“Look at the size of that rattlesnake”, said my wife at the time. We were taking a horseback ride in the afternoon, just before dark. The huge snake was crawling across the dirt road about 20 yards ahead of us. I jumped off my horse and gave the reins to my wife. Looking around, I found a large stick and planned to hit the snake in the head. The skin would make a great trophy. Before I could get a swing at the monster, it crawled into a thick mesquite and prickly pear patch where it coiled up and started buzzing. “Go back and get the shotgun, while I keep it busy”. About 15 minutes later she arrived with the snake gun. I had cut about 4 inches from the barrel of a single shot .410, making it deadly at close range. The snake was still coiled up. If I shot now it would tear up the skin, so I started poking it with the stick. Finally it made a run for it and I fired. The number 6 shot took the head and about 4 inches of the neck off. This Diamondback turned out to be 6 feet long and big around as a grapefruit.
My horse didn’t want anything to do with the snake dead or alive, so I walked back to the house carrying the rattlesnake. Never pick up a rattlesnake until you remove the head, as they can still bite. One time I killed a large snake, put my foot on the head and cut it off with my pocket knife. When I picked it up, the stump came around and struck me twice, just a reflex action. That will give you cold chills.
Scissors work better than a knife to make a straight belly cut from the head down to the vent. The skin will pull down easily until you get to the coon tail, and then carefully skin this area until you get to the rattle. Leave the skin attached and cut off the rattle. I use glycerin and rubbing alcohol to tan the skins. A 4 oz bottle of glycerin cost around $4 and a 16 oz bottle of rubbing alcohol cost $3. Pour all the glycerin into a quart glass jar and enough alcohol to cover the whole skin. Leave for a week, and then clean all the fat and any meat off. Return to the jar for another week, and then tack it out on a board (pictured below). After it dries, the skin will be soft leather and ready to make a hat band, belt or whatever.
Dad said, “Russ we are going to go snare some suckers today.” No, my Dad was not a con man looking to scam someone out of their hard earned money. Seems, I was about 8 years old at the time and my fishing career was only catching bluegills on a cane pole. Dad was talking about bottom feeding river suckers that come up the smaller creeks to lay eggs in the spring. I watched Dad prepare the 20 foot cane pole with heavy cotton line on the end. His cane pole was not the little three piece bluegill poles. These were long and heavy bamboo. A lead weight, about 4 inches long with a hole in top and bottom was tied to the cotton line. In the bottom hole, a copper snare wire was attached. He made a lasso of sorts about 6 inches in diameter. The idea was to slip the snare under the head of a sucker and jerk upwards, the snare tightens up behind the gills and you swing him to the bank, where hopefully someone grabs it and puts it on the stringer. That would be one of my jobs, in addition to throwing rocks. Throwing rocks while fishing was news to me; Dad had always said to keep quiet when we were catching pan fish.
My friend Billy from Louisiana called and said “How would you like to go on an alligator hunt?” Billy is an officer in Whitetails Unlimited and M&P outdoor adventures had donated an alligator hunt for their annual banquet. The person that got the winning bid could not make the Sept 15 date and wanted to sell it.
When Billy told me the hunt sells for $1250 normally and I could get it for $350, I said count me in. Beside that a gator hunt was on my “Bucket List”.
Just after daylight my son’s 30-06 went off. Good, maybe he got that nice mule deer buck I had been watching the past month. It was opening morning of the seven day mule deer season in Colorado. We were hunting on my 40 acres about 20 miles from Canon City. I got up from my stand under a Ponderosa pine and walked over the hill to Cory’s location. Cory said, “I see some blood but can’t find the buck”. The thin blood trail was heading east, which was strange because that was open country with no cover. We looked another hour but lost the trail. Some shots rang out east of us while we were searching. We came out to the dirt road and a truck stopped and the driver said, “Are you looking for a deer?” Cory said, “Yes did you see one?” He said, “The man in the A-Frame cabin has it.” This turns out to be the man I traded my 40 acres for later on. We went back and got the truck and drove up to the barn where my neighbor is standing. At this point I had never met him. We got out and he said, “Can I help you?” I said, “Yes my son wounded a buck and I guess he came over on your property” The first thing that came out of his mouth was, “Are you from Texas?” I quickly said, “My son lives in Florence” “Well I heard some damn Texan bought the 40 acres next to me“. I didn’t say anything at this point. Then he says, “Yeah I saw a buck and it was a huge 4x4, was that him?” Cory said, “No, this was a small 3x3, just was legal”. I knew the guy was testing us to make sure we had shot the deer he had. Then he said, “I had to finish it off and my old open sight rifle was off and I shot off one of his antlers before I killed it”. “I want the meat; don’t get much fresh meat up here these days”. At this point he opens the barn door and shows us the buck hanging up and field dressed. The right side of the rack is shot off and it has several holes in the body. I say, “Tell you what, I’ll skin and quarter it out and give you half the meat”. Again he says, “Are you from Texas? “ “Yes sir, but my son lives in Florence Colorado and he shot the buck”. So he finally agrees and we take the buck back to my 40 acres and skin it out, quarter it and take him his half. Still not sure if it was worth all the trouble and the meat was tough. I finally get a nice 3x3 buck the last day after sitting and watching a saddle in the mountain for 5 days straight.
The announcement came out to all IBM managers; 30 years and out retirement package, no deduction for age. I had started working for the International Business Machines just four months after graduating from high school and I would be 50 years old the next year. It suddenly hit me, I could retire the next year with full pension and they even gave a bridge to retirement where they paid your society security until I reached age 62. On top of that, they gave one year’s pay to further sweeten the pot. I was a manger in Southlake Texas, with over 40 people on two shifts of a computer room and help desk with Hispanics, Asians, African American and whites. The stress level was off the charts, and I knew if I waited until I was 60 or 65, I would be a dead man.
It was August and 100 degrees in Texas but I had on a coat and was sitting around a camp fire at 10,000 feet elevation. My friend and I had spent all day riding horses and mules into the high country. We were in the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado. About 3 hours into the ride we entered the 488,000 acre Weminuche Wilderness area. I wondered if we had everything we needed for a week’s stay, no convenience stores in this country. We had planned on eating trout and only had meat for two or three days. Three cans of good old Spam would keep us if the fishing was bad.
When we got up to 9000 elevation it started a light rain which quickly changed to snow. I put on my rain coat and gloves. It had been 68 degrees at the trail head when we started, now it was in the 30’s. My quarter horse was getting tired and the pack mule was about to pull my saddle off behind me. My friend Dick said we had about an hour to get to Four Mile Lake. Finally we topped the last ridge and I saw that beautiful mountain lake. Good, nobody was in our campsite. As we got off the horses I saw Dick putting his hands under his arms with a painful look on his face. He had on leather riding gloves and they were soaking wet with melted snow and ice.
With generous support from the Mule Deer Foundation and the Utah DOT a large research project is entering its 5th year. Motion-triggered trail cameras have been set up at the openings of wildlife crossing structures. In the first three and a half years of monitoring, the study documented over 15,000 successful mule deer passes thru 14 wildlife crossings built by Utah DOT and the Mule Deer Foundation. The rate of repellence is correlated with culvert length: the longer the culvert the higher the rate of repellence.