All his life, Roger Rivers, 36, of Zwolle, has lived off the land and wrangled everything from catfish to alligators.
Just a few weeks ago, on September 18, he literally wrestled with a 12 foot, 7 inch gator in the process of “the kill”, to fill the only two tags he was allowed for Toledo Bend Lake.
According to Rivers, who weighs 190 pounds, the 1,190 pound gator attacked the 14-foot aluminum boat he and Michael and Jessie Meshell were in that day.
After another gator hunter failed to get his catch in this particular spot of the lake by September 16, Rivers set his two lines out the next evening just before dark, thinking he would probably get a couple of eight-footers because that’s what he had seen in the area.
Toledo Bend Lake was down about 12 feet, making it difficult to get anything larger than the 14-foot boat Rivers used, to travel to the area where his lines were set.
“We finally got to the spot where my lines were set and noticed both hooks were down,” Rivers said. “And as we approached the first line I noticed there was a little slack in it and that the ground around it was torn up from a gator that was trying to get free.”
Rivers said he didn’t know if the gator had gotten loose, so he picked up the line to take a look and the massive gator “went berzerk”!
“He attacked the boat from underneath and tore loose some of the riveting and put big dents in it,” Rivers said. “He tried to turn us over, but Thank God he wasn’t able to do that.”
While struggling to get the gator from under the boat, the half-ton beast knocked Rivers out of the boat, causing him to tumble head first into the lake, gun and all.
“I did a quick flip in the water and made it back to the boat before he could get ahold of me,” Rivers said. “But my rubber boots were half full of water and it was a struggle.”
Rivers said when he got back into the boat, the gator was still trying to attack, so he asked one of the Meshells where his gun was.
“When they told me my gun went overboard with me, I remembered I had a pistol in the boat too,” Rivers said. “So I grabbed it and started to shoot him (the gator).”
Rivers said it took 12 shots to kill the gator, which obviously would not fit into the 14-foot boat they were in, so the three of them had to drag him to the bank and go back to get the truck.
“We got my truck and backed it as far as we could toward the bank, then we had to wench him up to where we were,” Rivers said. “By this time there was people everywhere trying to see the gator, and it took 15 people to load him into my pickup.”
Rivers other line had the eight-footer he was expecting.
“This whole episode went from a fun alligator hunt to a life and death situation,” Rivers said. “But I absolutely loved it. Love the danger of it all.”
Rivers said his wife Rita doesn’t like to go out on the dangerous hunts anymore and that she worries about him when he goes.
Two of Rivers’ four daughters were hoping to get a couple of tags to fill this year, but it didn’t work out. “They love it too,” he said.
“But this is what I live for,” Rivers said. “The more dangerous the better.”
The Meshells, according to Rivers, were terrified while the attack of the 12-footer was happening, and that he himself was a little frightened when he fell into the water.
“It kind of hit me the next day or so that I could have been killed and I was a little shaken up,” Rivers said, “But that soon passed and I want to go back and do it again.”
Born and raised on the lake, Rivers said it was just in his blood to hunt and that he does it year round.
“I fish, I hunt gators and turtles, I hunt deer and hogs, you name it,” Rivers said. “It’s what I love and I will do it till I die.”
Rivers also catches logger-head (Alligator Snapping) turtles every year between March and August.
This year he got two that weighed over 100 pound each. “I get from 100 to 150 turtles every year,” he said.
“I caught a catfish at Toledo Bend last year that weighed 75 pounds,” Rivers said. “But I don’t just hunt around here. I go all over the state, anywhere I can go.”
Rivers said he might have holes in his jeans but his fishing equipment is always new and pristine.
He also said that about 80 percent of his hunting, even for turtles and gators, is on foot, walking down the banks of the lake with “a few of the guys”.
“This is really hard core stuff that I do,” Rivers said. “And my country skills would really blow people away. I do whatever it takes to make the kill.”
Rivers said he has never been bitten or hurt by the alligators or turtles in all of his 36 years.
The largest gator he has killed so far has been a 14-footer he got a few years ago.
He dresses everything he kills and utilizes every part of whatever he brings in that can be used.
“I don’t do this for the money,” Rivers said. “I don’t do it to make a living off the land. I do it to live off the land. It’s what I do and I love it!”
Rivers was one of those interviewed at the History Channel’s Swamp People Casting Call held at Cecil’s in DeRidder this year, however, he did not get a call back.
“Maybe next year,” Rivers said. “I think I’m a little bit of all of them rolled into one!”
Rivers said he will soon have a Facebook page set up for people to see photos and video footage of some of the things he does and how he “does what he does.”