Oklahoma 'snake hunters' wrestle up live rattlers during season

FILE: Rattlesnake. (Photo: Chris Johns via MGN Online)

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KOKH) — Most people run from rattlesnakes when they see them, but two men in Oklahoma run right toward them.

"People say all the time that we are crazy for doing that," says Steve Booker.

Booker and Dennis Crow have been doing this for a while.

"My wife is not a big fan of me snake hunting... period," Crow says. Crow admits hunting the venomous snakes is something that he just quite give up.

Once the snakes are caught, they're shipped all over the country. There's not only a market for their meat, there's also a market for their venom to be used in medicine.

"These buyers will buy these snakes and milk the venom out of it, and to do that you've got to have a sterile environment and they ship it to the drug companies," Crow says. Reports have show the venom is effective as a medication to treat high blood pressure.

But even for these two seasoned hunters, last year almost proved to be heart stopping. Crow suffered a massive heart attack while on a snake hunt after a close call.

"The snake never rattled, never struck. I mean, he just reached out and bit me on the side of my boot. Actually, my boots caught the snake."

Crow says his doctor thinks an adrenaline rush might have triggered the heart attack. "I was 99% blocked on the window-maker side," Crow adds.

Crow, barely able to breathe, walked with the rest of his crew more than a mile back to their vehicle. Finally, after a trip to the hospital (and some much needed recovery time), Crow and Booker geared up again to go back out searching for rattlers in the Wichita Mountains earlier this year for the first time since Crow's close call.

We got a few tips from the duo on what to do if you encounter a rattlesnake out in the wild.

"He's not going to chase you. He's going to rattle at you to say, 'Hey I'm right here, don't mess with me. Leave me alone'," Booker says. Both Booker and Crow say when out in nature, you should always watch your surroundings, and listen for that distinctive rattle.

Crow says if you accidentally walk up on a rattlesnake, don't panic. The best thing to do is back away slowly. Crow says rattlesnakes only respond to heat and vibrations.

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