Treed By A Rattler

In late 1974 I received a nice promotion to Atlanta, Georgia, moved from The Valley Of The Sun, and my friends said that I left claw marks on the floor of my office as they drug me out. The first year in Atlanta was spent getting acclimated to a new job, new friends, new hunting and fishing opportunities and new schools for the kids. By the fall of 1976, I had met and hunted with several Quail hunters in Atlanta, but had hit it off especially well with one, James Walton. James was a neighbor and not in the computer business, but Vice-President of an old, established construction company.

James had two German Shorthair Pointers, the older, Crystal, the mother of his younger dog was an excellent hunter. The younger, like all young dogs was wild and rambunctious, but our dogs had helped to cement our friendship. Crystal hunted in close and Rooster, my Brittany Spaniel, would range out one hundred yards or more. Both honored the other’s points, hunted “dead” until the bird was found or the “look-for” called off and were inexhaustible.

James and I had joined a hunting club, that had leased many acres of supposedly good Quail hunting land. Our results were only fair, however, we did get to see a lot of the state. This particular hunt, we had reserved for Friday and Saturday, a several hundred acre track of harvested soy bean fields with some nice wooded cover. Brad was a sophomore in high school and his JV football season had ended, so I got him out of school on this particular Friday and we headed to South Georgia for some quailing.

We arrived near Thomasville around noon, found our hunting area and made camp. We were staying “out” Friday night, which should be fun since the weather featured warm days and cool nights. We didn’t even think about the warm afternoons bringing out the Rattle Snakes.

Rooster, Brad and I took off to one side of the large bean field and James and Crystal went the other way. Shortly I hear, Pop, Pop, James finds a small covey and it looks like he’s got one down. Brad and I proceed along the edge of the field not finding any birds. We get to the corner of the field and Rooster locks down hard on a point. Quickly approaching, whirrrrr, the covey breaks wild before we can get a shot. We mark the spot where the covey flew into the woods and all three of us, Rooster, Brad and I, hurry after the birds. We pass through where the covey was flushed and, whirr, a late riser, Bam, and he falls to my twenty gauge, pump shotgun.

As Rooster and Brad continue chasing the covey, I see my bird on the ground and run over to pick him up. Retrieving the bird, I head back toward Brad, who is in the thick brush and not seeing him, I head in his general direction.

“Bark, growl, growl, bark,” from Rooster. “Dad, Dad, up here quick,” from Brad! Running to the sound of his voice and coming out of the woods, I see Brad a-straddle of a barbwire fence. “Bark, bark,” from Rooster and he add a serious snarl, jumping around a fence post next to where Brad is hanging onto the fence and looking down under him “Dad, there’s a big Rattler right under me,” Brad shouts! I hurry faster and see he had laid his gun down on the ground prior to climbing the fence and the Rattlers “treed” him. He’s right, it’s a big one, coiled and rattling, and at that moment, more interested in the dog. Rooster knows about snakes having hunted with me for three years in Arizona. Bam, one shot and the snakes done for.

Rooster is still barking and Brad is getting down from the fence. We stretch the Snake out and he is a good five feet long and bigger around than my forearm. My aim was true and the shot shredded the snakes head, leaving the skin undamaged. Brad says, “That snake could’ve bit me or Rooster. Let’s eat him Dad.” We both thought of an old Indian saying, “Eat your enemies and gain some strength from them.” Why not?

We cut off the rattles and saved them, whew, it smells like uria, and the fertilizer plants in Pasadena, Texas. We skin him and roll up the skin for now and it really stinks! We gut him and except for the smell we have a hunk of pretty, white meat. I take a canteen and wash off the snake’s body, eliminating some of the smell. I later learned that snakes don’t have kidneys and liquid waste is secreted out of their body through the skin.

Most times when hunters have a close encounter with a serious predator or big Rattle Snake, the hunt is over for the day, as was our case, however, we went back to camp and set to preparing our supper, fried Rattle Snake. Small problem, no corn meal, but we had flour in our camper, which should work just fine as long as long as the grease doesn’t get too hot. We cut up the snake into one and one-half inch pieces and rolled it into the flour and wrapped the five plus pounds of meat up in foil and popped it into the cooler and waited for Walton to get back. We saved the quail for back home, feeling confident we would get some more the next day.

We had heard James shoot several times and he and Crystal returned with three quail. He said, “You all came in early. What’s up?” We told him our exciting story and told him we were having Rattle Snake for supper. He blanched! Not hesitating, we showed him the large quantity of white meat and began to fry the Snake and fries.

After supper, James said, “That Rattle Snake wasn’t bad.” He was right. All white meat, sweet and tender, not bad at all.

We not only ate the snake, but the rattles now grace a special display in my great room, and, we made one hat band and one belt from the skin.