What Is Snipe Hunting? Just a Prank or a Legitimate Hunt?

If you’ve grown up in North America, you probably know a snipe hunt as a wild goose chase that young people, especially boys, send their friends on during summer nights.

Oddly enough, snipe hunting is an actual type of hunting too.

Snipe hunting is a hunt for a small game bird (shorebird) called a snipe. The hunts usually take place in large wetland areas where the snipes can hide from predators. A typical snipe hunt is similar to a quail hunt where a small group of hunters lines up and walks to flush out birds and shoot them.

In this article, we look at the myths and facts of snipe hunting and offer tips on how to differentiate the jokes from the actual hunting experience.

A Snipe Hunt: A Practical Joke

If you have ever been asked to go snipe hunting, you probably know that most snipe hunts are nothing but a wild goose chase. A snipe hunt is a fool’s errand where a person is duped into trying to catch an imaginary animal, namely a snipe. The description of this snipe may vary from person to person.

In snipe hunting pranks, the target is brought outside, normally during a moonless night, and given instructions on how to catch the elusive snipe. These instructions can involve standing still with a bag or making noises.

While the target is trying to catch the snipe, the others leave the target in the woods alone. There, the target learns that he or she has been pranked, and they get caught “holding the bag.” This joke is common among young boys and summer camp goers.


The snipe hunt practical joke has a long-standing history in North America. As early as the 1840s, the practical joke has offered some good-humored fun to young boys and girls.

The snipe hunt got very popular in the early- and mid-20th century as it became a hazing ritual or rite of passage for groups like the Boy Scouts. It was often played on newcomers to induct them into the group.

Other countries have variations of the snipe hunt too. In France, for instance, people can be sent to hunt for the dahut. Though the dahut looks different from the snipe, the essence of the joke is the same.

Snipe Hunting

In addition to the practical joke, snipe hunting can refer to hunting an actual animal. More specifically, snipe hunting involves hunting snipes, a type of bird commonly found in wetlands.


Aside from the practical joke, snipe hunting is a real form of hunting. A snipe is a type of shorebird. The most common snipes are the common snipe and Wilson’s snipe, though some agencies make no distinction between the two. These birds are similar to a woodcock or dowitcher.

A snipe

In fact, it is easy to confuse the snipe and the American woodcock. You distinguish the snipe because it has a longer neck, legs, and bills. Snipes are also smaller than the woodcock.

These birds are foragers and spend a lot of time on the ground. Their bodies are brown and white, which makes it easy for them to blend in with their environment.

Wilson’s snipes are common throughout all of North America. They can be found in marshy or beachfront areas, but they can sometimes be found in fields too. They breed in the Northern states and around the Canadian borders only to migrate South during the winter.

Because snipes like eating worms from the ground, you will have more luck hunting snipes around watery areas like marshes or beachfronts.

How to Hunt a Snipe

The most difficult part of hunting snipes is finding their location. As the practical joke suggests, it is very difficult to find snipes. Once you find their habitat, however, hunting them is relatively easy.

Similar to pheasant hunting, you will walk through their habitat to flush them out. Since they tend to live in wetlands, it is recommended to wear high waterproof boots while you flush them out.

As they fly out, you will shoot them in the air. It is recommended to use a 12 or 20 gauge with a No. 9 or No. 8 shot. Make sure to bring a lot of ammo. Since snipes are small and fast, it is easy to miss them.

If you hit a bird, pay attention to where it falls. If you do not want to pay attention to this, you will want to have a hunting dog to help you locate its position.

a man hunting

Snipe Hunting Regulations

The hunting season and bag count depends on the state you live in. Before hunting for snipes, or any animal for that matter, make sure to check your local laws and regulations.

How to Tell if You’re Friend is Pulling a Prank or Really Wants to Hunt Snipe

If you have been asked to go snipe hunting, you may be worried about which snipe hunting your friend or family member intends.

One of the most obvious give-away that you’re being pranked is the time of day. If your friend wants to go out at night, you are being pranked. To hunt snipe, you need daylight.

Additionally, if your friend has no experience in hunting, does not describe a snipe properly, or does not live near wetlands, chances are they’re trying to pull your leg. You can either call them out on it or play along and prank the prankster.

If you and your friends are avid hunters and plan to hunt during the day, on the other hand, you’re probably not being pranked. It would be safe to assume that your friend really does want to hunt snipes.


What is snipe hunting? Snipe hunting is commonly known as a fool’s errand or practical joke, but there are snipes which you can actually hunt too. If anyone ever asks you to go snipe hunting, you will want to double-check their intentions before going out with them.