Friday, March 26, 2010

Python Hunting in the Everglades

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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The Portly Pirate, swashbuckling pundit, hotelier, and Dean of The Drawn Cutlass, knowing my affinity for the odd and peculiar, forwarded me an article on the cold snaps that we have had in Florida, and the effect it has had on the python and exotic snakes that infest the Everglades. The long and the short of it is that quite a few Burmese pythons and Boas died of exposure when the temperatures dropped and stayed low during some unseasonably cold days this past winter.

Southern Florida Portable Speed Bump...

But then, Swashbuckler Bob asked me what would I use if I was to hunt them; what weapon, and what loads would I suggest for hunting a Burmese or large constrictor.  Now that Florida has opened the season on the destructive and invasive exotics, this is a very good question!
Chuck D.
Before we go any further down this perilous and undoubtedly exciting path, let me also stress the importance of protecting our native reptiles!  There are any number of reptiles in the United States that have been pushed very close to being threatened. Habitat destruction, over building, pollution, all of these things and many more, have taken their toll on our native wildlife. Don't be foolish and kill a snake just because you think it might do someone harm. Leave the creature alone!  It wants nothing to do with you, and most of the time people get snake bit because they messed around with the snake. Respect Darwin, don't interfere, and let natural selection take its course. (See the Darwin Awards!) The gene pool needs a little chlorinating anyway!

Having said that, I love it when someone suggests a good line of inquiry!

My man Roach's M79

When you consider that some of these snakes are 15 feet long, and out weigh me by fifty to seventy pounds, you might excuse me if my first inclination is to suggest the M79 "Blooper" grenade launcher, or the newest incarnation the DEFCOM XL 79 Composite launcher. 40 mike mikes of flechettes or even HE would deter even the most voracious snake from making me an hors d'oeuvres!

But for a more practical and legal option let's consider a shotgun. Something of the twelve gauge persuasion, preferably pump, and with a full choke bore.  Close to birds on the evolutionary tree, snakes are thin skinned, and thin boned. An accurately placed and well patterned load of birdshot would permanently ventilate a python's skull with ease. So my usual train of thought and impeccable scientific logic leads me to consider something like a turkey gun. Turkey guns pattern tight, reach out a bit further than upland types of shotguns, and are frequently weather resistant, something to keep in mind in Florida!

870 Express Turkey

The other option I prefer is the full fledged trench gun.  Short-barreled, rifle sights, and a cylinder bore, it might be handier on the overgrown islands that pythons tend to hang out on. Loaded to the hilt with hi-brass #4 shot, it should do well if things devolve into mano-a-mano. Range is a little limited, but hell, it's not like they run at the sight of you. My choice would be an 80's vintage Mossberg 500. Parkerized, with a solid wood stock and fore-end, it was the summa plus ultra of tactical shotguns. Eight +1 shots, rifle sights, and get this: Bayonet lug for the hand to hand aficionado!!! What a practical beauty. Alas, I had one at one time; an ex seems to have made it disappear before she did. But never fear! There is the Mossberg 590 Special Purpose...

Not as elegant but she's still a beauty!

But constrictors are heavily muscled. What if a less than optimal shot presented itself?

I had to think for a while. The second you move from relatively small pellets to larger projectiles, the distance they travel becomes an issue. That precludes buckshot in my Mossberg 590. I decided that the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, and maybe the 22 Hornet might be the upper limit when safety is a consideration.

A high velocity frangible bullet would put a world of lethal hurt on any constrictor snake you happened upon.  A 22 Hornet loaded with Hornady's 35 gr V-Max is the ticket as far as I am concerned.  (That, and I own a Ruger 77/22.) The polymer tipped varmint round is designed to penetrate and explosively fragment. Any body hit on even the largest snake will result in a fatal wound.

