What's So Great About Hunting for Snakes at Night?by Richard Lapidus on 02/16/15
Just to be clear, this is not the kind of hunting where any creature gets hurt or killed. You are armed with a snake hook and maybe a pair of grabbers. These are tools, not weapons, and they will only be used on venomous snakes. The others will be picked up with your hands.
All the conditions must be right. You have to pick a road that has little traffic. The temperature must be warm enough but not too hot. The less moonlight shining down the better. In the desert, humidity is good, and after a summer rain is best. An experienced snake hunter (field herper) will generally know in advance what species are possible to find in the area.
Your tools are accessible and your flashlight is handy. The sun is going down. As you begin your drive, you calm yourself down. The anticipation changes your physiology, making you feel younger, making you forget all the little or big hurts. In my case I forget about the arthritis pain in my knees and fingers. In Buz Lunsford's case, he forgets the cancer, forgets that he can barely walk at times and becomes limber at the sighting of a snake.
A snake will reflect white in the headlights. You drive along and watch for the streak of light, sometimes basking still in the road, sometimes coiled and sometimes on the move.
Your mentality is improved. You forget your troubles and concentrate only on the road. "What was that, Buz?" "Calm down, Richard, it was just a twig." "Okay." You lean forward in your seat. You have done this hundreds of times over the years. You know you can do this all night and find nothing. But you also know that it's possible to find a trophy rattlesnake, a rosy boa, a gila monster, a (rear-fanged) lyre snake, common snakes with unusual patterns or colors, the possibilities are endless.
That's why it's called hunting, not catching. You just never know. If you knew in advance that you would definitely catch snakes, and knew what they would be, well that would certainly remove most of the anticipation. If you think about it, you may not go at all. For me, the anticipation is crucial to the experience.
Suddenly you hit the brakes. "Did you see that, Buz?" "Yeah, I saw it," Buz says as he jumps out of the car." You pull over and run back with the flashlight to find that Buz has a Mojave Rattlesnake pinned with a hook. You shine the light and take Buz's flashlight so he can use both hands to pick up the snake. You both admire it, as it opens its mouth. Maybe you take a picture before walking this snake well off the road and out of harms way. Buz bends down and gives the snake a gentle toss in the soft sand and you watch as it quickly moves away.
You get back in the car, wondering what you'll find next.
These days I get much joy out of catch and release. It causes me to look closer at even common snakes. Last year I picked up a leaf-nosed snake and examined it very carefully. I never noticed before that they appear to be smiling. There is something amazing and beautiful in all snakes. It is a tremendous feeling knowing that this snake will have the chance to live freely where it is meant to stay. The balance of nature will not intentionally be tipped by me.