The sight or sound of a snake strikes fear in some folks, whether it’s in plain view or hidden amid leaves or brush by its incredible camouflage.
Of all the species of snakes in the United States, the venomous ones most hunters and land managers deal with on a regular basis are well-known: rattlesnake, moccasin and copperhead. In the Southeast, add the coral snake to that list.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, reports of snakebites are up by about 40 percent in Georgia this year. That’s based on a shorter, mild winter in the Southeast. Hibernating snakes emerge earlier when temperatures are more conducive to them seeking sun, warmth and food.
Being alert for snakes at all times in spring and summer (or winter, like in the Southeast) is critical to avoid the possibility of being bitten. The thing is, though, you may encounter them in your yard, at deer camp, rambling around while turkey hunting or getting the boat ready to go on the farm pond for an evening fishing trip.
Suggestions for dealing with snakes and minimizing encounters:
— Keep things clean around your home or deer camp by eliminating brush or vegetation and old piles of wood or trash. Obviously you’ll keep your yard mowed and, probably, flower beds trimmed. Do the same around your deer camp so you don’t run across Mr. No-Shoulders lurking in the weedy corner by the shed or camphouse.
— If you have a pond or constant water source and the ability to do so, clean around the edges with a Bush Hog or trimmer. Overgrown pond banks provide great hidey-holes for moccasins or rattlers. If you can’t clean it up, or don’t want to, keep your eyes open and consider wearing snake boots if you’re fishing or rambling around.
— Know the venomous snakes where you live and hunt so you can identify them. I’m constantly amazed at the ignorance some people have about snakes, merely because they don’t learn or want to. Everything around water is a moccasin, even if it’s a harmless and non-venomous water snake. Anything in the woods or around the barn or in the flower bed is a copperhead, even if it’s a corn or rat snake. This is a good guide to venomous snakes in the Southeast.
—Be alert around feeders, water troughs, shooting houses or ground blinds, and even in food plots when you’re doing work. Snakes are opportunistic hunters and will be in areas where there may be opportunities for food. Mice, voles, rats and other small critters will seek grains around feeders or seeds and growth in food plots. Snakes may be around those areas, too, or hiding in the shadows of blinds or shooting houses. Keep your eyes open and be alert.
Earlier this year in south Alabama, a friend of mine was going to fill a feeder they use during the off-season. She heard one rattler when approaching, then spotted it and also another. Yikes! Use your ears, too, of course, and know the sound of a rattlesnake.
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Wear Good Snake Boots
I don’t care what kind of boots you prefer, brand-wise, because choosing those depends on the fit and feel of your feet in them along with your own preference.
But I’ll say this: snake boots are worth the investment. You may not have encountered a moccasin or rattler or copperhead. All those days working in the field or putting up stands or clearing brush, or mornings walking to the blind or stand, you may have been one of the fortunate ones.
But the time it happens, that moment you hear the big buzzworm going off or stand by a tree listening for a turkey and miss the copperhead lying there, you’ll appreciate having snake boots on your feet.
Mine are these Lacrosse 4X Alpha snake boots, which are tough, comfortable, fit my feet well and according to the folks at Lacrosse will resist snake bites. I wear them year-round because in the Southeast, you never know if it’s going to be warm for three or four days in December or February and snakes might come out. Heck, some parts of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana … I don’t know if snakes even know what winter is. These go with me to the Midwest and Southwest, too, when I’m traveling because they’re as invaluable to me as my bow or rifle.
So I have those boots on my feet all the time. They’re a smidge warm in spring and summer, but what boot isn’t? I wouldn’t mind if they were another inch or two taller but that’s a minor quibble. They’re tough, have an adjustable gusset on the calves and get the job done. If those aren’t what you want, the Aerohead, lace-up or slip-on models might be more to your preference.