Timber Rattlesnake Hunting Knowledge Dump

Show Notes

On this week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman we have a treat for you reptile fans!  We were joined by John Hebenthal who is a rattlesnake hunting phanatic!  John loves the outdoors and all creatures that walk it... or slither it!  He takes passion learning as much as he possibly can about wildlife, and sharing his knowledge with those who are willing to listen.  

We begin by learning how this fascination began followed by his journey rattlesnake hunting.  Along the way you'll find that John is not afraid to open some books, scan the internet, read peer-reviewed research, and collaborate with experienced snake enthusiasts.  John has soaked in rattlesnake knowledge like a sponge!  We discuss tools of the trade, safety, biology of rattlesnakes, seasonal habits and patterns, map scouting for snakes, and much more!

Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant outdoor content!

Show Transcript

[00:00:00] What's going on everybody? Thank you for tuning into another episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast. I'm your host, Mitchell Shirk, and ugh, I'm just ready for summer to be over. And it just started. Summer is my least favorite month, and it's weird because, I enjoy the. Plants. I enjoy food plots.

I enjoy cropping, but I just don't like summer. There's just so much about it with the hustle and bustle and the heat and, yeah, not my cup of tea, but it's hard to believe that we're through June as far as we are. But I know one thing I wanted to talk about today. So this is fresh in my mind and completely irrelevant to the episode that we've got coming up today, but I had to bring it into the conversation.

It stemmed [00:01:00] from if you listened to our episode just a few weeks ago here when we had Brian Hale on and we were talking about elk hunting. And he made a statement, and I don't disagree with this statement, but I wanna dissect this a little bit and just give my thoughts on this statement.

And that is why don't shoot something on the last day that you wouldn't have shot the first day of a hunt. And you've probably heard that statement a lot of cases, right? Why would you why wouldn't you shoot it the first day if you'd shoot it on the last day? And I really don't like that statement for a couple of reasons, because there's a there's times where I agree with that, but I don't think it applies in every given situation.

I think back to my elk hunt that I went on in 2019, man, that was my bucket list hunt I really wanted to do. I. I was out for, I think it was a seven day hunt. And, I had my mind made up. I wanted to shoot an elk. I [00:02:00] wanted to shoot a good bowl. I wanted to shoot a six by six, but I wasn't gonna home empty handed if I could help it.

My tag was good for any legal bull and I could have also shot a cow. And, the first day of the hunt, If a if a rag horn, four by four, five by five bull would've came up, I would've gladly passed it. I had it in my mind that early in the hunt. I'm not gonna shoot that.

And the reason for it was I wanted to elk hunt. I wanted to experience elk hunting. I wanted to see country. I wanted to work bulls. I wanted to hear them bugle. I wanted to see them do their thing and hunt for an opportunity at a big one. And I didn't want my hunt to get cut short, because if I would've shot a, a two year old rag horn bull, I would've been thrilled.

I absolutely would've been thrilled. But I would've been saying now I'm done and I can't keep hunting and I don't have a chance to shoot a bigger bull. Now, flip that around towards the end of a [00:03:00] hunt. You hunt hard all week. You give it your best. You just can't connect on something. If the last morning would've came and a cow would've presented herself with a shot opportunity, I would've shot her in a heartbeat.

I never killed an elk before. I would've been the first elk I ever killed. I wanted to bring some elk meat home. I wanted some stories to tell. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Like my philosophy on certain situations is, I don't think that holds merit now. Let me play the other side of the coin here.

I've been very fortunate in my deer hunting career. I've had some great properties, some awesome hunting mentors. I've had great experiences, opportunities. I've killed a number of great buck. And typically when I go into my hunting season for white tails, I am thinking about what caliber buck I wanna kill.

And I usually set, lately I've been setting, I wanna try to shoot a buck that I believe is a four and a [00:04:00] half year old buck or older. And you knows for a couple reasons, that's a skeletally mature deer. It's they're hard deer to hunt. They're, four, four year old deer is, to me, three to four I think is a big jump personality wise.

And just seeing the way deer move and their behavior and how it is to see'em and daylight and connect with them. And there's not a lot of four year old deer out there in Pennsylvania. There, there's definitely four year olds out there, but it's the gap from two to four is pretty big. And a lot of you who hunt, hunt, whitetails know that.

And I, I don't co compromise. I really try not to compromise in shooting lesser deer later in the season. That same philosophy I have with my elk, my head, with my elk hunt. Which by the way, I was fortunate in the second day of the hunt, I killed a beautiful six by six bowl. And then I was sitting there going I shot the bowl I wanted and I'm done hunting earlier.

I wanted to hunt. It was bittersweet. But anyway if I hunt hard for a [00:05:00] four year old buck all season long, and I get into late season and I'm grinding and I have a nice two year old buck come out, will I be tempted? Yeah, I'll definitely be tempted, but. I'm gonna pass that buck for a couple reasons.

Number one, I've killed a bunch of good buck in Penn in the state of Pennsylvania. I've killed Buck with my bow. I've killed buck with my rifle. Haven't killed one yet with my Flint lock. That's on my bucket list of things I would like to do. But I've had a lot of great experiences and I don't feel that need that oh, I absolutely have to fill my buck tag.

And it's not that I don't want to, cuz I'll tell you right now, in 2021 when I didn't fill a buck tag, man, that, that ate at me for a while. And I came to the realization that really didn't matter, but it ate at me. And even to the point where I remember sitting on stand in late season, I mean it was teens.

I hunted hard that one week. And it was in the teens, it was cold. I was hunting a specific buck. [00:06:00] And I had this one evening, I had a great hunt. I saw a bunch of deer and I saw this six pointer, and he was a wide six pointer. He was, probably 15, 16 inches wide. Pretty long beams. But it was a young deer.

I actually passed him the week before and I think I saw him one other time in archery season. So I'd seen this deer recognize him right away, but for whatever reason, that night he was coming in, I was like, he looks bigger than I thought. And I was trying to convince myself like, yeah, you never shot a buck with a muzzle loader.

You ought to shoot this. You've been hunting hard. And I got excited, I got the gun and everything else, and I'm looking back and forth with my binoculars. I'm like, Mitchell, what are you thinking? If you shoot this deer, you were gonna be, I was, I would've been upset with myself because I probably would've been excited in the moment.

But if I would've walked up to that deer and saw it, and it, in all reality, I say it was a two year old, it could have easily been a year and a half old. It was not a big deer. It was nothing like what I wanted to shoot. And at that point in the season, he's made it through the hardest part of [00:07:00] the year.

He's gonna be another year bigger next year. And where my goals are at in trying to see Deere get to an older age class, the places I hunt, I, I'm okay, I'll eat an eat a tank. Does it hurt? Yeah, it stings like crazy. But I'm okay with that. And there, there's nothing wrong with that either. And there's, I'm bringing this in into my conversation just because I'm trying to think about will things be any different for my hunting this fall?

And I'm trying to gauge that I'm probably gonna stick to my goals and keep it at that. Maybe I'll just, depending if I hunt some different places or some public land. But yeah, that's how I stick. I'm bringing this up because, people hear somebody's philosophy on should you shoot something the first day that you'd shoot the last day or whatever.

First of all, it's your tag. It's your decision. You do what's gonna make you happy. If you're somebody who's never shot a buck with a bow and you have it in your mind that it's three and a half year old or [00:08:00] bust, and you hunt your tail off and a nice buck comes out, it's a legal buck. Maybe it's a year old, maybe it's a two year old and you never shot a buck with a bow.

Why would you put that pressure on yourself? Are you doing that? A, ask yourself this question. Are you putting your pressure on your, on yourself for you solely, or are you taking into consideration what somebody else thinks and making that decision for your tag? Because I, at the end of the day, it's your tag, it's your decision.

However you go about your day-to-day hunting that's up to you. But I guess my whole point is don't let somebody tell you what to do with your tag. Use your own philosophy. I like when your philosophy makes sense. I gave my 2 cents and who cares about my 2 cents?

All right, that's enough of me talking. I just had that rant on my mind. Wanted to talk about that, get that out there. And now we're gonna shift gears and we're gonna talk about this week's episode. And completely different than the white hunting discussion or just big game hunting [00:09:00] discussion I just had.

This week. We are speaking with John. He bethal John. I was connected with him through a mutual friend, and I was amazed at the amount of information that this guy knows. We're talking specifically about rattlesnake hunting. Now we've done another episode. Back in the past when we first got started, we talked about rattlesnake hunting, and this one is a fantastic episode.

This is actually the episode my wife would probably really like to listen to. And it's not because she really likes rattlesnakes, it's because I didn't do a lot of the talking. This is, this episode is a knowledge dump. John is somebody who is extremely passionate about rattlesnakes, amphibians, and wildlife and general I said amphibians, reptiles excuse me there.

Just wildlife in general. He is a fanatic and he is like one of those people that once he wants to learn [00:10:00] something, he just keeps diving and digging into it and trying to learn as much as he possibly can. And the other cool thing about it is he's really well spoken and he loves to teach people what he's passionate about.

And that's what this episode is. We talk about rattlesnake hunting in and of itself, the tools of the trade. We even talk about scouting for rattlesnakes and not just boots on the ground. ESC scouting, using a mapping service to try to predict rattlesnake locations. Inca, which I thought was really interesting, but John knows a ton about.

Just the science and the animal itself, the biology of the animal and, the cycles from breeding to molting and the tr things they do throughout their entire life cycle, throughout a calendar year. And, we relate that into rattlesnake hunting and what it's about.

And this is a good episode. Like I said, complete knowledge dump from John. This was one [00:11:00] where I asked a couple questions and sit back and listen. And I was all ears because I'm somebody like, I can appreciate rattlesnakes, but I don't go out of my way looking for them. And if I see one, really not a big fan of getting anywhere close to 'em, I'm not petrified and I'll absolutely go in the woods in the summertime, I'm not deathly afraid that they keep me outta the woods.

But I will say if I'm walking into woods and I hear one sound off, or, I step really close to one and see one, I'm probably gonna have the like holy cow moment. That's guaranteed gonna happen. And so listening to his knowledge about snake behavior it made me want to just try to.

Approach my fear a little bit because I've heard people that had that same reaction and once they got out there and experienced rattlesnake hunting, it was like a way of them overcoming a fear and having a greater appreciation for it. [00:12:00] So I think there's a possibility that if I carved some time out, I think I'm gonna bug John to take me out and just see rattlesnakes from a different point of view.

Hey, with that, let's let's get rolling with this episode first. Before we do though, let's give our shout out to our partners, and that's Raddock Hunting. Guys, it is off season time. It's time for trail cameras, it's time for scouting. It's time for getting all the accessories you need. And look no further than Rad Hunting.

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And yeah, they are a tool that, all of us, I think, that are into whitetails, a lot of us use them and they're definitely worth your time to check out. So check out raddock hunting.com and with that, let's get to this episode. The longer life goes on, it's harder for me to devote, want to devote time for it.

Fishing has gone by the wayside. Yep. I really don't small game hunt much anymore. Neither does anybody else, apparently. Yeah, I know. I know. And then the, the stuff that, you know we wanna talk about today, you were just talking about beekeeping and rattlesnake hunting.

Yeah. That's fascinating to me. Yeah. So we, I'm getting rolling and I wanna introduce you. John, how do you say your last name? He bethal. He bethal? Yeah. You did it correctly the first try. So how about that? Sometimes it gets something right. Blind Fox gets a mouse every once in a while. Yep. John, thank you for having me and chatting with me.

This is beautiful day [00:14:00] out here for this. Oh my God. Yeah. Mitch, it's a pleasure to, it's a pleasure to do this. I like sharing this knowledge with people. Yeah, absolutely. So it was a funny. Funny train of events here. I have a farmer that I work with that, and that's how we got connected.

