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Snipe Hunting is Not Just a Prank

Snipe Hunting is Not Just a Prank

A snipe walks the waters edge.

Snipe Hunting may just be the early season challenge to get you ready for other game birds.

We have all heard the old camp prank of snipe hunting. You send some unsuspecting newbie out into the dark woods with a bag to catch a snipe. The prankster says, “Just beat the trees in the right rhythm and the snipe run into the bag.” Off the prankster goes, abandoning the greenhorn. And all the other hunters are at camp drinking—and laughing at the naïve victim.

The joke has some ground in fact. Back in the 1950s, people would actually catch snipe in a method known as nightlighting. First, you would shine a large spotlight on them from a truck. A catcher standing nearby would then capture the disoriented snipe in a net. The technique went on to influence a method that some biologists later used to capture American woodcock in winter areas.

Snipe hunting is a real and difficult thing. They are called snipe, because people who successfully shot a snipe were considered to be great marksmen. They look a bit like their American woodcock cousin, with a few major differences. In North America, we have what is called Wilson’s snipe. Most mistake them for their European and Asian counterparts, the common snipe. They migrate 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 a challenge.

The setup for snipe hunting is that of the standard Woodcock hunt. You use a shotgun you can move quickly that has a wide open choke and #8s (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 lightning speeds at great distances. 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.

It’s considered a bit of an off-sport. Only a handful of hunters throughout the country pursue snipe. But the states you can hunt them in might surprise you. Growing up in Massachusetts, I had no idea snipe hunting was a thing. But Massachusetts actually has a daily bag limit of 8 birds and a 24 bird possession. What’s more exciting: the season opens September 1. That’s well before the woodcock and ruffed grouse season.

So the next time you’re looking to mix things up in the upland bird hunting scene, snipe hunting may be the challenge for you.

View Comments (4)
  • Where I come from in Ireland snipe hunting is very common and nearly always done over pointing dogs and occasionally over a well mannered Labrador. They do make some excellent shooting.

  • As an avid upland bird & waterfowl hunter, I had always heard of snipe hunting but never had the opportunity in the sense of I was never in the right place at the right time. That changed in 2016. While on a hunting trip to Cheyenne Bottoms, we came across A LOT of snipe. It was one of the most memorable hunts I had. They were fast flying and commanded my respect immediately as they dodged pellets blasted their way. They are now on my upland calender to hunt every year. Great article and information. Thanks for informing upland hunters of other huntable game birds worthy of our chase.

    • Any suggestions where I can go to hunt snipe in Massachusetts? I am new to the State but now have my licenses. I originally shot snipe in Scotland where I grew up, and more recently with a guide north of Orlando Florida. Wonderful sport. Craig

  • I have hunted Snipes for more than 45 years.
    It is not a hobby for anyone. walking in the mud for hours is demanding, and the shot incredibly fast.
    Certainly they make a circle after the flush, and they can go back to passing the acrobacies will be spectacular.
    but the etiquette, is to shot them on at the flush.
    Contrary to what everyone says, Yes, you can hunt them,with pointing dogs.
    Of course, it requires one of those dogs that also enjoy the challenge, and make them their hobby.and their passion.

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