usually when I'm cookin' jambalaya, we got a bunch of people over. Jambalaya's a rice dish and you get whatever kind of meat you got. Most of your Cajun dishes are made from a little bit of meat or fish or whatever you got and you can turn it into a lot to feed a lot of people, and that's what's good about jambalaya. You can take a little bit and feed a lot of people.
Well, what's the strangest thing that you've ever cooked?
I don't know. I've cooked coon, possum.
Nutria. Nutria rat. Nutria rat got a bad rap because of the rat part. Nutria is – it's really a good meat. They're strictly vegetarians, but they're good meat to eat. I don't know. I've ate everything. You know, just about everything. Just in Louisiana and crawling around here is whatever, I've usually ate it.
What do you like the best about doing your Facebook Live Front Porch Cookin' Show?
My Facebook Live, what I like is it's real, and I think that's what people like about the Facebook, my Facebook anyway. Everything's real and ain't nothin' set up. If I spill the milk, oop, I just spill the milk, that's it. But I like interacting with all my fans and my people.
It's a Facebook family?
My Facebook family. If you come on my page and look at it, you're gonna see right away, it's not no regular Facebook page. It's a Facebook family and we talk back and forth and this one has this problem and that one has this problem, whatever and they just talk it out and help each other out on here, and that's a pretty good thing.
Well, let's get back to the overalls real quick.
We know Libertys an awesome brand, but how do you think Liberty fits into the community of your Facebook family?
Well, it's all my people that wear Libertys, you know. It's just kinda country people and not even just country. They got a lot of city folks wearing 'em now, which is cool because once you're wearing these overalls, you won't want nothin' else. It's just I've been wearing 'em for years and years and years, so 39, 40 years, almost – wow, I'm getting' old in this one.
I just realized that, but anyway.
Well, what's the best part about livin' the life you do?
Well, most of the time, we're around our family all the time, so that's the pretty cool part about it.