Snipe not only real, but also good eating

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"What in the world was that?" Jim Hawkins, of Blue Springs, Mo., asked as he watched a small bird flush in front of him as he tromped through the marsh. "It looked like a small woodcock, only faster."

When I told him it was a snipe, he just laughed and said, "Yeah right." A normal reaction for anyone who had ever been on a practical joke snipe hunt.

However, there are real birds called snipe and for hunters who pursue them they know how good they are on the table as well as a challenge with a gun.

These fast flying migrants can fool hunters who know their zig-zag flight is comparable to a darting dove.

My son, David, knows what snipes are since he has hunted them. So when a question on an Iowa basic test asked if a snpe was (a) a real bird, (b) an imiganiary bird or (c) a piece of cloth, he marked (a), but it was graded as wrong.

He sent a copy of a photo I had taken of him holding a snipe and the question was dropped from the test.

Many people, when ask to go on a snipe, hunt have visions of being left holding the bag. So its no wonder that they think there is no such bird.

A friend of mine called to tell me he had some snipe he had flushed every day by a small creek on his property. He knew I liked to hunt these migrants and since the season opened on Sept. 1, I grabbed my 28 gauge and headed out to his farm.

After a recent rain there was sheet water in the field and the snipe were feeding on worms they were able to reach with their long bills.

It took several shots before I was able to drop a bird. But after hunting dove, I was ready for their eritic flight.

Since the field was within several hundred yards of a highway, several cars stopped to watch thinking I was shooting ducks. One man shouted at me saying, "Don't you know the duck season isn't open?"

Snipe migrate through the state each spring and fall, but most waterfowl hunters pass them up. They are missing some good hunting as well as excellent eating as this small brown bird is great table fare. The late Alan Guffey once told me that after he tried his first snipe he couldn't get enough.

"I had no idea they were so good and for years I passsed up shooting them," Guffey said.

Although snipe hunting isn't as popular as it was years ago, it remains a challenge for the hunters who use guns and not sacks to take their birds.

The season on snipe in Missouri opened on Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 16 with a daily limit of eight birds.

Often times snipe hunters also find rails while hunting in the marsh. These small birds are a big contrast to the fast flying snipe. The rails have a slow flight and usually drop back into the weeds just about the time you start to shoot.

Hawkins said, " The first time I shot at a rail, I shot about 10 feet in front of it because I had been shooting at those fast flying snipes. Its a very different kind of bird hunting."

Meanwhile the teal season that opened Saturday was a mixed bag for area hunters. Many teal hunters found birds while others reported finding the birds difficult.

"On Friday it looked like there were fewer than 100 teal on the area," Ken Davis, manager of the the Schell-Osage Wildlife area, said. "But Saturday morning there were around 2,000. We had 49 hunters Saturday and they shot 127 teal. As usual, on Sunday there were 38 hunters that took 46 birds. I look for a slow week before the next front moves in to push the birds our way,"

Dave Morris, Springfield, had been watching some teal using a pond near where he had been dove hunting and thought he would be able to get some teal on opening day. However, although he was at the pond before daylight, he never saw a teal all morning.

"I thought sure there would be birds using the pond, but at least I did get some doves," Morris said.

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