Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Snipe hunt: No joking matter

I've taken kids out on snipe hunts armed with gunny sacks and flashlights. My son still thinks that a snipe escaped through a hole in his Scout leader's gunny sack.
But snipe hunting with a shotgun is no joke. In fact, it's the most humbling shooting I've ever experienced.
On a trip to northern Montana last week, snow and rain limited our hunting trips to areas off paved roads, since any other roads had turned to greasy, gumbo mud. So we hit the same area three days in a row, originally for pheasant but on the third day strictly for snipe.
Wilson's snipe are a migratory bird that pass through areas on their way south each fall. The marshy areas they favor can be empty of snipe one day, but chock full the next. For the hunter, that means you have to be in the right place at the right time.
Which we were. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we spotted snipe on a small pothole. Snipe were continually flying in and out of wetlands. It was snipe heaven.
But lots of snipe only guarantees lots of snipe shooting. The small birds are notoriously hard to hit, with a zig-zag flight pattern that will drive you crazy. I went through probably a box and a half of shells and harvested only seven birds.
Not many people hunt snipe. My friend Pman is a big fan of them. Wyoming Wildlife magazine editor Chris Madson also chases snipe. On the table, they are a delicacy with dark, rich-flavored meat. But you need to shoot some first.
And that's no joking matter.