TIM SMITH & STEVEN TICKLE
For Steven Tickle and Tim Smith, making hooch was a down-home tradition. "I was born into a family that made it," Smith, 46, recalls. After becoming backwoods distillers, Virginia-based Smith and Tickle, 36 (who goes by his last name alone), landed in the limelight with the hit Discovery Channel reality show Moonshiners
. And they've earned a reputation as leaders in their illegal industry. (Making moonshine is a felony in Virginia, and punishment can include jail time.) Despite 3 million viewers, the duo, who make their brew at undisclosed locations in the forest, have evaded arrest for the crime. Now, with Tickle set to star in a spinoff entitled Tickle
, premiering Aug. 13, and Smith launching a trademark brand of booze, "my goal is to go legal," says Smith. Even if that's a bit of a letdown to their fan base. "The question everyone always asks us is, 'Where's the moonshine?'" says Tickle. "Everybody thinks we have a gallon in our pocket."
(FROM LEFT) BRANDON HOTARD, TROY LANDRY, JACOB LANDRY & CHASE LANDRY
Right before the first episode of Swamp People
premiered in 2010, Jacob Landry shrugged off a warning from a producer at History Channel. "She said, 'Your life is about to change. People are going to recognize you all over the world,'" the Pierre Part, La., native, 29, recalls. Four seasons in, Landry and his family, whose season finale airs July 18, still haven't gotten used to the attention. (On average, 4.1 million viewers tune in to watch the series, which follows the alligator-wrangling family during monthlong reptile hunts on the Atchafalaya Basin.) "People come looking for us from all over the country. Sometimes they just knock on our door at 7 a.m.," dad Troy Landry, 52, the self-proclaimed King of the Swamp, explains. "But I always try to spend a little time with our fans. My boys and I are very fortunate."
JACK & TODD HOFFMAN
Four years ago Todd and Jack Hoffman looked at the skyrocketing price of gold and decided to head to Alaska to try their luck as miners. After a tough first season, which was documented on Discovery Channel's Gold Rush
, "we were completely broke," says Todd, 44. But the show was a hit - with 4.5 million viewers, it's the highest rated series on the network - and they got another chance at mining glory. "We decided to put all our cards in and blow our last dollar," says Todd. It paid off. Last summer they dug $1.3 million worth of gold out of the tundra. Next up, Jack, 67, and Todd will head south to mine the jungle for Gold Rush: South America, debuting Aug. 2. As the business grows, help won't be hard to find. "We get at least 30 people a day reaching out saying they want to go with us," says Todd. "They live through us. They get home from their job, crack open a beer and go on an adventure."