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Monday, March 25, 2013

Successful Snipe Hunting in 10 Easy Steps

With out the snow, it would be next to impossible to see the snipe feeding in the ditch line.
At last, I have found and documented the mythical snipe!

For many rural youngsters a snipe hunt is a rite of passage.

Try as I may, I cannot find the origins of the mythical snipe hunt although I have learned  that snipe hunts are held  across the nation. I've even heard stories of them being held in parts of Europe. 

Intriguingly enough, the snipe hunt  has even found its way into popular culture as evidenced by  the television show, King of the Hill. The animated comedy series that is set in Texas featured a snipe hunt with Hank Hill and his son. Instead of snipes, the two ended up catching a whooping crane. Clearly a rookie mistake. 

Note that the small, brown toned snipe bears no resemblance to a whooping crane.

How exactly does a snipe hunt work you ask?

I should preface my snipe hunting guide with the statement that I’m not terribly sure of the global, or even the national protocol, but the southern Illinois river rat version I learned goes something like this:

Step 1 :  Gather up  a few young friends. As with many outdoor activities, this is one that serves the teenage population especially well.  The hunt, is even more enjoyable if at least one of said friends has no idea of the true workings of the upcoming “hunt.”

Step 2: Secure the sacks. Sacks are important. The sack of choice is usually a burlap gunny sack, but pillowcases are also highly favored in some areas. It’s easy to spot a newbie or weekend warrior snipe hunter; they are often seen sporting a measly paper or plastic grocery bag.  What’s most important in sack selection, is choosing one that will easily contain a rambunctious  snipe when the action heats up.

the snipe in typical sack entry preparation position

Step 3: Scout for snipes . Scouting is considered by many to be vital. While scouting for snipes can provide some pleasant times afield, it’s not terribly necessary for new snipe hunters. Sometimes it’s simply far easier to just say you were snipe scouting. Most new snipe hunters are accepting of any snipe scenario you lay out for them. 

Step 4: Determine an appropriate snipe hunt location. As the old saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location. Where exactly is the best area to take fledgling snipe hunters? Is it remote, dark, heavily wooded, stinky and even swampy? Grab the GPS coordinates – the more remote and dark an area is the more likely it will be a snipe hunting hotspot.

Step 5: Determine the best night  for snipe hunting. Snipe hunting is a clearly nocturnal activity.  Early summer evenings work especially well. Weekends after the prospective hunters may have consumed a few beverages can be particularly  productive. Snipes thrive under the cover of darkness, so a moonless night is all the better. It’s also helpful to limit the light sources that a prospective snipe hunter drags along into the woods. Minimal light is very important to a successful snipe hunt. 

Step 6: Placement of the prospective snipe hunter. Planning snipe hunter placement is of the utmost importance. The further away from the parking area, the further away from any form of humanity the better. The newest snipe hunters get the best spots. As always when introducing someone to a style of hunting, ensuring success is a huge part of keeping that hunter active and pursuing other hunting activities.  In snipe hunting the best spots just happen to be those farthest from the vehicles. 

Step 7: Set up the prospective snipe hunter: Upon getting the new snipe hunter placed in a snipe hotspot, a key step is to explain that snipe hunting is somewhat solitary. The new hunter MUST understand that in order to be successful he must stay on high alert, every ready holding his snipe sack open on the ground, to capture the snipe. The snipe will be “driven “ to the new hunter by others in the party who disappear off into the remote snipe hot spot to round up the skittish birds.
Some experienced snipe hunters  suggest having the new hunter make an attempt to  call  the snipe. Snipe seem to respond best to an oft repeated and silly sounding call. The sillier the better.

Step 8: Determine the duration of the snipe hunt. Many experienced snipe hunters disagree as to the length of time the inexperienced hunter should be left alone. However it is a common belief that it depends on the experience level of the new hunter. Some are left only a few minutes, while some have been left for hours at a time.  The key is to make the new hunter feel as uncomfortable and abandoned as possible.If shrieks and wails and crying are noted coming  from the  snipe hunter it's always nice to retrieve them immediately. Nice, but not necessary.

Step 9: Retrieval of the snipe hunter. After sufficient time has passed for the new hunter to become uncomfortable, terrorized by mosquitoes, horrified by a myriad of sounds in the nighttime woods or swamp, it becomes time to retrieve the hunter from the snipe hotspot. This is best achieved in stealthy manner in order to completely surprise the young snipe hunter. When the shrieking subsides, explain that your stealth was necessary in order to not scare off the snipes that had been driven to the hunt location.  

Step 10: Share the snipe hunting love! Help maintain the heritage of snipe hunting by sharing your new hunters snipe hunting saga, moment by moment in real time, across every social media site that you have at your disposal. Snipe hunts are legendary in some areas, and you wouldn't want the newest snipe hunter to miss his or her shot at 15 minutes of fame. Consider it an educational and conservation effort. Laugh uproariously, tease unmercifully.  No snipe hunt is successful without a great deal of laughter , teasing, and good natured ribbing. In fact. some snipe hunting tales have come to live in infamy in certain neighborhoods.


Be sure to come back tomorrow for part two of the snipe hunting series, "The Scoop on Snipe" .

Now where's my snipe sack........

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