Boutte alligator hunter stars in Animal Planet reality show
‘River Renegades’ debuts on May 26
Kip Benoit bags a big gator during filming of the new Animal Planet series “American River Renegades.” Most of the footage for the show was shot in the Paradis marshland.
The first episode of the new series will air on Monday, May 26 at 9 p.m., immediately following the end of Animal Planet’s popular “Monster Week.”
Kip Benoit, one of the show’s stars, will turn 51 on May 24 and called the sneak peak a late birthday present. Much of Benoit’s part of the series was filmed in and around the Paradis marshland, not far from where he grew up in Taft.
Joining Benoit on the show is lifelong friend Ward Martin.
“I’ve known Ward since we were kids,” Benoit said. “He’s from Taft and he was raised out on the river with me. We partnered up on every episode. People are going to love him because he is hilarious.”
The pair shot six episodes worth of footage for the program over a number of months last year. Although Benoit and Martin will only be featured for part of each episode, Benoit said the production was an arduous process.
“I was impressed with the project. They are meticulous. When you see what goes into 10 minutes of footage, you are talking about Monday at 7 a.m. until Friday at dark. It is unbelievable the amount of work that goes into the footage,” he said.
A teaser clip of the show begins with an aerial shot of the Hale Boggs Bridge in Luling and an overhead view of Benoit and Martin traveling down the Paradis canal in an airboat. Benoit is also shown building traps to catch lizards and taking treks out into local marshland with Martin on ATVs.
Benoit said that showing the preparations for hunting and trapping was easy, but the most difficult part of the series was actually capturing a successful hunt on film.
“The hard part is making everything cooperate when you need it to by getting the alligator or fish to bite, or turtles to show up,” he said. “That is one of the difficult parts, getting nature to cooperate with the filmmaker.”
Unlike other so-called “reality” TV series that put their subjects in certain situations and are sometimes even scripted, Benoit said what you see on “American River Renegades” is real.
“It was a very good opportunity and I did have 100 percent artistic freedom, so to speak, to determine what we would be hunting and catching. It is not scripted, the ideas come out of my head as far as what to do,” he said.
Benoit said the TV series really captures what it is like to live off the bayou.
“I told them that if they wanted to see how this is done, they needed to roll their cameras and see what we can do,” he said. “It is the just the stuff we were raised doing. The people here will see that it is the real deal.”
Although only six episodes of “American River Renegades” are ready to go right now, more could be added to the season if the show is successful.
Benoit said getting viewers interested is extremely important for the show’s survival.
“If the show takes off I think they are expecting a 12 episode season, but we need viewers. If nobody shows up to the game, it’s not good,” he said.
This isn’t Benoit’s first time on TV. In January 2012, he hosted an episode of “Brotherhood Outdoors” on the Sportsman Channel.
“I hosted a gator hunt and the host of the show was my guest,” he said.
Following that show, Benoit was offered the opportunity to try out for the fifth season of “Swamp People” airing on the History Channel, but he had already signed on to Animal Planet for “American River Renegades.” He said he is happy things have worked out the way they did.
“I was given the opportunity to audition for ‘Swamp People’, but I’d rather be on the first good season of ‘American River Renegades’ than the fifth year of ‘Swamp People,’” he said.
After the May 26 sneak peak, “American River Renegades” will air regularly on Sundays at 7 p.m. beginning June 15.
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