In recent weeks, several bird bloggers I follow (including Pacific NW Backyard Birder and Birdfreak) both posted about the mythical Snipe Hunt. As a veteran Snipe hunter myself I had to comment on their posts. Here is an edited version of my comments on their blogs:
I was a victim of the Snipe Hunt as a new Boy Scout at 12 years old. I then became responsible for perpetuating the Snipe Hunt on dozens of other scouts who came after me. Ahh...the memories.
Our method of carrying out the hunt was to take the young and impressionable scouts out at night into the middle of the woods or sagebrush (depending on where we were camping in Idaho). They each had a pillow case open and ready to receive the snipes that we were to scare towards them from the bush. We all “knew” that snipe were so dumb that they’d run right into the open bag. For the hazing to be complete, we confiscated their flashlights because we needed them to scare the snipes in their direction. The young scouts were left standing in a circle in the middle-of-nowhere enthusiastically calling in the snipes, while we older scouts went out into the wilderness "to scare the snipes back toward them".
I can still hear the kids hollering "Here snipe! Here snipe!" from the hills while we older scouts sat cozily sipping hot cocoa around the camp fire.
When the shouts began to quiet and new scouts finally found their way back to camp in the dark; their initiation was complete…almost instant maturity obtained by having been deceived…and once they got over their initial irritation and realized it was funny, they too knew that they would pass on the myth.
Now my own son has seen real Wilson's Snipe with me on a few occasions while out on family birding excursions. I am confident he will never become a victim of the Snipe Hunt initiation. Plus it will probably be outlawed as soon as some hapless Boy Scout spends a cold night in the woods and his parents sue the BSA, but for now, why let that stop several generations of prank perpetuation?!