Hall of Fame Turtle Captures

If there was an Olympic event for catching turtles, I’d like to think I would be on the USA National Team. My brother Jason taught me this technique when I was in college; a skill  he learned from Brian Horne, an academic descendant of legendary turtle biologist Jack McCoy. The gist of it is to submerge one’s body in the water upstream of a basking turtle, with as much of the body below water as possible, so the turtle can’t see you. One then floats downstream toward the basking log, and sneak within arm’s reach…and then POUNCE! Pin the turtle to the log, and then procure the animal to be studied, photographed, and enjoyed, before ultimately being released into the creek. I find this exercise very fun and rewarding, and after some practice, I eventually graduated on to Expert Level captures, some of which have made it into the Hall of Fame below….

Here’s a video illustration of the typical approach technique, but for a Blanding’s Turtle that was basking on the river bank. Northern Michigan; August 2016.

5) Northern Map Turtle, northern Michigan; August 2009; my first capture!


4) Escambia Map Turtle, Yellow River, Alabama; June 2012; strong current and underwater log-snags made this capture much harder than it looked, TRUST ME.


3) Northern Map Turtle and a Midland Painted Turtle; “two-for-one”; Michigan, 2016. After scouting the situation I did not expect to yield not one but TWO turtles. Woo hoo!


2) Alligator Snapping Turtle, 80 pound male, south Alabama; October 2015. While searching a spring-fed creek for amphibians and reptiles during an Auburn University herpetology class field trip, I was surprised to find this big male Snapper cruising along the bottom of the creek! I dove down and grabbed him. We detained him briefly for the students to get an up-close look at this big but secretive species of turtle.


1) Cumberland Slider, Lake Norris, Tennessee; April 2017. As a child, I was a regular in the local suburban summer-swimming leagues, and this capture shows that all the time diving off the block finally paid off!