The Snipe

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(This is the end of day two on a hunt - this story starts there)

After the last Hungarian Partridge fell from the covey and crashed in the rocks I felt relieved. The physical preparation for the last two days did nothing to compensate for the effects of altitude on the ability to breathe. Living at single digit feet above sea level and then ascending to 7500 feet without a week's acclimation does not make for easy going. I could not get the little creek that pooled up in the cow pasture below out of my head. It brought back many fond memories of days in West Virginia and North Carolina purposefully hunting the snipe that inhabited areas with an almost eerie similarity. Thankful to be going down for a final time today, I crested the rocks and picked out a cattle trail. Overlooking this valley, there it was. The "snipe bog" below - way below in the far distance. As I picked my way down I mostly forgot about my host and my dog as I replayed various hits and misses of snipe from my past in my head. Some days 25 years seems like a long time and others it seems like a blink of the eyes. Near level now, I find the water's path and begin to follow it. As I just enter the soft, bright green bog my new friend and host and my dog catch up and join me. "Good shooting on those huns, I'm glad we got one last covey up there", my host enthusiastically states. I pause and look out over the bog. "Do you know what this is" , I ask? "Cow Pool", he replies. "Where I come from, we call this a snipe bog", I say to him. My 13 gauge SxS is empty. I haven't reloaded since the last two shots, thinking the shooting was complete for the day. I reach into my right pocket and pull out two small tubes of powder. One at a time, carefully I pour the contents, one down each barrel. I look out over the bog again and I am drawn to it. Some primal ping inside that is hard to describe with words. "What are you doing"?, asks Paul. "You got a limit and I don't think there are any other birds between here and the truck", he adds. I push a card down each barrel, pour and ounce of nickel plated #7 shot and dig around another pocket for more cards. Finally two shiny white cards are located and I push them down the tubes on top of the powder. Paul is now standing with a puzzled look on his face and his hands on his hips while still waiting for an answer. "I'm going to kill a snipe", I proclaim. Paul snaps back, " I think I flushed one on the way in so it's long gone by now. Besides, nobody has ever come all the way here to snipe hunt. Heck, I don't even know anyone who shoots them, or ever did". I look out over the bog again and then back at Paul. "I can tell you don't know much about them. There is rarely ever just one as they like company. And, if one flies away unmolested it is likely to come back to the same spot within a few minutes". "Yeah, right" is all he can think to say. The little creek pools up about 50-yards from me, and the big puddle is about 30-feet wide and 50-feet long. On the other side of the pool the water escapes down a one to two foot jagged line in the grass, just like the way it came down to this point. Past the pool there is another 40-yards or so of green grass before the yellow and straw colors take back over the landscape. "Stay here", I request of Paul. I call my little dog over to me. She has run sunrise to sunset yesterday and sunrise today until now, about 6:15PM and near sunset again in these North Western mountains. I tell the dog, "Take it easy and find a bird". She has been making casts of hundreds of yards in search of the hungarian partridge, but now I need her feet away, not yards. Tired but excited, she complies. The dog makes about a 30-yard half-circle. and stops. She begins to stiffen and established a point. I try to hurry there but the soft, lumpy, wet dirt is nearly as hard to walk on as the inclines of loose rock we've come from. As I pass the dog I catch movement and see a little brown striped body scurrying down the creek. Suddenly, three snipe pop up from the grass and flutter in different directions. I am shaken from my reminiscing of previous snipe when one is silhouetted against the mountainous background. No mountains existed in W. VA. or N.C. although the bog seemed vaguely familiar. The slight distraction delayed me enough that I did not attempt to mount the shotgun. A quick flash to my left draws my attention enough to look there just in time to see one snipe land on the bog. I go to the dog and release her from the point, but heel her back to Paul. "Please keep the dog here, I'll be right back", I request. Paul says, "You're crazy". I head to the spot where the snipe fluttered down. As I am sure I am very nearby, I pull back both hammers. One step at a time for safety. There he is, the snipe is airborne. The gun comes up easy even after all these miles. I shoot and visibly see an impact on the little bird. The bird jerks right, but is still flying. Perplexed, I bear down and pull the second trigger. The view is slightly obscured from the first shot's smoke hanging in the air. The bird turns hard to the left and then gains some altitude. I run forward about 3-bounds to get out of the smoke cloud. Fixated on the twittering bird that continues dipping left and right I concentrate. The bird is descending fast right at the end of the bog. Just past the green line the bird sets down, but I see a "roll" of white. "I got it", I say to nobody but myself. I motion to Paul who begins my way with the dog. As Paul nears, I go straight to the spot where the bird did it's summersault. Paul catches up and so does the dog. "It's gotta be right here", I say with uncertainty. Paul and I spread out with the dog between us. Doubt sets in. I am replaying this event in my mind and saying out loud "It has to be right here". Doubt starts to grow into a mix of panic and disappointment. I just know I got that bird. Paul breaks the silence that has lingered too long. "She's got it", he says referring to the dog. He take the little snipe and hands it to me. I brush its feathers and put it to my nose to see if I can smell it. "Thank you, Paul" I say, "We can head to the truck now". "You're crazy", Paul says once again.
SNIPE.jpeg
 