But he was telling me that, he's I think I got, I know this guy I wanna connect you with that I think would make a really great episode for your show. He's really into rattlesnake hunting. And rattlesnake hunting is one of those things that I never understood. And the reason I say that is because I'm not a big snake person myself.

I tolerate 'em, I'm fine, but I don't really pursue them. How in the world did you get started in the first place with, oh, Steve Irwin. I tell you what, I can answer that real quick and easy. As a kid growing up I grew up in a pretty poor town. We were the poor people in a poor town, in a poor area of Pennsylvania.

Like a old Bill Anderson song Po folks. Oh my God. Yeah. So we didn't, I didn't go on vacations or anything like that, but what I did do was there was a patch of woods behind the house that nobody had [00:15:00] bothered to post. And there were a pond and a lake on that property next to the pond. And Lake was a shed that had been blown over years back, but all the boards were still there on the concrete slab and it was always full of snakes.

And it just so happens that the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, yeah. Good old Steve Irwin Yep. Was on tv, on Animal Planet every morning. Yeah. Before I went to school. So watching this guy, It was so cool because he, I had grown up in an area where the only good snake's, a dead snake. And I heard that I've heard that for long right.

And center. And it was constant. But there was this guy and they were his favorite things and he'd pick 'em up and they, they'd try to bite 'em, but he would always explained that I picked it up. I'm I earned these bites that I've gotten and we try our best to be respectful and whatnot of the animal.

And just watching him and the legacy that guy has passed on to some of the people in my generation is remarkable. But I ended up going out [00:16:00] back catching snakes and throwing 'em in buckets and taking 'em over to my buddy's house to show like how big of a snake I caught that day. And then one day an episode came on where he was in Northern Virginia with timber rattlesnakes, and it showed on a map of where their range was historically versus where they are today.

And both maps included where I was in Pennsylvania and I was like, man, that'd be so cool to find a timber rattlesnake. But I didn't know where I could go to find them. I just figured eventually one will show up under these boards in the yard, in the high grass. And they never did.

And I moved out on my own, moved out to Eastern Pennsylvania and bombing around there. I was driving down the road the one day on my way home from work. I worked in Harrisburg and I lived in Tower City at the time. And there's this big stretch of highway that cuts through one of, if not the largest section of [00:17:00] uninterrupted state game land in Pennsylvania.

And I was driving on it and I saw a snake on the side of the road. And that inner child in me, anytime I see a snake, I have to go hands-on with it, get outta the car. And I'd never seen a snake in person like this. And immediately I recognized it as a yellow phased timber rattlesnake and I couldn't go hands-on with it.

So I was like, I don't know how to deal with this right now. I gotta go home and do research. So I went home, read a bunch of books, watched a bunch of videos, read some research papers published by different scientific studies that were done on the timber rattlesnake in the New England states.

Bought a book, a gentleman may named Matt Lauder hand, who wrote a book called The New England Pit Viper. And I was off and running. From that point. I became my own researcher trying to find where these things existed, not just close to where I found that one, but everywhere else in the state that I get my toes into.

So I've [00:18:00] now found rattlesnakes, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes I just get lucky. But I've now found rattlesnakes in probably nine or 10 different counties on accident. And then another five or six intentionally. Okay. But I do a lot of hiking. I do a lot of backpacking, and it's almost become kinda like a running joke that I can't go anywhere without finding rattlesnakes.

We went down to Ocala, Florida, and I stumbled across pygmy Rattlesnake down there. It's gotten, didn't even know they had that. Yeah. So they've pimy rattlesnakes in Ocala and all of Florida and a bunch of the eastern states as well. I believe they stop in southern Virginia if I'm correct, but they're called a pygmy rattlesnake.

A full grown male or a big female would be around like 16, 18 inches. Oh wow. That'd be a big one. That's way different compared to timbers. Yeah. So timbers, when you're looking at timbers, you're looking at males that are a full grown, mature male. What I could most ex describe to people in your audience, especially that [00:19:00] is related to turkeys or Deere, when you're looking at a six and a half year old buck, a monster buck, you're looking on the rattlesnake side of things.

55 inches, 56 inches, somewhere in that range. The difference is that 56, 55 inch rattlesnake, he's pushing 25 years old. Oh, really? Yeah. So that's the lifes span. We're talking to get to something like that, 25, 35 years. In some examples, these things can live for a very long time and they don't hit sexual maturity.

The females don't hit sexual maturity until five to eight years old sometimes, and. So that plus a female's only breeding once every two to three years, she might only have six or seven litters in her entire life, or clutches as you'd call 'em in her entire life. So every female lost is a huge detriment to the population cuz she's gonna have six to 18 babies every time she has a litter or a clutch.

And she's only gonna have maybe five or six or so in her entire [00:20:00] life. So when people are out there, being foolish with them hurting females is the worst thing you can do for the population. So fish and boat made it so that you're only allowed to harvest a male, it has to be over 42 inches long.

And then you're good. And back up from there too. So it's going on a couple years now that we actually have a rattlesnake hunting season or a, or I guess you call it a rattlesnake hunting season. You're going out and you're able to harvest one with the appropriate tag.

Absolutely. Yep. But snake handling obviously has been going on longer than that. So help me understand, I guess the fascination, the culture behind it, because it's just such a different outdoor activity that I'm not really exposed to and a lot of people aren't. It's relatively new to the general population, right?

So for the most part, I try to describe it to people as the most exciting Easter egg hunt you'll ever be on as an adult. That would be an exciting Easter egg hunt. My goodness, you're everybody's, if you were to go out with a [00:21:00] group or grow, go out with a couple buddies, everybody's scanning the ground and you go to an area where you believe they're prevalent or you know that they're prevalent and now everybody's scanning around and everybody knows you're walking in good country for them, but nobody knows who's gonna find the first one.

And once you do, 90%, 99% of the rattlesnakes that I come across, I don't touch because either they're not big enough for a tag. And even if they are, this is one of the few hunting things you get to do that is, it's also catch and release if you want it to be. All but for one, it's catch and release.

So you pull a snake and measure it, and it's not the biggest one you've ever caught, or it's not the color you wanted it to be, or you just put it back. And it goes on the rest of its life, happy and go lucky, but you got a chance to interact with that animal in a way that most of the population never will.

[00:22:00] And it goes back to the respect and value that we place on these. We as in people who are doing this. And if you're not doing it with respect, then I'd prefer you look at the pictures on Facebook and watch some videos on YouTube if you can't go out there and do this respect. So for the most part, these are people who are, or always have been obsessed with reptiles.

And that's their favorite kind of animal. And it's not so much a counterculture, I wanna do it because you said I can't. But once you do it, you have a new respect for the animal. I met this guy, he's from over in Mont. Really good dude. But his entire life he was terrified of snakes. He was one of those, the only good snake is a dead snake.

I have access to this property and in order to get to where the rattlesnakes are, you have to get through a keyed gate. And I have the key, if you don't wanna go through the keyed gate, the 11 mile hike up the state game lands the other way is fine. But then [00:23:00] you get onto 2,500 acres of posted property that is part of a hunting camp.

There's 19 people in on the lease and everybody has trail cameras and all of them report trespassers. Like they've called the owner on me six or seven times and he always tells, was the guy carrying a snake hook? Yeah. Okay. He's allowed to be there because everybody's watching up there. I took this gentleman up there who was always afraid of snakes, and I introduced him to what rattlesnakes really because let's face facts, if you're afraid of snakes, the timber rattlesnake in Pennsylvania or Copperheads in Pennsylvania, they're your boogeyman.

Oh, absolutely. They're the thing you're most worried to find under your tree, stand in the dark. Like they'll give you the heebie-jeebies you're walking through and here a rattle, like you start walking like you're in a landfill a minefield. So I got to introduce him to it, and he was blown away about how these things constantly try to give ground to you.

As soon as you give them an area to escape, they will escape, which [00:24:00] actually inadvertently becomes the best way to actually get hands on with them is knowing that they're gonna take any escape route you give them. So if I need the snake to move in a certain direction, I simply open up my body that way.

If I need the snake to go to the right, I'll turn to the right a little bit and move my foot, and he'll try to go that way and he'll crawl right over what's called a snake hook. It's just a, it's a snake hook. It's a, I use a golf club with a, I take a A painter's roller. And I take the paint roller off of it.

Now I've got this dull piece of metal. It's the perfect shape for picking up a snake. Once he runs away, I can pick up the back half and ground by the tail and move them to where I need him to be. But he was blown away by how much they try to get away from you. And he had a new appreciation for snakes.

And I'll tell you now that he's been out every year since I took him and he harvested one snake his first year. He's seen probably 20 or 30 snakes a year now. And he hasn't harvested any of them, but that first one. And he's been doing it [00:25:00] for three or four years now. So to take somebody like that, who typically when they would see a snake, he was a farmer as well, as soon as they would or he had chickens and stuff like that, as soon as he would see a snake, he'd go grab the shovel.

Yep. That's what a lot of people do. And I can't say I agree with it or that I understand it, but I would just, if you're an animal lover and you only love the cute, fuzzy ones, then you're not an animal lover. Yeah, that's a good point. You know what I mean? If you think all creatures have a place in God's country except for the ones you don't like, then you don't quite believe what you're saying.

You know what I mean? So to change somebody's mind like that, I, he takes pictures and sends 'em to me all the time of snakes that he finds this j know, knowledge is power in a lot of sense. I think it's amazing how often, you learn something like that. You were speaking about him learning a little bit more about it.

It's just an understanding thing. One thing I find interesting is you don't, [00:26:00] I personally don't see in the general news, in any forums, any general knowledge of people that actually commonly get bit commonly, hiking on a trail interact with a rattlesnake and, they, they have a, have an instance where they get bit or something like that.

Even throughout the rattlesnake hunting season. Yes. People are working with snakes, looking for them actively. Yep. And I don't hear accidents. Yeah. And that's the thing a cool study was done, I believe it was outta Nevada, but I'm sure the same statistical relevance applies to Pennsylvania as well.

That 80% of all snake envenomations come from somebody trying to kill the snake. Like the best way to get bit by a snake is to touch it. Like I always explain to people when I take 'em out, especially if it's their first time, they'll see that I'm wearing my work boots and they're, it's a 10 inch red wing.

It's all leather, but it's only 10 inches up. And people are like, are you sure you're gonna be all right? Yeah. Because I'm never more than one foot from Bulletproof [00:27:00] if I see a snake right in front of me. If I'm more than 16 inches away from it, it can't reach me. Nor does it want to. So all you gotta do is take a step back.

If you wanna get a picture of it, snap a picture of it and leave it alone. But people do stupid stuff with snakes that I don't understand. And again, it comes from not respecting the snake. The difference between fear and respect is knowledge. And people consistently, we have black bears that come down here twice a week, and they're always going through my trash, which is why it's up next to the house.

Now so I can holler at 'em. Never once have I seen a black bear in my yard and tried to go pick it up. Yeah. Because I know that thing will do what God intended it to do, which is to shred me with a smile on its face because I was an idiot. But people will consistently, they'll go out into nature and they'll find nature in the shape of a rattlesnake, and they want to grab it with no respect for what the animal is capable of.

And they get really surprised when the animal bites them, [00:28:00] which you play those games, you're gonna win those prizes. Oh, absolutely. And I'm full well aware of the hypocrisy that I'm spouting right now because I seek this out. I would just say to the general public, if this is something that you'd like to do, There's a season for it, there's a permit for it.

There are people you can go with that can share the knowledge of how to work with these things. Because genuinely speaking, if you're being calm and relaxed with the animal, it's calm and relaxed with you. I actually took my son out last year for his first time. He was nine and he's, I have four kids.

He's the most calm, cool collective of my kids right now. He's very coordinated, so going around the rattlesnake dens with the rock piles, he can do it pretty well. And most importantly, he listens like a robot. If I say, I need you [00:29:00] to stand on this rock, then this rock and stop when you get to this one, then he will do just that and nothing more.

