Hunt Gather Talk Podcast: Snipe Hunt

Comment

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Snipe podcast cover art.

Welcome back the Hunt Gather Talk podcast, Season Two, sponsored by Filson and Hunt to Eat. This season will focus entirely on upland game — not only upland birds but also small game. Think of this as the podcast behind my latest cookbook, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail, which covers all things upland.

Every episode will dig deep into the life, habits, hunting, lore, myth and of course prepping and cooking of a particular animal. Expect episodes on pheasants, rabbits, every species of quail, every species of grouse, wild turkeys, rails, woodcock, pigeons and doves, chukars and huns. Today we talk about a near mythic bird, the snipe, Gallinago delicata.

In this episode I talk with Floridian Scott Lindars of Marshdoodle all about the Wilson’s snipe.

Scott and I are avid snipe hunters, part of a small group that chases one of the last shorebirds we can legally hunt in the United States. (Woodcock are in the same family.)

In this episode, we go over all kinds of things surrounding these mysterious birds, from folklore to the word “sniper” to the all-important guide to identifying the birds, to hunting technique, gear, dogs — as well as how to pluck, prep and cook your birds.

For more information on these topics, here are some helpful links:

A Request

I am bringing back Hunt Gather Talk with the hopes that your generosity can help keep it going season after season. Think of this like public radio, only with hunting and fishing and wild food and stuff. No, this won’t be a “pay-to-play” podcast, so you don’t necessarily have to chip in. But I am asking you to consider it. Every little bit helps to pay for editing, servers, and, frankly to keep the lights on here. Thanks in advance for whatever you can contribute!

Subscribe

You can find an archive of all my episodes here, and you can subscribe to the podcast here via RSS.

Subscribe via iTunes and Stitcher here.

Transcript

As a service to those with hearing issues, or for anyone who would rather read our conversation than hear it, here is the transcript of the show. Enjoy!

Hank Shaw:

Welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Hank Shaw with the Hunt Gather Talk podcast, sponsored by Filson and Hunt to Eat. Welcome to the show. This is episode three, and today we are going to go in-depth all about snipe. Yes, snipe. You heard correctly. Snipe is a real bird. It is not a mythical thing that you did when you were in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. It’s a real, honest-to-God bird, and I’m going to be talking with Scott Lindars of Marshdoodle, and we’re going to talk all about this amazing little bird that inhabits the edges of marshes from coast to coast. You can find them in pretty much every state and all over the world, as a matter of fact. So without further ado, let’s talk all things snipe with Scott Lindars of Marshdoodle. Scott Lindars, welcome to the Hunt Gather Talk podcast. I am very, very happy to have found you and to have found your website, Marshdoodle. I think you may be one of the few, the proud, the other really super dedicated if not manic snipe hunters, and that is what we’re going to talk about today.

Scott Lindars:

Manic. I like that. Yep, well, happy to be here, and hello everyone. Excited to talk all things snipe.

Hank Shaw:

Let’s start by letting everybody out there know, well, so who are you, what do you do, why are you on the podcast and not somebody else? And I definitely want to hear about Marshdoodle.

Scott Lindars:

Oh God, that’s a good question. All right, so of course, my name, I’m Scott Lindars. I live down in southwest Florida. I’ve been in Florida for about 15 years, and just recently we relocated over to the west coast on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, so got a nice view of the water I’m looking out on, and pretty close to some hunting grounds over here, which was one of the reasons we chose to move over here among others. But I was getting tired of driving two, two and a half hours every time I wanted to go snipe hunting, so I’ve got a lot of good stuff right there in my back yard.

Hank Shaw:

How did you start snipe hunting?

Scott Lindars:

It was really kind of born out of sort of necessity. I guess kind of stepping back a little bit to kind of set the context, I hunted a whole bunch in college and when I lived out West, out in Montana and Wyoming, and never snipe hunted out there but mostly duck hunted, big game, and a little bit of upland. And then when I first moved down to Florida, man, it was so foreign and intimidating, just the world of hunting. I mean, talk about a complete landscape change from the mountains to the Everglades and the marshes. And I kind of had hung up my hunting hat, so to speak, out of, again, sort of out of forced necessity. Just, I didn’t have anyone to hunt with, didn’t really know the terrain, didn’t have a boat. And then that started to slowly change. By fortune, a good friend got a duck hunt for a Christmas gift from his wife on a Groupon. I went along with him-

Hank Shaw:

