If you live in the country there’s a fair chance that you live with rattlesnakes. Some folks kill them and throw them aside, but rattlesnake meat is actually pretty tasty and nutritious, and the stretched skins are beautiful, too!

Field Dressing

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Chopped, cleaned and ready to cook! Like the old saying goes, “Tastes like chicken.”

Preparing a fresh snake isn’t for the faint of heart. Take your decapitated snake and bury the head to keep pets and critters safe. If it was killed recently, it will probably still be wiggling and coiling. You just have to work around that. Hold it firmly and slit the skin where the head was attached. Stick your finger into the slit, grab the skin and yank downward. You should be able to remove the whole skin; it will turn inside out. Or cut carefully down the middle of the belly and gently peel it off. The rattle can go with the skin.

RELATED: How To Detect And Avoid The Top 4 Deadliest Backcountry Snakes

Remove the entrails from the belly cavity. They are all contained in one long sack, so it can be removed in one piece. It is now a very long piece of meat, spine and ribs. Rinse and clean any membranes out in water, making sure that the container is deep enough so the snake can’t wiggle out. At this point it still may be moving. Hold firmly and cut into chunks. Once cut into smaller pieces, it will no longer move. It is ready to be cooked or refrigerated.

Cooking

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Make sure to slow-cook rattler “bites” for at least 20 or 30 minutes to ensure tender meat!

For a 3- to 4-foot snake, melt a quarter of a stick of butter in a frying pan. Sprinkle the meat with salt and your favorite spices. Add snake meat and brown. Once browned, turn heat down, cover (with lid slightly off to allow steam to escape) and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes to reduce juices. However you decide to prepare it, make sure to cook the meat for at least half an hour to tenderize. The meat can be eaten from the spine and ribs, similar to fried chicken. We preserve our skins by nailing them on a board and rubbing hand lotion into both sides several times while they dry.

RELATED: 5 Must-Knows To Avoid Deadly Rattlesnakes

Editor’s note: It was after a day of flyfishing with my father about an hour’s drive from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, when I had my first taste of rattlesnake. The establishment (read saloon) really flashed us back into a simpler time in our nation’s history. The deep-fried rattlesnake bites and drink were tasty, indeed. As we chomped away at the great eats, I thought about one of the best mountain man books ever written, The Big Sky, by A. B. Guthrie Jr. In Guthrie’s novel there are several references to the mountain men relishing rattlesnake for their meals. Look for author Lamar Underwood’s detailed description of The Big Sky and other frontiersman books in our next issue!

 

This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN® Issue #191. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN® magazine are available here.