Bow and Arrow

August 1972

Tall Texas Tales Of Snake Snicking By C.R. Learn

Or, A Brush In The Bush With A Rattler Rattled Our Bow Tester

THE PERSPIRATION DRIPPED down my back like a river. We were
working for javelina in the south Texas brush country so thick you couldn’t
walk. Beto Guiterrez, Jack Niles and I were looking for the elusive little pigs,
when the hunter became the hunted! Niles had split to check another
area he thought would produce, and Guiterrez and I had moved on.

Guiterrez had been in front, but stopped and motioned for me to take
the lead. He had his pig hanging. We switched positions; I glanced down
and saw the lethal coils of a Texas diamondback rattler three feet in
front of my leg. What do you do? Scream? Holler? Jump? Not me, I
froze. After I regained my breath I looked for the second snake. They
often travel in pairs. I backed slowly into Guiterrez, who looked at me with
a weird expression that inferred he wanted to go forward. Until now we
had been using hand signals.

“Beto, I think I know why you wanted me to go first this time,” I
remarked as I pointed the tip of my prototype Gordon take-down bow at
the venom-tipped coils lying in wait for a meal. Guiterrez backed a bit,
then we started rattling about what to do. I definitely wanted that snake for
a trophy provided it came to Texas standards. We had hoped to find a
snake to test the bow I was carrying. Gordon Plastics, Inc., of San Diego,
California, is not new to the bow-making business. Years ago they made
a line of bows sold under the Gordon clan emblem. My first hunter was a
Gordon Knight. What I was carrying now was the newest creation from the
lab of the Gordon plant. This bow, a bow scale. Perhaps the best feature, aside
from the under fifty dollars price tag is its light weight. The mass weight — what
you would carry in the field — is three pounds two ounces.

I had tried to fit a number of bow-quivers to the three-piece unit, but
found the only one in my collection that worked was the regular Bear eight
arrow quiver extended to full length. This quiver holds eight Gordon
Glashaft arrows with Ace broadheads left from other seasons.

Guiterrez looked at the weaving head of the diamondback that was
waiting at the trail crossing for a meal. I had no intention of being on the
menu. I had talked with the Guiterrez brothers about the possibility of
getting a snake skin trophy, and they had come up with some typical Texas
tales. Ricardo Guiterrez had a cigar box full of clipped rattler tails killed
on the ranch that spring. He handed me a thirteen rattle trophy to take
back in case I didn’t find my own.

“This spring we had quite a bit of rain,” he started his story. “The
rattlers usually mate in May. They stay on high ground to keep from being
drowned in their holes during the spring rain. They were hungry and we
stomped many every day. One morning I came over a small rise to see
a real Texas monster stretched out on the other side, meandering toward the
bottom and some dinner. That snake was so big it couldn’t coil; it just lay
there and buzzed its tail. I was mounted, so I wasn’t worried. I usually jump
off and stomp them with my boots, but this boy was too big for that. I looked
around for a stick, but couldn’t find anything I thought would be big enough.
I shook a noose into my rope, dropped a loop over the snake, and dragged it
back to the pickup where we shot it with a rifle. Honest!”

The golden beauty coiled in front of me now didn’t come up to those
specifications, but was presentable. I didn’t want to shoot it in the brush,
since I didn’t want to cut the hide. I found a stick about three feet long. I
figured the old girl couldn’t reach over two feet if she did strike. I moved my
stick to her head, nestled in the coils, and touched it. The rattles hadn’t even
buzzed yet. Now they took off at full volume.

She hit the stick with such force I dropped it. She was hungry and mad.
She continued rattling and her forked tongue kept working rapidly in and
out. Guiterrez came struggling up with a small tree, and between us we moved
her into a slight clearing in the brush, so I could get a clear shot at the head.
Actually, we could have clubbed her with either of the trees we were
working with, but that didn’t occur to us at the time. I wanted this to be a
bow kill.

As we moved her out into the open, she struggled to get back into the
brush she had been coiled under. We were afraid she might have a gopher
hole there to crawl into, but we kept at her until she opened up in the
s-coil. They can strike farther from that position. But she stayed where we
wanted her.

My adrenalin was flowing freely. As I drew the arrow the bow could have
been eighty pounds, and I wouldn’t have known it. The sight window gave
me a good angle on the opened s-coiled snake. This window measures
five and one-half inches which is adequate if you want to install a bow·
hunting sight.

George Gordon, president of Gordon Plastics. has been working
with epoxies for many years. The firm decided to make a molded epoxy
riser for a strong and inexpensive bow. The end product I had at full draw was
one of the first off the shelf. The cast epoxy riser, reinforced
with fiberglass strips molded into the casting. measures nineteen and three-
quarter inches. The twenty-two-and one·half-inch limbs are attached with
knurled nuts by two bolts inserted in the molded riser.

These limbs have fiberglass tip overlays and hardrock maple laminates
in the limb. Gordon added a section of fiberglass laminate at the base of the
limb for added strength. The limbs are wide, tapering from one inch and three
quarters at the base to one inch at the tip.

When Gordon designed this bow and limb attachment system he did
something a bit different in bow making. The limbs are close to zero
tiller. There is a one—eighth inch difference in tiller between the upper
and lower limbs. The lower is stiffer. If you buy the bow and one extra limb
of the same poundage, you will have two bows. If you should break a limb,
you could attach the extra one to either the upper or lower section and
continue shooting.

