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May 14, 2008

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Puff This!

Nate Matthews, who runs this blog, has just returned from an excellent safari to South Africa where he shot well and killed everything. Before he left, I filled his head with all my African expertise, but I apparently neglected one important item of information, because he encountered a puff adder and did not make it a dead puff adder. His excuse was that there was no time to take its skin, but I think it was a simple lack of civic responsibility.

(The serpent in question).

The puff adder is a short, thick viper that is responsible for more bites than any other serpent in Africa. It has long fangs, a bad temper, serious hemotoxic venom, and a very fast strike. It's fond of sleeping in the dust of footpaths, and when you step on it, it will bite you fatally and then go right back to sleep.

Nate's obligation was to make adderburger out of it on general principles, and possibly even theological ones. It says in the Book of Mark that "thou shalt take up serpents," but I think this was mis-translated and originally read "thou shalt hack up serpents," which is why the hoe, the shovel, the pickup-truck tire, the shotgun, and many other excellent tools were invented.


This may be the place to pass along my favorite serpent story, which I got from a 1920s edition of Field & Stream, where it was represented as the truth:

It seems that back in the days of the Old West, New Hands in an outfit were subjected to cowboy humor, which got pretty creative at times. Anyway, one night this particular outfit decided to have some fun with its New Hand. The cowpokes collected a rattler who was frozen near-stiff from the cold, sewed its mouth shut, and put it down inside the New Hand's boot. (In them days, working cowboys wore stovepipe boots, very high and tight-fitting, and impossible to get on or off inside of 15 minutes).

So morning comes, and the New Hand puts on his boot, and the serpent, thawed out by now and very cross, makes its presence known. The New Hand goes berserk trying to get the boot off, and unbridled hilarity reigns in the bunkhouse. Finally, the NH gets the boot off, and says:

"What son of a bitch done this?"

To which a grizzled cowhand says, "Waaal, I reckon it was me."

Upon which the New Hand pulls his gun, shoots the man dead, saddles his pony and rides off into the sunrise.

To me, that is a snake story with a happy ending.


And a non-serpent note: In a previous blog, I referred to Cabela's Bell & Carlson Gator knife. This peerless piece of cutlery is jointly made for Cabela's by Gerber and Bell & Carlson, and is so good that none of you are worthy of it. It is not yet available, but will be in the big Cabela's catalog in August, and in their stores in September.

Editor's Note: Per your requests in the comments section, here's a photo of the knife.



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WA Mtnhunter


LMAO at your snake tale. I think any man who puts any kind of snake in my whereabouts is also on a deathwish.

The only good snake is a dead snake in my book. One of the reasons I enjoy living in Western Washington is there are no poisonous snakes over here, unless you count Baghdad Jim McDermott D-WA, U.S. House of Representatives and the like.

The Lab loves to kill the garter snakes around my place.


There's a good reason I'm YooperJack. SNAKES! While I'm loath to kill them, for the good that they do, I can't like them. At least up here, we have garter snakes, copperbellies and pine snakes. Nothing harmful.

Duck Creek Dick

That's one bad looking snake. Here in northeast Colorado I contend with rattlesnakes, making "good" snakes out of 6-8 of them every summer. Any snake will make me jump, but only rattlesnakes will make me shoot. I work my three dogs in a state wildlife area just across the road, so I carry my 1911 loaded with that now-unavailable Remington snake shot. That reminds me of all the gun writers talking about their "trail guns". What a hoot! Venturino lives in snake country, but most of the gun scribes don't see many rattlers on their way to Starbucks.

Dr. Ralph

Last Saturday when I was wading a creek catching the hell out of fish my son said "Hey dad, look behind you" and a three foot Water Moccasin was right behind me... fastest this old man has moved in a long time. Little boy fell down laughing while I was on all fours trying to scramble up a muddy bank nearly killing myself in the process. I've seen a few Rattlers here in Tennessee. First one I saw I was dove hunting with three kids and we took off fast. An old man asked us why we were screaming, we told him and he went back to where we were and came back with a very dead five foot Rattle Snake and said he was going home to eat the thing? Next one I saw I was driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway and accidentally ran over a really long snake. My son said let's go back and look so like a fool I backed up. He jumped out of the truck and said ewwww you ran over its head. As he reached down to grab what we thought was a dead snake it struck at him and if he hadn't reacted as only a teenager can by falling straight backwards it would have got him, smashed head or not.


