Friday, March 4, 2016

Life Lessons Learned While Snipe Hunting

I doubled-up on snipe with my double gun in Feb. 2016
Some wingshooting escapades can humble those who aim shotguns at game birds. The flight of the common snipe may be at the top of that list, but snipe hunting also reveals some classic knowledge. Folklore, tried and true wisdom and even an iconic nickname can all be attributed to the small brown shorebird with an affinity for mud. While the fall hunting seasons for doves, ducks and quail are still the headliners, finishing out the wingshooting season with snipe makes for a fine closing act.
Just winged him but was able to complete the retrieve
My earliest wingshooting experiences came with my father in the dove fields of Charleston, Colleton and Lee Counties. A single shot 20-gauge shotgun would suffice for my youth stature, and I remember it being very hard to connect with the darting grey birds. But eventually with enough time spent hunting doves over the years, the mystery of swinging the gun and bringing down the doves was solved. But like many other Southerners, my first snipe hunt was much different.
With the support of my entire family in evidence, this youth was told that it was time for his first snipe hunt. The elusive gamebird could be found around the edge of a filed around the end of the day. Holding a burlap bag and whistling a busy tune would be the sure fire method to catch some snipe. After being led to a neighbor’s nearby field, I was left alone to fend for myself against the snipe. After an hour of whistling and darkness setting in I walked back to the house, and my naivety was celebrated in good fun.

Looking back at that moment I’d say that the lesson learned is if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Having graduated from being a snipe hunting novice all those years ago, I still seek out the mud flats of the Lowcountry in late February for a chance to hunt some snipe. With the wet weather this year it has been a slow process to locate snipe, but with one week to go in the season I was able to visit a historic rice field and try my luck.

We walked out into the impoundment that was surrounded by quarter drains. Snipe began to get up and fly around, but so did other shorebirds, and even some leftover ducks that will be heading North very soon. I take aim at a small flock and manage to wing a snipe, causing it to slowly float down into an area with short grass. This snipe was still alive when I approached, holding its head up but unable to fly away., causing me to recall the sage advice that states one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Another lesson from snipe hunting is that the majesty of the marsh will be on full display while you trudge through the mud. Wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, waterfowl and reptiles are usually in close proximity, making for a splendid outdoor experience. Of course not everyone will think that wearing hip boots and walking through boot-sucking mud is very fun, but if you’re a true wingshooter then this is an opportunity that is not to be missed year in and year out.

To view the entire feature story in the newspaper click on Charleston Mercury.

To view past blog entries on hunting snipe click on 2011.

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