Guiterrez reminded me that if I shot the rattler then, I wouldn’t have a
picture of it. I eased down on my draw kept my eye on the snake to make
sure she didn’t slither away, or worse, closer to me, and handed my camera
to him to record the event. Now began a slight comedy. Guiterrez backed up,
with the camera to his eye until he was stopped by a crucifixion thorn. There
is nothing on this bush that doesn’t have a spine that won’t puncture you
to the bone. He bounced back from the junco and told me to get closer to
the snake, so he could get us both in the frame.

The snake had increased in size from the first small coil. I knew it was
over five feet. Applying some snake lore, I thought it could strike at least
three feet. The basic rule is one third of the length, but that depends on
location and other variables. Four feet was as close as I wanted to get.
Guiterrez moved back until he was nudging the junco again and told me
to ease forward. All the time we were debating about who was going to move
where, the rattling reptile was weaving in the open-s. The head was never still.

Mad and ready to strike. I looked at the oscillating head and
told Guiterrez I wasn’t waiting any longer for a friend to answer her
dinner call. Try shooting at a three inch object in motion at five to six
feet sometime. It’s tricky. I wanted a head shot to keep the hide
intact, so I came to draw, and when my bowlock reached
the corner of my mouth, I let the Glashaft fly. It hit the rattler right be-
hind the eyes in the poison sacs.

Since a snake never knows it is dead until sundown, it continued to writhe
and twist, the tail buzzing ominously. I had my snake, but to be certain I put
another arrow into the neck, about one inch behind the head, almost
severing it when the blade hit. Scratch one dead Texas diamondback rattler
and add a unique trophy to the wall.

With my shooting style I grip the handle of my hunters until the knuckles
turn white, and this small riser gave me a good grip. The circumference of
the handle is a scant four and three quarters of an inch. There is no wood
grain to split. so there is no problem with the small riser. lf you open hand
it, there is little chance of torquing. My hand was dripping with perspiration,
partly from the August heat and partly from nerves. When you
walk into the back country of our western states. you can almost always
figure on meeting one or two of these buzzy tails. They usually rattle before
striking. I have been struck at, past, but never hit. However. they still make the
hair on the back of my neck crawl.

Guiterrez and I moved up to inspect the writhing snake. I had been
afraid my only encounter would be with a lesser specimen. This was a
respectable snake, if there is such a thing. I picked her up by the tail, and
she was so heavy that the skin started to pull apart from the weight. We had
bashed in the head to be certain she couldn’t grab us in a death swing as
she continued to wriggle in my grasp. I measure under six feet and this snake
was longer than I was tall. We stretched her out before we skinned her, and
she came to sixty-eight inches, not counting the four inches of mutilated
head and neck where I had made the second shot. This didn’t include the
eleven rattles on the tip of the vari-colored tail.

Niles came out of the brush, and we called him over to take a look at our
trophy. We related the ferocity with which she had struck at the poles we
had used to move her into the open. “She’s probably been lying up on
the high ground during these last few rainy days and moved down to get a
dinner,” Guiterrez commented. “She was hungry, and when we disturbed
her, she really fought back with her version of a double bladed broadhead,
needle variety. She doesn’t fight fair, though, since she uses a poisoned
head.”

We tied her to the tail gate of the pickup and opened her belly, slit
around the head, and pulled the hide from the carcass. The reason we know
it was a she, was the number of un-developed embryos in her abdomen. I
salted the hide and rolled it to preserve it for tanning.

We continued the pig hunting, but I was jumpy. Later that afternoon I was
ambling down a cowpath outside the brushy area, stopping to look carefully
in front and to the sides as I walked. My attention was held by a red-tailed
hawk working over a fresh kill when I heard a hiss in front of me. I jumped
straight up and about three feet over. What had spooked me turned out to
be one of the many tortoises that live in that back country. I was walking
toward it on the path and when it hissed, I heeded. I imagine the shell-
back had some tall tales to tell his Texas brothers about how he made
that two-legged monster move out of his way.

The Gordon bow had given me a clean kill at a close range. It proved
itself at longer ranges during the testing period. The draw was smooth
and even; the bow showed no signs of stacking, and the scale proved this by a
gradual build up as I weighed it from twenty-six inches to thirty, checking
the poundage. When it comes out on the market late this year, it will be
priced under fifty dollars. This will buy the bowhunter a sixty-two-inch
takedown bow that will go into a package about twenty·three inches
long. They will offer poundage varying from forty-five to sixty. My
model was equipped with a bristle arrow rest in the past center sight win-
dow and a string that braced at eight and one half inches measuring to the
pivot point of the handle.

“What we want to offer the bow-hunter is a bow with stability, compactness
and price that they can buy for themselves or members of the
family. We are working on a new method of casting that might give us a
lighter bow than the prototype and still as strong, if not stronger,” George
Gordon stated. “The riser will be one color, probably brown, and the limbs
will be finished in the usual manner. Most bowhunters will camouflage it
anyway, but it will be protected as other bows are in the limb sections. The
epoxy riser should be almost impervious to everything a hunter will encounter.”

If the production models prove as smooth and light as the one l had, it
will be well worth the modest outlay of cash. My rattler hide was turned over to
Tartaglia Taxidermy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for tanning and mounting.
I had thought of a life type mount in full coil, but the head was mashed
beyond that. We decided on a tanned hide with a deerskin trim. It turned
out beautifully. My wife allowed me to mount it over the arch in the house,
and she doesn’t like snakes.

She isn’t alone. I don’t either. That first arrow that hit the diamondback
in the poison sacs stands in a prickly pear down Texas way. I didn’t like the
idea of bringing the arrow back, since it was probably loaded with venom
from the snake, and besides, I can’t hunt with a poisoned arrow, even if
rattlers do.

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