Can't agree with you guys on all snakes. They do too much good in general. Puff Adders and their North American cousin Copperheads, however, are a good reason to carry a revolver or 1911 loaded with #9 shot cartridges. Rattlers don't bother me though if I were out west with pygmy and big diamondbacks I might see it differently.
Up here in New Hampshire we supposedly have only one den of Eastern Diamondbacks and the folks at Fish & Game wisely will not reveal its location. We do have some racers, garters, corn and milk snakes. Funny story about a corn snake; a group of us had worked late one warm evening last summer and walking to our cars surprised a good size Corn Snake soaking up the last of the days heat on the black top, as they are wont to do it reared up and; amidst shrieks and screams, one of my female coworkers soaked her jeans. Over a harmless, very beneficial animal!


Here is Michigan we are pretty safe from dangerous snakes. The most common snake you will run in to is a Eastern Garter snake. Although the Eastern Hog Nose snake gets a pretty bad rap it is harmless like the Garter snake. The Hog nose snake will puff up with air, flatten it's neck out like a cobra and hiss loudly at you. And if that doesn't scare you away it will writhe around play dead and spray you with a stink like you crapped your pants.

Tom the Troll


As a wee lad living in Zambia my father would dispatch adders most mornings with a 7 iron or was it a 4? I can never remember which. The only good snake is a dead snake


Dave Petzal

To Max: I have it on the best authority that a 7 iron is for adders and a 4 for cobras.


Thanks Dave for clearing that up. Sometimes I wonder how we could have lived in Zambia for 3 years and not hunted or owned a gun. Last year he bought a 38, i would like to think i finally rubbed of on him but it was probably the thought of Hillary as president.


Paul Mariman


If we are not worthy of Cabela's Bell & Carlson Gator knife, Could you include a picture so we can look at it and dream? By the way great clip on knife sharpening in the previous artical.



I hear them puff adders taste like chicken.


What bunch of Wuss's! However,

Puff adders do infest sunny grassy hillsides, not just foot paths. Cobras and black mamba's aren't much of a worry since you can see them coming....chest high. :-)

NH Philosopher

Growing up in NH - we had eastern Timber Rattlesnakes. These suckers are big bodied, black and docile. No need to fear them - unless you're bitten. We had one curled around the leg of an aluminum chair in the sun for a few hours and my dad gave up waiting for it to move on - walked outside, picked up the chair and moved it - rattler just kept on sleeping.

Beautiful critters - jet black with rattles - but they are big.

In VA we have the same species(with a few others thrown in).

Steve from Virginia

Yeah -- show us the knife picture! I'll also second Paul's comments on the great piece on knife sharpening. "How to" articles such as this are very helpful. I suspect if you put ten outdoorsmen in a room they'd have ten different theories or systems for sharpening knives, cleaning rifles, and other essential tasks. Straightforward advice on how to do it right is a big help -- thanks Dave!


Did they give a price for that knife? I already have a drawer full of knives but a man can't have too many huntin' knives.

Ed J

This reminds me of what my brother did when he was in the 82nd airborn stationed in NC.
He and a buddy were in camp when they saw one of the guys taking a snooze. His buddy said watch this and bent down and picked up a twig. then he tossed the twig into the tent and yelled SNAKE. My brother said that was the first time he saw a guy do the hundred yard dash in 5 seconds in a mummy bag with a tent over his head. He had to tackle the guy before he ran over more tents.


When I was kid here in Ohio, where everything is endangered, protected, property of the state, or just too precious to shoot, I caught ten kinds of hell when I showed my Dad my new pet garter snakes. He explined, at the top of his lungs, the difference between garter snakes and water moccasins. Some years later I raised my kids in a house overlooking a creek, a woods, and then a quarry. My old lab and I spent a LOT of time killing moccasins. So last winter I am a house guest of lifetime Arizonian who mentioned their rattlers. As a Buckeye, I asked if they were protected. Almost spent that night in a motel.I've met a lot of them and I kill snakes, too.

Del in KS

In my old home area of central Florida we had the very deadly and beautiful Coral snake. One killed my brothers (he still lives there) big German Shepherd. Dog sniffed a pile of leaves and got bit on the nose. Vet could not save him. We also have huge (over 6 ft) Eastern Diamondbacks, Cottonmouth mocassins and the tiny Pigmy rattler. Over the years we've had many hounds bitten. Some lived and some (including the best Walker we ever had) died. When I was 14 while deer hunting in Ocala forest I very nearly stepped on a big one. Down home we don't harm non-poisonous snakes but we kill every damn one of the others on sight. After 18 yr in KS still have not seen a poisonous snake. They say we have rattlers and copperheads. I have a pic of a huge Diamonback supposedly killed at Hilsdale, KS.


Be kind to rattlesnakes!

Many years ago, when I was in Marine Corps escape, evasion and suvival school, I lived for three days on California Red Rattlers. Didn't intend to, but they were the only thing edible that was slow enough for me to catch.

At first, I broiled them over the fire and carefully chewed the flesh off each little rib. Time-consuming and not too nourishing. Then I learned that, if you cook them long enough, you can eat the whole snake, ribs and all!

