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, who was taught by Dick Voigt, a student of Jack McCoy’s (anyway, a good pedigree of smart turtle biologists, in my opinion). The gist of it is to submerge one’s body in the water upstream of a basking turtle — as much of the body below water as possible, so the turtle can’t see you. Then, float 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 I got decent at it 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. Epic indeed!


2) Alligator Snapping Turtle, 80 pound male, south Alabama; October 2015. While scouting a spring-fed creek for Amphiumas and Sirens during an Auburn University herpetology class field trip, I was surprised to find this bruiser male Snapper turtle cruising along the bottom of the creek! We detained him shortly for the herpetology students to get an up-close look at this special 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!