Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures – The Naked Truth About Snipe Hunting
Since the 1700s there have been two aspects of snipe hunting. The most common is a made-up sport where youngsters hunt snipe in the woods at night with a burlap bag, flashlight and club. Guest Dottie Head and host Hovey Smith explore different aspects of a sport which leaves them both snipe-less and Hovey standing naked beneath an overpass on I-95.
After taking swan, the nation’s largest waterfowl, on a previous episode, it only seemed natural that I should follow up with a hunt for snipe, the smallest legal bird hunted under national waterfowl regulations. The snipe are shore birds, as contrasted with ducks, and are the one of the few members of this large family of wetland fowl that may be hunted.
U.S. waterfowlers see far more snipe than they shoot, because they are usually encountered while duck hunting, and the expensive shells containing 4s and larger shot used on ducks throw patterns that are too thin to blast away at these small birds. Because I shoot muzzleloading guns, I can load using steel 7 1/2-shot and go ofter them.
In areas where snipe commonly gather, there are a few hunters who go out in wet meadows, marshy areas and swamps after these birds. Usually small-gauge guns are used with loads of no. 7 1/2 or 8 shot. I have most often found the birds in small flocks of 4-to-12 birds or as singles sitting down in the marsh. Most often they are very near open water.
Butler Island is located near the mouth of the Altamaha River and is crossed by I-95. It is administered as part of the State Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. The island was ideal for growing rice, and the old paddocks are brush cut and mowed before waterfowl season and flooded with fresh water derived from the daily high tides. Once duck season closes in January, the paddocks are drained and the area opened for snipe hunting. There are always a few snipe, but I have never seen them in large numbers.
Usually the area is hunted in waders or hip boots. Boats are employed to cross the deep canals between the road and the paddocks, and the hunters walk the muddy old fields flushing an occasional snipe as the go. Sometimes, a flight of snipe might come over offering a passing shot.
This is an area a hunter needs to know well, because it is easy to get turned around and loose ones landmarks in the flat fields. I did. I had found a spot where a canal section was so choked with vegetation that it was possible to walk from the roadway into the paddocks. Attempting to find my way back my feet broke through the floating vegetation mat, and I found myself making rather like a frog to cross the canal and get back to the road. This was accomplished, but my gun was completely wetted and that ended my hunt.
Fortunately, the early February weather was uncharacteristically mild with temperatures in the 70s. When I got back to the truck, I stripped off my clothes and quickly dried off in the sun unseen by anyone in the cars roaring overhead on the I-95 overpass.
Dried off and with a new change of clothes, I attended a First Saturday event held in the riverside town of Darien, which was a historic timber-export port and now a shrimping center. The town has a monthly market with stalls, music and exhibits on Ft. King George Drive overlooking the river. I met graduate Chef Eric Lynch, the owner of the Darien River House, who I later interviewed for the cooking section of the show about cooking shrimp and other seafood products.
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