50 Rattlesnakes Discovered In Upson County Hunt Camp

Tommy Lathem said he's hoping it's a very long time before he ever sees another rattler is his hunt camp.

Brad Gill | September 10, 2019

GON subscriber Tommy Lathem recently did a little more cleaning up at the hunting camp than he had anticipated after he took a shovel and a shotgun and killed 50 rattlesnakes within just 10 feet of his clubhouse.

Tommy, of Jasper, was not the first to arrive on Saturday, Aug. 31 at his 1,200-acre Upson County hunting camp situated on the banks of the Flint River outside of Thomaston. Others had already arrived to begin cleaning up in preparation for deer season.

“I asked one of the guys on my way down there that if he had a chance he could start moving a lumber pile, and we’d cut it up for firewood. Just as soon as I pulled up in camp, he came around the corner white as a sheet,” Tommy said in his GON Outdoors podcast interview. “I said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘Snakes in the wood pile. I bet there’s 50.’ I said there’s no way there’s 50 snakes in that woodpile.”

Tommy grabbed a 20 gauge shotgun and began to investigate. They moved one board and immediately saw a wad of five or six, 10- to 12-inch rattlesnakes, which he shot.

“Every time you would move a board, there would be a baby snake or two,” said Tommy.

Board by board, they began to take down the wood pile, which sat on top of a pallet and was only about 2 feet high. Tommy kept his shotgun handy but was able to kill most of the young snakes with a shovel.

“We just kept finding them,” said Tommy. “They didn’t really scatter, every once in a while one of them would try to get away. I had a feeling there had to be a big snake in there somewhere.

“It was 15 minutes before I heard one rattle. The big ones were in that pallet on the ground, and the little ones were intertwined in the wood.

“We got most of the wood off, and one of the big ones stuck its head out. I shot its head off. A few minutes later here came another one out. It ended up being three adults.”

The entire ordeal lasted about a half hour.

“When it was all said and done, we put them on that board, and there were three adults and 40 babies, but I shot a couple groups of the babies that just blew them away. I’d say there was probably 50,” said Tommy.

This wasn’t Tommy’s first rodeo with a rattler in camp.

“A few years ago, we were sitting around grilling, and a guy went to the bathroom,” said Tommy. “He came back out, and he said, ‘Nobody move. Nobody move.’ There was one within 5 feet of guy with his back to it sitting in a chair. It was coiled up, and I took this same gun and killed it.”

A few weeks ago while bush hogging, Tommy said he killed a 6-foot rattlesnake with 14 or 15 rattles. Members of his club kill a few timber rattlesnakes every summer but nothing like what they experienced on Aug. 31. Tommy said he’s thankful that he was down that weekend and was able to take care of a possible dangerous situation in the future.

“If we hadn’t seen them, there would have been 50 rattlesnakes around our camp. I am relieved, but a lot of my members are scared. I told them we’ve killed all the snakes,” said Tommy.

Click for Tommy’s full interview on the GON Outdoor Podcast page.

GON subscriber Tommy Lathem recently removed 50 rattlesnakes from his hunting camp in Upson County.

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  1. eddiepost on October 11, 2022 at 10:22 pm

    say what you want and I’m not stupid & i wear snake boots have you ever been bit by a copper head that you didn’t see until he hit you and every rattler does’t rattle when you get near them. I have been bit by both and when they hit you they will almost knock you down they hit with a lot of force.I’m not worried about the snake bite killing me but the heart attack of being bit by one so yes i will kill them when i see them.I’m not a snake lover &never will be one. & i’m not ignorantfor killing something that will bite you if you don’t see it and when you are out in the woods depending on how long it take you to get to the hosp.

  2. EricHaglund on October 3, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    I am a bit surprised at the comments. Not everyone is a “snake person” and have the love that some of you have for snakes,,,,but more importantly how many actually have the ABILITY to handle a snake. Many of the snake lovers say “move the snakes” ……. I ask HOW???? I think snakes are really cool but about 99% of the snake bite stories i hear about are when people try to pick them up. So you are suggesting snake novices should pick up and relocated venomous snakes. Sorry, not me! I doubt these folks wanted to kill these snakes but what choice did they REALLY have? Heck…..they are lucky they didnt get bit by one of the snakes they killed because that happens too!

    This world is full of enough haters……we dont need to attack each other.

  3. DoubleFive on September 18, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    I saw this article the day it came out and was tempted to immediately make the same point as most on this thread. I should have but felt it would cause a bunch of backlash.
    Why is GON glamorizing the destruction of venemouos (or any) snakes? This is not the only article. There have been a couple more recently that have been written in such a way as to make the reader think the snakes are invading and going to kill us all, raid our refrigerators and change our cable subscriptions. This is completely irresponsible of a conservation-minded publication to write these type of scare stories. Love the point that Castanea made about the irony of the Okeefenokee Joe article and then this one.

    GON…Please…get real and get responsible.

    • Bowdaddy on September 20, 2019 at 2:15 am

      I totally agree DoubleFive, Surely were not loosing our magazine to the bleeding heart liberals that say the world will end in 12 years.