They duck hunt on a Groupon? That’s hilarious.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, exactly. And I owe it … We joke about it, because we really owe it to this girl for getting him and then getting me back into it. But yeah, he had gone out, came back saying how great it was, and having done it already, I said, “Sure, I’ll go again.” And we went with a guide, and did that for a couple years just doing two or three guided hunts up on Lake Okeechobee a season, and I was really limited … That was really all I was doing. And then as I got more into duck hunting, I was just starting to look at what else can I do. Around the same time we were getting a new dog, a Brittany, and had always kind of wanted a bird dog. SO those kind of things came together where I was looking for more opportunities, things I could do on my own, had a dog, obviously wanted to put him to use, and so what were my opportunities? Quail was kind of the first thing my mind went to-

Hank Shaw:

That’s why you get a Brittany. I mean, that’s a very typical quail dog down there.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I wanted a pointing dog. I had hunted over a few friends back in college and had seen how they work. Didn’t really want a Lab, despite doing a lot of duck hunting. Just with gators and snakes, it was kind of not something I wanted to jump right into there.

Hank Shaw:

I’ve heard.

Scott Lindars:

Just kind of looking at, okay, where could I quail hunt? Going up to a preserve and going with a guide was not really appealing. It was going to get expensive in a hurry. Didn’t want to join a club and have to have a fixed amount of dates. So yes, there is good quail hunting in South Florida on public land, but kind of reading through that, I stumbled upon snipe. And like most people, I saw it in the regulations and didn’t even at that point quite honestly know it was a game bird. I knew of the the bird, and we can talk about the childhood fable and prank behind it, which was my only exposure to it. I just started reading up on it and thought, oh, there’s a season.

Read a little bit on the habitat and the terrain, and then quite just set out on my own. Got a little bit of a tip from my friend Tony on a spot I might want to go check out, but just packed up the car, had the dog with me that day. It was just myself and my 12 gauge, and went out into the marsh and flushed my first snipe. Flushed it three times, and on the third time, I actually ended up knocking it down.

Hank Shaw:

Well, you tired him out.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, and I was like, okay, I’ve got to get it eventually. But that was kind of a good little introduction to their behavior. And that was it. At that point, I was like, I like this. This is cool. Had the whole management area to myself. Didn’t see another hunter that whole time, and that was season one of snipe hunting, going back-

Hank Shaw:

And what year was that?

Scott Lindars:

I think that was four seasons ago, so-

Hank Shaw:

Ah, interesting. I’ve been hunting snipe longer than you have, then, so that’s fascinating.

Scott Lindars:

Oh, yeah. I am definitely not …. There’s guys who have hunted snipe for way longer, way more many days afield, so I don’t for a second claim to be the most experienced or knowledgeable.

Hank Shaw:

But you have the zeal of a convert.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, I’ve got the convert, and I put some of the energy and passion around it, which is kind of where the whole Marshdoodle thing started. But yeah, I think this is my fourth full season of hunting them. And in just a matter of days … In fact, let me look at my calendar. November 1st is when our seasons opens, so-

Hank Shaw:

So they’re open in many, many states right now, and we’re going to get into migratory states versus wintering states. Because you and I both live in wintering states.

Scott Lindars:

Yep.

Hank Shaw:

Hey, I’d like to take a minute to thank the C.C. Filson company for sponsoring this podcast. Filson is the original Alaska outfitter. They started in 1897 outfitting miners for the gold rush in the Klondike, and ever since then, they have been committed to making the best equipment available. I know. I’ve worn Filson for 20 some odd years, both in the field and just around town. I am committed to their upland game gear. I think it’s the best. It stands up to everything and it lasts forever. Be sure to check out Filson’s holiday gift guide at filson.com for all your hunter, angler, gatherer gift needs. They have awesome stuff not only for upland but for walking around town here, travel stuff, as well as really good stuff for deer and duck hunting. So check them out at filson.com.

Hank Shaw:

So let’s stop for a second and deal with the elephant in the room, which is the snipe hunt. So everybody has heard of the snipe hunt. Have you ever actually been put on a snipe hunt in-

Scott Lindars:

I have, yeah, and I was going to ask you if you have.

Hank Shaw:

I haven’t, actually. I’ve heard about it, but I think I heard that it was a joke early enough where I went like, yeah, no, I’m not going to do that thing, because I think we’re both from New Jersey originally, and it definitely is a summer camp thing there. And as far as I know, it is a summer camp thing all over. Was it a camp thing for you?

