Sportsmans Hunting and Fishing
By Ronda Addy
You’re a hunter, and you’ve managed to hunt a lot of different animals in your time but never a rattlesnake. The thought didn’t occur to you until now. Here is some information to get you started. Rattlesnakes are called pit vipers because of the heatsensitive organ between the eyes and mouth on both sides of the head called a pit. It’s this pit that tells the snake whether its prey is warm- or cold-blooded and how far away it is. There are several types of rattlesnakes in the United States. Rattlers found in the East include the Eastern diamondback, timber, pygmy and massasauga. Rattlesnakes found in the West include the sidewinder, red diamond, Western diamondback, rock speckled, blacktailed, tiger, Mojave, twin-spotted, ridge-nosed, massasauga and western (Great Basin prairie). Not every state is lucky enough to be home to a rattlesnake species, so you may have to travel to a place to hunt. Depending upon the species, rattlesnakes can be found in all sorts of habitats ranging from grasslands to deserts to forests. All snakes are cold-blooded and sensitive to external temperatures, so during the cold months, rattlesnakes may be found hibernating in underground burrows, rock crevices or dens that have been used for generations. In late March or April as ground temperatures rise, the snakes begin making their way out of the den to mate, bear young and find food.
Rattlesnake hunting methods vary. Some recommend using a shotgun, but with this method, you run the risk of ruining the skin and have to watch out for pellets when eating the meat. Others recommend freezing the snake after catching it. Some prefer the needle and thread method, which involves a long pole with a rope running its length and a noose dangling from the end through a hook. The goal is to catch the rattler with the noose and then tighten it to keep the rattler contained. This method offers some degree of safety and isn’t quite as hard as it sounds. However, you should practice the method before going out into the field. You need to be careful that you don’t catch the snake too far behind its head, or it could strike you. For individuals who aren’t faint of heart, using live bait is another way to catch rattlers. There are a couple of techniques for this. You may tie fishing line around a live white mouse and slowly lower the mouse into a snake hole. When the line goes taut, the snake has taken the bait. You should give it a couple of minutes to digest the mouse and then slowly pull the line out with the snake attached. You may then strike the center of the snake’s head to kill it. You may also use a funnel trap, a wire mesh cage with an opening large enough for the rattler to get in but not out. The live bait needs to be larger than the hole or in a separate cage in the trap to prevent it from escaping. You should plug the entry hole to prevent the rattler from getting out.