  4. Ecologically Intelligent on September 17, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    I agree with Williejames. I have 15 years of raising native snake and found non venomous garter snake, black racers and couch whips and sometime king snakes are the species that strike or bite at first chance. My Timber/canebrake from the fall line I kept for 14 years before she Trixie died. she never struck at me only her food which was deliver via tongs. all snake bites are human error. One could easily relocated all those snake. It was totally the hunting clubs fought the snake were there in the first place. It is always recommended to stack wood for long periods far away from where one sleeps. One should only bring the amount of wood they need for the night of weekend closer to camp. Also Every Cottonmouth I have caught tried to get away and everyone I have seen canoeing swam away quickly. The Cotton Mouths are known by educated people as the Reluctant Warrior. Rattlers no different. they only strike when corner or harnessed just like all, well, most humans. We are peaceful until someone gets in our face.

  5. williejames on September 16, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Poisonous ? VENOMOUS NOT POISONOUS , You can eat them and it won’t harm you ! I knew when I commented it would bring out the uneducated . Shall we go into the ” More people die from ……….” I think not , it’s pointless to try to talk to the ” what if ” crowd .
    My issue is GON’s glorification of snake slaughter ! This publication should try to educate ! We were all taught that snakes are terrible creatures that attack without provocation . I have found that 99% of what I was told was simply not true . As I said in my first reply , my Dad was a forester and was NEVER bitten ! Why ? Because he wore snake boots , struck on may occasions but NEVER bitten . You wear your seat belt when your in your car , in which you are far more likely to be killed , wear your snake boots .
    agirlhasnoname , I can’t believe my comments weren’t purged since they don’t fit the narrative !

    I’m done now , you just can’t fix stupid

    • Bowdaddy on September 20, 2019 at 2:10 am

      Amen again williejames, Educated (stupid) people would kill them. Smart people will let them go. Hence the difference between educated and smart.

  6. Castanea on September 13, 2019 at 10:39 am

    I find it Ironic that August issue of GON had an article about Okefenokee Joe and how he tried to educate people about snakes and their value to the eco system. Now this month we have this article about killing female timber rattlers and that were giving birth in a wood pile. Their wood pile was a good place for rats and mice and other rodents the timber rattlers main source of food. The small snakes only can eat insects grubs, slugs until they grown some. Very few would ever make it to adult hood because of hawks. Now none of them will. The ignorant hunters will now have a good population of rats to infest there hunting cabin. The rat pee in their cabin carries an number of viruses that these guys can take home and share with their family that will causes fevers and will kill any individual with a weaken immune system or put them in the hospital for days. Hantavirus anyone? Check out Hantavirus from the CDC web site. Seeing Evolution first hand. What creature really died here?

  7. 1ohoopee on September 13, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Great article and thank you for the reminder about camp clean up. A trip to the hospital,
    or an 80k hospital bill for a child or a loved one is a heavy price to pay for allowing that
    many snakes around a habituated area. I am not familiar with the natural dispersal of a
    family of rattlesnakes and their young but I am quite sure I would not risk that they would natuarally leave fast enough.

  8. adharv on September 12, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    I too love my snakes. Of course, you can’t poisonous snakes that close to your clubhouse but when you are deep in the woods there is no season to kill them. I have to agree with williejames there is no reason to glorify killing snakes.

  9. 7pt62THOR on September 12, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    A hospital visit at the very least, possibly death, just feet from the clubhouse. Hate to say it there @williejames, but it’s survival of the strongest. Kudos to Tommy. I agree, they are beautiful creatures, but I still wouldn’t want to be bitten by one of the buzzworms.

  10. agirlhasnoname on September 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    Wow. Nice censorship deleting comments that dont agree with you.

  11. Burleyk on September 12, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I am not going to call anyone lazy or stupid. But at 53, I now realize that killing these guys is needless… that goes double for Easterns… I used to take biologists from a certain university around to farmers land and ask if they could take snake specimens. Surprisingly, about ⅓ said, “Heck no, they keep the mice down.”. Of course the other ⅔ said “take em all”. I now understand the wisdom of the former.

  12. williejames on September 12, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Amen ! I couldn’t agree more , I drive 30-35,000 miles a year , for the past 25 + years , in ” Rattlesnake Country ” and have seen a steady decline in these wonderful creatures . I seek them out and have NEVER seen one that wanted to be anything other than left alone . I have been a reader and subscriber to GON since it was a weekly publication and they have ALWAYS glorified the moronic behavior of snake slaughter ! My father was a forester and I heard the horror stories of the “Cottonmouth Attacks” , I love my Dad but those were B.S. stories . I have had more encounters with with Georgia’s Pit Vipers than most and have come to realize they all will retreat if given a chance . Regardless of what you think these are an important part of the ecosystem and one of God’s creatures . LEAVE THEM ALONE and GON STOP GLORIFYING THESE SNAKE KILLERS ! I’ve relocated several rattlesnakes from my neighborhood here in Sumter county and they don’t come back ! They are just passing through , their not looking to take up residence , unless of course as ” agirlhasnoname ” says you create habitat for them .
    You don’t cut down trees because you could fall out of them , you wear a safety harness . Put on your snake boots and watch where you step and enjoy the wonderful world you get to play in !

    • Bowdaddy on September 20, 2019 at 2:02 am

      Amen Williejames, rattle snakes belong here or the Almighty wouldn’t have created them. I really enjoy seeing snake pictures that people post online. I’ve had a couple of encounters with these and your exactly right, they just want to be left alone. Between depleting their habitat and people killing them just to be a hero for killing a rattler, they are steadily declining . Folks just remember, we’re in THEIR home when we’re in the woods. Be respectful and be thankful for the encounter. If you really want to kill something just for the sake of killing. Ah, COYOTES are EVERYWHERE!!!!

  13. Whyme on September 12, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    I agree. I mean did he really need to kill every single one of them?? Jeez! I’m surprised GON even published this!

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