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Huntin' snappers.


When you are turtle scouting, you should look to small rivers, creeks, streams, and any other slow moving waterways that hold food. Turtles cannot live in an area without food, so make sure your hunting ground holds water, fish, crawdads, frogs, etc. Generally speaking, if an area has food, water, and shelter, a turtle can exist. More specifically, snappers are partial to muddy and sandy bottoms, but can be found in the rockiest areas as well. We have found that rockier waterways are more likely to hold soft shells, and muddier waterways are more likely to hold snappers.

Too much water is as important as not enough water. The bigger the water, the more places for them to hide, but bigger water also means bigger turtles; you just have to hunt harder. We have found that smaller creeks with the occasional deep holes allow for a more effective hunt. This only means that you can hunt smaller creeks and catch 75 to 100 percent of the turtles that are in there, but you can only hunt these creeks once every couple of years and expect the same results. When you hunt bigger water with consistent water flow and many deep holes, you might only catch 25 percent of the turtles there, but you can hunt this same creek the very next day and catch just as many. This phenomenon only reinforces the point that more hiding spots result in more difficult hunting which results, in our opinion, in more turtles and bigger turtles.

This brings up the issue of timing. Imagine a creek. Now imagine the number of hiding places a turtle has in early spring when it has rained for days and the creek is out of its banks. Compare this with the same creek in mid summer when most of the water is dried up and the turtles have fewer hiding spots. During this time of year, you will find multiple turtles in the same hole. We have found up to eight turtles in one hole at one time before. It is not uncommon to pull a turtle out of a hole, go right back into the same hole, and pull out another turtle.

The Incomparable Beermen.

Once you have located an area to hunt, you need the proper gear. We have found that high lace boots work best to prevent gravel, rocks and debris from creating a long day for your feet. Long pants protect your legs from the rocks, sticks, and unforgiving surfaces under the water, and long-sleeve shirts protect your arms from obstacles under the bank. We never go into the water without a trusty knife. Oh, and most importantly, wear a boonie hat. Why you ask? It's the turtle huntin' style. Don't you know? All turtle hunters wear boonie hats.

Heavy nylon or burlap bags work best for carrying turtles. Usually army issued duffle bags work the best. We start early and end late. We pack MRE's for lunch and lots of beer. Just a forewarning, your tobacco doesn't taste as good when it's wet. We usually have trucks at the drop point and pick-up point, with other bag drop locations along the way if the bags get heavy. Turtle Hunting is best with at least four guys: two hunters, a beer man, and a turtle bag man. We have successfully hunted by ourselves, but it is not recommended. For some reason, the same hole appears much more intimidating when you are sober and alone.

The Hunt

We always jump in downstream and hunt upstream so we are always hunting clean water. The general rule with turtle hunting is the more places you put your hands, the more turtles you are going to find. Of course this can be frustrating when hunting with turtle jims that rush ahead to check all of the high probability spots while you are feeling around in a pile of leaves, but we can assure you that there is no better feeling than catching a turtle behind someone that thinks they know what they are doing. Aside from the high probability locations, we have found turtles sitting or swimming in the middle of the creek, under the smallest pile of leaves, and even feasting on dead animals in the water. We operate under a general principal: "We will leave no turtle behind." So check every possible spot.

Get in there!

99% of turtle hunting is getting over the fear of getting bitten and just getting in there. Seriously, you have to get in there, and we mean all the way. Some folks might get their elbows wet, other folks may even get shoulder deep in the water. But sometimes, you are presented with a situation where you just have to dive under the bank and go completely under the water.

This brings another important point - beginners. When training a newbie, make sure you re-check his spots. There have been numerous instances where amateur turtle hunters want to get in there but still have the fear. They will only go in partially, leaving the hole before it is checked thoroughly. Some holes, when checked by another turtle hunter, produce more than one monster turtle. Those turtles aren't just sitting at the edge of the hole waiting to be caught. They are hiding; it's a matter of survival.

When walking through the creek, look for places turtles can hide. They can hide underneath the bank where water has washed areas away. The can hide under and in tree roots. The can hide in brush piles and log jams. The idea is to search any area where they can hide from the sunlight and rest during the day. They will bury themselves in the mud; sometimes you will dig more than six inches in the mud to find them. When the heat of summer, or the dead of winter, hits, turtles will bury themselves deep in the mud to find temperatures comfortable to them. When you reach your hands into that cold mud underneath the bank, you will understand what we are talking about.

In brush piles, they will sit on the bottom or they will let themselves float up until the actual logs hold them down; sometimes you will actually put your hand on a turtle shell and push it two or three feet down to the ground. It is very common when hunting brush piles that you bump turtles, and they are on the move so be prepared to grab anything. Large brush piles in deep water are very difficult hunting which makes it tough for one or two hunters to be successful. We will often have everyone surround a brush pile in hopes that one will bump out and swim upstream where it can be seen or brush up against a leg on their way out. When you feel their shell, you will know you have a turtle. Just pin him down to the ground, find his saw teeth, and grab his tail. If you bump him and he is on the move, just grab anything. We have lost snappers before, and it is not a good feeling. Sometimes you just have to be creative. Don't ever let one beat you.

Huntin' under the bank.

When hunting under the bank, it is best to keep your hands in the water. Turtles will not usually hide out of the water. This brings us to another important point. Beavers, muskrats, and snakes will sit on dry land under the bank. We do our best to avoid them, but there are encounters. We are not real keen on snakes or the idea of getting your hand chomped on by beavers or muskrats. There is the occasional situation where you grab a ball of fur. Your best move in this situation is to let go and walk away. Another principal we live by regarding muskrats and beavers, is "they will leave us alone, if we leave them alone." Unless you have a handgun of course, then it is open season.

There is strategy involved in how you attempt to hunt certain areas. Such as when hunting a brush pile work up stream so that if you bump one he is swimming away from you into clean water where you can see him. If you are hunting brush piles or deep tree roots it is better to come down on top of a turtle than pushing him away. When hunting under the bank, it's good to slide your hands through the mud reaching as far as possible. If you are in an area with more soft shells, a more stealthy approach is recommended. Soft shells are more jumpy than snappers so adjust your hunting style accordingly. As far as how you go in a hole with your hands, there is no strategy. People will tell you to go in with a fist, or to go in with your hand flat, or to not go in at all. This is just not true; you just have to get in there. No regard for your well being, assume you are going to get bit, and just get in there, find them, and pull them out.

Got one!

Once you have the turtle pinned to the ground, the battle is just beginning. Place your hand flat on his shell. Use your thumb and pinky to feel around the edge of his shell until you determine positioning. The more turtles you grab, the more familiar you will become with their shells; but in the beginning, find those saw teeth. Their tail, shell, and back legs are all safe areas to grab, but sometimes you have to be creative.

Most people will tell you that a turtle will always go in head first. Well, this is just not true. Turtles will face any direction, even backwards; never assume positioning. Once a turtle is pinned, he will resist capture by trying to escape further into the bank or out into the water; holding his ground by latching onto tree roots with his mouth and claws; or even trying to bite the shit out of you. Turtle extraction can be complicated. There are many times when another turtle hunter is required to assist on the extraction. Turtle hunting is a team sport; you should always hunt with someone you trust.

Also, the most important thing of all, when you take your first steps into the cold water in the morning, take a knee and say a prayer.

WARNING: Turtle Hunting is an inherently dangerous activity! Enter the water at your own risk! The information and pictures available on this website are based on the experiences of professional turtle hunters. You should never attempt to turtle hunt without a trained professional present. You should only turtle hunt if you fully understand and accept the inherent risks of such a dangerous activity.