HACKBERRY, LA (KPLC) - The popularity of alligator hunting has grown nationwide since reality TV shows like "Swamp People," which is shot in south Louisiana.
Each year, McNeese Leisure Learning sponsors a trip to Jim Bel's camp at Hackberry to see how alligators are hunted and processed. It's a tradition for the event to be held on the first day of alligator season.
"My opinion of alligators is we have to many," explained Bel. "So, we are not destroying the species."
Arriving just as the Leisure Learning group pulls up, Bel and his crew had five gators they had already caught that morning. Bel goes over the regulations for gator season and answers their questions.
"All of us hunters aren't just killers. We are stewards of the marsh. We take care of the marsh. I spent a lot of money on these levees, to control the water moving in and out. The marsh needs to breathe. We take care of the game," Bel said.
May Gray, of McNeese State University, heads up the visit each year.
"This is totally a unique opportunity to showcase what Southwest Louisiana has to offer," said Gray.
Preston Broxson teaches at Evans High School in Vernon Parish and brought along one of his students.
"He takes care of the marsh," said Broxson. "He takes care of nature in the way that nature is sometimes unable to fend for itself because of human interaction," Broxson said.
Part of the visit included a tour of an alligator farm, where young hatchlings are raised. Colin Burgess, originally from England, was impressed.
"For me, one of the biggest things was holding a baby alligator in my hand and taking a picture," said Burgess. "That's one of the things I came down here for."
"I didn't know what to expect," said Steve Mauer, of Lake Charles. "You see those shows on TV and it's not like that. It's quite interesting all the conservative things they are doing for the conservation of the marshes."
"I love seeing people's faces whenever they're learning about these things," said Broxson. "Whenever they're getting to touch an alligator or they see the crabs in the water, or whenever they see a fish. Just seeing nature."
For information on Jim Bel's place, go to http://www.swladuckhunting.com/.
For more information on McNeese Leisure Learning, call 337-475-5616 or go to www.mcneese.edu/leisure.