Hunters can try Snipe for a Change of Pace, a Different Taste

By Gary Lewis

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I slogged down through the boot-sucking muck in the creek bottom and up into the mud flats on the other side. I'd seen a cock pheasant fly this way and wanted to get another crack at him.

I tromped around through the tall grass on the slope and pushed to the end of some low weeds that didn't look tall enough to conceal a grasshopper.

The big rooster pheasant leapt from the ground about 10 feet in front of me, crowned 10 feet up and flew like a rocket to the cover of some 12 foot reeds a quarter of a mile away. The two shots I took fell harmlessly short.

I opened the action of my gun and pushed #8s into the twin barrels. Maybe I would jump a quail on my way after the rooster. What a great day to be hunting. The forecast rain hadn't materialized yet, I had one pheasant in the bag already and hoped for more. There were quail about and the possibility of spotting a skulking coyote in the creek bottom. 

Just a push across this muddy field to the tules and a quick climb up through the tall grass and lunch at the truck. My companions were already making their way there on the side-hill in front of me.

Almost at my feet, a little bird with a long bill waggled into the air, gaining elevation fast, zigzagging wildly on its crooked wings. It chirped once and circled behind me. A snipe! I thought about going back after it, but changed my mind. Maybe there would be more ahead of me.

I walked by the next one and it leaped skyward after I was 15 feet beyond it. A whirr of wings made me turn on my heel and I tracked it with my gun barrel as it banked hard right. I centered it, knocking it down with one shot. Wading back through the mud, I picked it up and examined the only snipe I'd ever seen at close range.

Snipe have a long bill for probing in the mud and long legs to keep their bodies out of the water. Their breasts are pale and their flanks and back are brown streaked with white. They blend perfectly with their habitat, unseen until they flush.

I flushed probably twenty more as I slogged through that muddy bog, swinging with each one, but not pulling the trigger. Just whispering 'bang' as I covered them with the barrels of my shotgun.

It wasn't that I didn't want any more of the birds, but having never eaten one before I decided I would try this one first. If it was good to eat then I could shoot more.

Upon cleaning it I found that there is no more meat in a snipe than in a dove. The meat looks the same too but the similarity ends as you lift fork to mouth. Snipe may be an acquired taste, I don't know. Tonight I had snipe, dove and quail for dinner. In my little taste test the pretty little long-beaked bird came in a distant third.

Here is a simple recipe you might try for snipe. It will work as well for dove and quail. Baste with olive oil or butter, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and ground pepper. Grill it on the barbecue, over a fire or bake in the oven at 400 degrees. Baste and turn it several times while cooking.

The common snipe can be found throughout the state. Shallow swamps, wallows, mud bogs and ditches are the favored haunts of these birds. Snipe season runs concurrent with duck seasons and the daily limit is 8.

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