Forage-Fed Rabbit and Rattlesnake Dinner

I always say I'll try anything once. Eventually I might regret that, but overall I'm pretty adventurous. Every once in a while you might suffer in some way from being adventurous, but that doesn't mean you have to regret it. The way I look at it is summed up in one of my favorite sayings: Variety - it's the spice of life! Some spices are bitter, but bitter can be really good for you (if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger?).

I trapped another rabbit, so we were looking forward to fresh, forage-fed meat for dinner. Many people are unaware that an animal's diet influences its flavor and health. Just as with humans, eating highly-processed food (standard CAFO fare) results in less than ideal animal health. Additionally, any toxins consumed by or injected into the animal will often end up in its meat, as do healthy plant compounds such as beneficial phytochemicals in animals that have the opportunity to forage. And then they end up in us when we eat them.

Phyto means plant. Phytochemicals are produced by healthy plants to help them fight disease, ward off pests, and endure various environmental stressors. When we eat plants rich in phytochemicals, we derive similar benefits. But phytochemicals have strong or even bitter flavor so the agricultural industry has focused on mass producing milder-tasting varieties because American consumers seem to prefer bland, highly-processed food with various flavor enhancers, especially sweet ones. But bitter is actually really good for you and for animals. Sweets, not so much.

This is why I like forage-fed meat. We benefit from eating fresh, locally-grown produce just as animals do. And we benefit from eating those animals. Just as with healthy plants, healthy animals also have a stronger flavor, often described as gamey. But I would rather eat naturally flavorful food that was made by God than artificially and chemically flavored food. And when you make the switch from the standard American diet (SAD), your tastes also change over time. But as long as you eat junk food, the good stuff will never taste as good.

So anyway, with rabbit already on the menu here's how I also finally had an opportunity to try rattlesnake. I was digging out some urbanite (broken up concrete) that someone dumped on this property at some point many years ago when it was vacant. Somebody else bulldozed what we are now turning into a courtyard and a bunch of urbanite got half buried at the edge of the wash. Many slabs of urbanite ended up just right to provide perfect cover for critters like rats. They burrow underneath them and get an impermeable roof. 

We're destroying the rat burrows and using the urbanite to build one-rock dams, turning a problem into a solution. I was sure we'd run into snakes who like to invade the burrows for dinner and a home, so we were on high alert. Sure enough, my daughter saw a baby snake slither into a hole. It was too small to be a baby rattler, but it added to our sense of alertness. 

I was working on digging out a giant, irregular chunk of urbanite and had been shoving my six foot digging bar about halfway into burrows underneath it. I was finally able to roll the chunk half way over and was startled to see part of the body of a big fat snake. Its head and tail were both underground and it wasn't moving. I thought it might have been a nonpoisonous gopher snake. I had seen a couple of them last summer. They are welcome allies in my war against rodents (trapping is part of my daily routine). 

I went uphill from the big hole that had been left by the urbanite and used my digging bar to give the snake a little nudge. Out popped its head and as soon as he saw who disturbed his nap he started slithering menacingly towards me. His head had the tell-tale triangular head of a venomous snake, but his tail was still underground. I knocked him back downhill and out came his tail with black and white stripes at the base just before the rattle, which he started angrily shaking as he began heading towards me again. 

Face-to-Face with an Angry Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

A couple of months ago I had asked my wife to get some antivenom for our first aid kit - just in case. She did some research and found out that unconstitutional federal regulations have made antivenom prohibitively expensive. Each type of snake requires its own unique antivenom and most of it is imported. There's only one US manufacturer of rattlesnake antivenom and it's only available by going through a ton of expensive, government red tape. Hospitals are known to charge tens of thousands of dollars for each vial and a victim may require many vials. When all is said and done, a hospital visit for a rattlesnake bite can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Since getting bit was not a reasonable option (I'm not that adventurous), I dropped a big rock on the snake. I was hoping to smash his head, but I got his belly and made him bleed a little. He was in a hole so it was difficult to get his head. I dropped another big rock, and another, and another. None of them smashed his head but they stunned him. I then tried severing his neck with my digging bar. Snake skin is unbelievably tough! With a lot of effort and some more blood, his neck appeared mostly severed - just hanging on by some skin. I figured he was finished so I went to get a drink of water.

The girls were quite shocked when I suggested we add rattlesnake to our dinner and they said they didn't want to butcher him. I did some quick research on how to process and prepare rattlesnake. It sounded a bit tedious so I checked to make sure the girls would be willing to eat it if I went through the work. They were willing to cook and eat him so I went to retrieve him. 

The snake was still writhing around when I got back after about half an hour. I used a shovel to finish removing the head and then took and buried it. The head and body can continue muscle spasms for hours, so you don't want its head to get close to you at all because it can still bite and poison you. The first video shows the headless snake writhing around after I returned from burying the head. The next video shows him struggling with me as I process him. And the last video reveals why he continues to live for hours after removing the head.
Rattlesnakes have very little meat on them. You have to skin them to get to the muscles that run along either side of their spine between their rib cage and plastic-like skin. It was a very tedious process for very little meat. This was a female with seven large eggs and additional small ones inside her. By eliminating this one rattler, I eliminated a whole bunch of them! One recipe I found was chicken fried snake, but my wife just fried the meat in some coconut oil so we could maybe taste the meat to see if we liked it. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good. It was actually more tender and mild than the rabbit meat, and the rabbit meat is more tender and mild than the old chickens we've eaten.

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