The penalty is death for taking rabbits out of hunting season, at least it was for one shoulder-less hunter caught in the act in late July during a deer camp workday in Jefferson County.

Two Louisiana men were traveling an ATV trail to check on hunting stands and hang a few others when one caught a glimpse of something that got his attention.

“I was riding with a friend and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something I couldn’t believe,” said Cody Braud of Gonzalez, La. “I hollered ‘Man, look at that!’ at my friend Curt Braud — and, no we are not kin, believe it or not. I told him to stop and that I had seen the biggest rattlesnake I’d ever seen.”

Turns out, Cody Braud had in fact seen a rattlesnake, which, because it had a rabbit half-swallowed, was grossly out of proportion.

“He did; he had a rabbit about halfway down and was trying to swallow it all, head first, when we came up on him,” he said. “What’s funny about it was I had just told Curt that we needed to watch for rattlers because they ought to be moving and we’d seen plenty there over the years.”

The two men parked their ride, jumped out and went for a closer look. That’s when things turned interesting, Cody Braud said.

“Don’t let anybody tell you a snake can’t throw up a big meal real quick when it wants to,” he said. “I’d always heard that, but I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. This one did so fast it surprised us. When we walked up to it, we actually got pretty close, like two or two and a half feet. Only the hind-quarters of the rabbit were sticking out. 

“We wanted to get a close look and some pictures. I’m 35, and I’ve been hunting since Dad started taking me when I was 5, and that’s something I can say I’d never seen and probably won’t ever see again.”

The two Brauds felt safe.

“We didn’t figure he could bite us, because his mouth was full of rabbit,” Cody said. “We were pretty close and decided we were going to watch him finish that rabbit.”

Apparently, they were too close.

“I guess he’d reached his limit of comfort zone, because he raised his tail and started rattling, and he spit up that rabbit in three seconds,” Braud said.

Once the snake did that, and only had the head of the rabbit in its mouth and was rattling, the two guys reached the limit of their comfort zone.

Curt Braud took out his 9mm pistol and shot at the rabbit’s head.

“He hit him, but it looked like he only hit the bottom jaw of the snake,” Cody Braud said. “I took a stick and poked it at him and he struck at the stick quick. It was still alive and it was not happy.”

Curt Braud’s second shot was mortal.

“I’m just guess-timating here but I guess the snake was about 4 feet in length, and its body about as big around as a can,” Cody Braud said. “Of course, with that rabbit in its mouth, the head end was a lot bigger than that.”

For the record, Mississippi’s rabbit season is Oct. 15-Feb. 28, at least for hunters with legs and arms, feet and hands.