“They are real. It’s not just a practical joke,” said Scott Gardner, chief ecologist who leads the Upland/Small Game program at CDFW, referring to the countless children who have been tricked into the fabled sniper hunt.
Snipe is well distributed throughout the state, but harvesting it is quite a challenge. Not only is it a hard target to hit, but it often hangs out with other shore birds that you can’t catch. So you really have to know your stuff when sniping.”
A California hunting license, Harvest Information Program (HIP) verification and upland game bird validation are required for sniping hunt. Junior hunting license holders do not need to validate the birds in the Upland Game.
The Wilson’s snipe is a stocky brown-orange migratory shore bird with short stocky legs and a long beak. They are the only shorebird allowed to hunt in California. While they can be found throughout the state during California’s long hunting season, they are elusive and difficult to see on land, which means hunters need to identify the birds quickly on the wing.
Sniper usually shoots off the ground and flies away in a fast, zigzag pattern. In fact, the word “sniper” originally meant a hunter skilled at shooting the infamous bird.
Snipe is often found to search muddy ground for earthworms and invertebrates. They prefer the muddy edges of ponds, damp fields, and other moist, open habitats. Areas of low vegetation provide adequate camouflage and cover for sniping, but can often be spotted by eyeglasses of the water’s edge with endoscopes.
Because of its habitat and hunting season that roughly coincides with the waterfowl season in California’s balance, waterfowl hunters are more likely to encounter field sniping. However, Snipe is best pursued with a light pistol in the uplands, an open choke and light loads like the #7 steel shot. Waterfowlers who take a poke at a runaway sniper with their heavier rifles, heavier loads, and tighter chokes often find themselves punching holes in the air and risking damaging the sniper’s flesh. Delicious with a connected bullet.
While the snipe has a wide wing, it is smaller than quail and may require several birds to prepare one meal. They are often roasted or fried whole or breasts and cooked with butter or bacon. Hunters who enjoy eating a pigeon or duck are likely to like the taste of hunting.
Snipe has a small but loyal following among some California anglers. The following tips and suggestions should inspire hunters to give sniping a try this season:
* Hunting can be really good when duck hunting is poor. These warm days, bluebirds in November provide a great opportunity to go sniper hunting.
* Sniper hunting is great for getting away from the crowds and enjoying some quiet time outdoors. So few people hunt snipers that hunters often have all the rugged and high fields to themselves.
* Snipe made for an exciting hunt. Snipe flows like a wild pheasant but can provide an abundance of shots and opportunities. A good sniping field can provide hunters with dozens of gifts.
* Helps you to go on the first hunt with someone who has hunted before. You will be more confident about who you are.
* If you miss a sniper, you can often go after it again. Sometimes a flying bird lands again after a short flight.
* Snipe plucking can be difficult and tedious but is often worth the effort. The legs are especially delicious.
* You will never see a sniper on the ground before it flows. Once you learn to identify wing sniping, it becomes easy to distinguish sniping from other shorebirds. Sniper seldom fly in flocks. The vast majority of sniper giveaways are single birds. Snipe often makes a high-pitched call when they’re streaming, sometimes described as a diffuse.
* Many sniper hunters do not use hounds. The erratic low flight typical of sniping snipers means lots of low shots that can endanger the hound.
* Snipes are migratory and moving birds. Snipe can be in one day in large numbers and disappear the next. A good sniping field one day can be clear of sniping the next.
*The Hunting Hunting Regulations are available online on the CDFW website within the Handbook of Hunting and Public Lands Hunting Regulations 2019-20.
Please note that a lead-free shot is now required when traveling any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see CDFW Munitions Web Page.