Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

How an Expert Trapper Catches Huge Snapping Turtles in Indiana

When Bill Haywood was 10 years old, he was trapping snapping turtles that weighed more than he did using traps he built, local bait, and self-taught techniques. Decades later, he’s teaching his 16-year old son Canaan all he's learned and is seeing more success than he ever did trapping solo. On Memorial Day weekend, acting on his trapper’s instincts, the duo caught the largest snapper Haywood has seen in 17 years—one that could claim the title for largest living snapping turtle.

Raised in rural Indiana, Haywood says his lifelong fascination with snapping turtles began with stories from his grandfather; folk legends replete with massive snappers, unconfirmed sightings, and nicknames like The Beast of Busco.

“I heard my grandpa tell a story of a giant turtle in Churubusco, Indiana. According to him, this farmer claims he saw a huge turtle that weighed hundreds of pounds. Word spread, and people came by the scores to try to find it,” Haywood says. “They named it Oscar, and newspaper reporters, scuba divers, and fortune seekers went looking for it. But in the end, nobody found it, and the farmer nearly went broke trying to find the turtle... I think he ended up draining the lake but there was no sign of it. The story actually became part of the town’s identity—it has a statue of a turtle, and they have a Turtle Days festival every year.”

Without access to some of the farm ponds, Haywood learned to trap on public creeks and rivers. Though he now has access to several properties, he still builds his own traps and uses the same techniques he did as a kid.

“I build traps out of 12 gauge horse fencing so they’re three feet wide, five feet long, and two feet deep with an entrance at one end and place it shallow enough so a trapped turtle can breathe, otherwise they drown. Anyways, Indiana state law says the opening of the trap has to be above water level. Turtles find their way in, but have trouble finding their way out,” Haywood says.

“For bait, I think carp work the best. I put them in gunny sacks and drop a few in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, I chop one up with an ax and hang big chunks in empty coffee cans on the inside of the traps. As the carp thaws, the oil seeping from the meat really draws the turtles in. One 20 pound carp is enough to fill up about six traps.”

Most people wince at the idea of oily carp and catching or handling something as unattractive, or as dangerous as a snapping turtle. But Haywood, who’s also an avid hunter, says turtle trapping offers a great reason to get outside, and those that cringe at the idea, probably don’t know turtle makes excellent table fare.

“I trap a lot of muskrat, beaver and mink, and I big game hunt. But in the middle of the summer, there’s not a lot to hunt or trap, so I just trap turtles,” Haywood says. “Turtle meat is very tasty. I like to brown it in a skillet and eat it with gravy. Other people put it in a pressure cooker or make soup; however you do it, it’s really good. I keep some of the turtles that are 20 pounds or bigger. But there are still a lot of old timers around here that still love to eat turtle. I just go around and give a turtle to whoever wants one.”

While he enjoys it, Haywood points out trapping isn’t without its share of danger. Along with its hard shell, the business end of a snapping turtle is its best defense.

“It was only a matter of time before one clamped down on my hand. One bit me so hard the beak punctured through my hand and ripped off a big chunk of skin. I have a nice scar to remember that one,” Haywood says. “Once they bite down and realize they have flesh, they start pulling their head back into the shell and they don’t let go. It’s excruciating, but there’s nothing you can do. You can’t get loose. You just have to wait until they let go.”
 
Aside from the taste of turtle meat, returning home with all his fingers, and the sense of accomplishment from hanging a trophy turtle shell among his big game trophies on the wall, Haywood says he likes the challenge of it all, and each time he ventures out, he tries to trap a turtle that beats his personal best of 43 inches in length. It's a record he hasn't topped in 17 years.

This past Memorial Day weekend, accompanied by his son Canaan on their first father-son trapping outing, Haywood was finally able to break that record.

“I told [my son] my goal has always been to beat that personal record,” Haywood says. “That Friday before Memorial Day, we caught a 38 pounder that was 44 inches long, so we did what we set out to do. I jokingly said ‘take a good look at this turtle, cause it may be 17 years before you see one bigger.’”

But the next morning, in a new lake they’d never explored before, they did.

“I love trapping turtles around beaver lodges. That’s where you find the big ones. This place just looked like perfect turtle habitat. I just had a feeling about it,” Haywood says. “Tag teaming that turtle was just a great father-son experience. There were three or four other turtles in the trap with it, and when we started getting it out of the water, the big one started tearing that trap apart. I think the trap weighed over 100 pounds, and in the confusion, I accidentally knocked my son out of the boat trying to load it.”