And so he got to go out and experience it with us and it was a really cool day. And the video, what was his reaction to that? He thought it was really cool and that he actually got to touch one of these animals that are typically a no-touch animal. The kids know the rules in my house. They aren't allowed to touch any snake unless I say it's okay.

And that stems from a couple different run-ins with, we had actual copperheads down the road here. There's a spot my kids like to go and we catch lizards. Okay. So we'll go there and we'll catch these lizards. And the kids have a blast running around with 'em. One time Gabe went reaching under a rock to catch a lizard.

Couldn't catch the lizard. Asked if I'd move the rock. I went to move the rock. There's a copperhead under the rock. So I had to tell him to wait. And he asked what it was and I told him and we got a chance to examine it cuz I had to get it so I could put the rock down without killing the snake, which freaked my wife out.

But you do what you gotta do cause I don't wanna kill it. So in that case, [00:30:00] it was an educational thing for him to see that there are dangerous things in the world that you can be around. And it's not scary as long as you give them the space they deserve. And for rattlesnakes it's no different.

When people are on the, especially on the Appalachian Trail, I know of at least four different den sites that the white placards are on. Yeah. So I have pictures in my phone of four rattlesnakes sitting on a rock next to the white placards. Like the hikers are stepping over them to get to where they're going.

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And I've been across a couple den sites too, so give me a little bit of understanding about how the season works in relation to, the general yearly cycle of snakes, because, they're gonna come out of dens once they get up to, a certain temperature. Yeah, absolutely.

And then, there there's also breeding intermixed into that. Yeah. The season I think is the, like the, this year it was like the second Saturday of June till July 21st or 31st. Yeah. Yeah, so the season for actively pursuing them, if you want to have a hook in your hand or tongs, which I advise against tongs, especially for new guys, just because you can cause a lot of damage to pregnant snakes and new guys don't know the difference between a male and a female by looking at it.

So I always advise hooks. As weird as that sounds, the more you squeeze a snake, the more it's gonna wanna move, the harder time you're gonna have handling it. So just don't ever squeeze it and you're good. But as far as it goes for the season always runs from the second Saturday of June to the last day of July.

And that's when the season always is. Every year [00:33:00] it's a conditional, it's a permit that you get on your fishing license. It's your venomous snake permit. You're allowed to harvest one rattlesnake and. One copperhead. Oh, I didn't know that. Okay. The ma the rattlesnake has to be a male. It has to be over 42 inches.

Copperheads. There's no restrictions on it as far as it goes for the season according to the snakes, it starts out, so if we start out in the, when people are first gonna run into these things, let's say spring, and I'm talking early spring, March, sometimes late February, you're looking at those 60 degree sunny days, that's when what's called emergence.

It's when the snakes come out of the den site, which is also known as a hibernaculum. So a hibernaculum is an area where snakes can get below the frost line in whatever area they're in. In Pennsylvania, it's typically south facing slopes, that are rocky. You gotta be more than two miles away from people or people find these den sites [00:34:00] and just wreck 'em.

So I don't give away den sites for that reason, cuz I don't know, I might trust you, but I don't know who all you talk to at the bar. And all of a sudden, a den site gets full of gasoline and they're all gone. But, so the ha high vernaculars are typically on south facing slopes more than two miles away from people on the ridge.

And the snakes are down there in a dormant type of hibernation called Brew nation. They need to stay around the 50 degree mark in order to not die, but everything slows down. Their digestion, their immune system their entire calories spent that winter is negligible at best it could possibly be less than a couple hundred calories for four to five months outta the year because they're so reliant on the sun to do most of the work for them.

So when they first come out of hibernation, a lot of these snakes are covered in mud. They're dirty [00:35:00] looking, and they're not going more than 20, 30 feet from the den site until you start getting nighttime temperatures in the 60, 65 degrees. At that point, the migration starts and this is the part where people start getting real confused like snakes migrate.

Yes and no. They migrate in the sense where they are all leaving one spot, but they migrate back to that spot. Okay. The migration is typically when snakes are moving from a good place to spend the winter to a good place to do whatever summer activities they wanna do. Be that breeding, be that basking, be that getting fat for winter again, if they need to, if they want to go to a good hunting spot they need to, they're gonna have to leave the den site because right now competition, every den site that I know of in Pennsylvania, It's gonna be around 40 to a hundred snakes in one hole, in one patch of rocks. So the competition's really stiff there, so they have to move out to where the competition isn't as steep.[00:36:00]

If they're planning on breeding that year, the males can travel two to five miles depending on where the next spot is for them. And females typically don't go that far. Females, if she's gravid, which is another word for pregnant, for reptiles, it's gravid. She's gonna move on to a gestational site.

Gestational sites are like a nursery for baby rattlesnakes. She's gonna go and she's gonna have six to 18, maybe 20 babies if she's a real big girl. And bring into the into point the timeline within this too. So timing wise, this emergence happens middle of March, late March, once the daytime highs start hitting 60 degrees.

All of this, as far as it goes for a calendar, snakes don't care. Yeah. Like you can have deer that show up on your property on November 8th. Every year that buck shows up and it's almost as if he knows the calendar. Or every year, the night before rifle [00:37:00] season starts, the deer show up every time. Snakes are so dependent on the temperature because they cannot thermoregulate themselves that they don't care about the calendar.

It's all about temperatures. So once the daytime highs are hitting 60 degrees, the snakes will be out in and around the den. Once the daytime highs hit that 75 and the nighttime lows are around 55, 65, they're gonna start moving out. Males are gonna go try and to find more females. Females are gonna try start finding places where they can have their babies.

So with females only having babies every two to three years, sometimes every four years they take some time off because it takes so much out of them. So the males are cruising, looking for females. They're following the scent of a female that's grab, that's ready to be Ravi. She's a female that's looking to be bred.

She's ovulating as it's as it is, and they're following her scent. And just like in the white tailed woods, when Ado goes into Estes, she might [00:38:00] run for miles that day. And behind her is carnage because every buck that picks up her scent is gonna fight for a chance to keep following her. And it's no different than the rattlesnake would.

So if you've ever gotten lucky to see it in person, or you've ever seen a video of rattlesnakes standing up next to each other and wrapping around each other and then slamming each other to the ground, that's a dance that the males do. Trying to pin the opponent to the ground as many times as possible so that whoever wins gets to keep following the girl.

Wow. And then wow. And then they'll breed and the following year she'll have babies. So that breeding season takes place everywhere, basically between middle of May, late May to I've seen snakes, I've seen evidence of snakes fighting. There were two males lined up next to each other, staring at each other, like sizing each other up.

They'll get parallel to each other before they start the fight, or in between rounds, so to speak, approaching [00:39:00] a female. And I saw that early September. Oh, wow. So that breeding season could be any time that the snakes are active, they could be actively pursuing breeding opportunities.

Now, the females, their babies will finally hit the ground in like early September. That's my favorite time to go out looking because you go and you look at a rock and there's three females on it, and you're like, any day now girls? Any day now. You go back, you go on a Monday and there's three snakes there you go on Tuesday and there's 60 of them.

Oh heck. Because they all have their babies. Seemingly. I don't know what it is, but it seems like I've never, I've always shown up and found all the babies on the ground and never oh, there's eight today and I come back tomorrow and now there's 25. It's seemingly, I don't know what goes on in their heads, but as soon as one of them goes, they all go.

Interesting. Interesting. And the babies are about 12 inches long. And they're all this drab gray color. They all look identical. [00:40:00] They're hard to tell apart. They don't have a rattle. They have a button, and then they have their first shed, and that's when the color starts to come out. And the color's really cool to see on them.

But then October, all the snakes make their way back to that hibernaculum, that den site in early October. Once again we're talking 60 degree highs. They need to start getting close to home. Those baby snakes that were just laid at a gestational site, their job is to follow the smell of mom home to where they're gonna spend the winter.

And if they don't make it, they don't make it. So the recruitment rate, so to speak, of yearlings is highly dependent on whether or not they can get from where they were born to where they, over winter, if they make it there. So October's the best time to find out how many snakes you're gonna see next year because all the babies will be there if they're gonna make it.

If they make it to the den site, they'll [00:41:00] most times make it to spring, but they make it back to the den site. And I've seen them basking as late. Personally speaking, I've seen 'em basking as late as December 2nd. It, we had a warm year. I have there's a gentleman who is he's. Incredibly gifted at Finding Rattlesnake and he's extremely respectful and he is somebody I really look up to.

His name's Alan Hildebrand. He's out of cinema honing Pennsylvania. And that guy knows his stuff and he's got some snakes that you would think are pets of his, he's got one named Blondie that he's turned into the cinema mahoning rattlesnake hunt. And that boy is, I wanna say he's 54 inches long and he's turned him in almost every year cuz he knows exactly where the snake's going to hang out.

So every year he goes and picks up Blondie and takes him down and he's turned him in, I wanna say five or six times now because he has such a good relationship with that snake. He knows where he is gonna be every year. And in other case, he's documented them out. And about on January 2nd, that's mind last year.

Last year we had on [00:42:00] January 2nd, if you remember, we had a really warm week in January. And seeing them out is cool, but it's also bad news, as I had said previously. Once their body temperature gets below like 50 degrees, everything shuts off immune system, their gastrointestinal track shuts off their thought like they can't think very well.

If they're cold, they can't move very well if they're cold. So finding a snake basking at 50 degrees means that snake is probably sick or it has a meal in its stomach, and if they don't digest that meal, it will rot in their stomach and kill the snake over the winter. So if he showed up at the den site in October 30th and a chipmunk ran by and he grabbed it, And then it started to freeze, like he's gotta get underground and he's not gonna be able to digest it.

There's also this thing called snake fungal disease, which is now quickly becoming a problem amongst many species of snakes. It's a fungal disease. I don't know if you've heard [00:43:00] anything about the white nose, fungus or bat nose fungus. Yes. Okay. Similar to that, because these animals are living in confined spaces together and the populations are getting more and more constricted to these islands of habitat, so to speak, there's less spots for them to hang out.

More and more land is being bought and developed. These snakes are getting squeezed down tighter and tighter as is much wildlife. Exactly. And it just so happens that there's this common fungus out there that affects many snake species, but because rattlesnakes are so communal for four or five months outta the year, it's hitting them pretty hard.

And it's a fungal disease that causes eventually facial disfigurements. They'll have weird swelling. It'll look like, it'll look like they got in a fight. They're lumped up. Their eyes are swollen. Sometimes their heat pits will be [00:44:00] swollen, closed. They'll, their lips won't be in a straight line. They'll be like, bubbled out and they'll have sores on them sometimes.

And it's a not great thing to see. Especially because the only way they can fight it is with more sun. And if a snake gets hit with S F D or snake fungal disease late in the year, they might not make it through. Because they're not, their immune system has slowed down to the point where a simple, basically athlete's foot of the face could kill them.

And at very at, at very least could be a major contributing factor as to why they don't make it. So that's a concerning thing. But so they get back in there, they hang out, and then next year it all starts all over again. And people are typically bumping into these things, as you said, crossing trails.

You'll find big males, everybody's seen a video on Facebook of a male stretched out across the walking path. He's looking for girls or he's looking for good hunting grounds. But that's typically the ones that you see. Females don't move that far, but males are on the prowl. So tell me a little bit about identifying [00:45:00] too, because that is something that the average Joe doesn't really know how to do.

I was told, and you can correct me if this is wrong, I was told that typically shorter stockier or males and females are larger. But maybe I have that backwards. It is backwards In timber rattlesnakes, which is different than most snake species, most pythons, most boas, most callub rids, the females are larger, but specifically amongst timber rattlesnakes, males are larger.

