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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Scoop On Snipe

Whoever said snipe hunts were a wild goose chase, didn't chase the right goose.

Yesterday I wrote about the long standing rite of passage, the snipe hunt. While many of us have participated in, or fallen victim to a snipe hunt, there are those intrepid hunters who do truly hunt the oft thought to be mythical snipe.

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Yes, the snipe does exist, and is a real bird! Here in Illinois where I live, it's also a considered a migratory game bird with a season that usually runs from early September through December. Currently the bag limit in Illinois on this fast and well camouflaged little bird is 8 with a possession limit of 16. In all honesty - I cannot imagine being able to bag 8 of these well camouflaged fast fliers in one lifetime, let alone one day. They will truly challenge your wing shooting skills.

Snipe, Snipe, snipe what is this long legged long billed bird all about?

The common snipe measures about 10 1/2 inches long and weighs about 4 1/2 ounces. It is most comfortable in shallow, freshwater marshy areas. The snipe’s brown, black and white feathering makes for outstanding camouflage in brushy areas, briar patches, fence rows  and low-growing grasses. 

Even in the snowy landscape, the snipe merely appears to be a clump of grass to the casual observer

A snipe looks a little bit like a small version of the woodcock. It’s coloration  is a bit different  , but has the same squatty body and long bill. Like the woodcock, it frequents wet areas where it’s easy to drill for worms. Snipes migrate in flocks. They fly at night and feed in wetlands and wet prairies at dawn and dusk. 

The snipe is a reclusive bird, rarely seen. This  certainly  helps fuel the mythical and legendary  tales that surround the mythical snipe hunt. Because they are so secretive and so well camouflaged, snipes are rarely noticed by those in the field, and can easily be confused when taking flight with a woodcock. Their reclusive nature and rare sightings, only enhance the belief that many people hold; that snipe do not truly exist. 

Considered a  wading bird, the snipe eats a variety of insects, earthworms, small snails and some plant matter. Its bill is long and flexible and is capable of finding food by feel alone. Snipe are often seen in ditch lines, along lake edges, and soggy, flooded, bottom ground. Have a close look at the birds congregated around the puddles in fields after a heavy rain, you may well be rewarded with a glimpse of the mythical snipe.  When startled, the birds  fly away in a zigzag pattern while emitting a high-pitched call. The thick brush they inhabit and their erratic flight makes snipe a most challenging wingshooting target.

Successful and experienced snipe hunters suggest  going  afield early and late in the day. As is common with many other migrators, the migrating flock disperses to feed. Consequently, if you flush one snipe, chances are other members of the group are scattered out nearby.
Because of the thick vegetation they inhabit, hunting them with dogs is recommended. Bear in mind that slogging through the thick heavy and wet cover, where snipe are are often found can be challenge for some bird dogs. A cross trained duck dog is often better suited to the wet and boggy conditions. The physical demands of snipe hunting can be similar to those of waterfowl hunting; slopping  through thick and wet cover, marshy, muddy, hard going in  the areas where snipe are most likely found. If you can hunt a field with small potholes of water after a heavy rain, the conditions will be much easier for both you and your canine companion. Some go so far as to consider the snipe  the most demanding of all game birds to hunt. Consequently, not many choose to pursue them. Those that do choose to pursue them often find it a challenging and rewarding experience. 

The website is valuable resource for those considering snipe hunting and contains a wealth of information, nicely prepared in one convenient location. I suggest a visit to the website, regardless of whether you are an experienced or beginner snipe hunter.

Keeping in mind that when flushed, a snipe, can  accelerate to 45 miles per hour in its first two seconds of flight, it's easy to understand why these can be a most challenging bird to bag. 

Given all of this, and also given my less than stellar wingshooting skills, I think I'll stick to hunting snipe with a camera! 

1 comment:

  1. You obviously don't hunt these birds with brown paper bags......