Well I thought it was neat!


At 44 inches from stem to stern, this was a good-sized water moccasin.

Yeah, I know I’ve seen that title someplace before. Anyway, it was an interesting day yesterday. We live way out in the sticks and have a modest lake for a backyard. It was a great place to raise kids. Now that our children are grown and gone, my wife beats me at a game of some sort every afternoon I’m home. Every now and again, I’ll pull one out, but that’s rare. She always was the smart one. Yesterday, she was busy smoking me at cards when I glanced out the window and saw him — a ginormous water moccasin cruising leisurely across the lake like he owned the place, which he kind of did.

This thing looked like some kind of sea monster, cutting a wake like a heavily laden oil tanker as he plied his way from where he was to where he wanted to be. Without regard for my personal safety, I leapt into action, prepared in an instant to defend my bride from venomous peril. It was also a handy excuse not to lose at least one card game.

Now, many modern sensitive folk will take umbrage with my unfettered genocide of the Agkistrodon piscivorus. Some feel that water moccasins are like big, slithery hamsters and that we should welcome their fanged presence in our living spaces in the spirit of peaceful coexistence. Screw that. I’m a doctor. I have seen what happens when a person gets bitten by one of these monsters. This is a little-known fact, but water moccasins were the reason God first made firearms.

Around the world, some 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes every year. Those bites result in between 1.8 and 2.7 million envenomings. Roughly 100,000 people die from snake bites per annum. About three times that number lose limbs. While most of those casualties are indeed found in Africa, Asia and Latin America, I still like to feel like I am doing my part. I religiously avoid harming non-venomous snakes, but I kill every water moccasin I can find on sight.

Tools Of The Trade

I have tried lots of tools. Shotguns of various sorts are great … at appropriate ranges. I have splattered half a dozen of the toothy monsters from across the lake to no practical effect. In one case, I am fairly certain when next I saw that big gentleman gliding across the lake, he was rocking an eye patch. I have found the ideal counter-snake tool to be a TacSol sound-suppressed .22 rifle.

My example was spendy, but it shoots like a laser and is completely ear-safe. Unlike many .22 rifles, it is also exceptionally reliable. I love this thing. Together, my TacSol and I have accounted for dozens of moccasins over the years.

This is yours truly in his chillaxing clothes, having just smoked
an enormous water moccasin. This example was shockingly heavy.

All In A Day’s Work

In this particular case, I tore downstairs, grabbed my rifle, slapped in a magazine, jacked the bolt, and ran outside only to find that the scope was frosted darker than Chuck Schumer’s soul. I live in rural Mississippi. It is a literal jungle down here. In the summertime, the humidity is so high you can tear off a chunk of air and gnaw on it. When you take a cool piece of glass and put it in a really hot, wet place, moisture condenses on the lens. As a result, I keep a blow dryer by the back door. A quick five-second blast front and back solves the fogging problem. It’s the price we pay to live in God’s country.

By the time I finally got to the water’s edge, he was at a slant range of about 20 meters, his massive triangular head perched jauntily above the surface. I drew a careful bead, attended to my breathing, and popped him through the nugget. Then I shot him 24 more times, just to be sure. I really, really hate poisonous snakes.

I climbed into the canoe and paddled out to retrieve my prize. This one was a real gentleman, measuring a full 44 inches from tail to beak. When I hefted him up with my paddle, he was shockingly heavy. He also reeked of rotten fish, as do they all.

I often skin these things, particularly the big ones. I wouldn’t eat a water moccasin for love or money, but they do have pretty hides. You nail the head to a tree, ring the neck, and tease the skin back, flaying it free with a 10-blade scalpel. Then, drop the skin in a mason jar filled half-and-half with rubbing alcohol and glycerin. Let the skin soak for a month or two before stretching it out on a board. The end result is both durable and gorgeous. However, if you store the hides in your workshop, the mice will eat them. Ask me how I know this.

Anyway, some lunatic shot this lovely specimen full of holes, so I just snapped a few pictures and then tossed him back in the lake. The hungry turtles looked grateful. This was the 62nd moccasin I have culled from my backyard in the 20 years we have been here. I keep count. At the end of the day, however, the world is now down one massive water moccasin. It has indeed been a lovely afternoon.

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