On the long list of dumb things I have done in my life I often count my adventures rattlesnake hunting.
Most days don’t start off snake hunting, they just develop into it. This past year I only nabbed one snake and it was at the prompting of my sons. When I was younger however my snake hunting escapades were much more involved.
While out whistle pig hunting one day in the 90’s I encountered a rock bluff south of Boise that looked like it would give me ample elevation for shooting. My buddy Ryan and I gathered our 10/.22’s and headed out across the sage and hills. When we arrived took a seat, cracked a beer and began to look around. I then heard the rattle sound off next to me. On my right was a snake, not big but big enough.
I jumped up – not so much scared but not wanting to get bit either. Looking around I found a rock and a stick; both critical in a snake hunters arsenal. Sure I had a gun but I had no intention of firing a .22 bullet square into lava rock. Quickly I smashed the snake with the rock as close to his head as I could manage. This does double duty on snakes when hunting them. First it breaks there back, normally and this limits how far they can strike. Second hitting them with a rock most often causes them to run and not hold their ground. A snake on the run is much less dangerous than a snake on the defensive in a tight coil. I have never had a snake strike at me after I it with a rock – sounds odd but it seems to work for me.
With the snake on the run I used the stick to pin it to the ground right behind the head. With one quick motion I pulled out my pocket knife and severed the snakes head. I hooted a little and my buddy Ryan gave a quick mocking round of applause. I buried the snake head under a large rock to prevent it from causing harm to others in the future, legend says rattlesnake heads can hold there poison for months on end.
Often in the spring when you encounter one snake others are nearby as well. I have run across several dens of snakes in my adventures – and this was a particularly nasty type. (I found a 30 pound ball of garter snakes under a stump one spring, one of my boys still talks about it) Knowing snakes den up I began looking for more snakes, a.k.a trouble.Stratleing a small gully at one point Ryan pointed out that I had two snakes directly below me. Curled on themselves unaware that I was about to be hunting them. One of the snakes began to rattle, I smacked it with a rock. The other snake began to crawl off, I grabbed it by the tail and tossed it out of the rocks and into a sage brush.
With some of the best Wild West shooting I have ever seen Ryan proceeded to head shoot a moving rattler, still in the sagebrush, with one shot. Best part – we were hunting that day in Teva sandals, cut off blue jeans and no shirts. The other snake, now trying to escape, received a stick to his head and a quick cut on the neck. Three snakes down, a good day snake hunting.
Some years I get lucky and my truck tires do most of the work for me on rattler-snakes, I aim for the head. I have cast a bass gig into a crack in the rocks and hooked a rattlesnake before, he was a fine campfire meal. One especially stupid day gathering morel mushrooms in Riggins Idaho I watched a local redneck PULL, I shit you not, the rattle off a snake with one hand while distracting it with his other hand. Unreal. Stupid. Perfect stories for the grand-kids.
Luckily I have managed to get this far in my life without being bitten by a snake, but it is still questionable that I should have passed on my genetics. The jury is out, hopefully my boys take after their mother. To this day when I go out in the desert I wear long pants and boots. I have done burned up my snake killing karma in stupid gear.
How to Cook a Snake
Ok, so now the snake it dead. Just what the hell do you do with it? Start off my skinning a gutting the thing immediately! Why? Snakes piss when they die, that pee will get on everything that you own in a short manner of moments and the smell will never come out. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating but snake pee stinks. Do yourself a favor and get it off the meat promptly.
Next, if you can, cool it down. Like any other meat heat is your enemy. On particularly hot days fishing I will soak the meat in a section of moving river water to cool it down. After the meat is cool store it somewhere out of the sunlight and cool. The shade of a tree or in a water proof bag in a river or stream.
To cook the snake I often employ the sausage rope method. With a few sticks I will roll the snake up into a tight concentric coil, see picture, and then skewer the meat into one big wheel. Why? It find this keeps the meat moister than not. Snakes do not have a huge amount of meat on them in the first place so I want to enjoy what I do get.
I have cut the snakes into one inch sections as well. These I often serve in a Thai style curry soup with sticky rice. Recipes for grilled snake coil and soup are below.
The Idiots Guide to Killing a Snake
No. 1: When I hear the rattling, I back away from the snake and find a big rock and a long, sturdy stick.
No. 2: I use the rock to crush the snake as close to its head as possible. This will break its back and shorten the distance that it will be able to strike at me.
No. 3: I use the stick to pin the snake down and then step on the snake right at the base of its head. I never leave any room behind the head or the snake will try to strike me.
No. 4: I cut off the snake’s head.
No. 5: I bury the head.
No. 6: I put the snake in a bag, put the bag in my pack and think about how glad I am to be taking something home for dinner.
Idaho does not have a season for snakes. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game lets a person take up to four rattlesnakes per day with no more than five in his or her possession.
Snake Fried Rice
Yeah, that’s right, snakes and rice. This recipe came out of a trip to Taiwan a few years back. I ate snake in a market after a few to many beers with the Consulate. It was served in a ricey-broth that was packed with ginger, mint and cilantro. It was amazing.
I can’t seem to ever get the broth right but I have managed to make a mean fried rice interpretation.
½ cup dried white rice
1 cup water
Add rice and water to a small sauce pan. Heat until boiling then turn to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes until the rice is cooked. Remove from heat, let stand. DO NOT STIR.
2 tablespoons cooking oil (I love using bear fat, but canola or sesame oil will work)
1 ea rattle snake cut into 1 inch sections (or 10oz chicken for the weak hearted)
3 tablespoons fine diced ham
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
½ cup sliced cabbage
¼ cup shredded carrot
1 cup cooked rice
1 tablespoon siracha
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup packed cilantro and mint leaves (50/50 of each)
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
A non-stick pan works best for this dish. Heat a medium sized sauté pan or wok if you have it, on medium. Add the oil and brown the snake sections. Remove snake from pan. Add the diced ham and brown. Next add the ginger and garlic, brown lightly. Slide all the goodies in the pan to one side and crack the egg into the pan and pop the yolk. Let the egg cook until almost set then scramble it with the other ingredients. Next add the cabbage, carrots and cooked rice. Toss all the ingredients together. Let the rice start to brown a little while cooking, about 3-5 minutes. Don’t stir very often.
Add the siracha and then gently pour in the soy sauce covering as much rice as possible. Add the snake back to the pan, and then add the cilantro, mint and green onions.
Toss all together and serve hot. (Note: the lack of salt and pepper, while I normally recommend their addition to most meals the soy sauce and siracha more than compensate)