Originally Posted October 2008
One of those special moments in hunting happens at dawn. The increasing light improves your visual acuity as you begin arranging the shapes and outlines of the woods, pushing aside your imaginations. Slowly, you survey the environment and realize on a turn of the head, hanging there, mere centimeters from your nose – and yes, I went metric to convey the seriousness of the situation – is one of those night spiders as hairy as, and as large as, a brown bat.
You contemplate your next move, half expecting it to drop the nightjar it’s eating and snarl, revealing a row of fangs and snot not unlike the giant squid at the end of the second Pirates of the Caribbean. The more emasculating aspect is you’re toting a rifle capable of downing a bull elk at 300 yards, but is utterly useless on this beast.
Just be glad it’s not a banana spider. I caught one roughly the dimensions of a snow crab crawling up my leg one morning last year and if I’d had a baseball bat, I would’ve cracked my femur beating that thing off me. And walking into their web is like getting tangled in kite string.
Don’t think I’m the only sissy. A few weeks ago hunting in Sarasota, one member in the party employed his mastery of profanity in relaying to us the violent consequences if any of us put a spider on him, or similar jokes. Trust me, if this guy landed a punch, a spider bite would be the least of your concerns.
Really, I don’t enjoy the company of any arachnids. I still have difficulty sleeping thinking about the Skull Island-sized scorpion that crawled out from under a foam arm rest on a stand in Manatee County. You could’ve put it in the lobster tank and no one would notice.
The thing about the local scorpions, though, if you get stung, it only hurts for ten minutes or so. Can’t say the same about snakes. Snakes – and I care not what any herpetologists may say – are evil. Luckily, you don’t see snakes like spiders. If they hung coiled from webs I’d stop going outdoors, period.
If a snake tags you, odds are, you were doing something you shouldn’t have been. I’ve come up with a fool-proof plan to avoid getting bit – I deny they even exist as I tromp through the woods. Other hunters I know see serpents all the time. I may look like I’m politely paying attention to their stories; really, I’m sitting on the beach with a Corona listening to the waves and terns, or in other such Happy Places.
All these creepy-crawlies hinder sleepy time. I’m well-known for sleep-throwing pillows at dreamed snakes, spiders, and other vermin. Cabin mates have heard me yelling, then the “whump” of a pillow hitting the wall. Yes, the teasing hurts, but at least I’m safe.
Fortunately, neither snakes nor spiders stay active once the weather turns cold, so I hunt worry-free through most of deer season. They resurface in spring turkey, which is fine. A 12 gauge primed with #5’s is an excellent snake and spider repellant system.