My first recollection of a rattlesnake was a jar full of rattle that my uncle Ron kept in his house. We would take them out and count the rattles and wonder how he got them. So, you might say my fascination, from a distance started at a young age.

Years passed. The reality of the whole thing,  I really was kind of afraid of snakes. They would scare the hell out of me when I was out mowing. Mostly garter snakes and bull snakes. I had no real desire to get near a rattlesnake. Then about 12 years ago I was helping announce a bull riding with Monte James. (Monte is the host of Top Five Countdown and Territorial Rodeo Update heard at 12 noon on Kickin' Country) He invited me on a rattlesnake hunt. That was 12 years ago! I kind of put it on a back of mind bucket list and kind of forgot about it. Then it seemed like every year it came up again, every year I had an excuse.

This past Monday, Monte messaged me on Facebook. Hey, we going rattlesnake hunting? Tomorrow looks good!

I thought about it. Looked out the window. The weather was perfect, and looked great for the next day. I said, I'll make it work, let's do it.

I drove to Yankton, SD and then rode to the site with Monte. It's on the James Ranch in northern Nebraska along the Niobrarra River. The scenery was awesome. Recent rains have everything lush and green out in cattle country. Before we struck off, Monte dropped me off near the bluff. He was helping a group of Turkey Hunters he had in move to another spot for evening scouting. Before he left with them, he told me I could scope out an area of trees and meadow for some mushrooms. He did mention to avoid the hill that loomed to the west.

I'm not making this part up. He pulls off with hunters, I'm there looking at that hill and I swear to God there were 7 turkey buzzards flying around over the steep hill. I started playing out a couple of scenarios in my mind. None of them good.

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Things turned pretty much Zane Grey after that. I was out in the trees. He had sent me out with a golf club. I think it was a 5 iron. Told me I might want to hold it out and tap around in front of where I was walking. Turned out it was a good mental exercise. I bow hunt a lot, but just doing this got my mind right for the upcoming adventure. When you're out by yourself, you have to turn a switch in your mind that shuts off everything else. This half hour by myself did just that. When he came back, I was ready.

When he arrived I saw HIM pick up the golf club. The golf club was now MY friend so I asked, I see we have one golf club. I suppose you want that right? Monte said, yeah if you don't mind. He offered me a .22 revolver pistol. I started feeling better. I strapped on my new found iron then he showed me a 27 inch machete styled. In the back of my mind I could hear UFC fight announce Bruce Buffer screaming, IT"S TIME!

We hiked to the top of the hill which was the winter oasis for this batch of snakes. At the top Monte said, ok, see that third line of cedars, that's where were headed. Down there.

I looked around. It was about 72 degrees out. I knew we were in prime snake territory. I also suspected that the snakes were going to be out, not denned up. Turns out I wasn't too far off. We took off down the steep incline. Slowly! Headed down that embankment force me to shut everything else off. No job, no lawn to mow, no bills to pay, just keep your eyes open and watch your step. Then Monte chortled, Oh JD, yeah, don't be rolling down that hill.

Our arrival at the den was a little anti climactic. It looked like a badger or some animal had been digging around and disturbed the den. Monte apologized and said, maybe we're a day late. I was kind of relieved. Then I got brave, I told him, we'll give it a half hour or 40 minutes of looking then get out.

That's the thing about disappointment when your hunting anything. It usually means something exciting is on the way. It wasn't 10 minutes and Monte spotted a rattler up coiled up next to a rock. Good thing he did. I would have walked right by. We set up, and I made a good shot, actually three good shots with a .22 pistol and it was a wrap.

Pic by Monte James via Sprint Sioux Falls

Gotta tell you, it was a thrill. When I hunt, I make it a point to avoid trouble. Or potential trouble. Or danger. This hunt was different and presented both.

It was a clear your head, think about nothing else hunt. The kind I like.

We hiked out showed off our pics. Here's another one of my favorite pictures from the day.

JD Collins-Via Sprint Sioux Falls

Oh, and while we hiked out we did do one more thing. Set it up again for next year!

By the way, Katie Bryant from Aurelia, Iowa was there along with her Dad and Grandpa. They were looking for a big old Tom Turkey. Look what she found Wednesday morning.  Congratulations Katie!!!

Successful Hunt at James Ranch!

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