"But what really intrigued me was how the combination of 3000+ fps velocity and the ultra-lightweight little 35-grain V-Max bullet would perform in-target. So I placed a standard 8x8x11-inch block of 10-percent ordnance gelatin (weighs about 25 pounds) at 50 yards and center-punched its eight-inch face with a round of the new Hornady ammo from the Ruger Model 77/22. I was not prepared for the result. The block was lifted from the table by the impact and turned 90 degrees. The front third of its length was literally blown off, dangling in shreds and chunks. I could find nothing left of the V-Max bullet itself, save the bright red polymer tip that was hanging in the shredded gel." New Sting for the Hornet

With the 22 WMR you can also get a V-Max load from Remington or Hornady.  This one is a 30gr offering flying along at 2200 fps plus!

"In 10 percent ballistic gelatin, this load also looks like a winner. Penetrating to 8 3/4 inches, the 33-grain V-Max bullet created a large, uniform permanent cavity at the same time. Offering explosive results in gelatin and accuracy that is out of this world, this load would be my choice anytime I'm looking at anchoring small animals (prairie dogs, for instance) out to 75 yards or even slightly more." Three.22 WMR Loads

That would be my selection for python and boa hunting in the Everglades. When considering any gun for hunting, take into consideration the physiology of the game animal. What is it's structure, bone density, musculature, etc. That will allow you to make an informed decision on the firearm, ammunition, and projectile that you will use.

If you happen to be carrying nothing more than a Jetfire in 25 auto, you might want to reconsider going up and against a big constrictor, unless you have an inkling about what you're up against and how you are going to go about it. And that begs the question, if you do have any kind of inkling, then why would you carry a Jetfire in 25 auto in the first place? If you are the kind of person that would, then I must refer you back to Old School Man for further tutoring. 

Remember, we are not talking about sporting chances with the pythons. We are talking about annihilating them and removing them from the environment. I don't care if you plug a python or boa full of holes, as long as it dies; preferably quickly, but dead is dead. So if you happen to have a Ruger 10/22 on you at the moment, pick your shot and try to make the best of it. Head shot is the first and best target, with anything in the first third of the body likely to be fatal. If you're carrying a big bore weapon, be sure of what is behind the snake before you squeeze that trigger. Safety first and always!

Now it's your turn!  What do you suggest? What and how would you arm yourself for combat against the constrictors of the Everglades?

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Bob said...

That was the nicest hat tip I've had since I began blogging. Thank you, Albert.

Bob said...

I think I'd want a machete along on a python hunt, in addition to the shotgun.

Hippo said...

A machete (katana here) is always a good idea.

I used to take RAF aircrew and other personnel duck shooting at Big Falls in Belize. An abandoned rice station, it was heaving with wildfowl and of course the predators that grew fat on them. There were snakes everywhere.

The constrictors never really bothered me. I had quite a collection back at camp. It was the Tommy Goff (Bothrops asper), also know as the Fer de Lance, that scared the pants off me. Unlike most snakes that push off into the undergrowth on sensing your approach or relied on their camouflage, only causing problems if God hated you enough to make you step on them, these buggers would actually go for you.

I was running a live firing exercise on Salt Creek ranges when the advancing line suddenly broke up in confusion, weapons hitherto directed at the butts with the discipline we expect of trained soldiers now being swung in all directions, my erstwhile band of trained killers resembling dancing and shrieking girl guides faced with a tiny mouse.

So from experience, I would not recommend the FN 7.62 (.308 Winchester). God knows how many rounds the panic stricken troops loosed off before they heeded ever more frantic calls to cease firing but the damn snake had easily survived and was only dispatched by a Belizean Defence Force Sergeant with more courage than all of us combined and armed only with a bit of angle iron.

These Tommy Goffs are not just homicidally vicious, they can obviously be recruited and trained by the Guatemalans. What is the probability of the Commander British Forces being bitten by a Tommy Goff? It is not usual for a Brigadier to stray much beyond the route from his residence to his office, let alone stray into the bush but he managed to get bitten and had to be casevaced to Miami losing the larger part of his calf muscle. He would have been armed with a Browning 9mm. Or a crayon.

