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Snakes in the Grass

I encountered a three foot rattler along with these prairie chickens hunting this field within the Fort Pierre National Grasslands.

For the first time in my hunting career, I encountered a snake in the field last year.  Let me clarify, my pup and I saw not one, not two, but three RATTLE SNAKES while hunting sharpies and prairie chickens in the Fort Pierre National Grasslands last September. 

So, as the dust settles on my 2010 hunting season, I’ve begun to mentally create my 2011 bird hunting To DO list.  Without a doubt, I plan to return to Fort Pierre in 2011.  The wide open expanses of public land played well into my shorthair’s strengths, making for one of the best hunts of my life.  The one drawback to the area is the presence of rattlers, so I’ve started asking around about ways to prevent any snake-related problems for my bird dog. 

In discussions with hunters more experienced in “snakey” areas, I’ve determined that I have four options:

1) Vaccinate my dog against snakes

2) Snake-proof or de-snake my dog: train my pup to ignore snakes

3) Do nothing and take my chances

4) Don’t hunt where there are snakes

Vaccination seems like the easiest option.  Unfortunately, there are many critics that don’t believe these vaccines work.  I plan to ask my vet to weigh in on this, but so far I’ve found a wide array of opinions from fellow dog owners.

Working with an expert to train my dog to ignore snakes seems to be the most fool-proof.  However, living in the upper Midwest where there aren’t very many venomous snakes does make finding a trainer knowledgeable in de-snaking a bit of a challenge.  Consequently, my training option seems to be accompanied by a hefty price tag and travel.

Then there is the dice roll option.  I certainly can take solace in the fact that Trammell really didn’t seem to care about the snakes we encountered in the field last fall.  That’s a good sign that I’m over-analyzing this entire topic.  However, they say that you get one dog that’s “THE DOG” in your lifetime.  Tram is my “THE DOG,” so I certainly would never forgive myself for not weighing my options.

As for the fourth option, it’s obviously the safest choice.  I completely understand the logic; there are lots of places to chase all varieties of upland birds without the threat of a snake/ dog encounter.  However, I know there are dangers for me and my pup no matter where the truck is pointed.  The danger in all life’s choices is opting out.  The beauty of a sunset on the grassland and a flushing prairie chicken off my pup’s point are worth the risks. 

What about you?  Do you have a snake story to tell?  Do you have experience with snake training or snake vaccines?  Help me out and drop a comment below.  Thanks! 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.


One Response to “Snakes in the Grass”

  1. Steve Wit says:

    Vaccines haven’t really been proven to work. Many dogs seem to have a partial immunity or resistance to some venomous snakes. It’s still very bad if a dog is bitten. The best solution is to train the dog to ignore the snake if you’re hunting in snake country or don’t hunt there. It’s actually nice to see that the snakes aren’t harmed just because they’re encountered. They are a valuable part of our ecosystem. I’m both a hunter and a snake collector and can see and understand both sides of the coin. Good luck hunting and keep your best friend safe.


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