Males have a longer tail. Males have appendages that they have to put somewhere. They put it in their tail. And because of that, anatomically speaking, their tails are larger. So when you're checking to see if it's a male or a female snake that you've just picked up, what you have to do is you have to count what's called the sub coddle scales or sub codal scales.

And that starts at the vent, which is their butt hole. Basically, you start there and start counting until you get to the rattle. And for males it'll be 21 or more scales. [00:46:00] For females, it'll be 20 or less. After doing this and seeing a couple dozen of each, you'll be able to look at them on the rock and say, that's a female, because females have big hips.

And that's something, that's an easy way to tell people. Like when you look, if you can't see hips, it might be a male that's worth picking up. If it's a big one and it's got no hips, it's worth picking up to take a look at. But if you see hips where it hour glasses is down, if it's shaped like a funnel on the back third, that's a female because she doesn't have those extra appendages to keep from vent down, swollen out like a male does.

So you have to count those scales to make sure it's a male. Males typically because, and the reason why males are larger is one females lose, I wanna say it's 40% of their body weight. Oh, wow. Every two to three years when they have babies. So they swell up with 20 babies inside of a 44 inch female.

Yeah. [00:47:00] Like I, if it's a 46 inch female and she's having 15 babies, that's a big girl, but that's a lot of 10 to 12 inch snakes to push out. And they're so emaciated and drained when you find them, they look wrinkly. There's just, there's nothing left of them. And you're like, honey, what are you doing?

Like it's, it just takes so much out of them. Whereas males every year, if they're gonna be patrolling, looking for females, taking advantage of food opportunities as they make their rounds from gestational site to gestational site, looking for females that are ready to go. And in the process of doing so, a male finds more food opportunities than your typical female does.

She spends the first five to six years of her life getting ready to breed and it's, it takes a lot out of 'em. They're hollow after that. Basically, if you ever find a female that recently, she's postpartum a female snake, she'll, the bottom of her will be scalloped out for the like last third of her body.

And it's like amazing. If they [00:48:00] ever come back from that at all, let alone every two to three years she could do this. So because of that calorie investment and then dump, they don't get to keep all those resources from a calorie standpoint in their body. They're passing it on to the next generation.

So for males, they're typically they're beefy boys, man. Yeah. I'll tell you what, they're, they get thick, like as thick as your forearm. And the one my boy and I found last year was about 50 inches. We put a tape on them, got a, and while they're still a little bit bent, it takes some out of the measurement.

But even when we measure him, he was at 48, 49 inches and he had a couple kinks, as we call it in him. So we tugged that snake and he was pumped to do it. He actually elected to let one go earlier on in the day, we caught a different legal snake. We had found 15, 16 snakes that day, and he elected the first one he found at nine years old.

He's I think we should let it go. And I was like, all right, deal. And my buddy was with me and he's an outdoorsman as well, [00:49:00] and he came to film for us and he's John, before you put that away, before you put that back I at least gotta get a chance to hold that thing. That's impressive cuz it was a different 50 inch snake and Gabe wanted to let it go.

It wasn't the one he wanted. Did he say why initially he wanted to find a black phase and the first one we had found was a yellow phase, big yellow phase, male. And He wanted to find a black face. He wanted, he didn't want the day to be over yet. This was 30 minutes after we walked away from the truck, and he didn't want the day to be over yet.

He wanted to keep going. So it, it's, that just says right there how much the pursuit of the hunt is important and not to kill him in general. Yeah. One of the most frustrating things is when Turkey seasons la, when Turkey season lasts 30 minutes. That is, I tell you what, that's why they get a second tag.

Yeah, but I tell you what, one of my favorite Turkey hunts in my life is when I took my two oldest boys out Turkey hunting last year, and he killed a Turkey. Oh heck, it was, he killed [00:50:00] that Turkey probably about 15 minutes after they hit the ground, and nine of those minutes were spent standing in front of us, and that was really cool.

But that was it. Yeah. I had my fun, like I didn't want to go out for one of my own at that point because that was, I'm not gonna top that. You know what I mean? So that's one of the frustrating parts about getting good at something is now as far as it goes for hunting, there's only so many tags you can get.

Whereas with rattlesnakes, I can catch and release 150 snakes this year if I want to, and I can keep oh man, that's a good one. Measure it up. Another reason why we do all the measurements and stuff like that is at the end of the year, we have to fill out a report. About every snake we saw, any snake we observed, whether we believed it was male or female, how big it was, what color it was, what county it was in, or the GPS co coordinates of it.

Now I don't give out GPS cords to anybody including Fish and Game, but I will tell 'em what township I found it. But those are reports you have to fill out. Every report comes with five [00:51:00] slots on it. I tell you what man, there I kill a lot of trees to turn in those reports. Yeah, I guess so. If you're walking down many snakes, my goodness.

And that's the thing for me, it was as soon as I found one den site and I was like, okay. And you start as an outdoorsman who wants to be successful at anything. You gotta start looking at patterns and figuring out what that pattern is. So if somebody says, Hey man, where are the deer today? They're in the woods.

Can you make it a little more simple than that? Yeah. Depends on what deer you're looking for. I wanna shoot a big buck. You better be on the leeward side of the hill. What's that? He wants to be able to see where he wants to be tonight. He wants to be able to smell where the trucks are getting parked and he wants to hear when people are walking down that trail.

You find that spot and that's where the deer are at. But it starts within the woods. So where are the rattlesnakes? They're in the woods on the rocks where south facing slopes. Three quarters of the way up the ridge, more than two miles away from people they have to have access to. A spring I start putting these puzzle pieces [00:52:00] together and then got on a map and started figuring out like that looks like a good spot.

That looks like a good spot. That looks like a spot. Good spot. Spot. You actually do map scouting? Oh, absolutely. It is my biggest tool. Dive a little bit more into that. Elevation is key. Elevation is absolutely key because what a lot of people don't understand is when you look online and it says that the sun's gonna rise at 6:03 AM where Yeah, because topography is a big thing, right?

So if I'm up on the ridge, if I'm at the very top of the ridge, sun might rise at 5 45 for me, cuz I won't have any shadows on me. I'm the tallest thing in, on the map right now, so I don't have any shadows. So more therein, sun might not set until 8 45 because I'm up on the ridge. Even it doesn't, and I'm, there's no trees around.

I'm on the rocks so I don't have to worry about long shadows. So getting up on the ridge is a big thing. Now, when the migration takes place, [00:53:00] a lot of your big males head uphill. It's where I typically find big males that are hunting, actively hunting, and I use that term loosely cuz they're an ambush hunter.

But when I do find them, they are at the tippy tops of the ridge almost exclusively or 90% up. The ridge den sites are typically three quarters of the way to two thirds of the way up the ridge and Virginia. There's den sites as high as 4,000 feet. But in Pennsylvania, typically our den sites are 2000 feet and under.

Which is good because that's most of the ridges. Another thing about our area, specifically in Pennsylvania, you get into the Allegheny Plateau, it changes. But we're spoiled in this part of Pennsylvania. More of the central, south central Pennsylvania area is our ridges run east to west. So the south, there's always a south facing slope on every ridge.

Yeah. Always slope. So that's a good place to start looking if you're if you wanna try to find some rattlesnakes, get on a south facing ridge. But you cannot beat miles on boots. Miles [00:54:00] on boots is the big thing. So it doesn't matter how many pins you drop on OnX, you haven't found one yet. You ain't found a single thing until you put boots on and go.

That's the only way to get it done. And I'll caution anybody who's oh man I know. Perfect spot for that. If you can drive to it, it's not a good spot because from the perspective of how rattlesnakes have been treated in our state, like they used to kill them indiscriminately and everybody knows that.

Their grandpa used to have a deer camp up on the ridge. Everybody's grandpa went to deer camp. Everybody's whole family's hunted. You got grandmas that have shot bear before, cuz even they went out to camp, everybody and their brother in the seventies and eighties, that's what you did. Every member of the family went hunting.

And a lot of those people also, We're the people that taught us that the only good snake is a dead snake. It's not hard. Ridgetop camps. It adds up. Yeah. So the thing is that [00:55:00] people would go up to these ridgetop camps and they'd take a bag of deer corn with 'em, and they'd take a bird feeder up there, and then mice come for corn and bird feed and trash rattlesnakes come from ice.

So these snakes that have been persecuted generationally speaking, and remember as soon as that chain between where I was born and where I spend the winter, as soon as that chain is broken between those two points, doesn't matter how many babies she has, she's gonna die before any of 'em make it back to the hibernaculum.

Especially if somebody catches her. And doesn't like her. So from a generational standpoint, if you can drive to the spot, it's not a good rattlesnake spot. 90% of the time, obviously people get lucky. Obviously snakes get lucky, and the only travel that takes place on that road is during rifle season when the snakes are underground.

But for the most part, [00:56:00] if people have access to it, the rattlesnakes, no matter how nice the habitat is, At one point in time, they were persecuted in that location. So they're just not there anymore. At least not on a consistent Right. And it's hard to find consistent numbers in areas where people populate.

So the number two thing on my checklist after elevation is more than two miles away from people. Cuz lazy people don't walk that far. So it makes it a lot easier for me to find rattlesnakes when I know that the closest house is two miles away. People don't walk into the woods in Rattlesnake country if they're afraid of snakes, so it makes it a lot easier.

But yeah, so for the most part that's where we find 'em. And I can go on a map and I use Onyx just because it makes it easier for me and especially with all the backpacking that me and my family do, it makes it easier to pick out BLM land if I'm looking for some land out west. When we're out there, we actually just got back from Colorado and Utah and then bounced down to the Everglades.

And then my wife just yesterday got back from Yosemite. This is just what we do. Wow. You guys are all over the place. Yeah, we bounce around. We, [00:57:00] it's my favorite thing to do. I don't go to the beach. I don't mess the beach. I don't go to the beach either. I'm not interested. Thankfully, my wife doesn't like it either.

See, my wife gets into it every once in a while and she'll try to drag me along, but for the most part, I want mountains. I wanna get up top and look at everything. Yeah. I've said it before, on the show too, like, when it comes to hunting, like I've hunted in camps with people where, we're talking about the drive we're gonna make for bear and we're, we're gonna go down this this draw here and we're gonna bring this side hill out and we've gotta go down in And I've been with guys that say, Are you gonna shoot a bear down there?

Absolutely. I'm gonna shoot a bear down there and they're like, I don't wanna hunt down there. Then I gotta bring one out there. I'm like, this is where I want to be. This is the place I want to be. That's an afterthought if that happens. Yeah. That's the thing, like especially in Pennsylvania, we don't get many opportunities to pack something out.

Like it's rare that you're so far in that you're like, I got a quarter of this here cuz I gotta make two trips. It's happening more and more. It's becoming more popular. Yep. One thing I wanted to ask you, John. Yeah. So you were talking about using map scouting and then you can't beat [00:58:00] boots on the ground, right?

Correct. One of the things I've heard a lot of really good deer hunters talk about is when you look at a big section of big woods Yep. People that have done it for a long time they'll get good at saying, this is the time where I'm gonna walk pretty darn fast to get from point A to point B.

Yeah. This is where I'm gonna get to a point where I'm gonna start to walk intermittently cuz I'm approaching, there could be something and this is the point where I'm gonna be full alert. Yep. Heel to toe. Yep. This is the area I wanna be. So translate that into rattlesnakes. So you're dead zones and hotspots and that's what I've always called 'em.

Dead zones and hotspots like you can come across to dead zone where if there's a hundred rattlesnakes in an area, one of them might have traveled through this once. It's a dead zone. Snakes don't rattlesnakes. Typically, you're not gonna find 'em in swampy areas. So if I get up on top of a mesa, not a mesa, a plateau in Pennsylvania, and I'm walking through like a white oak swamp in Pennsylvania, that's a no-go.[00:59:00]

They're not gonna be here because the water's too cold for them to do anything that they wanna do with it. Also, cold air sinks so down at the creek bottom, it happens, but it's extremely rare. I'm gonna beat feet through that. I'm boogieing I don't, I'm not stopping to look at anything here. Now all of a sudden I start getting further and further up the ridge and I notice that a 200 year old oak tree recently fell down and exposed some rocks last year.

