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Snipes are real, and really hard to shoot

October 23, 2011 at 02:41 PM

The State Journal-Register

We country boys with sunburned necks waited with great anticipation for just one opportunity to take an unsuspecting city kid on a snipe hunt. We spent hours sitting in the hay mow, planning how we would lure a gullible greenhorn into the woods with a gunny sack and convince him or her that snipes would walk into the sack as long as they kept whistling.

Realization of that lofty goal wasn’t as easy as it sounded. First off, we didn’t know any city kids. Even those who lived in La Harpe weren’t gen-u-ine city kids. Most of them knew what snipe hunting was all about. If they didn’t, somebody’s sister would spill the beans before the gunny sack was unfolded.

To make matters worse, a lot of us lived at the end of gravel roads. No city slicker was ever going to show up unless he or she was already too befuddled to get back to the hard road. The mere suggestion of a snipe hunt might have tipped their fragile mental balance.

It was several years before I realized that the common snipe is a real bird, and that people do go snipe hunting. A common snipe looks like a scaled-down woodcock. It has a long bill, and like woodcocks, snipes are migratory birds that feed in wetland areas or along creek banks.

While there are resident snipes in this area, there are more of them when the nights get cold north of here and the birds start moving south. Snipes fly at night and feed during the day. A spot that didn’t hold any birds yesterday might be productive just before a cold front arrives.

Snipe season started Sept. 3 and continues through Dec. 18. It is a stiff challenge to your wing-shooting skills. The experts say put in the improved cylinder choke tube and use shells with 8 or 9 shot.

Snipes sit tight, flush close and then explode into the sky flying in what one experienced snipe hunter calls a zigzag pattern as they head for the trees.
Snipes are hard to hit. (The word sniper originally referred to skilled snipe shooter.) You aren’t going to get many long shots and even fewer straightaways.

Because snipes are migratory birds, get the HIP certification on your hunting license. It’s free, but it is required to hunt migratory birds.

The daily bag limit is eight birds. My experience is that you will be extraordinarily lucky to see eight snipes in a day ... maybe in a whole season. It is more likely that you and your dogs are going to be worn out before you find four. It’s important to remember that the dogs probably aren’t in hunting shape yet. They may get overheated before you do.

Snipe hunting in this neck of the woods is as tough as bird hunting gets. While I’d still leap at the chance to bamboozle an unsuspecting city kid, real snipe hunting is even harder.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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