Yes, snipe hunting is a real thing; Wyoming season opens Thursday

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By Mark Heinz, Public Lands and Wildlife Reporter
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Many outdoor enthusiasts have at one time or another been on the receiving end, giving end, or both ends of the “sniper hunt” practical joke.

However, snipes are a real species of wetland bird that can be legally hunted in Wyoming; the season opens on Thursday.

That might bring at least a comforting sense of redemption to anyone who, like one of the tenderfeet at camp, has been sent into the woods at night on a “snipe hunt.”

The more experienced campmates had sworn the snipe was out there. And the best way to catch him involved ridiculous antics, like running around with his jacket over his head, yelling “snipe, snipe!”

“A sniper hunt, a made-up hunt that is also known as a chump errand, is a type of practical joke involving experienced people who taunt gullible newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task,” one entry read. from Wikipedia about the practice.

a royal bird

Wilson’s snipe is a smallish wetland bird, averaging about 3 ½ ounces, with slender, pointed bills about 2 ½ inches long. They use their bills to probe soft soil for earthworms or other invertebrates, biologist Noelle Smith said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. She is the migratory game bird and wetland biologist for the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game.

Snipe will also eat some plants, Smith said. Their bodies average 9 to 11 inches in length and they have a wing span of about 16 to 17 inches.

Be prepared for fast and difficult shots

Most snipe hunting seasons statewide run from September 1 to December 16, in accordance with the Game and Fish 2022 Mountain Bird, Small Game and Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations. The daily bag limit is eight birds. Possession limit is 24.

Unlike many ducks and geese, snipes will not come within firing range of hunters’ blinds and decoys. The preferred method of catching snipes is to shoot them from the jump, usually along the wet edges of meadows and swamps, Smith said.

When hunting snipes, expect challenging shots.

“They are fast birds that fly in a zig-zag and make a ‘getaway’ song as they run,” Smith said.

Hunters should also be aware that during hunting season snipes are often singly or in small numbers.

“Be careful of (shooting) a flock of shorebirds as they are likely to be a different species,” he said.

snipe habits

“During fall migration and early hunting season, Wilson’s snipe can be found in Wyoming watersheds throughout the state and on the eastern plains, including around moist floodplains or riparian areas within arid parts of the state,” Smith said.

“The numbers decrease during the winter. Wilson’s Godwits return statewide in the spring and breed here in the summer months,” he added.

Godwits breed in shallow, moist swampy areas, often at the edges of rivers or ponds, Smith said.

“In Wyoming, this could include irrigated floodplains, especially the wetter areas with willows and rushes,” he said. “The winter habitat is similar.”

Other snipe breeding sites include northern states and parts of Canada. During the winter, most migrate south.

“(There are) large concentrations in the Mississippi Delta, Texas and Florida,” Smith said. “Some go as far as Central and South America.”

So if you’re invited to participate in a “snipe hunt,” be sure to ask “what kind?”

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