As today is the last one in November, it is perhaps prudent to tell a rattlesnake story or two. Why now? Two reasons. I like to semi- follow protocol of many native storytelling traditions, where only certain stories can be told at certain seasons. Like fish stories when fish begin to arrive, or bird stories when waterfowl begin to migrate, or other when events occur that coincide together.  Reason two, this month reminds me of the time I saw a rattlesnake in November. Yep, November.

Interestingly, I had a doctor from back east call me up to inquire about going chukar hunting.  ” Have you ever been chukar hunting,” I asked.  “Sure have” he answered. “Then you know they are not like flat lander birds, but rather  like the precipitous terrain in nose bleed country” I continued. “Yep, I know, and am readily up for it.”

“One more thing”, he replied,  “I just broke my ankle about two weeks ago, but have a good walking cast.”  “Are you serious? ” I asked. He sure was, and talked me into letting him go hunting with his friend for a say on the steep slopes of the Salmon River.  So he signed up for a day trip on the 24th of November. There had been snow on the ground for several days, but some had melted off, leaving mostly pocketed patches that appeared  similar to what terrain with measles would look like.

When the day arrived for his trip, and we floated down to where we were to begin our climb for finding some birds, he hobbled out of the boat and tackled the terrain like a peg legged pirate. And, to my amazement, he actually made it to the tops of the ridges and outcrops his buddy and myself were traversing. Not as fast, but he traveled  just as far and hard, as we were pursuing birds. I was flabbergasted and always wondered if he had been using some super pain pills or something.

It was afternoon when we landed on top, where most of the birds were, and though it was freezing when we started our trip in the morning hours, it was sunny and warm by then.  Birds were taking advantage of open ridges where wind and sun had melted snow, where they could also look for foraging. But, so too, did a less likely critter.

“Hey, I found a rattlesnake” he called to me on the radio. I didn’t believe him, so told him to stand guard on the snake until I could get there. It took me a few minutes to reach them, but the snake was coiled, not moving, and just basking in the relatively warmth of the afternoon sun.  Sure enough, it was a rattlesnake. It wasn’t dead, just confused, I guess.  They should be following the logic of bears this time of year, but apparently  there is as much ignorance in rattlesnake world as there is in people world.

Most snakes like a little warmer weather than what November normally provides.  Like last year, when I was hunting with only one dog in October on another guided hunt.  A guest came along who has the sister (Izzy)  to my dog Ember. We had gotten cut off from each other  by going around in different directions around some very rocky terrain, cliffs,  and steep talus slopes.  All of a sudden Ember went on point about five feet in front of me. She was locked on chukars about 30 yards away.  But, for some reason I just happened to look down and see that she was straddle directly over the top of a coiled up rattlesnake. Adrenalin hit the red line in my survival meter. Instinctively, I pushed her forward as hard as I could, while at the same time jumping away from the snake myself.  It worked, and we were both spared a different ending to this story.

Fortunately, we don’t have Diamond Backs or any of the larger varieties of rattlesnakes on the Salmon River. They are Western Pacific Rattlesnakes, and most adults average about  two feet long. Their venom is also not as toxic as most other subspecies, but I still wouldn’t want to get bitten by one, all the same.   But, funny how everything on the mountain starts to look like a rattlesnake, once you have a close encounter with one.

We rarely see that many throughout a season, and I personally cover a ton of terrain, in all seasons, when not floating on the river.  And most try to hide, get away, and will only bite when threatened or mistakenly stepped on. Which reminds me of another story, but the timing isn’t right to tell that one.

Suffice it to say,  hopefully, by not killing any snakes (unless for food) I will continue with my appreciation for brother snakes  real value, and hope the feeling will be mutual. My practice is to live by the motto, ” I won’t hurt you, if you won’t hurt me.”  I’m not sure if snakes have ears, but it doesn’t require a set of ears to hear what I am saying.  Spirit talk requires only an open heart to be heard.

So before November slips away, I have to get this  time appropriate  story in.

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