From waterfowl, snipe and cranes to pheasant, grouse and partridge, the Prairie provinces offer wingshooters unparalleled opportunities
Although snipe were once a popular quarry, few hunters pursue them these days. That’s a shame, because they’re terrific sport and make for unique table fare. They’re what I call a crossover bird, hunted much like traditional upland birds despite the fact they’re migratory, like waterfowl.
Throughout the fall, snipe are found on shallow flood plains dominated by grass and sedge. They have nerves of steel and will often sit tight, letting you walk by. When they do flush, you’ll nearly always be alerted by the distinctive “scaipe” sound they make. They burst from cover as little brown blurs, twisting and turning low to the ground. Resist the urge to shoot immediately, as there’s no predicting whether they’ll zig or zag. Instead, wait until they lift skyward, which they’ll typically do after 10 or 20 metres. They’re fast, too, so always be ready.
Expect to cover lots of ground searching for snipe. The particular mix of soft, flooded soil and cover they prefer can be difficult to locate, and where you find birds one year, or even one day, you won’t necessarily find them on subsequent hunts. The good news is, where you find one snipe, you’ll likely find others. In productive habitat, expect to flush four or five birds within a few hundred metres.
Fast and erratic, snipe make for great sport
For the unexperienced, snipe can be difficult to differentiate from other shorebirds. One rule of thumb is that if you see a small flock of shorebirds resembling snipe on a mud flat, they’re a different species; snipe are nearly always found as singles. Remember, too, that snipe are migratory birds, meaning non-toxic shot is required under federal law.