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Easter’s reminder: It’s rattlesnake season

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POSTED April 2, 2013 1:25 a.m.

Part of the beauty of being an outdoor enthusiast is observing and participating in the eternal cycles of nature. Recently I attended Easter Sunday church services with my son, son-in-law, daughter and grandkids. As I observed my grandkids participating in the celebration of The Risen Christ, it struck me that a generation ago it had been my children who were participating as small children and that a generation before that it had been me and my brother and sister learning the eternal story. In another generation it will be my great-grandkids learning about the conquest of death.

Fittingly, the cycles of nature are also eternal and this year, the hills are once again brilliant green and studded with beautiful wildflowers.

One of my longtime friends asked me what would be the topic for my next column and I replied that this is the time of year when my thoughts turn to catching rattlesnakes. Some folks think that my hobby of catching live rattlers is a little weird, and who knows? Maybe they’re right.

You’ve got to admit though, catching rattlers is exciting. This is the time when the snakes are just coming out of hibernation, and I get out there and help reduce the conflict between rattlers and humans by catching rattlers that might bite some unwary ranch hand. Some guys will resort to any excuse to get outdoors.

Over the years, I have worked out a pretty good system for catching the rattlers and putting them into the sack. I have snake-proof leggings that reach up to my knees, and 4-foot long snake grabbers to catch the little boogers with. When one of us grabs a snake the other guy holds open a cloth drawstring bag and the snake is carefully lowered into the sack. A generation ago, my son Bo accompanied me in my snake-catching expeditions and now it won’t be too much longer until my grandkids are old enough to catch rattlers. All I have to do now is convince my daughters that I won’t get their children bitten.

You’re probably not as crazy as I am and don’t go searching for rattlers. But the fact of the matter is, if you spend much time outdoors you might run across a rattler. More often than not, most rattlers are not very aggressive and will avoid you if they can. If you should find a rattler, your best course of action is to simply back away and leave it alone. Chances are, if you leave the snake alone, it will leave you alone. In fact, often times, it will go the other way even when you’ve provoked it.

Your best defense is really quite simple: Watch where you walk.  All you have to do is get into the habit of looking down every few seconds. That way, you know where you’re going to be putting your feet, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. Not only will you be able to avoid snakes, but you will reduce your chance of falling on a loose rock and maybe twisting an ankle or breaking a leg. Don’t step over logs or rocks either; step on top of the log or rock.  The reason for this is simple – rattlesnakes like to hide under logs and rocks.

Just as Easter comes along every year and new generations learn its eternal lessons, so does rattler season. And as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, I’ll be out there figuring out a way to participate in those eternal cycles. Catching problem rattlers isn’t for everyone, but avoiding a snake bite is a pretty good practice for everyone.

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