These ‘cougar’ hunters are far from the plains of Africa, but in the Bywater and Fauborg Marigny, they still have plenty to catch.
Clad in safari gear, the 11 ‘cougar’ hunters— young men looking to hook up with older women — gathered at Chartres and Frenchmen street at about 9:30 p.m. They have nets, signs and perhaps most importantly beer.
Ryan Matthews, the group’s self-appointed spokesman, says the group of friends started wearing this get-up in 2003,when they still were in college. They all hail mostly from the North Shore and New Orleans and take pride in the tradition they’ve fostered.
“We’re looking for packs,” said Matthews. “But we always tag and release. It’s about the joy of the hunt.”
Woman of all ages stop the crew for photos as they make their way to Royal and Franklin Street for the Krewe of St. Anne. These affable prey also ask if they can be the group’s cougar.
When they reach the cross section, which is a nexus of revelers in ornate costumes, the group splits off in a number of directions. They fan out, finding female friends of all ages in the crowd.
The largest of the group—Chad—holds the group’s cleverest sign. “Is Bruce Jenner a cougar,” it read.
Sadly another of their signs reads, “Final Hunt, farewell tour.”
Matthews explains that as the group has aged and wives and kids came along, it’s about time they start looking for a new costume.
On the corner, as the band passes, Wade Kodrin and Joe Paolucci man homemade bar carts. Both are locals, and have a Facebook group for their “Krewe de Bar”. Kodrin lives down the block in an orange shotgun, which he says has “paper-thin walls.”
“Today is just a wonderful release for everyone,” Kodrin said.
Paolucci who lives in Gentilly is dressed as ‘Capitalist Fidel Castro.’ His camo-green fatigues are covered in patches from companies like Hilton and Taco Bell. With a long cigar in his mouth, and an equally long and bushy beard, his jacket looks more like something a Nascar driver would wear.
Paolucci loves St. Anne and its local ethos. The main parades, he says, “Are too many people standing on the sides. Down here it’s all about everyone experiencing the day.”
When other revelers walk up asking for a beer or an extra cup, he first inspects their outfit. He then hands them a business card, which reads, “Free McCuban/Walk into any Havana McDonalds and redeem for a free McCuban!/ I’m Loving it!”
Then and only then, will he offer them a drink.