Mississippi men go snake-grabbing for fun

CHATHAM, Miss. -- One man's worst nightmare is what another might call good ol' Southern fun.

For one group of self-proclaimed Mississippi rednecks, it doesn't get much better than wading around in murky waters, looking for snakes to grab with their bare hands.

"Nothing else like it," said Brent Shorter, owner of Shorter Productions and employee at the Pelahatchie and Scott County sheriff's offices.

A three-hour drive southwest of Memphis in the heart of the Mississippi Delta sits scenic Lake Washington, where you'll find these country boys with an unusual idea of a good time.

You may call it stupid, but they call it snake-grabbing.

And believe it or not, this is what they do for fun.

These aren't your average rednecks – when they're not seeking out slithering serpents, they're looking for bad guys.

They all work in law enforcement, from sheriff’s offices to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

But snakes are what brings them together.

It all began with Jimmie Nichols more than 10 years ago.

Growing up in the country, he’s always had a thing for snakes.

And one by one, he recruited the other guys.

Some were a little easier to convince than others.

Lawrence County Deputy Sheriff Shane Gibson recalls the first time he was asked.

"'Uhhh, go catch snakes?'" he said. "They said, 'Yea, yea.' I said, 'with what?' And they said, 'our hands.' And I said, 'sign me up! I'm in, let's go!' So we've been doing it ever since."

"When I first saw the video, Shane tried to get me to come out there with him, and I said what everybody else says, I said, 'That's the dumbest thing I've ever seen, no,'" said Brad Vincent with the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

But soon enough, he found himself on the fast track to snake-hunting.

"It didn't take me very long before I'm thinking, 'Alright, I've got to try this.'"

"It just kind of took off," Nichols said. "We started grabbing snakes, people thought we were crazy, I guess."

The rest – as they say – is history.

"To me, it's just an adrenaline rush," Shorter said. "It's getting together with guys, doing things together, it's just a camaraderie."

"When you get out here and you see a snake that’s five or six feet long, that’s bigger than your arm, and you just look at it and go, 'If he bites me anywhere, it's going to hurt really bad,' Vincent said. "And that's just the rush."

Their bizarre hobby even landed them a short run on CMT Canada with their own show, 'Mississippi Snakegrabbers.'

"We're probably the only guys around here who are famous in Canada," Nichols said. "Nobody knows us here in Mississippi."

That turned into a snake-hunting business back here at home, called GrabUOne Outfitters.

They take people on guided tours and even host an annual snake-grabbing rodeo.

But to understand why they do it, WREG wanted to really get inside the mind of a snake-grabber and try it for ourselves.

"You'll get the full experience and you'll know exactly why we do this," Vincent said.

But before we found ourselves waist-deep in snake-infested waters, we had to know what the odds were of getting bitten by a snake.

"100 percent chance," the guys told us.

There's an art to snake-grabbing, and it begins by knowing where to look and what to look for.

Snakes like to sunbathe on low-lying branches, and the guys can tell by looking which ones are venomous and which ones aren't.

"Oh, when you get bit on the finger, that's when it really hurts," Gibson said.

But they warm me up to the idea by letting me hold a small snake for now.

A couple of hours into our adventure, I decide it's now or never.

So I wade over to a tree and go for a snake on one of the top branches.

"Grab him and just don't look," Vincent said to me. "Grab him and don't look and be quick about it, okay?"

I closed my eyes and went for it.

The snake was understandably annoyed and bit me (I can't say that I blame him), but I did it.

I may not be an expert snake-grabber, but the guys tell me I've already gotten further on my redneck snake adventure than any other reporter ever has.

And even most of them didn't catch a snake on their first try.

"You scored 100 out of 100," Gibson said. "You did outstanding. It's rare when we come out here and people come for their first experience that they catch their first snake."

If nothing else, I leave with some bragging rights, no matter how stupid the challenge.

The guys say they never hurt the snakes they catch and release every single one back into the water.

They also educate people on how to spot venomous snakes and even hold events for local charities.

In fact, their snake-grabbing rodeo began for a sick kid who also happened to be a fan.

For more information, visit them online at http://www.grabuone.com/.