Page 103 - South Mississippi Living - December, 2022
P. 103

December 2022 | 103
Without warning, a tiny screeching object exploded from beneath a grass clump almost at the hunter’s feet who didn’t know whether to shoot in
self-defense, run or hit the ground.
Such a startling event typically defines a sportsman’s first encounter with a flushing snipe.
Many people heard of “snipe hunting” as a joke. Pranksters convince a
dim-witted or gullible outdoorsmen, usually with the aid of copious amounts of adult refreshments, to visit a remote area at
night to catch snipe. The tricksters tell the neophyte “sportsman” to hold a sack while making humiliating sounds to call snipe. The perpetrators promise to beat the bushes to flush snipe so that their hunting partner can catch the creatures with the sack. Instead, the pranksters drive off, leaving
the poor fool stranded and quite literally holding the bag.
Because of the old joke, many people refuse to believe that such a thing as a snipe actually exists. Real snipe hunting, for an actual live game bird, looks nothing like
the “snipe hunting” of legend, fortunately! Among the most challenging birds to
shoot in the air, incredibly swift snipe can test even the most skilled shooters. Flying erratically, diminutive snipe seemingly anticipate shots and miraculously dodge the pellets in midair.
“People think it’s a joke when we say we’re going snipe hunting, but anyone who has ever hunted them knows they need to bring their A-game,” quipped Casey Ward, a snipe hunter.
In fact, the military term “sniper” originated with British sportsmen hunting snipe in the 19th century. Only the
best shots could consistently hit these unpredictable speedsters with the firearms of that time. Consequently, shooters skilled
enough to reliably down the little winged rockets earned the moniker “snipers.” The appellation stuck and describes an expert marksman today.
A member of the sandpiper family, snipe sport relatively long, thin wings, short tails and long probing bills with mottled grayish- brown plumage flecked in black and white. They use their long flexible bills to probe mud for food. Snipe love to devour worms, but they also eat insects, snails, grubs, small crustaceans, other invertebrates and some seeds.
People might flush snipe anywhere they find mushy soil so the birds can probe for their food. Snipe prefer open country, such as the freshwater marshes in the Pearl or Pascagoula River deltas. Snipe also thrive
in wet cow pastures, damp crop fields and spongy river, pond or lake shorelines. Their coloration provides excellent camouflage for hiding in grass clumps. A severe cold front might push thousands of migrants farther south overnight. A hard rain can create a snipe haven quickly.
Most people simply walk up to snipe, but good flushing dogs could help if they stay close to the hunters. Spread out through
a field or marsh at a safe distance and
walk through the grass. Tiny feathered firecrackers frequently freeze in cover, flushing only at the last second. As startled snipe flush, they screech with distinctive, yet indescribable raspy calls that no bird hunter would ever forget.
Mississippi sportsmen can hunt snipe through February 28, 2023, with a limit of eight per day, but few hunters intentionally pursue these birds. Sportsmen who find
a good population might quickly become addicted after one exhilarating hunt. Just bring plenty of ammunition and don’t get left holding the bag!

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