And there's blueberry bushes growing on them rocks. Now we're looking good because this would be a great hunting opportunity for a rattlesnake. Looking for chipmunks, squirrels, brown rats, wood rats deer mice, things that are gonna be eating those blueberries. The snake wants to eat them. So if I can find a spot where there's blueberry bushes growing between rocks, I better look there because it, it's almost like when you're fishing for small mouth it's very dependent on where's the hole at?

Like where are they hanging out at today? [01:00:00] Today's a, an 80 degree day with overcast. They should be out in the sun still. They should be hunting. So if I find a spot like that'll get me to slow down and look for one or two snakes working that area. Now, if I'm trying to find a new den site, I want to get to a spot that doesn't and hasn't, and can't have trees for another hundred years at least.

And we're talking spots where there's no soil, there's only boulders, and the boulders that are there are choking out anything but blueberries and ferns. Everything else is gone. There's three different types of den sites for rattlesnakes. One is a cliff den or alleged end, which is exactly what it sounds like.

You come up, you get to the top of the ridge, there's a 40 foot cliff, and at the bottom of it, there's what basically looks like a groundhog hole. It gives a chance for 'em, snakes to get all the way down under that granite where they can hang out. That's something where I'd be on high alert, [01:01:00] like in my red zone, so to speak.

This could happen any minute. Any step I take could get a rattlesnake to sound off. Now there's also another one called phallus Den, I believe it's called. It's basically shattered rock. Big piles of shattered rock. If you can find like a, almost like a boulder field that doesn't have water at the bottom of it.

That's a good den site in some areas. I haven't had much luck. I know of one and it just so happens to be the closest one to me. But the numbers of snakes out there aren't very good. And then you have your boulder den sites or your fallen rock den sites, and they are exactly what they sound like stuff that's the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

There's the size of the rocks out there and the, we look at a field of boulders and we say, wow, that's a lot of rocks. You don't realize those rocks go down 300 feet sometimes in certain spots. They're deep into the mountain. There's a crack there that has all [01:02:00] these boulders in it. And those are spots, especially cliff dens and boulder dens.

When I'm in and around those types of areas, that's when I'm on high alert. This could happen any minute. This is starting to look real snakey, as we call it. So if I was on, if I was on a northeast facing hill overlooking a soybean field and I started finding hemlock trees, this looks like a buck bed.

That's when I can be like, this is a buck bed. The don't want to hang out here, bucks. Want to overwatch that this is looking good. I'm gonna start looking for sheds. That's when it's like I'm on high alert kind of stuff where I'm gonna put a camera here, which is another great thing to do. If you find one of these spots and you're not sure if it's holding snakes, put a camera on it.

Interesting. And put it on TimeLapse. Maybe if you have to put it on TimeLapse for from 9:00 AM till noon. Because if they're coming out, that's when they'll be out. They'll be out from 7:00 AM or so. But typically if it's gonna be an 85 degree day, by the time 11 o'clock in the morning hits, they're going back [01:03:00] underground cuz em rocks will get up to 120, 130 degrees and they don't wanna be on 'em anymore.

But those dead zones are anything low, like elevation wise, low heavy shade is another one. And so big closed canopy force is usually a no-go. Yeah. And I don't have any luck in that. Now granted I've picked up snakes in that I was out in cross forks, cross fork on a hike with my wife. We actually were trying to get to this like meadow.

I found it on a map and it was it was within like 10 miles of cherry Springs, if you know where that is. I know exactly where that is. Just killed the Turkey up there this spring. That's awesome. So we wanted to head up towards Cherry Springs for the night. We were gonna go out with a hammock and watch the stars because it's the darkest place, like on the east coast almost.

But I don't do the tourist stuff, so I didn't wanna go to the park. I found a meadow as close as I could on some state game land. And it just so happened that it was 11 mile hike in. So that's where we're going. [01:04:00] So we get into it, we're 10 miles in and she finds a little meadow that she wants to check out cuz she's like, why don't we just set the hammock up here?

And I was like, we could we'll be able to see the stars but we won't be able to see sunrise or sunset. Cuz the canopy was a little bit closed in, but there was a little like acre meadow of ferns. And for the first time in the hike I said, Hey baby, do me a favor. Why don't you walk behind me? She said, why?

I said, this is typically the spot I like to look for rattlesnakes. This is the kindest place I like to look. She said, all so she gets behind me. And that's what you were talking about, like that whole time we had beat feet through closed canopy and not once did I think we were in good rattlesnake environment, her habitat.

But now that I see the opening and I notice that there's some rock piles off to the side, now I'm on high alert. I tell you what, I had a walk-in stick with me and I swung that stick through the ferns once to my right and once on my left. And he fired off. One of the biggest yellow phases I've ever seen in my life.

Got a really cool video of me talking to him like [01:05:00] he was a new newborn baby. Like I was all, I was gushing. I thought he was the coolest thing. I was like, Hey buddy, look how good you look today. And my wife's you need to leave him the hell alone. But he was just working that, that meadow and it was a cool spot for him to be because he could catch chipmunks coming through.

But seeing the opening after having walked 10 miles of closed forest once I saw the opening, now I'm on high alert. Now we're in an area where this looks snaky. What's so interesting about this all is I think about, I. Whitetails. Yep. I'm there. There's so many there, there's definitely circumstances where I'll definitely put some merit into an area that's a closed canopy forest, don't get me wrong.

But, I've always said the best habitat, the best places I find is where you have staggering canopy. Yep. Where you go from that a hundred foot desiduous forest down to, a three to five year old clear cut up to, a 20 foot section of chop off into 50 foot, conifer trees and you have that staggering [01:06:00] elevation cuz you have vegetation change.

Yep. And everything you're talking about from a snake's perspective is diversity of habitat. Yeah. Is diversity of habitat and it's conducive for them cuz it's conducive for prey, right? Correct. Absolutely. The best acorns grow where they get the best sun. A tree can get the best sun for acorns in two different ways.

Either it can be the tallest tree around which if you've ever been in the big woods of Pennsylvania, that canopy has a certain height and they're all competing for it, or the neighbor can die. If the neighbor dies and falls, then I'm gonna grow really big acorns this year and especially in the big woods, up top on the ridges.

If anybody listening has ever been in and around where they clear cut last year, the first thing that comes up is blueberries. It's always the first thing that comes up and that's the best place to go. Blueberry picking is where they clear cut last year or the year before. Yeah, because those seeds have been in the ground thanks to generations of turkeys and other animals dropping the seeds, but there's never been enough sun for them to [01:07:00] fruit.

Yep. Now all of a sudden they come through and they clear cut the area, or a tree falls and everything grows a blueberry. So when it's good for prey, it's good for predator. And it goes both ways on that, where you can have an area that naturally from a forest fire and then a couple years after the blueberries will start pop popping up, especially near the rocks and stuff like that.

It's great for rattlesnakes or in a an example that I got to witness firsthand, if you have a developer come into an area and he clears off the south side of a ridge and then puts a bunch of houses on it and everybody at the houses decides they're gonna have a bird feeder and a retaining wall in their backyard.

So they can have a nice flat yard on the side of a mountain, that's a great place to get rattlesnakes where you don't want 'em. And that actually happened down near Harrisburg. Oh, I believe that wholeheartedly. Yeah. I've seen cases like that. There's, a lot of the run-ins [01:08:00] and inter encounters I've had, cuz I'm not somebody who actively pursue snakes, but when I do find them, I try to respect them as much as possible and, I've seen it mirrors the same.

Type of scenarios that I can mail. I can think of a couple exceptions. The other year it was so dry in the summertime there was, we found some towards a creek bed, which surprised me. Yeah. But we did. Yep. They say it's a myth and I'm not so sure they say it's a myth that the snakes come down for water.

Typically, snakes know where the springs are. They have an incredible sense of smell thanks to something they call a jacobson's organ, which is why their tongue comes out. They have, the way we have access to our nostrils in the front, they have access to basically nostrils in their mouth. They stick that fork tongue out, and it goes up and down and they pick up scent molecules on it.

The same scent molecules that would typically hit you in the nose and then go to your brain or for a deer or a dog or anything like that. They actually have a separate way of doing it. They take that tongue and they flick it out there. When it comes back in [01:09:00] their mouth, it passes through something called a Jacobson organ.

The Jacobson organ has a left side and a right side, and it pulls the molecules off of that and puts it directly to the brain. And since if you've ever seen a buck lick its nose when it's trying to figure out what's going on, it's because they can gather more scent molecules. If their nose is wet, it'll stick better.

So when a buck's trying to figure you out, or he's trying to figure out where that dough just went to he'll, he's like chomping at the bit. He's licking it up and down. A snake doesn't have to do that. Every time it comes in their mouth, it gets wet again and they send it right back out and it tells them left or right up or down.

So they can find water pretty easily. So allegedly, it's a myth that snakes come down for water. However, snakes need water and sometimes it's only at the bottom. So I'm not sure how much of a myth it actually is that they come down for water because eventually they need it. And there's years where it's not up top.

I've done some I've done a lot of hiking. I've ruined quite a pair, quite a number of pairs [01:10:00] of mells. In fact, this one's on his last leg, but I've put a lot of miles. Yeah, they're great. I put a lot of miles on 'em and one of the things I'm consistently searching for out there is water, cuz I don't like carrying all of it.

I don't wanna carry seven days of water for two or four, eight people. So sometimes I'll just bring a sawyers with me and I know that I'm gonna have to pick up water on our hike and a lot of times I have to drop down six, 800 feet in elevation to find water. It actually happened to us out on that Cherry Springs hike.

We were up in that meadow and my wife told me, we have enough water for coffee or breakfast. Not both. And I was like, not turning down coffee in the morning or breakfast, I'll find water. And I had to drop down just like any other animal that lives out there would do. Yeah, on dry years they will drop down if they have to.

Allegedly, it's a myth, but there's lots of snake myths out there that are actual myths and that I don't. I don't know if that's one of them. That makes sense. So I want to go back [01:11:00] to just like the general sense of seizing. I wanna know what are the tools that, you already talked about a snake hook, right?

Yep. I wanna know a little bit more like what are the things you're bringing with you when you're going on a snake hunt and what are some of the things that, like anybody who says, yeah, this sounds really cool, I want to go out and check this out. Yeah. What are the things to keep in mind as far as approaching handling with the, with care, that, that sort of thing.

Okay. Equipment wise, your first year, your first five years, or maybe you'll do it the entire time you do this, there are these things called snake gators. They typically have they almost look like shin guards. They'll cover the top of your foot and everything up to the knee, making you bulletproof to the knee, and then a pair of all leather shoes.

I, I know a lot of people like Gore-Tex. It's not snake proof leather is snake fangs are extremely sharp, but they're very thin and fragile. [01:12:00] So all leather boots is the really important part. Once you have your leather boots and you have your snake gators, you are good to explore rattlesnake country as you see fit.

However, if you're planning on handling them, you're gonna need a tube and a hook. Again, I tell people to shy away from tongs. People who are new at this are nervous and they tend to squeeze things. Absolutely. When a female has 15 babies in her and she's planning on giving birth next week and you squeeze her with a pair of tongs, it doesn't do good for mom or potential babies and it's damaging to the habitat and you, they're made out of fish bones in a leather sock.

They're a noodle with a head. They're not bulletproof or impervious to pain or injuries. Their ribs are just like a trout. Ribs doesn't take much to snap them. So hook and this thing we call a tube. And this tube, you can go online, you can spend 50 bucks on a set of tubes or you can do what I did. [01:13:00] Go to Home Depot, spend $4 on a T 25 fluorescent light protector tube.

