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Proper Gear for Snipe Hunting

Proper Gear for Snipe Hunting

A snipe wading through mud in a field,

It does not take much gear to take up snipe hunting

I love gear. 

There, I said it. Paging through the fall hunting catalogs, reading annual gear guide reviews, and doing online research—who doesn’t like expanding their arsenal of hunting gear and gadgets? I’ve even been fortunate enough to claim a dedicated walk-in closet as my “gear room” to neatly organize and store everything.

But when it comes to pulling out gear for a day of snipe hunting, a minimalist approach is all that’s called for. That means less time sorting gear and going over checklists and more time in the field. In fact, if you’re doing any sort of upland or waterfowl hunting now, your bags may already be packed. Shotgun, shells, and boots. Boiled down, this is all you really need. 

READ: Bird Hunting Does Not Have to Be Expensive

Three essential pieces of snipe hunting gear 

Choosing a shotgun for snipe

We can save the merits of break-action verse autoloaders for another day. We can ignore the nostalgia of classic American doubles for now. All you need is a reliable shotgun that you are comfortable shooting. Pump, semi-auto, O/U, SxS—it really doesn’t matter so long as you have confidence in the gun. 

Gauge-wise, snipe are consistently hunted with everything from 12-gauge to .410. Obviously, the bigger the gauge the more shots downrange, but also the greater propensity for damaging the meat. Gauges 16, 20 and 28 are ideal snipe gauges. If 12 is all you have, no problem. When waterfowl and snipe season overlap, the 12-gauge becomes an attractive choice for mixed-bag situations.  

Best shot size for snipe hunting

A mature snipe isn’t much bigger than a dove, about 9-11 inches long, and only takes a pellet or two to knock down (Read the species profile). Nos. 7 1/2 to 9 shot give you the knockdown-to-shot count you want. No. 8 is what I’ve settled on over the years and tend to buy in bulk. 

Non-toxic regulations vary, so it’s important to check your local regulations. When in doubt, call Fish and Wildlife. If you’re planning to do any mixed-bag waterfowl and snipe hunting, then 100 percent you need to be shooting steel. For situations like this I find No. 6 steel to be a good crossover load for both snipe and teal. 

READ: Teal Hunting 101

Rubber boots

Snipe are found in and around mud and shallow water, making a comfortable pair of tall rubber boots an essential piece of gear (Read the habitat guide). Taller is always better—not because you will find snipe in 14 inches of water, but keeping your feet dry from the splashes and deeper crossing is key. Focus on all-day comfort so you can lay down the miles. It’s not uncommon to walk four to five miles during a hunt.

Hiking boots can do in a pinch, but expect wet feet. Hip waders are at the other end of the spectrum, but tend to be more restrictive and tiring to walk in.   

The ‘nice to have’ 

Shoes, shotgun, and shells in hand, what else do you need? 

Game vest or backpack

Having a place to hold your shells, birds, water, and personal items is the one piece of gear that straddles the essentials and optional list. Can you make due without it? Yes. Do I recommend doing so? No. If you already have a favorite upland game vest, you’re all set. If not, a backpack, fanny pack, or even a shell pouch for clay targets would do the trick. 

Everyday basics

Every upland hunter should be prepared for when they head afield. Depending on the circumstances of your particular hunt (time of day, distance, dogs, etc.) your personal items will vary. Inside my bird vest you will usually find:

  • Plenty of water
  • Snack bars
  • First-aid kit for me and the dog
  • Flashlight
  • Knife
  • Lighter
  • Whistle 

Ready, set, go!

Now that you know what you need, it’s time to plan a hunt during your state’s snipe seasons. State seasons line up with the southern migration starting in September in northern latitudes and running well into February in the southern reaches of the U.S. 

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