Should you kill a rattlesnake or let it go?

The canebrake rattler, one of Georgia's largest snakes, becomes more active in autumn, when shortening days precede hibernation.

Few things in nature are less ambiguous than a fully grown canebrake rattler.

 

If you see one, it will quicken your pulse. It needs no introduction - and no clarification.

The biggest question it might raise is, “should you kill it?”

I encountered one last week at the edge of a clearcut near Brier Creek. It was stretched like a chevron-studded speed bump across a fire break.

They are as handsome as they are deadly. I stood and watched, from a safe distance. It raised its head slightly and watched me.

I could recite a litany of friends and fellow hunters who would have pulled a sidearm and killed it without hesitation. But in the midst of thousands of acres of wilderness, away from dog kennels, concrete carports and backyards where children play, it didn’t seem necessary.

I was always taught that snakes want nothing to do with people. Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.

Georgia’s rattlesnakes, in particular, are much less common than they were decades ago. The reasons are open to debate, but the most likely causes include overhunting (killing), the proliferation of “rattlesnake roundups” and - perhaps more than anything else - habitat loss due to changes in timber and farming practices.

The canebrake’s larger cousin, the eastern diamondback, has become so scarce in the Southeast that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is evaluating a request to someday list it among our endangered or threatened species. It may be a dangerous creature, but losing it to extinction would be a shame and a disgrace.

With all that in mind, I snapped a few photos and resumed my pre-season scouting trek along the vast, dark swamp. The fat old rattler slipped silently into the weeds and vanished.

Will our paths cross again? If they do, I am hoping to see the snake before it sees me.

 

BLACK POWDER SEASON: Georgia’s weeklong primitive weapons deer hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 15. Last year, more than 45,500 hunters took to the woods with muzzleloaders, bringing in over 9,000 deer, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.  

“The primitive weapons season is a great opportunity for an early deer before the pressure of rifle season hits,” said Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with WRD Game Management. “All deer hunters need to be aware of the Georgia Game Check mandatory harvest reporting system, a valuable data collection tool that is new this season.

“Although every deer must be reported within 72 hours of harvest, those taken to a processor must be reported in advance with the confirmation number provided to the processor.” 

As an added bonus, youth under 16 years of age may hunt deer with any legal deer firearm during the early season, including during any wildlife management area primitive weapons hunts. 

 

LATE DOVE SEASONS: Labor Day weekend has long since come and gone, but dove hunters still have more opportunities to take to the field in October and November. Dove fields will be available Oct. 8-28, and again Nov. 24 to Jan. 13. 

Georgia has approximately 40 state public dove fields, plus opportunities on private land available to the public through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program called the Voluntary Public Access/Habitat Incentive Program. Check out available dates of the dove field you plan to hunt before visiting. 

 

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