Snapping Turtle Humor Articles by Alvin Richardson
Go to the bottom of the page for some photos of Snapping Turtles caught by Uncle Ben Lindsey, Sr. and his father/my grandfather, L.C. Lindsey.
Capturing and Cleaning the Greater Snapping Turtle
(Author’s note: Thanks to Randy Hancock of Nashville, Georgia for an assist with this column.)
A few weeks ago before the weather turned cool my youngster-at-heart dad decided that he wanted to apprehend a quantity of snapping turtles. Whether it was for entertainment, adventure or just plain old lust for some turtle mull I cannot say for sure but nonetheless he was highly successful in his quest and that’s where today’s saga begins.
For the scientific minded the greater snapping turtle (Latin name biteus fastust) is an animal that might best be described as one with a fierce and belligerent attitude, powerful jaws, a highly mobile head and neck, and a quickness of strike that would make an NBA point guard jealous. To further enhance the peril snapping turtles have sharp claws. It’s not like the turtle won’t warn you – they will emit an evil sounding hiss when agitated and that basically means to proceed with extreme caution.
This prehistoric looking beast can live to be nearly a half century old and is particularly ornery as he reaches his dotage. Snapping turtles can grow to be upwards of fifty or sixty pounds but are typically measured by the size of their shells. Daddy’s prize specimen in this latest batch was about the size of a radial tire.
There are also a few relevant tips to remember about the early portion of this process. When transporting the collection of turtles from the basket in the lake to the back of the truck take care that you shake the reptiles down to the bottom of the basket. The creatures will be in a fairly grumpy mood and will injure your hand if it is positioned improperly. Also keep a close watch on the group after you dump them out of the basket into the truck bed. One of daddy’s collection climbed out after he got home and went on a rampage. He slew a cat, an unsuspecting domesticated rabbit, and a small beagle before escaping back into the pond behind the house. I told you these old boys were bad to the bone.
All that translates roughly into this piece of advice: Be exceedingly careful when the time comes to prepare the loggerhead for butchering. Most people don’t know bear crap from fancy candy when it comes to this part of the proceedings (including myself) and if you are an amateur in this area of cuisine preparation I would further advise that you stand down and don’t let your testosterone level overrun your judgment.
First, someone has to get the snapper out of the truck bed and onto the ground in the back yard which is no small feat in itself. Grabbing him by the tail would seem to make the most sense but don’t forget that in the aforementioned description that the turtle has a highly mobile head and neck. For the less educated that means that he’ll swell up and bite you even from that position.
Those who actually know how to handle the ensuing steps in this delicate activity have to start off with the most important and dangerous one: How to dispatch the cantankerous creature without suffering bodily injury and / or digit amputation. The most common method is by decapitation but that in itself is problematic. How do you get him to stick his head out for the fatal blow? Getting him to grab hold of a stick (preferably a long one) and hang on to it while one person pulls on it is an acceptable method but do be careful. There have been reports that the person with the axe became over-excited and missed badly while trying to deal the death blow thereby putting innocent by-standers at risk.
If you are lucky enough to accomplish this most hazardous step without incident you still have to figure out how to get the meat out of the shell and though less perilous is still a job for a very sharp knife and a skilled, patient butcher.
The flesh that is gleaned from this multi-step process can ultimately be used for several purposes. One can turn this into turtle mull, turtle stew, fried turtle or as an additive in Brunswick stew. Some of it can also be turned into a piquante’ sauce much like the alligator sauce used in southern Louisiana. It consists of a tomato base, roux, and Cajun seasoning and makes a chocolate brown mixture that can be served over chunks of turtle flesh. Umm good.
The moral of today’s fully truthful story is simply this: If you decide to get you up a mess of snapping turtles to eat be sure you have someone experienced in the art of cleaning them to help you. Failing that find some idiot who has never done it before but has a high opinion of their ability to clean any wild game. Do not – under any circumstances try to do it yourself.
I hope that you will soon enjoy some tasty turtle meat slathered in yummy picquante’ sauce and be able to relish it with all your body parts still intact.
Here's the second article:
In Pursuit of the Great Loggerhead Turtle
My Uncle Bennie is a multi-talented man. He can fix a boat motor or build a house. He is a virtuoso with a shotgun in his hand and he can tie a sheepshank knot that a navy commander would be proud of. He can catch enough catfish in a month to supply any restaurant for a year and he can catch loggerhead turtles in quite an impressive manner.
Now he does not get all the credit. My grandfather, L.C. Lindsey was the man who taught Uncle Bennie many of these things. Papa was part Cherokee Indian and a full-blooded outdoorsman of the first order. When I was young he took me with him on many of his outings and told me stories of his life in the outdoors. One that always fascinated me was describing how they used to wade rivers and reach up into the undercut banks, and grab turtles bare-handed. I consider myself a country boy, but there is no way my hand would have gone under those banks. But let me get back to the story.
Uncle Bennie fashions his own baskets (none of this store bought stuff) and seemingly has permission from every landowner in ten counties to put his baskets in their lakes. He baits the baskets with the finest meal cake and bloody tidbits that turtles enjoy munching on. He picks locations with an unerring eye born of experience. The results are quite impressive.
Turtles are measured by the size of their shells. The lower limit runs about the size of a soup bowl and the upper limit is about like a Michelin radial tire. Uncle Bennie is very adept at catching those upper limit specimens.
I saw one just this past week that would not fit comfortably in the bottom of an industrial size trash can to give you an example.
A distinct disadvantage to catching the greater loggerhead variety (reptilius colossus) is that one must eventually clean the brute in order to make turtle mull, turtle soup, fried turtle, or just as an ingredient in a tasty stew. Now I have witnessed three pond drainings, a bunch of coach’s conventions, and even a goat killing. None of those are nearly as interesting as watching a group of people (it is not a task for one person) try to clean a bad humored loggerhead.
Without going into the grisly details try to envision step one. How do you deal with an animal that would willingly bite multiple fingers off with one lightning quick snap? At the risk of being indelicate, imagine a battle scene from the movie Bravehart. You know heads are going to roll at some point. Such is the case here. The problem is how to do it. Who will draw the short straw? Who will entice the turtle to stick his neck out for another to deliver the telling blow? It is said that when the loggerhead bites he grimly hangs on until lightning strikes (or so the story goes). So there is some quality danger in this process.
After much sweating, grunting and anxiety, the deed is done and cooking can commence. The table is finally set for a fine turtle supper. Of course Uncle Bennie did the cooking. As you might have guessed, he is also highly skilled at putting the finishing touch on his masterpiece. He has no peer in this area. The pursuit of the great loggerhead has reached its logical conclusion.
See some turtle photos below this article:
“Papa” as his Grandchildren called him, or “Papa C”, as his Great-Grandchildren called him is seen here on the left of the photo with some nice sized Snapping Turtles caught in homemade turtle baskets he manufactured himself.
This photo shows the day’s catch in a crate where the turtles where kept while they were hauled off and readied for butchering. Many times they used chicken crates or homemade crates for hauling them.
Wow, that’s some catch of snapping turtles. No, these are not Alligator snapping turtles which are a protected species, but rather Common Snapping Turtles.
Another big catch of Common Snapping Turtles. Notice the difference in the coloration of these turtles compared to the previous photo. I would assume that the coloration is due to the type of water (river vs. pond vs. lake) and water coloration they were taken from. All of these photos were taken by Ben Lindsey, Sr. and were sent to me after I requested some for my fishing website.