By Some Guy:
After our last attempt at using “modern technology”, we were left just staring at the empty table where the snapping turtle once was. Our mouths were hanging wide open. Both of us were thinking the same thing, “Oh boy!” “That sure seemed like a good idea at the time!”
The turtle in question was one of several that came out of my friend Bubba Greasley’s farm pond. Bubba’s pond had great fishing! We always caught big bluegills, bass, crappie and catfish. One year we noticed a few snapping turtles had taken up residence in this pond. The next year there seemed to be quite a few more and the fishing quality started to decline rapidly. It wasn’t long and the place was literally infested with turtles. The fishing was now horrible! There might have actually been more turtles in this pond then fish now. Bubba said, “Those turtles are ruining my pond!”
One day Bubba decided to rid his pond of snapping turtles. He started out trying to catch them with a fishing pole. He caught a few smaller ones, but the bigger ones just kept breaking his line. Bubba tried several types of traps also, but none of these proved effective for him either. I suppose if he would have purchased an actual turtle trap it would have worked better than leg hold traps baited with dead bullheads. He called me one morning and asked me if I knew of a “better way” to get rid of turtles. I said, “Yeah, when they stick their heads up, just shoot them.” I went out that afternoon to help with the turtle shooting.
We were able to kill a few of the turtles. But they quickly learned that sticking their heads up out of the water while we were next to the pond was a bad idea. We gave up on the .22 LR while sitting next to the pond and advanced to the .222 Rem. sitting about 100 yards away. This became ineffective after a couple of turtles also. It seems snapping turtles are fast learners when it comes to a couple of rednecks trying to blow their heads off.
Bubba wasn’t real sure shooting the turtles was even making much of a difference. It was really hard to see if you were even hitting them. I assured Bubba, “Don’t know about you, but I know I’m hitting them!” He said, “No you ain’t, I don’t see no dead turtles.” “Gee Bubba, you don’t suppose they’re just sinking to the bottom, do you?” “What makes you think they’re going to sprint up on the bank to die?”
That next weekend my thoughts were confirmed. As we were fishing the dozen or so bloated carcasses out of the water Bubba said, “It’s a shame to just waste ‘em.” “There’s gotta be a better way to catch them, so we can eat ‘em too.” I never cared much for eating turtle anyway, so I was O.K. with just “wastin’ ‘em”. They claim there are seven kinds of meat in a turtle. This is B.S.! There is only one kind of meat, and that is turtle! They also claim it tastes like chicken. All I know is that “they”, whoever “they” are, must buy some pretty funky chickens!
I said, “I didn’t know you wanted to eat them.” “I thought you just wanted to get rid of them!” Bubba asked, “Why, do you know of a better way to catch them?” “Well yeah, we’ll just rig up some turtle jugs.” A turtle jug is simply a treble hook on a steel leader tied off to a milk jug for a float. A rope is then tied to the jug to use to pull the turtle in. Bait the hook with a bullhead and you’re in business. The turtle will hook himself.
I rigged up a few jugs that night and returned the next morning. We baited the jugs and tossed them out. It wasn’t long and we had about a dozen or so turtles on the bank. I told Bubba, “We’d better quit now.” “You’ll be up all night cleaning turtles the way it is.” Bubba asked, “Ain’t you gonna help clean ‘em?” “Why would I help, I ain’t gonna eat the dam things anyway.”
The next weekend Bubba called me to come out to help him catch some more turtles. I asked, “How many turtles can you possibly eat?” Bubba replied, “Naw, I ain’t gonna eat these.” “Some ol’ boy in Omaha said he’d pay $.25 a pound.” “He’ll take all we can get.” “I’ll split the money with ya, if you help clean ‘em.” “O.K., I’ll be out.”
That evening I realized what had caused the cuts Bubba had all over both his hands that I had noticed that morning. “Hey Bubba, there’s a better way to do that you know?” “If you cut the head and feet of that thing first it won’t bite and claw the crap out of you!” “Why didn’t ya tell me that before?” I didn’t figure I needed to tell a grown man that it is a good idea to make sure an animal is incapacitated before you try to butcher it.
We kept after the turtles over the next couple weekends. The cleaning was getting quite tedious and generally a royal pain in the backside. We were really starting to put a dent in the turtle population though! Our body count was around 100 or so by this time. It really wasn’t worth the $.25 a pound anyway. But what the heck, we were doing what we set out to do. Get rid of the turtles so they’d quit ruining Bubba’s pond. And I suppose it was better than “wastin’ ‘em”.
One evening we had our pile of turtles staring us in the face. We were both so dam sick of cleaning turtles! Even today just the thought of cleaning a turtle kind of makes me want to puke. We were both pretty good at it by now though. I suppose cleaning over 200 turtles will do this. I grabbed the first turtle, plopped it up on the table, cut off his head and feet. Bubba said, “Wait, I know a better way!”
Bubba said, “I was readin’ on the internet about this guy who used air to pump the turtle up to separate the hide.” “Then when the shell was cut off, the meat would just fall off the skin.” “We’ll save a lot of time this way!” I was impressed! I don’t know if I was more impressed with the idea itself, or that Bubba knew how to use the computer, or that he could read at all. I said, “That does seem like a better way, let’s try it.”
Bubba rolled his air compressor over to the table. He rigged up a nozzle and poked it just under the turtle’s skin and gave it a little air. “We need a different turtle” Bubba said as he was wiping the blood off his face that sprayed out of the nubs where the turtle’s feet used to be! “We need to leave the feet and head on so the air don’t get out.”
With a new turtle hooked up, the air nozzle just backed out. We used some duct tape to seal the nozzle and hold it in place. I have used duct tape for a myriad of things, but I believe this was the first and only time I ever used it on a turtle. When Bubba turned the air back on it started coming out of the mouth. Duct tape took care of this problem also. Then the air started leaking out of the butt. It took a stick along with the tape to address this issue. Bubba then gave the duct tape covered turtle some air.
“I don’t think this is working Bubba.” “Sure it is.” “The turtle ain’t leaking no more, and the air’s goin’ someplace!” “He just needs more air!” Bubba turned up the pressure on the compressor and the turtle swelled a little. “See that?” “It’s workin’” “Let’s check to see if he’s done!” Bubba cut the air and the turtle deflated. The skin still seemed to be attached as well as it was before. Bubba said, “Aw, he just needs more air.” I don’t claim to be an expert on pumping up turtles, but “aw, he just needs more air” didn’t really seem like any kind of solution to me.
Bubba turned the air back on and the turtle swelled. He turned the air up again and the turtle swelled some more. If I remember right it was somewhere between the 5th or 6th “aw, he just needs more air” when we realized that this was not a better way. Oh it worked in separating the turtle all right, it worked a little too good! But it wasn’t better.
After the loud popping noise there were separated turtle parts literally everywhere! Everywhere except on the table. It was then that I realized that I don’t care for turtle tartare any more than I do if it is cooked well done!