Snipe Hunting may just be the early season challenge to get us ready for other game birds.
We have all heard the old camp prank of snipe hunting. Get the unsuspecting newbie out in the dark woods with a bag to catch a snipe in. The prankster then walks off saying, “Just beat the trees in the right rhythm and the snipe run into the bag, just wait there.” Then abandoned the greenhorn to the dark wilderness as they and other hunters drink back at camp laughing at the naive victim.
The joke itself has some grounds in fact. Back in the 1950’s people would actually catch Snipe in a method known as “night-lighting” where a large spotlight on a truck would shine them, with a bird catcher holding a net to capture disoriented Snipe. This technique would go on to influence a method that some biologist use to capture American Woodcock in winter areas.
Snipe hunting is a real thing, however, and in reality a bit of challenge. In fact the name sniper is derived from the bird as people who could successful shoot a Snipe were considered to be great marksman. They do look a bit like their American Woodcock cousin but have some major differences. In North America we have what is called Wilson’s Snipe, who most mistake them for their European and Asian counterparts the Common Snipe.
They are a migratory bird. Migrating from as far north as Canada and from as far south as northern South America. Snipe like wetlands of all types and their terrain can prove to be challenging in of itself.
The set ups usually used to hunt Snipe are that of standard Woodcock hunt. A shotgun you can move quickly with a wide open choke and #8’s (non-toxic loads) to back it up. Forget trying to get a dog to point one of these little fellows. They are skittish and launch off at lighting speeds at great distances.
It has been known to be a bit of an off sport with only a handful of hunters throughout the country that pursue it. The ultimate hack to hunting them is that they always circle back to where they were first flushed. So with a little patience and some time you can close the “sniper” gap.
The states you can hunt them are a bit surprising. Growing up in Massachusetts I had no idea Snipe hunting was a thing. But there in fact is a daily limit of 8 birds and a 24 bird possession. More exciting is the season opens September 1st well before the Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse season.
So the next time we are looking to mix things up a bit in the upland bird hunting scene, Snipe hunting may just be that challenge.