BSU

The decline of one of America's most iconic game birds
old farmhouse at night
Photo: Matt Turner (modified from original).

I’ve been angry at our state conservation agency for a while now. I’ve been holding back on the fury, but I can’t take it any longer. Conservation agencies are charged with ensuring populations of game animals and fish are kept at sustainable numbers. And they’ve failed miserably regarding my favorite game animal.

My family was known far and wide as expert snipe hunters. Oh, the stories I heard about the talents of Dad, Grandpa and my Uncle Ted in all matters pertaining to the capture of wily snipe. I was awed with tales of vast flocks. My mouth watered as Dad talked of tasty meals prepared with snipe as the main course. Grandpa glowed with pride as he bragged of his conquests in the snipe woods.

I recall the day before my first ever snipe hunt, Uncle Ted filling my head with tales of a crafty bird that only the most skilled hunters could capture. He told me how the Native Americans, some of whose blood flowed through my veins, caught them without the use of a bag or sack of any type.

A Native hunter would find a log in snipe habitat and then dig the soil out from under the log making two gaps, one to see through and one just big enough for his arm to fit under. On the night of the hunt, the hunter positioned himself parallel to the log. He called the snipe with expertise gleaned from a woodsmanship I could never fathom. The unsuspecting snipe walked ever closer until… WHAMMO! A tawny hand shot from under the log and grabbed the bird’s legs.

While I was sure that nobody nowadays could ever pull off the hunt without a bag, I was confident with my trusty Buckthorn Farms tater sack in hand.

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As excitement ramped up in anticipation of my first ever, snipe hunt on that crisp October evening, Dad and Grandpa went over the calling technique with me throughout the day. They explained that the best way to draw in a snipe from our neck of the woods was the “bend over and whistle” call. If you followed that by screeching, “SNIPE…SNIPE” in a high-pitched voice, well, Mr. Snipe was all but plucked and buttered.

It was a beautiful night in the woods, but after three hours of snipe calling I was all tuckered out. It was also a tad scary walking out by myself, and I was puzzled to find my family back at the farmhouse. I thought they would still be in the woods, trying to push a snipe to me. Grandpa explained it all. He and the rest of my family had decided that the conditions were best for a solo hunt. They were confident the odds were better on my own. No matter, there was always tomorrow night and the next night and so on. I never lost my enthusiasm for the hunt.

But apparently snipe numbers have declined quite a bit. Despite the untold number of birds my family captured over the years before I was born, I’ve caught not a single snipe. After countless nights sitting on the back forty with a burlap bag, snipe calling my guts out, I have yet to even lay eyes on one.

I heard a rumor that the state has been trading our beloved snipe for snapping turtles and cutworms. Do they know what snapping turtles do to catfish populations? What about all the tomato plants lost to cutworms each summer? What about my right to a snipe in the sack?

Maybe other hunters are the problem. Maybe it’s the snipe hunters that use dogs. They’re just killing too many snipe. Then you have hunters that catch hatchlings before they have a chance to mature into trophies. They’re killing off our breeding population. It’s time for our agency officials to do something.

Because of these problems, and to maybe light a fire under the state agency, I’m forming my own association to champion the cause for all traditional snipe hunters. If you are interested, please send your $100 membership fee to Baggin’ Snipe Unlimited. You can find our address by typing BSU into the browser bar.

And to all you true snipe hunters out there, thank you for your support.

Comments

Wouldn't you know it, snipes are down in my neck of the woods as well. The glory days of feasting on snipe and potatoes are long gone. Maybe one day they will come back, but regardless, we must keep the new generation in the woods snipe hunting, just incase..

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