In late 1974 we moved from The Valley Of The Sun, to Atlanta and my friends in Phoenix 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 and had hit it off especially well with one, James Walton, a neighbor and not in the computer business, but VP of an old, established, construction company.

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

James and I had joined a hunting club that provided many acres of supposedly good quail hunting land. Our results were only fair, however, we did get to see a lot of the state. On this particular hunt, we had reserved a spot for Friday and Saturday, a several hundred acre track of harvested soybean fields along with some nice wooded cover. At the time, 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.

Arriving near Thomasville around noon, we 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 rattlers.

Rooster, Brad and I took off to one side of the large bean field and James and Crystal went the other way. Shortly we heard, Pop, Pop, James had found a small covey and it looked like he’s got one or two. Brad and I proceed along the edge of the field not finding any birds, but toward the corner of the field, Rooster locked down hard on a point. Quickly approaching, whirrrrr, the covey, probably a dozen birds, broke wild before we could get off a shot. Marking the spot where the covey flew into the woods, all three of us Rooster, Brad and yours truly hurried after the birds, passing through where the covey was flushed, whirr, a late riser, Bam, and he fell to my 20 gauge, pump.

As Rooster and Brad continued chasing the covey, I saw my bird on the ground and ran over to pick him up. Retrieving the bird, I headed back toward Brad who was in the thick brush and not being able to see him, I headed in his general direction.

“Bark, growl, growl, bark,” from Rooster. “Dad, Dad, up here quick,” from Brad! Coming out of the woods and running towards the sound of his voice, I saw Brad straddle of a barbwire fence. Rooster was snarling and then he added a bark, bark, as I jumped around the fence, then looking down under him a big rattler was coiled and rattling! “Dad, there’s a big rattler right under me,” Brad shouted! Hurrying faster, I saw that he had laid his gun down on the ground prior to climbing the fence and the rattlers had treed him. He was right, it was a big one, coiled and making a lot of noise and at that moment, more interested in the dog. Rooster knew about snakes having hunted with me for 3 years in Arizona and bam, one shot from my 20 and the snake was done for!

Rooster was still barking as Brad was getting down from the fence. We stretched the snake out and he was a good 5 feet long and bigger around than my forearm. My aim was true and the shot shredded the snake’s head, leaving the skin undamaged. Brad said, “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 smelled like urea, and the fertilizer plants in Pasadena, Texas. We skinned him, rolled up the skin for now and it really stunk! We gutted him and except for the smell we had a hunk of pretty, white meat. To eliminate some of the smell, I took a canteen of water and washed off the snake’s body. Later, I learned that snakes don’t have kidneys and liquid waste is secreted out of their body through the skin, no wonder the smell!

Most times when hunters have a close encounter with a serious predator or big rattle snake, the hunt’s over for the day, as was our case, however, we went back to camp and set out to preparing our supper, fried rattlesnake. Small problem, no corn meal, but we had flour in the camper, which should work just fine as long as long as the grease doesn’t get too hot. We cut up the snake into 1-1/2 inch pieces, then rolled it in the flour and wrapped up the 5, plus pounds of meat in foil, popped it into the cooler and waited for Walton to get back. Feeling confident we would get some more birds the next day, we saved the quail for back home.

Having heard James shoot several times, 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 rattlesnake for supper. He blanched and said, “I’m not eating any snake!” Not hesitating, we showed him the large quantity of white meat and began to fry the it and fries, the aroma turning him, he added, “It does smell pretty good!”.

After supper, James said, “That rattlesnake 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 hatband and one belt from the skin.