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Great story - Thank for taking time to write it up for us!

I have a real love/hate relationship with those little demons. I will always remember one opening day pheasant hunt when the snipe were so thick you couldn’t go 10 steps without putting one up. I ran out of shells and my buddies were threatening violence if I didn’t stop begging ammo from them!
 

Feltwad

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Had some good days at snipe here in the UK but that was 50 years ago then there were plenty of birds and more bogs for them to feed, sadly today these are few. I have seen up too 40 birds flushed from a 1/2-mile wet gill full of rushes with a spaniel. If it was a windy day birds were wild and walking them up did not work it was best to drive them to the guns has, they rose to far in front and out of shot, on a fine day it was different bids sat tight this is where a spaniel came into its own because it was quite easy to walk past them when they sat tight
I have shot with some good snipe shots, and I have seen one old gentleman shoot two snipes with one shot several times when two birds rose together and crossed at 30 yards. Has I have said those days are gone snipe are now few and snipe drives are gone these birds should now be on the danger list if not they will become extinct in the near future.in most parts of the UK
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Sounds like a great time. Heading up to Northern MN in a couple of weeks for grouse. My buddy is up there right now hunting and said the timberdoodles were really flying last evening.

It will be my Epagneul Breton first real hunt.

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fleener

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Snipes and woodcocks are both wading birds, belonging to the family Scolopacidae; both birds resemble each other a lot in their looks, but they differ significantly in terms of diversity, behaviour, and distribution.

With 25 species in three genera, snipes are three times more diverse than woodcocks, who have just eight species in one genus. Both these birds also differ in terms of their body size; woodcocks have stocky bodies that are about one feet long in size, as compared to snipes, whose bodies as smaller than an average human palm. The weight of woodcocks averages around 300 grams, whereas the weight of snipes averages around 110 grams.

Woodcocks mostly live in woodlands, while snipes dwell in wetlands or muddy areas, such as freshwater marshes, ponds, and flooded fields; furthermore, the former show higher levels of endemism to their native habitats, as compared to the latter. Both snipes and woodcocks primarily feed on invertebrates, particularly earthworms. The former have a supersensitive bill (in fact one of the most sensitive bills among all birds), with which they can sense the food in the mud, whereas the latter have a long, flexible bill which allows them to find their food in the soft soil of woodlands.
 

Brokennock

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Snipes and woodcocks are both wading birds, belonging to the family Scolopacidae; both birds resemble each other a lot in their looks, but they differ significantly in terms of diversity, behaviour, and distribution.

With 25 species in three genera, snipes are three times more diverse than woodcocks, who have just eight species in one genus. Both these birds also differ in terms of their body size; woodcocks have stocky bodies that are about one feet long in size, as compared to snipes, whose bodies as smaller than an average human palm. The weight of woodcocks averages around 300 grams, whereas the weight of snipes averages around 110 grams.

Woodcocks mostly live in woodlands, while snipes dwell in wetlands or muddy areas, such as freshwater marshes, ponds, and flooded fields; furthermore, the former show higher levels of endemism to their native habitats, as compared to the latter. Both snipes and woodcocks primarily feed on invertebrates, particularly earthworms. The former have a supersensitive bill (in fact one of the most sensitive bills among all birds), with which they can sense the food in the mud, whereas the latter have a long, flexible bill which allows them to find their food in the soft soil of woodlands.
Sounds like they are "more defined by their similarities than their differences."
Woodcock don't seem that big to me.
Yes we find them in the woods, but not old woods or forest. Usually areas transitioning from field to woods,,, and always wet. Wet areas with a lot of leaf litter and brush/bushes, maybe some young maple or sweet birch sapplings,,, right between a field or old logging road and some older woods, seems ideal.
Their long thin bills actually articulate at the tip for feeling around and catching earthworms below the ground.

