If you’re a huntsman hunting in Florida, don’t complain when a very large Florida Huntsman spider decides it wants to kill some time on your shoulder.
Even the most experienced hunters can find themselves reduced to panic and disarray despite meticulous planning, an abundance of caution, and superior weaponry.
Hunting in Melbourne, Florida last fall, Brett Austin Cannon found himself confronting the largest spider he’d ever seen.
On the side of his head.
Then the back of his head.
Then scurrying down his back.
All while dangling 25 feet alone above isolated Florida woodland with the nearest help hours away.
Cannon had been bow hunting for deer in a tree stand mounted in a tall oak for several hours when he decided to call it a day. As he unhooked his safety harness and began to climb down the flimsy ladder, something that felt like a “large hunk of Spanish moss” landed on the side of his head.
When he reached for it, though, what turned out to be a spider as large as a dinner plate scurried around to the back of his head. The huge arthropod then began looping around his neck and shoulders and down his body.
Cannon had encountered the infamous Heteropoda Venatoria, commonly known as the Huntsman Spider. The Huntsman typically grows to 5 inches in diameter and is often called the Giant Crab Spider for its sheer size.
“At that moment I kind of screamed like a little girl. I’m not going to lie. I know my man card’s on the line here,” Cannon chuckled. “My heart starts beating. I’m in panic mode because I have this giant spider on me, and I’m thinking it’s like a world record spider. I go to grab at it and it runs to the other side of my body. So I’m playing cat and mouse with this spider hanging with one arm 25 feet up in this tree.”
He had a worthy foe. The Huntsman Spider doesn’t catch its prey in webs because it is so nimble and swift, experts say. Its flattened body also enables it to scurry into surprisingly small cracks and crevices, as well as in and out of clothing.
In what seemed like forever, the spider bobbed and weaved as Cannon flapped back and forth like a hooked fish to get it off of him.
“I could not get it. The thing just crawled down my whole body, spiraling around down to my knee, then it jumped over onto the tree,” Cannon said. “You’re also thinking about all the people you’ve heard of dying out in the woods on stands. It’s serious business. People have died falling off these things. You’re out there alone, unable to call for help.”
Cannon has been hunting in Florida for over a decade. He had come across plenty of spiders, and their thick webs, in swamps and woodland across the Everglades. But what was particularly unnerving about the Huntsman was its sheer weight.
“This spider was heavy,” Cannon said. “That’s what made it feel so dangerous. I’m hanging up there and I feel the weight of this thing on me. That’s why I thought this was a hunk of Spanish moss.”
But this is where Cannon got his “man card” back. Instead of scurrying down the tree himself, Cannon had the presence of mind to reach for his phone and take a picture of the spider he had survived that now sat just a foot away from his face.
Why? “I knew that if I didn’t get a picture of this thing nobody would ever believe me,” said Cannon, who is also a world-record-holding angler. He knows that every catch or kill needs to be independently verified.
This is why you wear a safety harness. This bad boy decided to jump on my face while I was climbing outta the tree this morning. He then crawled around my headed down my back then jumped off my boot. The spider was so big I thought a squirrel landed on me. It literally scared the piss out of me, I could of easily fell out if I wasn't still in my harness. Guys and girls please be smart and wear a safety harness!