It's just a plastic straw. It's about an inch and a half in diameter. And that'll make me three tubes on a four foot piece, cuz I just cut 'em down to about 16 inches. That's all the more I need. Most people on their first year or two, they're gonna want that to be like a 24 inch tube. Your hook, anything from 27 inches to 42 inches snake hook, you can buy them readily online.

I make mine with broken golf clubs and paint roller brushes. I'm a fabricator, I could machine up a real nice one that would be real heavy, that would not be as nice for me as my little 27 inch golf club, one that I use. Once you've gotten those tools, A Taylor's tape, like a seamstress tape, right?

Something that's real flexible if you use a tape, measures that stay straight are really good for construction cuz you wanna make straight lines. Snakes are never on a straight line. You need something that's gonna bend with them. So a Taylor's tape and a good pen that will [01:14:00] write no matter what, because it never fails.

On hot summer days, walking around with a pen in your backpack, it's time to fill out a snake tag and all the ink in it's dried out and gummed up. So a good pen, obviously your tag can be purchased on top of your fishing license. No different than a trout stamp, right? It's a venomous snake stamp. Get your tags and go have fun with it as respectfully as possible.

And don't get discouraged that you don't find them. Cuz a lot of guys I know plenty of guys that have been hunting rattlesnakes for eight, 10 years and have never found one. They saw one once on a hike and decided I gotta get into this. And they've been looking ever since. Don't get discouraged. At very least, a lot of places that rattlesnakes aren't, which narrows it down.

Start looking for better habitat. But do not get into this if this is gonna be a machismo or a bravado type of builder for you. This [01:15:00] is not, these aren't, there's. There's really no pride in it because once you get up there and realize that these things spend the entire interaction trying to get away from you, like it's not that impressive to get one once you found it, because they don't really bite unless they need to.

They are constantly trying to get away. And if you watch any of the, there's a couple videos of me on YouTube now. I don't have a YouTube channel. My buddy has a YouTube channel, okay? He's put me on it a few times and you'll see in the videos if you go on, it's if you don't mind, I'll absolutely plug from my buddies, central Pennsylvania outdoorsman on YouTube.

Okay? There's plenty of videos up there that I'm in for rattlesnakes and I taught them guys how to do it, and they've been fantastic students and they treat the animals with respect. And that is the most important thing, the way that fly fishermen talk about drought. Now, you're not even allowed to touch 'em if they're, if your hands aren't wet and you keep 'em in the water the whole time, [01:16:00] you never take 'em outta the water other than for a grip and grin, put 'em back.

That's it. That's how you should be treating rattlesnakes. The, even when you're planning on harvesting one in the video, you could s in some of the videos you could see that we harvested in video. We've harvested two snakes. I believe one was for my buddy Brett's first snake, and one was for my boy.

It was his first time going out, so we harvested that one, but. There's a hundred snakes in them videos that we didn't even touch. But even the ones that we harvest, you treat them with respect and stay calm with them. They'll stay calm with you. If you try to go out there and out muscle or try to win a game of tag with a pit viper, you are going to lose every time.

Don't do anything that warrants you getting bit. And that all comes back to treating the animal with respect. If you're not gonna treat it with respect, you are gonna be a hilarious news story. And it I hate to say, I will laugh at you if I find out that you were like, oh yeah, I didn't even need a hook.

I just went out and picked it up. [01:17:00] That was a bad idea. And play those games, win those prizes. But if you're doing it with respect, then I encourage anybody to jump on one of the Facebook pages about like hunting rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania. And you'll find a bunch of like-minded people or people who are willing to at least share knowledge.

Nobody's gonna share your their locations with you. Nobody tells where their best morale spot is either. Nobody tells you where you shot that 12 point buck last year. They might tell you what county, or they might say, oh, I shot it on the farm. That's about what you're gonna get from people who are out there looking for rattlesnakes.

And it's not so much I wanna keep these spots to myself. I don't want anybody messing with those snakes. I don't pick up snakes in that spot. I take pictures of snakes in that spot because there's only 35 snakes at that den. Now if I'm gonna harvest a snake, I'm gonna go to a spot that I know has 120 snakes.

If you're in an area where you're [01:18:00] searching for snakes year in, year out, and you're not finding anything, maybe it's not worth harvesting the first one you find, maybe wait until you're in an area where you find a lot of them, the population's through the roof. I can't tell you what to do with your tag.

You know what I mean? So it's just one of those things of respecting the, if you want to call it a resource, respect the resource. Don't just take 'em all out like they do in Texas and Oklahoma. They do these roundups that they take out tens of thousands of rattlesnakes every year. And in the name of population control.

Yeah. And the quote unquote Rattlesnake Roundup which we have annually in Pennsylvania. Yep. Completely different things. Yes. So I actually wanna talk about that. The way we do Pennsylvania rattlesnake roundups is completely and wildly different than when they do roundups seemingly anywhere else in the country.

Every rattlesnake you see at the roundups in Pennsylvania be that Morris Knox and cinema honing, cross fork, any of them. Okay. [01:19:00] The guys, especially the guys working the pits, those guys have the utmost respect for these animals. They look at these the way most people look at bald eagles, like they are a symbol of America.

And Ben Franklin, for his credit, even people always give Ben Franklin credit for wanting the Turkey to be the national symbol. Before that he wanted to be the rattlesnake, cuz it didn't, it never sought out conflict, but it was always willing to defend itself from conflict. And that's the most American thing he had ever heard.

And that's very true. And you know what, it's so funny you bring that up because so many people, I idolized the bald eagle, yet it is a scavenger. Yep. It is a Steeler. Yep, it is. To me it's a dumb bird, but I'm not gonna get on that. Ran, continue. That's fine. But so Ben Franklin actually spoke about it and a lot of other places had spoken about how.

Another cool thing is that the timber rattlesnake specifically is a uniquely American thing. Rattlesnakes as a species range from southern Canada all the way [01:20:00] down to some parts of Argentina. But it is a rattlesnakes, as a species, as a genus are unique to the North American or to the American continent.

Timber rattlesnakes were unique to the 13 colonies, which is another cool thing. 13 colonies and a little bit more, but they were unique to what America was back then. Their eyes shined bright and never blinked. And Ben Franklin had mentioned that as well, that they were constantly vigilant for threats.

That was one of the things that he spoke about, how they're always vigilant. They never blink. They're always watching out for different threats from anybody. And they're never the first one to pursue an engagement of conflict. But they're always willing to defend themselves from it. And if that's not American, I don't know what is.

It was basically his pitch to make this our national anthem, the national animal, and then the timber rattlesnake ended up on the Gatson flag. The Do Not Tread On Me, which is a fantastic, it's a small little saying, and it's a modest saying as he had put it. But at the [01:21:00] same time, there's a lot of relevance to that.

I'm not looking for trouble, so stay over there kind of stuff. And the rattlesnakes have that same mentality. Now I forgot how I got onto this ramp. We were talking about the Roundup, the Roundups. So the guys at the Roundups, they love and respect these animals like nobody's business, and they really do a great job of Ed educating people.

But the coolest thing about the roundups, you are issued what's called a conditional permit in advance to the Roundup. If you try to pick it up that day, you're gonna wait in line and it's a long line. And you're only allowed to pick up a snake from when you get your conditional permit until the time expires.

And a lot of times it's three o'clock in the afternoon or noon sometimes. So if you don't get in line until nine, you're gonna have 45 minutes to go pick up a snake and bring it back for the roundup. But the coolest part about it is every one of those snakes that you find at that roundup gets put back exactly where it was found alive and well.

That's what makes your conditional permit conditional. [01:22:00] They're going to issue you an additional snake permit on the condition. That you take the snake from within a 30 mile radius or 60 mile radius, whatever the rules are for that roundup. You have to pick it up within a 30 mile circle of this area or a 40 mile circle, whatever the rules are, you have to pick it up from there, bring it to the roundup, and after the roundup you have to put it back where you found it within three feet of where you found it.

Which is really cool. And it has to be done within 24 hours after the roundup. I haven't been to the roundups. There's a there's people I would go to the roundup with that I would really enjoy the roundup with. And again, it goes back to the bravado and the machismo of it, where I would want to go there as an educator, as somebody sharing that knowledge.

I don't know if I would even participate in a roundup as somebody going to grab a snake because I'm gonna lose out on the opportunity to be in the pits all day and teach in people about these things. So if you're in the pits all day, you don't go get a pick up a snake, you gotta be in the pits. [01:23:00] But it's really cool in Pennsylvania, they do a lot of education.

They do a lot of outreach to the communities that are most affected by run-ins with rattlesnakes. So I really like the way that Pennsylvania does our roundups and I wish that became the norm, not the exception, because that's the way to do it, honestly. Teach people that like, yeah, that, that's the biggest rattlesnake turned in today.

And it can't hit me cuz I'm 18 inches away. And they can only strike a third of their body length. So I'm completely, I could be wearing flip flops and one of my buddies wears Crocs and he knows his snakes and I'm not encouraging anybody to do that. Guy is, he's got 20 years worth of experience to wear Crocs out there and possibly a couple screws loose, but that's another thing.

One or two. But getting bit by a rattlesnakes expensive too. Yeah, speaking of that, so the only experience that I ever had with that one of the camps that I go to I've gone to since I'm 12 years old. I'm, it's not a camp I'm a [01:24:00] member to or anything like that, but I, I bear hunted at quite commonly.

Okay. Thank you. And they there, there was a guy in camp who used to consistently go and do some rattlesnake hunting. Yep. And there's a picture of him in the camp and It's up there and he is holding a specific snake, and they always say that's the one that got him. And the story goes something along the lines of, he worked these snakes in a known den, and he went to put the snake back and they asked him if he would like the hook and he said, no, I'll just put it back with my hand.

And he did that. And in the process he didn't get bit, he got nicked? Yeah. Just on the finger. Yeah. And I might be telling the story wrong after this, but as the story goes, at approaching camp it was like three quarters of a mile back to camp and, finger started turning purple up through the hand into the arm, got back to the hospital and it started out that he was gonna lose his arm.

He was gonna lose a portion of his arm and his hand turned out, nothing was amputated. He was able to clear up, but they got there fast enough. Yeah, they did. But the doctor said to him, [01:25:00] said, you are extremely allergic. He said, if you ever get bit, he said, don't even bother. You're not gonna make it. Yeah. So hematin is is one heck of a thing.

Hematin is the type of venom used in pit vipers, copperheads, and rattlesnakes alike. The difference is they're, they come in different, I don't wanna say concentrations, but different levels of deads and damage caused. So a rattlesnake has a deadly bite. If left UNT treatment untreated, you will most likely die from a rattlesnake bite.

And that goes for pretty much any and all rattlesnakes. There are some variants. In lethality of it, but with Copperheads, and this is not me saying to not seek medical treatment if you're bit by a copperhead. Nobody's ever died from a copperhead bite in the history of the United States of America. One guy one time, I think it was three years ago, died from the anti-venom for copperhead bite.

He was allergic and he went into Ana. He went anaphylactic [01:26:00] shock, and died because of the treatment they gave him for it. That's extremely rare. Dying from a copperhead is also extremely rare because pit vipers have a hemat. Toxic venom, largely hemat toxic hemat, toxic venom attacks blood and tissue.

So if you would imagine that you took a gallon of milk and dumped a cup of lemon juice in it, and then you give it two minutes, doesn't look much different. Five minutes, you're gonna start noticing that there's starting to be a watery section and a clumpy section, and you come back four hours later and they've separated.

