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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SNAKES

SNAKES. SNAKES SNAKES. The 10x42 binoculars were up as I scanned the foothills for mule deer and antelope. What happened next set the benchmark for the "lowest situational awareness" a hunter could ever have. If this was school, I would score an F.
As I stood on the ridge and lowered the binoculars, I realized that next to my boot was a huge rattlesnake coiled in the midday Wyoming sunshine. The snake was only 3 inches from my boots and between my legs. He likely measured about 4 1/2 feet long. Somehow, I walked up on the beast without ever seeing him. Amazingly, I kept my composure and very slowly backed away without the rattler striking. Hunting buddies were miles away and while they knew where I was hunting, help would have been several hours away and probably would have included a helicopter rescue. It was near disaster. 

Fast forward to 2013 and a discussion with Larry Martin who was operating a snake exhibit at a Texas trade show in Ft. Worth. Larry grew up around snakes with Joe, his father. Snakes are their business. I surmised Larry must know a great deal about the critters. Either that or he was a very foolish man - he was calmly sitting in a folding chair surrounded by 36 rattlesnakes. The facts are that Larry has been bitten 3 times. 2 of the 3 bites occurred at shows like the one we were attending. When asked what he would do if bitten, he pulled out the extractor kit shown below. 70% of the time when a rattler bites, venom is injected and using the extractor pump immediately will often remove most of the poison if it's close at hand. It would be used on the way to the hospital and creates a powerful suction effect. Larry said it would likely prevent the need for medical personnel to cut into tissue in treating the bite.


The Extractor Kit - about $15.

This small $15 unit now is in my bow hunting backpack. (I picked a kit up that very evening before heading on a hog hunt the next morning.) In retrospect, the rancher in Wyoming said the rattlesnake I encountered was one of the few sightings he ever had on his ranch. It only takes one snake.
In the Northeast, there are rattlesnakes in the Pennsylvania mountains I frequently hunt. Copperheads as well. Aggressive water moccasins have chased me around a small pond while bass fishing. If you hunt or fish independently, consider your emergency plan should a snake bite occur. Being an hour and half up the side of a mountain is not the time to be wishing for a first aid or snake bite kit. In Wyoming, I learned it only takes one snake. Until I met Larry, I had no better plan than hoping to avoid seeing snakes.




Larry holding a Rattlesnake
When I returned to Wyoming in later years, I would wear snake proof chaps. Larry wears Chippewa Snake boots but then relates that 10% of rattlesnakes will strike above the height of a boot. He and his Dad cull those snakes out of the snake exhibit because they are too dangerous to handle. Those snakes strike high by nature and will always strike high. 
In summary, inventory your bow hunting backpack and determine if the contents meet your worst case scenario requirements. If operating a hunting camp, consider first aid and snake bite kits permanently mounted to the ATVs and hunting vehicles. If you are in Texas, check out Larry and Joe Martin and when encountering these snake critters, give them a wide berth. Be safe out there.   My best, Chuck  


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