Some states recognize record turtles, but Indiana is not one of them. However, Haywood did a little research and had the animal measured by a certified herpetologist. From what he can tell, his recent catch is one of the biggest on record.

“The shell was 19.62 inches long, but the turtle’s total length was 50.87 inches from nose to tail,” Haywood says. “There was one in Massachusetts with a 19.8 inch shell, but I think it died about three years ago, so my understanding is this could be the largest, living, wild snapping turtle on record. I’m not sure if that will ring true if I let it go, but I’m trying to find out. I still have the turtle [alive], and I can’t keep it forever.”

Haywood laughs knowing that as quickly as he helped his son set the bar to judge future turtle catches, he helped him raise it, but insists even if it takes another 17 years to break his personal record, he’ll enjoy every second of it.

“So far this year, my son and I have been trapping three weekends and have got 123, which came out to 1,400 pounds of turtle,” Haywood says. “We just enjoy it. It’s simple fun, and that’s sometimes hard to find.”

Photos courtesy of Bill Haywood and Ted Rose

Comments (21)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Carl Huber wrote 38 weeks 3 days ago

Good for you Bill. I have seen a few tutles, but nothing near as large. Enjoy the times with your son.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Priebe wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

Turtle is really good eating. I grew up in Indiana and My father-in-law and I caught a monster on a trot line and my father-in- law had cleaned out his truck and forgot to put his turtle hook back in. He handed me the line while on the shore and that turtle wasn't happy and dug his claws in the mud and broke the line. I hate to say it but I was glad cause I didn't know how I was going to control it. :-)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Priebe wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

Turtle is really good eating. I grew up in Indiana and My father-in-law and I caught a monster on a trot line and my father-in- law had cleaned out his truck and forgot to put his turtle hook back in. He handed me the line while on the shore and that turtle wasn't happy and dug his claws in the mud and broke the line. I hate to say it but I was glad cause I didn't know how I was going to control it. :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gary Devine wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

I love snapper soup with a little sherry.

My youngest brother was out fishing in a New Jersey marsh with a fishing buddy and came across a snapper hunter. This snapper hunter caught them and sold their meat to restaurants.

The snapper hunter would put a large pole four feet down in the mud and at the top end of the pole he had a metal leader with a dead fish on a large weakie hook. He also attaches a sealed plastic milk jug to keep the bait floating near the surface in the tidal water. The next day a snapper turtle would be floating in the water next to the empty milk jug.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

here's an idea- let that monster go in a big pond that he is unlikely to migrate from and catch him again in about 5 years so you guys can set a new record!

and also so that magnificent creature gets to live a bit more

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Recoil Rob wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

I always stop when I see a snapper crossing the road and get it to the side it wants to go, nothing uglier than a turtle hit by a car. I used to think it was OK to pick them up by the tail until I took a minute to Google it.

I'm happy this guy is having a good time catching turtles with his son but if, as the article suggests, he intends on releasing the big one he should be smarter than to hang it by it's tail. That's the worst thing to do with one of these animals, it can severely cripple the spinal column.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scout79 wrote 38 weeks 1 day ago

I love snapping turtles, both common and alligator as I have had the pleasure of working with both. The common snappers, in my opinion, are more dangerous to handle because of their super long necks and general foul dispositions. However, I raised one from the time he was the size of a hamburger for the college I both attended and worked for. Tommy, as they called him, was so easy-going! You could carry him around like a big, fishy, baby! He liked to wander the hallways, visiting all the classrooms in the Biology Department. The only time I saw him get upset was when someone tried to feed him a Snickers bar. He snapped at it when it hit the water, then instantly raked it out of his mouth and shook his head. If ever a snapping turtle could be grossed out, it was then! Now he lives at a reptile house with a bunch of juvenile alligators who he pervs on. He's kinda confused.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 38 weeks 20 hours ago

Yeh Recoil Rob I too was wondering what sort of damage hanging a heavy animal like that by his tail might do. Would love to hear a report from these guys as to what the final fate of "Gamera" is.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from michigansnapper wrote 38 weeks 4 hours ago

Catch it, kill it as humanely as possible, and eat it, but don't hang the darn things by thier tail like that. Would you hang a thrashing buck from a tree by it's hind leg? Look up "ascending necrosis." I like the way they catch them; it prevents the turtle from drowning, especially if an endangered, native alligator snapping turtle is accidentally caught.
Why are they measuring the full length of the turtle? Herpetologist typically measure SCL, Straight Carapace Length. Tails can be nipped by other animals, so full length doesn't give as good of true measurement, but a caliper over the shell doesn't lie.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Peeler wrote 37 weeks 6 days ago

