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.
Project Upland is an editorial initiative to capture the cultures and traditions of upland bird hunting. We seek to inspire a future generation of upland bird hunters to understand the essence of hunting traditions and the critical cause for conservation.