How to Snipe Hunt

During my recent (and first) visit to Yosemite, I went on a snipe hunt, a complex and worthwhile execution of tom-foolery guaranteed to liven campfires for years to come. If you’re looking to have fun on your next camping trip, lead a snipe hunt with willing friends and family. Here’s a guide I put together with the help of Wikipedia and an unsuspecting, but good-sported cousin.

HOW TO SNIPE HUNT

Common snipe captured by night vision camera

OBJECT

To lead a snipe hunt, a form of wild-goose chase or practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. Inexperienced campers are told about a bird called the snipe as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it.

In the Boy Scouts of America, new scouts are often sent to go on a snipe hunt, ask other camps for some elbow grease, a bacon stretcher, find an inflatable dartboard, or borrow a “cup” of propane.

Around the Campfire: Setting up the Catchers

PLAYERS

  • Snipe Flushers, practical jokesters
  • Snipe Catchers, unsuspecting newcomers

EQUIPMENT

  • Catching Bags
  • Flashlights

GAME PLAY

During a camping trip, preferably at night while around the campfire, experienced campers encourage newcomers to join their snipe hunt, a rite of passage that involves catching an imaginary bird.

SET UP

Snipe Flushers (experienced hunters duped in previous snipe hunts) tell Snipe Catchers (unsuspecting newcomers) about the snipe, a family of shorebirds which are difficult to catch, so much so that the word “sniper” is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.

Catchers are told that the snipe is a nocturnal, flightless bird who lives in bushes, and can be flushed out by simple methods, which can include banging rocks together, making strange noises or imitating Fran Drescher of The Nanny. Catchers are encouraged to practice the snipe call again and again.

THE CALL

Players set out on their journey through a dark wood, preferably on a moonless night, armed with flashlights and bags for Catchers. Players hike to a previously chosen snipe hunting ground—a hilly area with bushes is best. It is important to be quiet, so as not to ‘scare’ the snipe away or alert them to your presence.

FLUSHING & CATCHING

Catcher assumes the snipe hunting position

Flushers climb to the top of the hill with the intent to ‘flush’ the snipe out of the bushes while unsuspecting Catchers wait eagerly at the bottom of the hill to catch the snipe, posed in awkward, embarrassing positions, such as with their rears in the air and bags between their legs.

Catchers repeat the snipe bird call again and again until Flushers charge the bushes, to ‘flush’ the imaginary snipe into the Catchers’ waiting bags.

Excited Catcher with bag in hand

WINNING THE GAME

Flushers should yell that they have seen the snipe, pointing into bushes and trees, until the Catchers, not wanting to be the only one who can’t see the imaginary snipe, will also claim that they too have seen them and run around searching for the birds.

THE RESULT

Flushers return to camp victorious, and although Catchers return empty-handed, they are wiser, and more confident as newly initiated Flushers for future snipe hunts.

Please note: This is only one derivative version of snipe hunting. Experienced Snipe Hunters are encouraged to use their imaginations when contriving new, more embarrassing methods for catching snipe, including  new positions and calls for Catchers. In some versions, Winning the Game can include ditching the Catchers and running off so that they can find their own ways back to the campsite.

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  • © 2014 Jen Palmares Meadows
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