Thank you for the info. In the way of differences, I was wrong. I had the impression that snipe were the bigger of the two birds.

Is the meat of the snipe like that of a woodcock? Breast is about all that is worth bothering with, and that is dark meat and of a very "liver like" taste?
 
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A snipe is a wet land inhabitant. It has a neck and is smaller than a woodcock in overall length, weight and head size. There are 25 species and 3 genera of snipe. The snipe commonly hunted is the Wilson's Snipe. Snipe migrate from frozen ground to unfrozen ground in increments. When one spot freezes, they hop to the next similar unfrozen spot. Snipe migrate in small groups and do not necessarily go to the same place each year.

Woodcock are about 3X heavier than snipe. They don't really have a neck. The head is much bigger as are the eyes. Woodcock dwell in rich soil woodlots. They migrate following mostly vertical points of reference like streams, rivers and highways. They tend to go to the same place year after year. Woodcock migrate based on temperatures effect on the physiological system, not necessarily the environmental issue of freezing. The woodcock has a darker russet brown coloration compared to the snipes dark brown color. Woodcock have little white color while snipe will have white on the wings, tail and head.
 
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Woodcock are "opposite" birds as far as meat. The breast is dark and the legs are white. Snipe have a dark breast but a medium grey/pink leg meat. I've never experienced a "liver" taste. The breast meat when done right tastes and feels like thinly sliced fine steak. The legs have a lot of flavor and taste similar to a quail leg or small partridge leg. Snipe breast has a more bologna taste when cooked right. The legs have little meat and its hard to get an actual flavor out of the tiny morsel that comes off the legs. Woodcock also empty out their digestive system every single time they take flight. That is why it is common to cook them without "field dressing". The insides are left in altogether sometimes, but the intestines are commonly cooked or made into a paste to accompany the meat. I take the insides out, but I save and use the entrails. I'll get my recipe and post it next.
 
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To cook these woodcock, you remove the entrails and put them in a pan with shallots, butter, merlot, salt and pepper and parsley, thyme and oregano. Blend to purée. Put breasts and legs on broiler oven for 4 minutes, the meat will just slightly change color. Put meat in hot pan coated with olive oil. After 1 minute, pour purée over meat, stir rapidly for 1 minute, then reduce heat to a third and cover. Check every minute until breasts are rare. Prepare a French toast with egged bread, splash of milk, light berry jelly. Put the meat on bread and re-heat purée to almost boil, then pour over top and serve.
 

Brokennock

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Might as well interject a recent woodcock story here. I apologize fornthe derailment. The comment about woodcock migrating along vertical lines such as streams and roads brought it up in my mind.
A month or two ago I was driving down a fairly heavily traveled secondary state road through some woods. Water company property on one side and state WMA on the right. I saw a hawk swoop out of a tree to my left and fly down the road just ahead of me straight down my travel lane,,, barely higher than my truck roof. I finally passed under it, didn't hit it and was trying to drive and watch it in the rear view mirror as it continued straight down the lane. Then, I noticed I was gaining on a brownish colored bird flying down the road to my right over the breakdown lane. It was a woodcock.
I slowed after I passed it. Let the woodcock pass, then, as the hawk started to pass my truck above and to the left, I stuck my arm out the window and waved. The hawk flew into the trees on the left and the woodcock went straight down the road another 20 yards or so and bank into the woods on the right, landed and disappeared.
No idea if the woodcock knew it was being pursued or not.
 

Feltwad

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Can someone explain the difference between a snipe and a woodcock please?
The bird in the picture looks like a woodcock. We used to get a lot of woodcock (timberdoodles) here and shoot a few.
Around here a "snipe hunt" was a joking euphemism for taking someone out pointlessly and wasting a bunch of time.
The bird in the image is what we in the UK refer too has a Jack Snipe it is smaller than the common snipe and totally different than a woodcock in both size and plumage.
Feltwad
 

Patocazador

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I never had a dog that would point snipe but several that would flush and retrieve them. I had one Brittany that hated them and wouldn't pick one up.
I had an adopted stray that loved to flush and retrieve them. She was a real ornery dog so I named her Leela after the savage woman in the Dr. Who series.
(Sorry for the unmentionable in the picture.)
 

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