The Uplands Are Calling
Let’s start with some great news. On the day this post goes live, the Snipe opener is just 33 days away for the upland hunters in 26 states. The bad news is 11 states have to wait at least 94 days to get after their first Snipe.
Whether the season opener is 33 or 94 days away, it will be here soon. While your summer time thoughts may still be preoccupied with BBQ's and fishing on the lake, now is a good time to start looking at the calendar and circling those dates. For a look at how I’ve been spending my summer, take a look at The Dog Days of Summer.
Follow the Migration
So, when and where can you start hunting Snipe? More great news for everyone except Hawaii, sorry guys no Snipe season. Seasons are long and generous, leaving you no excess to give Snipe hunting a try this fall.
There is a lot of variety in season dates state by state, but the seasons generally follow north to south latitudinal lines the coincide with the migration. I say generally, because there is variety and some apparent randomness from state to state. And yes, Snipe migrate.
Most states make it easy, with one set of dates, but a few have splits just like duck season and some (Alaska, Arizona, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Utah) have dates set by zone. As my wife likes to say, “point being” know your dates! For this blog, I’ve broken things down into early (September), mid (October), and late-season (November) openers.
Regarding the migration, there isn’t a bullet-proof way to track the migration lines, but one can reasonably follow the migration of other birds. A few good resources to watch are the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map and the National Woodcock Migration Map. Another great source can be bird-watching websites like ebird.org and birdcast.info.
Early Season - September Openers
Snipe season comes early in the northern states where many Snipe have breed, raised their clutch, and may or may not even be migrating yet.
Mid-Season - October Openers
Thirteen states enjoy the start of their season in October. I can imagine this makes for ideal fall days, where the weather has that perfect cool fall air, not to cold and not to hot. If you live in one of these you will likely to get multiple pushes of birds as they follow the cold fronts and frost lines south. My wife's late Grandpa Eddie used to tell me stories of hearing the Snipe migrate overhead at night in South Carolina.
Late-Season - November Openers
Ah the deep South, my home turf. Down south our seasons start late, but run into February, well past end the of waterfowl season. For my money, we have it the best. The birds hunted in the south have all taken a massive migration, an amazing feat for such a small bird. Some push on to Mexico, but for many it’s the end of the line. Contrary to ducks, which get hunted and smarter every mile they fly south, Snipe don’t get nearly as much pressure as the ducks. But as the season rolls on, the birds definitely get educated and become more flighty.
So Now What?
Even know the season may feel like eons away, take advantage of the summer down time to get your Snipe season game plan in order. Research your available public land opportunities, start monitoring water levels, and drooling over Google Maps. In a few weeks, I will be covering Snipe habitat, to help you connect the dots. (I’ll come back and update with the link).
As your season gets closer, head out a few weekends before you plan to start and walk a few pieces of cover and see what they are holding. Like any type of scouting, if you find them, I recommend backing out and avoiding any unneeded pressure. Now’s not the time to see how many birds you can put up. As needed, check back closer to your opening day and have at two or three good spots lined up. The last thing you want to do is put all of your eggs in one basket should it go bust for any number of reasons — changes in water levels, closures, or crowds.
Below is the full list over every states seasons and bag limits.
See you in the marsh!