That is cool, I also trap what we call "mud turtle" in North Carolina and also use a similar trap that I learned how to make from some of my grandpaws old traps. When my grandpaw was younger, he and my dad would reach under the banks pulling them out by hand. I have also taught my son to trap turtles. Very cool story I can relate to.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Boyd wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

I am from Indiana and have caught many snapping turtles over the years while fishing for catfish and/or carp. They are pretty awesome and I always did my best to get them back in the water unharmed. I always heard stories about enormous turtles in certain bodies of water. The biggest one I ever saw was while fishing in KY. It was big enough that it couldn't get itself in to a 55 gallon drum!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Toby Bowmaster wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

my uncle and i used to catch these along the rivrers of PA.while fishing..i once saw one in a locale lake that looked like it could top 50lbs or better..but i only saw it one time..anywho..they are excellent tablefare..i like turtle soup...but it takes alot of boiling to get that muddie taste out of em--.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blowfly basher wrote 36 weeks 6 days ago

So you enjoy it...do they?....What's the drive to continually catch animals?...I've heard the litany of excuses but I am speaking of the human drive which not to catch ONE to examine, but to catch or kill numerous of them.

Not intentionally harming wild creatures is one thing but hurting or eating them.....something is rank in that when one can easily eat something else. My opinion is that there is something seriously mentally ill about what is being shown in thses photos.I don't see this as some admirable event at all.

As far a trapped creature hurting people who catch them...why not?... nothing could be more deserved nor more natural.There's nothing natural for intelligent humans in doing what I see here to Turtles...When our antecedents were killer apes up the tree,coparatively brainless but cunning, visious,unsentimental and sadistic addicts to protein belonging to others.

I say let nature be nature without the perversion demeaning of it. The diseases and fungi you carry, you bring to them. We are , without doubt the greatest curse to the world itself, ever to live on this planet.Some are just worse than others...

-5 Good Comment? | | Report
from razorback red wrote 36 weeks 3 days ago

When I was growing up I used to catch turtles on jug lines in our farm ponds. When I was about 10, I caught a 20 pounder and brought it to my grandmothers house as the family was gathering there for a cookout. My older cousins and I put the turtle on a pinic table and started teasing it with sticks to get it to snap them. My father drove up and when he saw what we were up to he told me that if got bit by that turtle a good ole whippin was in my future. As soon as my dad went inside, my cousins put down their sticks and started daring me to touch the turtles nose. The first time I tried, I got snapped and blood gushed everywhere. Remembering my fathers warning, I went over to a bobwire fence and dribbled some blood on it and then told my dad I had cut myself crossing the fence. He said it looked rusty so I would need a tetanus shot. I was more afraid of a shot than a turtle so I tried to change my story saying that I might have cut it on a piece of farm equipment before I crossed the fence. Of course, dad saw through this and I ended up with a whippin and a tetanus shot. I have heard that when a snapper bites he won't let go until it thunders. I'm not sure about that but I do know that when my dad whips he don't stop until a lesson has been learned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jadeezra wrote 36 weeks 1 day ago

Wow you would think Field and Stream would do a little research...... Not going to say anything but WOW. DNR seizures, a big buck 200 plus buck 4 years ago that was questionable at best. This stuff literally is the definition of fishy. Way to do your research before posting an article. This is classic.......Local and very informed/connected.

Edit- this is all up to the eye of the beholder, I'm not naming anybody including this guy. Take that how you would like.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jadeezra wrote 36 weeks 1 day ago

Wow you would think Field and Stream would do a little research...... Not going to say anything but WOW. DNR seizures, a big buck 200 plus buck 4 years ago that was questionable at best. This stuff literally is the definition of fishy. Way to do your research before posting an article. This is classic.......Local and very informed/connected.

Edit- this is all up to the eye of the beholder, I'm not naming anybody including this guy. Take that how you would like.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from melcher06 wrote 35 weeks 6 days ago

I wonder if the fly blower realizes this isn't a PETA website?