The same thing happens to your blood because the way hemat toxic. Vem works is it attacks the cell walls when it's going after blood, specifically when it attacks the cell wall. When it goes in, it attacks the cell walls of blood cells themselves, so it shatters blood [01:27:00] cells in little micro explosions that you can watch under a microscope, and all of a sudden you have this mix of the two worst things that can happen to your blood.

It'll clock too much and it'll be way too thin at the same time. So you'll have sections of your blood flow that completely shuts off and sections of your blood flow that's trying to get this moving. But the problem is it's tainted blood full of venom and it's passing it through the rest of your body, which is actually a good thing.

That's what people don't understand is do not tourniquet a snake pipe unless you wanna guarantee that you're gonna lose that dig, that appendage. The solution to pollution is dilution counts for snake venom too. So if you have a pint of blood or two pints of blood in your arm and you got bit in the finger and you decide to tourniquet it at your wrist, you're probably gonna lose your hand.

Even if you get to the hospital within the next three hours, you're gonna have a real tough time at it. But if you just let that venom flow through, [01:28:00] you stay calm, get to the hospital, your body will dilute the venom to the point where, yes, it's still gonna be one of the worst days of your life, but they are not gonna cut parts of you off.

So get to the hospital as quickly as possible. But don't wrap anything on it. Don't try to suck the venom. You're just gonna get an infection. Don't try to tourniquet anything. Don't hold it above your heart or anything silly like that. Just embrace the suck. Realize you made a mistake, go to the hospital, they'll take care of you.

Hemat. Toxic venom works differently from neurotoxic venom neurotoxic is the only one we really have to worry about. Neurotoxic venom is coral snakes and flora. They're an inlaid more closely related to cobras. There's a couple rattlesnake species that have a mixed bag of hemat toxic and neurotoxic venom attacks the nervous system.

So all of a sudden you are well aware that you haven't taken a breath in 30 seconds and you can't fix it because it shut off the message system between brainstem and diaphragm and you can't solve that [01:29:00] problem. That gets real scary. Real quick if timber rattlesnakes were mostly neurotoxic venom, they'd be a lot more deadly to humans.

But they use hematin cuz it helps digest the food while the food runs away. It works out great. They bite it, they let it go, the food runs off, and by the time they find it, it's already half digested and then they can swallow and it makes the rest of the process a lot easier for it. Interesting. That I didn't know or didn't realize, yeah. So the Hemat toic fattom is basically a digestive compound. It breaks down tissue and blood. And blood is liquid protein. Venom is actually a protein. It's an amino acid. Yep. That goes in and destroys the cell walls of not just blood, but if it sits sedentary or unc circulating in meat for any extended period of time, it will turn the meat, so to speak.

It'll rot the meat or digest it rapidly. So like zoos and stuff like that, if [01:30:00] they are going to feed a pit viper food and they shake a rat in front of it and it hits it and they drop the rat so the snake can eat it and it doesn't eat it, that thing will smell like it's a week old roadkill in about four hours.

It's, it turns rancid really quick. And the same thing would happen to a human if they didn't seek treatment. But for the most part, if they're, if a snake is hunting fast, twitch animals lizards, small quick animals, lizards other snakes, stuff like that, especially fish, some of the most venomous snakes on the planet are in the ocean, but we're birds because what good is it if I bite a bird here and it flies 40 feet to the next tree and dies, we're 300 foot up a tree and I'm a snake.

I've gotta go all the way down, all the way across, all the way back up. So I can look for it now. I need it to die right now. So neurotoxic venom is typically used for, I need it dead right now. And hemat, [01:31:00] toxic venom from an evolutionary standpoint is typically used for, I need it to start digesting cuz that thing's gonna be a four week investment of my time sitting in the sun just to digest it.

So it comes in handy for them to use that. Now as a baby rattlesnake, baby rattlesnakes are actually more, they have more neurotoxic venom in their system for that specific purpose. They need to be able to take advantage of any food opportunity they get. So the babies, there is an argument to be made that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous.

I've heard that. Yeah. So that stems from them having more neurotoxic venom compared to the adults. However, you wanna drink five drops of bleach with your next cup of water or a quarter cup. The bigger the rattlesnake, the higher the venom yield or dump is. Whereas a mature rattlesnake could drop almost a tablespoon of venom and a baby might be able to pull off an eighth of a [01:32:00] teaspoon.

Okay, which one would you rather have? And you'd rather have the little one. You'd rather have neither of 'em, but the little one. Preferably because it's less damage being done, but despite it having a smaller venom yield, it has a more potent venom. Than the adults do. It just has less of it. And the snakes invest a lot of calories into making this venom and they don't feel like wasting it on you.

So there's a study done that showed that if you got bit below the knee, it was a dry bite, meaning the snake did not inject venom. I forget the exact numbers on it, but it was like 70% of the time no venom was delivered by the snake. It was a dry bite below the knee, but below the elbow, almost exact opposite 75% of the time.

It was not a dry bite, meaning if you accidentally step on a rattlesnake, both cases go get checked out, you got bit by a venom snake. But if you accidentally step on rattlesnake, it's not that they [01:33:00] realize it was an accident, they just don't think you deserve to die yet. But if you pick one up and get it below the elbow, if you get bit below the elbow, you got bit on the hand cuz you grabbed one.

You've made this a life or death situation. They're almost getting stepped on almost daily. I have a camera out on one of my den sites. It's amazing how much animal activity goes on at the den sites and it's typically just bears cruising through or deer cruising through possums and stuff like that. And they'll get rattled at and then they move on because the rattle lets the animal know Hey, don't step on me.

That's the whole purpose of the rattle is don't mess with me, I don't wanna be played with right now. And the animals typically move on. The only one that really gets after them. It's typically bobcats. Yeah. Bobcats are real good at it. Bobcats are terrifying. Bobcats freak me out. There's really, yeah.

That's 20 pounds that can consistently take down deer. That's what a lot of people don't realize is, I didn't realize this either. I was in a tree stand in Halifax, Pennsylvania in [01:34:00] 2013 and I was, I thought myself the luckiest guy on the planet cuz I got to see a bobcat in the wild coming through. And I was like, man, that is awesome.

And then it stopped and it did that little tail wag thing. And it got up, there was this tree that had been blown over and the roots of the tree were, it had come up as well, you know what I'm talking about? Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. So there, there's a divot in the ground.

Yeah. So it got up on top of the end of that root ball and it crouched down and I was like, what is he doing? This is cool. And this is before like cameras on cell phone. I didn't have a camera that was good enough on my cell phone at least to zoom in to see this. So I'm watching it through binoculars cuz I'd seen movement.

I'll zoom in on it. So I'm watching through binoculars and here comes what looks like a little button buck or a, a decent sized dough walking down the trail. And I was like, oh man, it's hiding from the deer. Because I was stupid and I didn't realize, nobody ever realized that a 25 pound [01:35:00] bobcat can solo a deer.

All of a sudden this deer goes to walk by Bobcat, jumps off and jumps on the deer. Deer and bobcat take off like bobcat stuck to the deer and takes off. And then I start hearing if you've ever regrettably, if you've ever spinned a deer, the noise it makes when it's finally about to stop making noise forever.

I start hearing that noise and I was like, that is terrifying. They'd ran down into this ditch and it was a night hunt and I wasn't going down there at night cuz I had just seen that I'm not as fast as a deer. I can't kick as hard as a deer. I'm going nowhere near that thing. So I'm, I made my way outta the woods.

But it just so happened three, four days later, I was hunting that same stand. I got the same wind I wanted. So I was going back into that stand and I thought, you know what? I might blow up my hunt and get my scent all over the place, but I gotta go see what happened. And I went down to the creek bottom.

Sure enough, the deer, most of it was still there. Was it [01:36:00] covered some of it. Yeah. That was so it covered it up with like leaves and stuff. Yeah, it did a real bad job at it. I could still see the white belly, like it hadn't done a great job of covering it up, but I could still find it. And sure enough, the right underneath the chin of this thing, right where the jaw met the neck, it had chewed that part completely out, which was completely different than what I'd typically seen when deer or eaten.

In Pennsylvania, it's from coyotes or bear. And they start at the back. Yeah. Oh yeah. Coyotes go after hamstrings. Cuz coyotes aren't good at killing things. They're good at eating stuff. Yeah. We had a buck one time that was killed with the bow and a bear came up, smelled the arrow and went down after it.

You know what the first thing was that the buck ate? Or the bear berry the, but ate the balls. Oh, okay. Yeah. And then it went and ate it started eating at the back end. At the backstrap. Yep. So they start at the back and worked their way forward. This thing had started at the front. It seemed like it chewed out the whole windpipe area of the deer and then when to eat the rest of it.

And it put it in perspective to me at how good [01:37:00] cats in general are at killing versus a bear, you can scream, it's just gonna make dinner louder. They're gonna keep eating until they hit something important and then you'll stop screaming. Coyotes are the same way. They're gonna keep eating until you're immobile.

So you'll find deer on trail cameras that the whole hamstring off of both legs is chewed to ribbons and the deer's still running from coyotes because they start eating before it's dead. And bears start eating before it's dead. Cats will kill and then eat. Correct. And that freaked me out, man. I don't know why.

That's just an animal that never bugged me. And I'm not a big cat fan in general, but, I've seen my fair share of 'em in the woods and they're neat animals. But, there's few animals that like, I don't know, just give me an eerie sense, like rattlesnakes really, there's so many people that you talk about oh, there's a bear.

Oh my goodness, I could care less. Yeah. The only time I would ever be scared of a bear is, if you get in between a South Cubs or you [01:38:00] find a young dumb one that's just, up to no good and he just is pushing the limits and stuff like that. But for whatever reason, I guess that one animal in the woods that has always made me a little bit more uneasy was a rattlesnake.

And a lot of it is because of my irrational sense of, I've, learned a lot about him since college and being around people that just love rattlesnakes and, have, some level of knowledge and share that with me. And I've had encounters with them, but it's still one of those things I just wanna stay away from.

I think I I'm nervous to say it because then people will do it, but I think everybody should get a chance to see how they actually behave in the wild. If the next time one, you get back to more than two feet away from it and just watch, just pay attention. This is gonna be a really cool story to tell your buddies.

Even if you don't pick it up, don't touch it. Just take a step back and start recording. It's awesome. [01:39:00] They're really impressive creatures and they're one of the last signs of the wilds that were. Penns woods once upon a time. We used to have mountain lions. We used to have wolves, like we used to have bison, used to roam Pennsylvania.

We used to have bison and elk. We used to have some really cool stuff here, and it's all gone. All the stuff that can take your life in the woods in Pennsylvania is gone except for the rattlesnake. It's the one holdout. And to be able to be in their area, in their zone and enjoy that with them is, it's an impressive feeling just to do it.

And I know I sound like I'm trying to sell healing crystals or something like that, but genuinely speaking, if you ever come across the rattlesnake in the woods, just take a look. Let it, it'll stop rattling. And once you stop getting closer, it'll stop rattling, cuz its only goal is to keep you from stepping on it.

I have a bunch of cool videos from a trail camera. The way the [01:40:00] camera's set up, it looks right down the crack and the crack's going away from it. And the camera's set up there and it watches as the rattlesnakes come outta this crack onto this rock. And for whatever reason, bears, coyotes, deer, walk below it most of the time, bears every once in a while will walk on it.

And if the bear is walking diagonal to get around the tree on the left side of the tree from where the den opening is, which is on the right side of the tree, if the bear is walking that way. I have audio on the camera too. The snakes won't even rattle and the bear won't react. The bear just keeps on trucking.

But if the bear goes to walk on the right side of my tree from the camera, he's gonna have to walk over top of where the snakes are basking and they rattle the same bear, same threat level. The only difference is if the bear is gonna walk on top of the rattlesnakes, they'll rattle to let him know Hey, we're outside buddy.

