Diamondback Terrapin Hunting Techniques

by Clayton Yuetter

Diamondback terrapins, along with snappers, are the only turtles that can be hunted in many states. While using traps is the easiest and safest way to catch turtles, some people enjoy the thrill of hunting them. It is illegal to hunt diamondback terrapins with firearms or bows. Instead, they must be caught by hand. Some states require a license to hunt diamondback terrapins.

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Work Upstream

One useful technique when searching for turtle holes along a creek bank is to work upstream. As you move you will leave muddy water flowing downstream, which can conceal a possible turtle or make it harder to spot one. If you work upstream, however, you will be able to see into the water better and most fleeing turtles will be moving towards the clearer water.

Surround Large Brush Piles

Turtles often like to hide in brush or under logs. When approaching large brush piles along banks or in swamps it is best to surround it with other fellow turtle hunters. Searching a large area of fallen branches yourself may leave the turtle a greater opportunity to flee and escape the other side. In any case, turtle hunting is inherently dangerous and should be done with others for safety reasons.

Use a Mop Handle

For those who don't care to stick their hands, arms and other parts of their body into a mud hole or a pile of brush, a long mop or broom handle can also be used to check for turtles. Simply poke at the bottom of the creek or hole with the stick, listening for a hollow sound. Once you hear it pin the turtle down with your foot. Feel along its shell with the handle to determine where its head is and where it can be safely grabbed.

Where and When

The best place to look for diamondback terrapins is creeks, ponds, swamps and other slow moving or still water which provide food for turtles. Among other things, turtles eat fish, crayfish and frogs. The more places the area has for the turtle to hide, the more likely you will find one there. Hunting when creeks are the most dry often proves the most fruitful because it forces turtles into the fewer holes that are available, making it easier to find them.