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from realtreegamehunter wrote 35 weeks 5 days ago

this summer me and one of my buddies were hand catchin snappin turtles and he caught a 26 pounder and it was huge...the na couple weeks later i caught my record, which was 34 pounder and it was massive til i saw this beats haha, thats a awesome snapper

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from cameronreed09 wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

that's a great idea cause there's nothing ever going on in summer i might start trapping them myself, thanks for the great idea!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deedeemorgan1 wrote 24 weeks 3 days ago

This is very impressive. There aren't many turtles in the area of Oregon where I live but my daughter stopped in the middle of I-5 Interstate to save a 6" turtle crossing the freeway. Brought it home and took it to a party. She wears here ovaries on the outside!!! Congratulations

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deedeemorgan1 wrote 24 weeks 3 days ago

This is very impressive. There aren't many turtles in the area of Oregon where I live but my daughter stopped in the middle of I-5 Interstate to save a 6" turtle crossing the freeway. Brought it home and took it to a party. She wears here ovaries on the outside!!! Congratulations

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Recoil Rob wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

I always stop when I see a snapper crossing the road and get it to the side it wants to go, nothing uglier than a turtle hit by a car. I used to think it was OK to pick them up by the tail until I took a minute to Google it.

I'm happy this guy is having a good time catching turtles with his son but if, as the article suggests, he intends on releasing the big one he should be smarter than to hang it by it's tail. That's the worst thing to do with one of these animals, it can severely cripple the spinal column.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from michigansnapper wrote 38 weeks 4 hours ago

Catch it, kill it as humanely as possible, and eat it, but don't hang the darn things by thier tail like that. Would you hang a thrashing buck from a tree by it's hind leg? Look up "ascending necrosis." I like the way they catch them; it prevents the turtle from drowning, especially if an endangered, native alligator snapping turtle is accidentally caught.
Why are they measuring the full length of the turtle? Herpetologist typically measure SCL, Straight Carapace Length. Tails can be nipped by other animals, so full length doesn't give as good of true measurement, but a caliper over the shell doesn't lie.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from realtreegamehunter wrote 35 weeks 5 days ago

this summer me and one of my buddies were hand catchin snappin turtles and he caught a 26 pounder and it was huge...the na couple weeks later i caught my record, which was 34 pounder and it was massive til i saw this beats haha, thats a awesome snapper

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Peeler wrote 37 weeks 6 days ago

That is cool, I also trap what we call "mud turtle" in North Carolina and also use a similar trap that I learned how to make from some of my grandpaws old traps. When my grandpaw was younger, he and my dad would reach under the banks pulling them out by hand. I have also taught my son to trap turtles. Very cool story I can relate to.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carl Huber wrote 38 weeks 3 days ago

Good for you Bill. I have seen a few tutles, but nothing near as large. Enjoy the times with your son.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Priebe wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

Turtle is really good eating. I grew up in Indiana and My father-in-law and I caught a monster on a trot line and my father-in- law had cleaned out his truck and forgot to put his turtle hook back in. He handed me the line while on the shore and that turtle wasn't happy and dug his claws in the mud and broke the line. I hate to say it but I was glad cause I didn't know how I was going to control it. :-)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gary Devine wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

I love snapper soup with a little sherry.

My youngest brother was out fishing in a New Jersey marsh with a fishing buddy and came across a snapper hunter. This snapper hunter caught them and sold their meat to restaurants.

The snapper hunter would put a large pole four feet down in the mud and at the top end of the pole he had a metal leader with a dead fish on a large weakie hook. He also attaches a sealed plastic milk jug to keep the bait floating near the surface in the tidal water. The next day a snapper turtle would be floating in the water next to the empty milk jug.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

here's an idea- let that monster go in a big pond that he is unlikely to migrate from and catch him again in about 5 years so you guys can set a new record!

and also so that magnificent creature gets to live a bit more

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scout79 wrote 38 weeks 1 day ago

I love snapping turtles, both common and alligator as I have had the pleasure of working with both. The common snappers, in my opinion, are more dangerous to handle because of their super long necks and general foul dispositions. However, I raised one from the time he was the size of a hamburger for the college I both attended and worked for. Tommy, as they called him, was so easy-going! You could carry him around like a big, fishy, baby! He liked to wander the hallways, visiting all the classrooms in the Biology Department. The only time I saw him get upset was when someone tried to feed him a Snickers bar. He snapped at it when it hit the water, then instantly raked it out of his mouth and shook his head. If ever a snapping turtle could be grossed out, it was then! Now he lives at a reptile house with a bunch of juvenile alligators who he pervs on. He's kinda confused.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 38 weeks 20 hours ago

Yeh Recoil Rob I too was wondering what sort of damage hanging a heavy animal like that by his tail might do. Would love to hear a report from these guys as to what the final fate of "Gamera" is.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joshua Boyd wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

