Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011
SNAKE, RATTLE & ROLL ~ By Jerry Gentellalli
The Rattlesnake Never Will Rank With The Big Five As A Game Animal, But Hunting It Can Be A Service To Mankind!
STALKING THROUGH THE
yellow-green landscape, my hunting pants cuffed against the sagebrush, I
spooked the tawny, striped honey bee from his flower bed of sweet. The hot
Southern California morning sun began drying up the sparkling dew drops
that clung to the meadow grass like jewelled fruit. I had just released an
arrow at a running cottontail, over-shooting it. The shaft bounced and
spun off into the underbrush. Silently the cold-blooded creature
with agate·like eyes began its stalk on the colorful fletchings of my arrow.
With each forward footstep, I came closer to the unknown killer hidden in
the cushion of leaf mold. Threatened now by my search for the lost arrow,
the deadly reptile pulled itself into the familiar tight series of coils, keeping its
wedge-shaped head motionless, readying itself to strike the intruder with its
I now was parting the grass with my bow tip, looking for the lost arrow.
Suddenly, in a flashing blur, the reptile struck. I jumped sideways, my heart
pounding, panicked by the frightening sound of the buzzing rattle on the tail
of the diamondback rattlesnake. A couple of arrows later the viper bit the
Rattlesnakes are found all the way from Canada to Uruguay. There are as
many as twenty-eight kinds. They vary only in color and size and have been
known to weigh as much as twenty pounds. The female gives birth to her
young, rather than laying eggs as do most other reptiles. The number of
young will vary among the different kinds of rattlesnakes. The Mexican
West Coast rattlesnake is one of the most prolific, giving birth to the incredible n
umber of fifty at a time. The young snakes are fully equipped to
take care of themselves at birth.
The pit viper is known for the small pits on each side of its wedge-shaped
head, located at the base of its head between the nostrils and the eyes.
These actually are extremely sensitive heat-detecting organs. The vibrations
of these organs can detect the presence of warm-blooded creatures.
The Spring sun activates the rattlesnakes’ thermostat, drawing them out
of the snake den that harbors large groups of reptiles throughout the long,
winter hibernation. Length of hibernation depends on the temperature zone
of the terrain. During late Winter, I have found them basking in the warm
gravel sand, soaking up the hot rays of the sun. The snake dens are located in
the most unlikely places: cracks in rock formations, under wood piles, in
ground-dwelling animal burrows; generally in places where are found the
small game and rodents on which they feed.
The serpent’s diamond-shaped, fish- like scales are polished and camouflaged to
blend into the colorful sand on which they tread. Their pushing, wavy crawl often
leaves shiny tracks that look like those of a flat, crooked
bicycle tire wheeling across the soft sand. Finding their imprints may lead
you to their hunting grounds. My selection of snake-hunting equipment is the
least-expensive cedar shafts and a good, steel broadhead that
can be filed to a razor-sharp edge; as most of the shooting is at close range
and generally in rocky areas. The swaying, retreating head can prove a
difficult target to hit. Sticking the reptile in its rope-like body not only
destroys the skin, but makes it possible for the reptile to fang itself,
contaminating the meat. Because of the nonexistent problem of penetration,
any bow weight can be used.
Needless to say, a good pair of leather high-top boots or knee-high
snake leggings are recommended for protecting the legs. Ranger of Augusta,
Georgia. manufactures two types of snake-proof leggings: one is heavily
woven bronze mesh, covered with heavy canvas? and the other type is of
Of course, a snakebite kit should be carried in one’s pack. One compact,
handy snakebite kit is Cutter’s. It comes with three suction cups. a
tourniquet, antiseptic for sterilization, a razor blade for incision and directions.
This kit can be purchased from most local pharmacies or sporting
Although snake hunting may not be your bag, while out on an outing or
traveling the game trails, your paths may cross. The rattlesnake could turn
a day into a nightmare of terror if you or your retriever are struck with
venomous fangs. One must know immediately what actions to take to
prevent serious illness or even death.
With or without a kit, the field procedure is the same.
First of all, prevent panic. It will increase the flow of venom throughout
the body. Apply a tourniquet between the wound and the heart, and close to
the puncture. The tourniquet can be made from a handkerchief, bowstring
or any piece of cord, A stick can be used to turn the tourniquet for pressure control.
With a sterilized blade, make an incision on top of the bite. Use straight,
lengthwise cuts one-quarter—inch long
and one-eighth-inch deep. Apply suction to the incision. If suction cups are
not available, use suction by mouth, spitting out the venom.
Walk slowly for help, stopping periodically for rest. After each ten to
fifteen minutes, loosen the tourniquet for one minute, allowing for circulation.
A doctor must be reached as quickly as possible for the administration of antivenin.
This life-saving antivenum is made by injecting smaller, then larger doses of venom into a horse
until he becomes immune to it. Then the serum is made from the blood extracted from the horse.
The rattlesnake will not always strike from its familiar coiled position.
It can strike from any position with lightning speed. l witnessed this one
day while bowhunting for rabbits. The sight of the flicker of ears caused me
to change my course slowly, my eyes piercing through the sumac bush.
There I spied a young cottontail less than forty yards away. Suddenly, the
rabbit jumped, did a, full gainer. stiffened and fell to the ground.
As I reached the spot where the rabbit had fallen, I was horrified by
the sight of the diamondback with the bunny’s head in its mouth.
Quickly my broadhead took him. On removing the head of the rabbit
from the rattler’s mouth, I could see that the fangs folded back into the
roof of the mouth when not in use.
The venom is injected through the hollow fangs which spring forward and
erect with switchblade action. The venom is forced into the victim with
hypodermic action. The lower jaw is so designed that it hinges downward,
enlarging the mouth so the reptile can swallow its prey. Digging a deep hole
in the ground, I buried the cottontail and the rattler’s head for safety, so
that other animals would not suffer’ from eating the poisonous carrion.
The old folk tale about snakes wiggling and squirming until sunset is
true, I have discovered. It is an eerie experience to have a snake twisting
around in the game bag until dark. In preparing the snakeskin, I start
from where the head was, peeling the skin back from the body and rolling it
to the end — like removing a long, nylon stocking. The skin now is inside
out. With a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut the underside — the belly
side — to the tail. Place the paper-thin skin wet side up, tack it to a flat
board, taking care not to overstretch the constricting skin, sparingly apply
glycerine to the scale side. This gives luster and keeps the skin pliable. Roll `
the skin up like a belt. A taxidermist can tan the skin, making it strong and
I first sampled canned rattlesnake meat and found it deliciously comparable to
crab meat. There are many ways to prepare the delicate meat. I usually boil it in
a pot of salted water for thirty minutes or longer, then allow it to cool. The white meat can
then be separated easily from the bones. Then I season and prepare it in one of several ways,
frying, sauteeing or serving in a salad or with a sauce.
The season is open year around and there is no bag limit. With the big demand for their hides, meat and venom,
which is used in medicine, the rattle- snake could become an endangered species.
Some states employ snake control to exterminate the rattler. But, now, some states are looking closer at setting
some conservation measures as to hunting seasons and bag limits to protect the future of the rattlesnake,
recognizing its place in the ecological scene.
Both before and since the Revolutionary days, the rattlesnake has been
a symbol of rebellion. With its menacing rattle and lightning-quick
fangs, it is a creature that most people
take great pains to avoid. Hunting the rattlesnake probably
will never become popular or listed with the big five, but cross its path and
it becomes a danger to be reckoned
All Rights Reserved