We have some wild baby bunnies that live just outside our windows. Every morning, as each family member rises, they go to check on the little fuzzies. Two weekends ago, the bunnies were gone, so my youngest daughter kept going out on the second-floor balcony to look for them.

Eventually we discovered why the rabbits had fled. My daughter ran in yelling about a snake, and everyone else ran around in circles yelling, "Snake!" until I woke up. I strode to the balcony to see this so-called snakelike critter, and sure enough, there was a coiled serpent sunning itself in my backyard.

Looking closely, I saw that it was, indeed, a rattlesnake. Unfortunately, it was a Prairie Rattler. Most rattlesnakes use their rattles to ward off incoming (too big to be eaten) animals. Prairie rattlesnakes only do that when they feel like it. Half the time, they will just strike without warning. I certainly didn't want one in my backyard around the kids and domesticated animals.

I fetched my .22 rifle and a fistful of ammunition. The snake just sat there, all coiled up and baking in the morning sunshine. I aimed carefully and killed it with a single headshot at about 40 yards.

My youngest daughter then declared it was her snake. I told her that she could have it, if she went down there and chopped the head off and skinned it. She decided she didn't want it anymore.

My father-in-law and I went out to see the snake. The body was still moving, but the head was completely still. He used a machete to chop off the head, and we decided to skin it.

Overall, the snake was 42 inches long with 8 rattles. It kept wiggling around, and Pops would drop his end whenever it started moving quickly.

The How-To:

First off, don't handle the head. It still has fangs, it still has venom, and it still may want to bite you.

Grasp the body, one person on each end. The lucky person on the chopped end should use a sharp knife to slice from the chop point underneath the snake (along the belly), just under the skin. Don't go too deep, or you'll get some foul-smelling poop on you. Slice until you reach just past the anus. You want to keep the rattles intact. Be very careful when slicing, the snake will begin to writhe more forcefully, expecially when you get towards the rattle end. Make sure you don't cut your hands, you don't want whatever lives inside a snake to get into your bloodstream.

When the skin is sliced, it will be wiggling around like mad. Put it down for a few minutes until it stops.

Pick up the snake, and starting at the chopped end, begin to slowly peel off the skin. It will again go into frenzy mode. One person should be holding the 'meat' and the other person should be peeling. When you reach the spot after the anus, stop and chop through the body, leaving some of the meat just before the rattles.

The skinless body will be trashing around like mad for about two hours. It is quite weird to behold. A lot of folks eat rattlesnake, so have one person on each end hold it taught and scoop out the innards. Wash the body and put it in a thick ZiplockTM bag. Place it in a freezer or refrigerator until it stops wiggling, then either barbecue it or give it to someone more courageous than you to eat.

The skin and rattles will need to be cleaned, or it will start to decompose and stink. Take one-half pound of salt - making sure it does not contain iodine - and put it in a gallon of warm water. Soak the snakeskin in it for 24 hours. At this point, it is ready to get tanned. The Tandy leather store has snakeskin tanning solution for about $20US, good for three or four snakeskins.

But why did you kill the little snakey-poo?

Prairie Rattlers are dangerous. They attack without warning. They will attack large animals, such as horses, alpacas, goats, dogs and people. I kill Prairie rattlesnakes on sight.

We also have lots of large bull snakes, who happen to eat rattlesnakes and other fun things, like jackrabbits, prairie dogs and mice. We leave them alone. Bull snakes will just turn around and go the other direction when confronted by large animals.

I have a live-and-let-live policy, for the most part. If any mice get in the house, they're killed. If any prairie dogs get within 20 yards of my fenceline, they're killed. Other than hunting (not for sport, but for food), I leave animals alone, or I enjoy watching them doing their thing.

Happy Hunting.

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