[01:41:00] This is our spot. And he'll move along. But if he's going the other way already, they just let him go the other way. The amount of people that have walked right past rattlesnakes is hilarious. I know of a spot near a bike trail. I'll say it's in Dolphin County. That's as far as close as I'll give.

But there's a bike trail in Dolphin and there is a gestational site where I was telling you about. I go and I find three females on Monday and I'll go there on Tuesday and there'll be 60 of them. It's right next to a bike trail and I consistently find PE and I'll ask 'em on I when I see 'em on their way out.

Did you see anything cool in there? Yeah. I saw deer and I'll walk another quarter mile and right next to the bike trail is 60 rattlesnakes sitting three feet from the bike trail because the snakes know, or at least have a good sense of if I'm gonna get ran over or stepped on, that's when they sound off.

So as soon as you stop that forward movement towards them and just. Sit back and wait, they'll stop rattling and typically move outta the area. They know that at that point, you want to go this way, they'll [01:42:00] just give you that ground. They'll move off most of the time. And it's real cool to watch. I wish more people could see how they actually behave in the wild compared to what they've heard.

And I, if we had electricity out there, we were gonna be doing this podcast. Yeah. Would den site would, because I know of a den site that's 15 minutes from here and we could have sat right there and chatted. Sitting next to eight or nine rattlesnakes are typically almost a guarantee out there.

There's about 40 of 'em that use that den site in the fall, but it's also, it's just a really good basking site for them. So there's always six to 10 ish chilling on them rocks that I can always go and hang out with if I wanna see 'em that day. And we were gonna go and chill out with him today if we had electricity out there.

Yeah. Ain't that. Hey, we're we've been rolling for a while. Let's wrap this one up. Anything you wanna leave us with? One, one thought I had, as you were talking about stuff, you're talking about a lot of biology related things. A lot of stuff you've dug deep into. Yeah. And one thing I'm curious, you [01:43:00] talked about things that are threatening to him, people not handling them properly.

Habitat loss, that's a huge thing as far as any s a wildlife, that's a big is there anything else that you find cons, talked about fungal? Yeah. Is there anything else that's. Con genuinely concerning or threatening? Cuz right now, as far as I know, in my very low knowledge base about rattlesnakes seems like everything's all good and honky dory as far as rattlesnakes go. We've had an increase in the population in recent years and Yep. All, all good. But I could be wrong in some of that. And is there anything else that we would, we might have missed in this? This is a this is a touchy subject in the sense where it, for whatever reason, I'm not sure why, but it gets almost political when we talk about the pipelines in Pennsylvania.

If you've ever seen a pipeline cut in Pennsylvania on a map, that's where you wanna be for wildlife because it's an opening. Yep. And you could see they [01:44:00] also provide fantastic basking opportunities for rattlesnakes. And because they have to constantly come through and hedge them down and mow 'em down, it's constantly keeping fresh brows in there for wildlife.

It keeps the blueberries up and running the raspberries on the edge. When the birds drop the seeds with their droppings, there's plenty of prey opportunities. The pipeline in Pennsylvania did a lot of good for the rattlesnakes long term if they keep mowing it. So that was actually a net positive for the species.

However, some of the negative stuff. More and more people want to live out in the woods. I live out in the woods. This is phenomenal. I did not move into the woods to become part of the food chain of the woods. I did not move out here to try to put my thumb on the native [01:45:00] wildlife in the area in a detrimental way.

If you move into the woods, especially on a ridge, and you put up a retaining wall, you are inviting snakes of all species before you grab the shovel, call somebody because regrettably, we've got, we're still at a point where people will brag about chopping the head off of a snake. Thankfully, we're at a part where people now don't brag about poaching deer.

We know it still happens. We see the guys out there with the spotlights. That shots fired, the spotlight turns off. We know that stuff's happening, but people are ashamed of that nowadays, and that's a good thing because people should be ashamed to do that kind of crap. It's garbage. That's one of the most garbage things you can do, is to just kill without any respect or remorse for the animal.

But for whatever reason, we're still at a part [01:46:00] in our. Evolution of outdoorsmen where people will brag, oh dude, I killed like a seven foot black snake outta my shed the other day. And people are, they're proud of that. Congrats you, you got a rope well done bud. Like you, with your shovel you really put yourself at risk with that six foot shovel.

Yeah. I don't get it. That's something to me that's if I brag that I found a nest of rabbits in my backyard and I'd beat 'em to death with a shovel, people would look at me like I was a monster. Rightfully cuz you don't do that much less brag about it. What the heck is wrong with you? Yeah.

People still do that about snakes and they think it's a cool thing to do and it's simply it's not one. And it goes back to that if you call yourself a nature lover or an Abbott outdoorsman, you respect the animals that you're going after and it's only the ones that you get meat from or it's only the fuzzy, cute ones, then you don't really practice what you preach yet.

There's still plenty of animals out there that are looked at with disdain and the rattlesnake is [01:47:00] one of the main ones. And snakes in general. So the biggest threat, obviously habitat loss, but the good news is rattlesnakes have been through the wringer on that. There was a time in Pennsylvania where 94% of the state was deforested and they still made it, which is really cool.

And hard to believe. Extremely hard to believe. You think about the history of deforestation in Pennsylvania, how that's come. I was telling somebody in the area that I was hunting this spring be like it's so interesting to navigate certain parts of the upper portion of the state where you've got that history of logging roads.

Yeah. The forest is at the same height all across the area. And you can just see that history of that cutting. And you know what the funniest thing about it is I always think, what was the deer hunting like a couple years after that with that regrowth? Because some of the pictures dude, I'm telling you what, like after the restocking events and stuff holy cow, they killed some big deer.

That's why everybody in the brother went to deer camp in the [01:48:00] seventies. Oh yeah. There weren't any trees left. The trees were just coming back rather. So every hunting camp on every ridge in every county of the whole state of all the northeast was prime for deer hunting. Those guys would go out and they'd, everybody at camp would kill a deer or two, and you'd see them on the meat pole.

Everybody's got a picture. Granddad and Uncle Joe and my cousin Bill, and they're all standing next to 12 deer on a meat pole at camp from opening day. And there are very few places left, especially state game land, where you can get out and you can put 12 deer down because now the deer habitat is at a more healthy level.

From what I've heard from other animal biologists, that was an unhealthy number of deer back then because we had an unhealthy forest. And things are starting to get a boom bus system is what you had. Exactly. And things are starting to get back to a more level playing field of it. And it's good.

It's a good thing for the [01:49:00] habitat that we have good habitat for grouse and Turkey and rabbit and mink. And we have all these more diverse species than we've had in quite a long time. And people will get upset about them introducing Fishers or Pine Martins? The Martins now. Yeah. Yeah. They're bringing them back.

And again, if the only animals you enjoy are the ones that don't cause you trouble, then you don't enjoy animals as much as you think. Because once upon a time when bison were roaming the entirety of the continental United States of America, they were an incredible animal. Unless you wanted to get to the west coast and now you had to put a train track in.

So we have to kill 'em all. And that's what they did. They didn't value the animal. And as such, it became a nuisance. And if you don't value it, it will always be a nuisance. So when fur prices were high, raccoons were valuable, and now they're a nuisance animal. And that's just the way it happens. So if you're [01:50:00] not placing value on wildlife, eventually it loses its worth.

To the general population. So it's, it, it comes back to a fair amount of respect. Rattlesnakes have held on for quite a while, even with not so much development, but destruction of habitat. So for the most part, what we have to worry about nowadays are that people the people aren't as forward thinking as I wish them to be.

I'm trying to say this as politely as possible, but I want you to think of the average person, okay, the most average person, the five out of 10 human that you know, and understand that half the population is dumber than them. Once you realize that, you'll realize the kind of issues that we're having with all wildlife and most problems in our lives are caused by the fact that half the population is dumber or makes worse decision than your average friend.

So you get people consistently that'll build a [01:51:00] really cool cabin for hunting up on the ridge, and it's awesome. And I commend them for it. Go enjoy wildlife. But when you find it, put the shovel down. When you find wildlife, you don't have to respond by just cutting it into pieces or people bragging that they shot a snake.

I could shoot 10 cans and I'm gonna get the same response outta the tin can than you are a snake that's just sitting there doing nothing. It's not a feat that's difficult to do, or it's nothing to brag about. I've come across, I average probably about 300 snakes a year that I find Wow. That I put eyes on.

I'm actively looking for them. I was gonna go today after work to a spot. I have a den right now. There's probably 25 snakes on it, so it's a cool spot to go. But I've harvested, my tag's been used on two snakes in six or seven years. And I've found like [01:52:00] 300 ish every year. So there's a lot of either catch and release or take a picture and let it go.

And just having respect for that resource is a big thing. And I think a lot of people need to get behind that. It's no different than when you talk to people that, that fly fish. They wanna let the fish go. Why? So it's here tomorrow. Ah, so it gets fatter. No, because it's fun to do this. So we don't take trout home and eat all of them.

We're not there trying to catch five trout every single day for the whole season. A lot of people don't do that anymore, but once upon a time, that's what they did. In the same sense, a lot of guys are now making the switch to which buck are you going after this year? The legal one. A lot of guys are switching to, I'm looking for a mature deer.

I'm trying to shoot mature deer. I'm letting the young bucks get bigger because they have that. Respect of the resource. There's no use killing. Why would I use my tag? I get one buck tag a year. Why would I use it on 110 pound, [01:53:00] six point when I could save that tag for a 205 pound, eight point? That's and keep hunting.

And keep hunting. And that's the thing. It's like a lot of people are now finally coming around to understanding that your time in the outdoors is an investment in your future in the outdoors. A lot of guys are coming around to that now. They're putting in food plots. They're doing selective cutting.

They're trying to shape their little slice of heaven to make it a perfect habitat for deer or Turkey or whatever it is. As people do more of that, I wanna see them have more tolerance of the non-target species in general. Be it rattlesnakes, be it pine Martins, be it fishers. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

When you have a more healthy ecosystem, it's a more healthy ecosystem. [01:54:00] Yes, you're gonna lose more turkeys. I get that. Start trapping something that's prevalent. If you have a ton of raccoons in your area, start trapping because the fishers aren't the ones for the past 20 years that have been making Turkey populations decline.

I hate to break it to you. Yeah. People, the coon prices went down to 75 cents a pelt. Yeah, exactly. That's what did 'em in. But yeah, my basic thing is like I just, if I had one thing to tell everybody, experience it in a respectful way. No different than if you had an opportunity to observe a black bear.

You wouldn't shoot it in self-defense if it was just eating blueberries. So if you find a rattlesnake that's just sitting on a rock, it's not self-defense to shoot it. It didn't chase you. It's leaving you alone. You're not winning a trophy by shooting it or killing it. Let it alone. Enjoy watching it. You can tell your folks or [01:55:00] your buddies that you saw it and you don't have to kill it in order to tell anybody that you saw it, just leave it alone.

But that's my big thing is just respect it. I like it. I think that's a great thing to end it on. John, this has been great. Thank you so much for doing this. This, it's been a time this was a blast. I really appreciate this. This is a knowledge dump. Sorry. And no, I appreciate that because it was a knowledge dump for me, and I think anybody who's remotely interested in rattlesnake hunting is gonna really enjoy this.

John, thanks again. Absolutely. If you guys have any more, if you have any more questions or anything like that, I run a Facebook group, Keystone Rattlesnakes, and if you're looking for any videos of anything that I'm up to, you wanna see what it actually is. Like when you go rattlesnake hunting in Pennsylvania, there's videos on YouTube.

You can watch mine, you can watch them from Leatherwood. And he's got a bunch of good videos out there too. The videos that I'm in are on Keystone Central Pennsylvania Outdoorsmen, and that's the one I've gone out with them guys quite a bit. They're good people. Good deal. Great [01:56:00] resource. Great way to see you.

Thanks again. We'll we'll catch you later. All right. See ya.