Our method of carrying out the hunt was to take 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 such dumb birds that they’d run right into the open bag. For the harmless hazing to be complete, we confiscated their flashlights because we needed those lights 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 supposedly 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 and snickering around the camp fire.
When the shouts began to calm and the 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 would one day pass on the myth.
Now my own son has seen real Wilson's Snipes 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. It will probably be banned as soon as some hapless Boy Scout spends a cold night in the woods after a failed Snipe Hunt and his parents sue the BSA. So as a responsible and trained adult Scout adviser, I highly discourage this ritualistic hazing and will focus on helping them see a real snipe in nature, like these I recently saw in Star, Idaho:
|In my experience, I have seen as many Wilson's Snipes on fence posts as I have seen on the ground or on the wing. I have heard them winnowing from atop the post and during impressive flight displays.|