On another memorable occasion I had taken an RAF Flight Lieutenant to Big Falls for his first squirt with a shotgun. Naturally, he was walking ahead of me on the trail rather than behind. He disturbed a snake which, understandably irate at having its cover blown/territory invaded, went for me.

With a display of marksmanship and snap shooting that would make Herb Parsons look like an amateur, this guy cut the snake in half with a load of SG.

Now I ask you. What would be more terrifying? The sudden appearance of an angry Tommy Goff or staring down the barrel of a semi automatic 12 Bore Browning in the hands of a first timer?

So, from my experience:

7.62 SLR, Dangerously Bad.

9mm Browning, Ineffective.

Crayon, good for scrawling your last will and testament on the pavement.

Belizean armed with angle iron, Good.

RAF Flight Lieutenant with 12 gauge, Awesome.

Albert A Rasch said...


You da man baby! With your permission, your response deserves promotion to "Guest Post" status!

Bob, my pleasure! I enjoy and appreciate every little tidbit of information you bring to my attention! I think you and The Suburban Bushwacker are about even on the number of posts that you have been the catalyst for. Thank you!

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Ruger 10/22 Rotary Magazine Tutorial

Hippo said...

Guest Post Status? Ta!

The young RAF officer in question was a Flying Officer at the time, now that I think about it, and became the best man at my first wedding much to the dismay of my PONGO colleagues. Imagine, an RAF Honour Guard for an Army Officer...

He is now a Group Captain (equivalent to what you in the Colonies call a 'Full Bird Colonel') and still with his stick pulled back and climbing fast.

Herb Parsons just popped into my head when I was writing my comment but now I remember his most famous catch phrase:

"Hunt with your son today and you won't have to hunt for him tomorrow."

How very, very true. And it doesn't have to be hunting. Time spent with your son now will save a lot of grief in the future. How many of us have responded to an urgent plea for attention from the boy with, 'C'mon, kid, I've only just got back, give me a break', instead of dragging our tired and wounded carcasses out into the bush for at least a walk?

Girls are important too, by the way. But I am not very good at dressing dolls and drinking imaginary tea with teddy bears.

Albert A Rasch said...

Tom, Look for it on Monday!

Could I trouble you to drop me an e-mail? I have a couple of questions I would like to ask if possible. TheRaschOutdoorChronicles at MSN dot COM

BTW your second comment is as good as your first! Thank you very much for adding to the conversation!

Best regards,

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Seems I'm a little late joining this one.

Surely a man of your vigor albert, however much he loves his firearms, would use a blade on a serpent?

" Good afternoon sir, let me take your hat and coat"

I saw one of those lame internet hunting shows where the rich dude in the cowboy hat went to Africa, acting like his tame trip was a real adventure, I was about to turn it off when the guides he was with abandoned the pretense that they were interested in his hunt, and enthusiastically dug out a badass snake (bigger than the one in your photo), then one of the braver souls was lowered into the hole, the snake started to swallow his leg and as soon as he was far enough in to use his foot as a barb, the other chaps pulled him out with the snake still attached! From the look on the guys faces the snake was clearly regarded as good eatin'.


Albert A Rasch said...


Are you kidding me? I am going to google that one up!


Albert A Rasch said...

Oh and SBW,

I did give that some thought, and we have yet another adventure in store for us, and another commission for Todd over at Primitive Point.

Tridents and short swords.

Need I say more.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Proper looking forward to it - I'd be there now but my recent losses are keeping me within walking distance of the house. Bah.

Still more adventures on the way

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Proper looking forward to it - I'd be there now but my recent losses are keeping me within walking distance of the house. Bah.

Still more adventures on the way

Phillip said...

Well, I was thinking about something as simple as a machete or a hand axe, but the story about the fer de lance kinda took the wind out of my sails.

Still, a python or boa isn't particularly dangerous. A well-aimed shovel should do the trick at least as well as it does on a big ol' eastern diamondback.

Phillip said...

Oh, and there's my old standby for golf course copperheads... the 2 iron.