Snipe hunting is an outdoor tradition in Wisconsin that has been passed on through many generations.
The best thing about snipe hunting is how it’s a form of recreation that can bring people together in this time of turmoil and division surrounding guns. That’s because you don’t necessarily need a firearm to hunt snipe. All you really need is a burlap sack or even a well-made pillowcase.
The elusive snipe is far from easy to catch. However, it’s a North American delicacy like none other. So if you do manage to “bag one,” you’re in for a treat.
The Details on Snipe Hunting
Technically, you’re supposed to have a snipe hunting license. Stop in at your local hardware store and ask about purchasing one if you plan to take up snipe hunting regularly.
However, if you happen to be on a camping trip or visiting a friend’s cabin “up north,” you should feel free to participate in a snipe hunting excursion as long as at least one member of the party has a license and you do not exceed the bag limit for that day.
What You Will Need:
- A burlap sack or large pillow case
- Two round stones about the size of a baseball
- A whistle or better yet an official snipe call
- A really big stick
Snipe Hunting Strategy
There are many methods for bagging a snipe. The best thing you can do is follow the advice of the group of snipe hunters taking you out. It’s likely they know the behavior of the birds in that particular area.
The ideal time to go snipe hunting is well after sundown, and moonless nights are best. This is simply to help you hide from the birds.
The first step is to attract them by mimicking the sounds of other snipe. They are very social creatures especially late in the evening.
The snipe makes a variety of different sounds. One is a somewhat guttural clicking or clucking. You can imitate this noise by banging the two round stones together. However, clicking your tongue as loudly and quickly as possible works for some snipe hunters.The snipe mating call is a short, sharp chirping noise, which you can mimic with a typical whistle. Otherwise, an actual snipe-calling device may be available at your local sporting goods store, although they are difficult to find.
Other snipe calls can be made with your own vocal abilities. Ask more experienced snipe hunters to demonstrate the sound you should make.
A flashlight can also be used to attract a snipe. If you hold the beam very still in one location, you may see one of the shorebirds dash into the light. But you have to hold the flashlight very, very still for this tactic to be effective.
Finally, a large stick can be used to make scratching sounds on the ground – another common noise created by these birds. Your stick can also be used to humanely clobber the snipe after it’s in the bag.
Now it’s time to try and bag a snipe! Crouch down in a squatting position and move along the forest floor making the appropriate call for the time of year. You’ll begin hearing the sounds of the birds scurrying through the brush, or amongst the cattails if you’re snipe hunting in a marshy area.
Others in your party will alert the group if they spot a snipe. They are quick little buggers – and if you blink – you might miss them. There’s a good chance you’ll come across an entire brood of snipe. In that case, you’ll find yourself and others in a mad dash to bag them as fast as you can.
And if You’ve Read This Far….
Snipe hunting is actually a ridiculous practical joke. If you already knew that – we hope you got a laugh. If you didn’t – we may have saved you from some serious humiliation.
Those pulling off the prank will go to great lengths to persuade their victims this is a real activity. They will pretend to see snipe and discreetly toss stones to make a noise in the woods, causing the victims to believe there really are creatures running around the forest floor.
The snipe hunting trick is usually played on unsuspecting, inexperienced and gullible campers who become convinced what they’re doing is actually legit. It’s not.
But – you may be surprised to learn that snipe hunting is not completely imaginary.
The Truth About Real Snipe Hunting
I once assumed it was all fake, and didn’t even realize that a snipe is an actual bird. Even the Urban Dictionary calls it an “imaginary game bird.”
What you’ll probably find here in Wisconsin is called the Wilson’s Snipe. The Common Snipe is found in western Europe, southern Africa and southern Asia. There’s also the Pin-tailed snipe, which lives in Russia, and the Swinhoe’s or Chinese Snipe.
All types of snipe use those long bills to poke in the ground for food, and typically live near shoreline or marsh.
Randy Babb, a wildlife official in Arizona says snipe can make a great “extra” for duck hunters and are an often-overlooked game bird.
“After a morning duck hunt, hunters should walk the nearby marshy areas or other flooded vegetation. If you prefer to jump-shoot ducks, snipe are common visitors to stock tanks.”
There’s also some truth to snipe being hard to catch. If frightened off by a predator, they fly away in zig-zags, which obviously makes them pretty tough to shoot. In fact, it’s believed the word for a sharpshooter – sniper – is actually connected to the bird. British soldiers in India started using the term “sniper” in reference to hunters who were skilled enough to shoot the elusive snipe.
In Wisconsin, real snipe hunting season coincides with duck hunting season. There are quite a few DNR regulations surrounding snipe hunting. You’ll find the 2012 guidelines here (PDF). They include the fact that it is illegal to shoot snipe with an automatic shotgun, and lists the daily bag limit in Wisconsin at eight snipe.
Real snipe hunting may be less common than prank snipe hunting in the United States. But there are some very dedicated hunters out there who love bagging snipe.
If you’re interested in finding out more about real snipe hunting, check out TheSnipeHunter.com. You can learn about everything from choosing the right gun and hunting dog to more than a dozen snipe recipes! They include Bacon-wrapped Snipe, Mediterranean Snipe Breast and even Snipe Stroganoff.
What’s Your Snipe Hunting Story?
Ever been on a snipe hunt? Real or imaginary – we want to hear about it!
Tell us about how you pulled off a prank or how some buddies managed to trick you. Or if you’ve done the real thing – tell us more about legitimate snipe hunting. How do they taste? Are they really tough to shoot?
Chime in below and tell us more.
Snipe Hunting Videos
The snipe hunting prank even made it onto one of the most popular shows on prime time television back in the 1980s. The guys from Cheers tricked Frasier into a snipe hunting excursion.
This hippie in a UW sweatshirt is trying hard, but it seems like he’s having a tough time getting these little kids to buy it.
Here’s a goofy parody that turns snipe hunting into a Discovery Channel style mystery/reality show.
And finally – there is this hilariously bizarre music video tribute to real snipe hunting.