© 2011 Aaron Atkinson

Rattle Rattle Bang Bang

It was three years ago when my Dad and I last made the trip together to Garden City, Kansas for the annual pheasant hunting opener. November that year started off warm, with highs reaching well into the mid-80s. While the shooting was great, the hunting was miserable as it was about 40 degrees too warm to be comfortable.

The other significant downside to the heat was that the resident wildlife that normally hibernates in the cool of the Autumn was still active, most notable and upsetting were the prairie rattlesnakes that call this arid region home….

On that hat particular day I was wearing thick, abrasion resistant pants, so just as they’d always been, snakes were of minimal concern. The same could not be said for the half dozen other men that I was hunting with that afternoon. I had taken up position on the high ground on far left flank, and from my elevated vantage point I had a perfect view of the action.

About half way through the draw, a sharp BANG! from a shotgun 150 yards to my right caught my attention. I expected to see a bird drop, when BANG! a second shot rang out. The odd thing was that the shooter wasn’t aiming into the air, he was shooting at the ground in front of him. By this time, the hunters on either side of him began to venture closer to see what all the commotion was about. The men huddled in a tight circle around whatever poor critter had just given up the ghost. I’ve seen guys shoot coyotes, raccoons and possums, so all these options came to mind when suddenly all of the men leaped backwards, clearly in fear of something.

When you’re that far removed from the action it’s impossible to hear what’s being said, and with the heat and exhaustion so intense, I had no desire to add an additional 300 yards of wear to my boots that afternoon. So it was only later when I learned that Floyd had been hunting along, when suddenly he froze dead in his tracks at the sound of a rattlesnake. He spotted it about six feet ahead, coiled and ready to strike. So without hesitation he shot it, twice. Moments later as the men huddled around the snake, one asked Floyd if he’d mind if he took the rattle. Floyd did not object, so Mark picked up the mangled snake. Just as he did the still-active nerve endings fired and the snake slithered from his grip. With this all of the men leaped back in fear at the resurrected serpent.

While I can imagine it was quite frightening in the moment, from my perspective, 150  yards away, seeing a group of tough, burly, armed men jump back in reflexive terror because a dead snake twitched seemed pretty darn funny.


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