So you want to hunt to go on a Snipe hunt? Welcome aboard and get ready for an addictive upland bird to pursue. Let’s take a look at what you need before you head into the field. And no, you will not see a brown paper bag and a stick on the list.
Unless you are completely new to wingshooting and spending time in the outdoors, chances are you already have everything you need. In fact, when I first started Snipe hunting the only thing I had to pick up was shells. I love this low barrier to entry compared to waterfowling and big game hunting.
Shotgun: 12 or 20 gauge, pump, auto-loader, double gun. It really doesn’t matter as long as you are confident shooting it. My advice is start with the most forgiving gun, a 12 gauge auto-loader, while you go through the learning curve before challenging yourself with 16, 20, 28, and .410 gauges. While I love shooting my vintage Ithaca side-by-sides, that 3rd shot from the auto-loader has killed many a Snipe.
Shells: #7½ - #9 shot is perfect, and I prefer #8 for all of my guns. Unless I am hunting small areas close to the truck, I usually carry 1½ boxes of shells. In many states lead shot is allowed for Snipe since they are not considered waterfowl, but please check your local regulations or talk to a Fish and Wildlife Officer. In the course of researching 2018 - 2019 Snipe Hunting Seasons by State I saw just how varied this regulation is state by state.
For instance, where I live in Florida, there is only one specific WMA I hunt that requires Steel because it’s primary function is waterfowl habitat. It gets even trickier if you are planning on shooting Snipe and Waterfowl in the same day. Take away: know your local regulations and talk with Fish and Wildlife on how to handle this situation.
Rubber Boots: After gun and shells, I consider this the most important piece of Snipe gear. The taller the better when it comes to boots. Anything will work as long as they are comfortable and keep your feet dry. I used a tall pair of foul weather sailing boot my first few seasons and logged countless miles in them. These days I wear a pair of Le Chameau Tranqueur’s and I absolutely love them.
Unless it’s late season and the cover had really dried up, I would avoid hiking boots unless you want wet feet. Some people use hip-waders, but the general consensus is they are too bulky and restrictive for walking extended distances. I’ve never tried them so your mileage may vary.
Backpack or Game Vest: Nothing fancy is needed here, just something to comfortably hold your gear and birds. I used this simple waterfowl fanny pack for a few seasons and it worked great. If you don’t have a vest or pack, a game strap does a fine job of containing your birds. Look for one with eight straps the standard daily limit. (North and South Dakota are the only states with a lower five bird limit.)
I have since graduated to a Q5 Outdoors Rimfire vest and I love it. When I’m taking Remi my Brittany, I have to carry more gear and this system allows me to distribute the weight better and stay organized.
Bird Markers: Finding a downed Snipe is tough. I mean really tough. Lose your visual reference point and suddenly all the cover looks the same. I carry a handkerchief in my back pocket so I can mark where I think the bird landed and then start my methodical search from there. Your hat works great in a pinch.
Water and Snacks: Plan on covering a lot of ground through some tough cover and burning some serious calories. I use a hydration bladder by personal choice because I like the water always being available. In my bag/vest I toss in a handful of bars to snack on throughout the day. Count on returning to the truck parched so make sure you have plenty of extra water waiting.
A Sense of Place: Do you know where you are and are could you get lost? If so, a GPS, phone, or compass is a must. These days you have no excuse for getting lost. I use Google Maps to mark good cover and target future places to scout or hunt.
Flashlight and Lighters: If you are going to be hunting into the evening, add these to your pack as common sense safety and survival equipment.
First-Aid Kit: I keep a basic, but well-stocked first-aid kit in my vest with everything I would need for me or the dog. At a minimum, I encourage everyone to keep the essentials back at the truck.
Whistle: This is basic common sense safety gear. I keep one attached to vest and usually have my dog whistle around my neck.
Cooler and Ice: The last thing you want is to have your birds spoil on the ride home. Keep a cooler with ice back at the truck.
Time to Head to the Uplands
Now that you know what you need to go afield and pursue Snipe, it’s time to gear up and start planning. In many states, the September 1 season openers are right around the corner. Be sure to check out 2018 - 2019 Snipe Hunting Seasons by State find out when you can hunt Snipe.
Have a gear or other Snipe related question? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
—See you in the marsh!