I am from Indiana and have caught many snapping turtles over the years while fishing for catfish and/or carp. They are pretty awesome and I always did my best to get them back in the water unharmed. I always heard stories about enormous turtles in certain bodies of water. The biggest one I ever saw was while fishing in KY. It was big enough that it couldn't get itself in to a 55 gallon drum!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Toby Bowmaster wrote 37 weeks 2 days ago

my uncle and i used to catch these along the rivrers of PA.while fishing..i once saw one in a locale lake that looked like it could top 50lbs or better..but i only saw it one time..anywho..they are excellent tablefare..i like turtle soup...but it takes alot of boiling to get that muddie taste out of em--.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from razorback red wrote 36 weeks 3 days ago

When I was growing up I used to catch turtles on jug lines in our farm ponds. When I was about 10, I caught a 20 pounder and brought it to my grandmothers house as the family was gathering there for a cookout. My older cousins and I put the turtle on a pinic table and started teasing it with sticks to get it to snap them. My father drove up and when he saw what we were up to he told me that if got bit by that turtle a good ole whippin was in my future. As soon as my dad went inside, my cousins put down their sticks and started daring me to touch the turtles nose. The first time I tried, I got snapped and blood gushed everywhere. Remembering my fathers warning, I went over to a bobwire fence and dribbled some blood on it and then told my dad I had cut myself crossing the fence. He said it looked rusty so I would need a tetanus shot. I was more afraid of a shot than a turtle so I tried to change my story saying that I might have cut it on a piece of farm equipment before I crossed the fence. Of course, dad saw through this and I ended up with a whippin and a tetanus shot. I have heard that when a snapper bites he won't let go until it thunders. I'm not sure about that but I do know that when my dad whips he don't stop until a lesson has been learned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Priebe wrote 38 weeks 2 days ago

Turtle is really good eating. I grew up in Indiana and My father-in-law and I caught a monster on a trot line and my father-in- law had cleaned out his truck and forgot to put his turtle hook back in. He handed me the line while on the shore and that turtle wasn't happy and dug his claws in the mud and broke the line. I hate to say it but I was glad cause I didn't know how I was going to control it. :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jadeezra wrote 36 weeks 1 day ago

Wow you would think Field and Stream would do a little research...... Not going to say anything but WOW. DNR seizures, a big buck 200 plus buck 4 years ago that was questionable at best. This stuff literally is the definition of fishy. Way to do your research before posting an article. This is classic.......Local and very informed/connected.

Edit- this is all up to the eye of the beholder, I'm not naming anybody including this guy. Take that how you would like.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cameronreed09 wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

that's a great idea cause there's nothing ever going on in summer i might start trapping them myself, thanks for the great idea!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deedeemorgan1 wrote 24 weeks 3 days ago

This is very impressive. There aren't many turtles in the area of Oregon where I live but my daughter stopped in the middle of I-5 Interstate to save a 6" turtle crossing the freeway. Brought it home and took it to a party. She wears here ovaries on the outside!!! Congratulations

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deedeemorgan1 wrote 24 weeks 3 days ago

This is very impressive. There aren't many turtles in the area of Oregon where I live but my daughter stopped in the middle of I-5 Interstate to save a 6" turtle crossing the freeway. Brought it home and took it to a party. She wears here ovaries on the outside!!! Congratulations

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from melcher06 wrote 35 weeks 6 days ago

I wonder if the fly blower realizes this isn't a PETA website?

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jadeezra wrote 36 weeks 1 day ago

Wow you would think Field and Stream would do a little research...... Not going to say anything but WOW. DNR seizures, a big buck 200 plus buck 4 years ago that was questionable at best. This stuff literally is the definition of fishy. Way to do your research before posting an article. This is classic.......Local and very informed/connected.

Edit- this is all up to the eye of the beholder, I'm not naming anybody including this guy. Take that how you would like.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blowfly basher wrote 36 weeks 6 days ago

So you enjoy it...do they?....What's the drive to continually catch animals?...I've heard the litany of excuses but I am speaking of the human drive which not to catch ONE to examine, but to catch or kill numerous of them.

Not intentionally harming wild creatures is one thing but hurting or eating them.....something is rank in that when one can easily eat something else. My opinion is that there is something seriously mentally ill about what is being shown in thses photos.I don't see this as some admirable event at all.

As far a trapped creature hurting people who catch them...why not?... nothing could be more deserved nor more natural.There's nothing natural for intelligent humans in doing what I see here to Turtles...When our antecedents were killer apes up the tree,coparatively brainless but cunning, visious,unsentimental and sadistic addicts to protein belonging to others.

I say let nature be nature without the perversion demeaning of it. The diseases and fungi you carry, you bring to them. We are , without doubt the greatest curse to the world itself, ever to live on this planet.Some are just worse than others...

-5 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

bmxbiz-fs