Don't remember how they tasted, but anything tastes good if you're hungry enough.

Del in KS

Back in '67 or '68 when I was in high school my dad had a big male walker hound named Slim. Slim was the best fox and deer hound we ever owned. Anyway one early morning after a fox race we caught hounds but Slim did not show up. We finally found him lying on his side breathing hard with a huge swollen head. He had two fang marks. One fang went thru an ear the other was right behind his left eye. The holes were 2 inches apart. My father was in the land clearing business and had killed hundreds of rattlers. He said altho we never found the snake the fang holes indicated a monster rattler. We rushed Slim to the vet but he died shortly after arrival. A big Bluetick my dad owned survived a snakebite but was sterile afterwards. This happened a few miles south of Ocala just west of I-75 in Central Fl. Those woods are probly paved or covered with houses now days.


I grew up in NW Oklahoma. Rattlers are a part of life. I've seen some nasty bites and have been close to getting one myself. There is an annual Snake Hunt in Waynoka, OK. http://www.waynoka.com/littlesahara/snakehunt.htm
It's some of the most fun you'll ever have!!! And they do taste good!

Clay Cooper

Man, did I screwup one day!

Picture this,

August of 85, on a Saturday afternoon and your Varmint hunting in New Mexico. I’m two thirds the way up on a small ridge on a small flat walking and all of a sudden a recognizing deafening BBUUUZZZZZZZZZZZ literally right between my feet with about a ¾ inch on both sides to spare is a really big Diamond Back Rattlesnake (also known as a 'coontail' rattler) all curled up and really pissed! Instantly I realized using the my 25-06 was not an option so I had two other choices, try to jump and risk of being hit or fall straight back, and quick draw shoot at the hip my Ruger Super Blackhawk 44 Mag and hope I don’t get hit by shrapnel and rocks. I instantly remembered I was a good mile and a half back to my 4x4 truck and a good hour and a half back to the pavement and another forty-five minutes to Alamogordo. I decided for door #2, fall back and at about 45 degrees hope and pray my 44 Mag bullet will hit its mark and PRAISE GOD it did! That 250 grain Cast Keith Style bullet severed its head at the base and 3 other body areas. My friends instantly looked towards me and seen I was flat on my back and engulfed in dust scared to hell! They yelled out are you ok? I don’t know? I just shot a snake! I never have seen those guys move so quickly! After a instant strip down assessment, I was ok. Talk about needing a change of pants! WOW!!! I tell’ya, for 12 years of going thru about coffee can a month full of 250 grain .429 Diameter cast bullets, really paid off!

I remember on another hunt, Dad and I was busting a ¼ inch of ice on New Year ’s Day near Arizona City Arizona, hunting rabbits, quail and duck. Talk about being cold that morning! It was 12 noon exactly when I heard Dads Winchester Model 12 go “FULL AUTO” BOOM BOOM BOOM! I instantly looked over at him about 100 yards away and he looked like he’s riding his shotgun like a pogo stick and dusts a flying! You guessed it; he straddled a really big Diamond Back Rattlesnake! Even at Noon time would anyone think of snakes in the winter being out? WRONG!

A couple of weeks ago, my Grandson Alex and I was talking to a group of Forest Rangers doing a controlled burn and a Copper Head slithered up and coiled up sunning itself right in the middle of us on the dirt road.

Once again, the moral of the story,

When you least expect it,
you will never see the one that gets’ya!

Blue Ox

So just how good is this knife, anyway? I may not be worthy of said knife but I'm buying it just 'cause you can't have too many.
Snakes are yummy and are best when roasted over an open flame.

Clay Cooper

How in the world did this guy manage this?

Check it out!


Jim in Mo.

Del in Ks,
We live a state apart but we may have a few more poisinous snakes (because of the water) but nothing to compare with your homestate of Fla.
People on this blog have talked of water moccasins as being deadly, most are not or at least very little , most just eat minnows. I think what they're talking about is cottonmouths. They are the most feared snakes here with two rivers (mo&miss) and many tributaries and low swampy land. They also have an attitude. To them you shouldn't be wading with a gig for frogs. Thats their water and they make it a point to come straight at you and let you know, so move out of the way. Second here for being deadly is the Eastern Massasauga rattler. I've only seen one in person three feet from my nose and most (99%) people never seen any except in zoo (otherwise they'd be #1). We have timber rattlers and some big ones but fortunatly never came across one. Saw a picture in the paper of a man about 5'10" holding two timbers arms length out and heads curled on ground, about four miles from where I deer hunted. The copperhead is plentiful here if you get to rocky areas, especially camping areas of the cons. dept. in Ozarks. They say nobody has ever died from that snakes bite. Just sick as hell and you wish to die.

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