McComb reverend discusses passion for snake hunting

McComb reverend discusses passion for snake hunting
Cottonmouth snake skin photo credit: Jason Etheridge
Cottonmouth snake skin photo credit: Jason Etheridge
photo credit: Jason Etheridge
photo credit: Jason Etheridge

MCCOMB, MISSISSIPPI - A reverend from McComb has a very unusual way of unwinding after a long day. He enjoys praying to the lord but also likes to prey on wild cottonmouth snakes.

"I just do it to relax, to have a good time" said the Rev. Jason Etheridge.

Ever since he was 14-years-old, Etheridge has waded through murky waters looking for his next catch. The biggest cottonmouth snake he's captured weighed over 7 pounds and was 56 inches long and 9 inches wide.

"We're always looking for the big one, always looking for the biggest one we can find," Etheridge said.

These snakes are very poisonous and can kill you, but Jason catches them with his bare hands anyways.

"We don't have a game plan, it's from A to Z that quick," Etheridge said. "It's the reaction. You have to get in there and do it."

For Etheridge, snake catching is his escape from reality. He started catching these poisonous snakes shortly after he lost his father to cancer when he was a child.

"When you're out there looking for a snake, you aren't thinking about nothing else," Etheridge said. "You aren't worrying about what time it is or trying to figure out what is happening tomorrow."

Etheridge has been catching cottonmouth snakes for 30 years and said he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

"When I come to that slew or that creek and that cottonmouth is across the river, laying on that bank in a pile and has its head up and has the tan cotton under its chin my heart races, just like the first time," Etheridge said.

When he's not snake hunting, Etheridge preaches across the country and talks about the importance of facing your fears.

"I just want to give somebody encouragement and give them a fresh drink of water in their life and help them move on," Etheridge said.

One way he does this is by taking people out with him when he goes snake hunting.

"It is for people who have a fear in their life that they can't overcome," Etheridge said. "If you can overcome something like this you can overcome everything."

While some find this hobby terrifying, Etheridge said it's just a way of life for him.

"It teaches you to be more calm, more collected about things," Etheridge said.  "You don't react with anger or burst out when you learn to go out and you have to use your mind and think straight and you can't get crazy or you get bit."

Etheridge said he catches about 50 to 100 of these snakes every year.