Scott Lindars:

It was on a Boy Scout camp out. I was probably a Cub Scout, maybe a bear badge. I remember somewhere in New Jersey, I can’t remember where we were. And the older kids, I guess the Webelos or whatever the next grade up, they came over into the Cub Scouts camp and talked about, “Oh, hey, we’ve got to show you how to do this. Get your flashlight.” And so yeah, me and four or five other naïve Cub Scouts were out there in the woods with sticks and flashlights and completely fell for it. And yeah, that’s kind of the true to form. It’s take a couple naïve kids out in the woods and give them a flashlight or a bag and keep them occupied for a while expecting a little bird to run into it.

Hank Shaw:

They should’ve just kept you going night after night after night.

Scott Lindars:

I tell you, that was my only exposure to the “snipe hunt.” I think at that point, I was wise to it. But in all my other times camping and being out in the woods and being out West, I never heard anyone bring it up or try to get anyone else to fall for it so-

Hank Shaw:

I have heard of it, all of the various variations. You’ve got the bag and the flashlight, you’ve got the salt shaker, you’ve got to salt the-

Scott Lindars:

Oh, I don’t know-

Hank Shaw:

Tail, because otherwise he’ll fly away. There’s just so many different versions of it. And do you have any indication of what the history of that is?

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. I mean, at one point it became a prank. That I’m not 100% clear on. But I think especially with woodcock as well. But woodcock, snipe, they’re in the same genus. In terms of doing counting and probably tagging and research on it, ornithologists, biologists, et cetera, they would go out at night, often with these big, big lights. So you can imagine … Now we’ve got these nice little compact LED lights, but these are big, big, giant probably high pressure sodium lights that they would have on the tops of cars. And they would drive them out in the country roads of the wetlands and the lowland areas and trying to flush the snipe or the woodcock. And then they’d have other guys with big nets, birding nets, to try and actually catch them. So as far as I read, that’s sort of the derivative between, or where the actuality of it into the game. And again at some point, well, someone says, “Let’s go trick some kids with this.”

Hank Shaw:

It’s really interesting. So I looked it up, and the first reference in the English language to a snipe hunt in terms of the prank that we’re familiar with is all the way back to 1840, which is fascinating to me because that’s only maybe 20 years after the advent of modern bird hunting, because we didn’t really hunt birds in the way that you and I do until about the 1820s with the advent of better shotguns. So not to long after that, these snipe hunt as prank appears in the English language, and then it kind of floats along a bit. So you also have a very long period of market gunning and sort of great white hunter stuff in the late 1800s and early 1900s for snipe where you’ve got guys like … There’s a guy named Pringle who shot 80,000 snipe in his career and recorded every one of them and crazy stuff like that. Plus, habitat loss in the beginning of the 20th century started to put the wood to them in terms of numbers.

And then the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918 limited the … We basically had bag limits for the first time, so that limited it a bit. And as everybody listening to this knows, a snipe is not a very big bird. So you’ve got a declining hunter effort as you’re going further and further and further, and then the key moment is January 1940. So have you heard about this one?

Scott Lindars:

January 1940.

Hank Shaw:

So January 1940, it was the hardest, nastiest, longest freeze in the Gulf of Mexico in the last 100 years. So it really, really knocked down all of the wintering birds that required unfrozen ground, and the snipe and the woodcock are two of them. It knocked them down so bad that fish and wildlife closed the season on them starting in 1941. And that season remained closed all the way until 1953. As the story goes … And if you’re ever really interested, like super geeky interested in snipe, we’re going to go into some books later, but my favorite one is a book called Reflections on Snipe by a guy named Worth Mathewson. He retells the story that in 1952, the son of the editor of Field & Stream, a guy named Dan Holland, was up hunting ducks in Alaska with the head of fish and wildlife.

And as they were hunting ducks in, I think it was in the Kuskokwim, the Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska, and they kept flushing snipe and flushing more snipe and flushing more snipe. And he kept it pointing it out to the fish and wildlife guy, like, “Look at all these snipe. We haven’t had a season on them since 1940. You might want to do something.” And sure enough, in 1953 they reopened the season. But what had happened was, an entire generation of upland gunners had forgotten that this bird even exists, which is why I think when you and I go around everywhere and we will talk about snipe hunting, you get that little chuckle, and then you get people who absolutely are convinced that it’s not a real bird.

Scott Lindars:

That’s interesting. I didn’t know any of that, that degree of the history on it.

Hank Shaw:

It’s fascinating. I think more than any other creature that we hunt in North America, the snipe is clearly the one where we get the most raised eyebrows.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, if you mention you’re a pheasant hunter or a quail hunter or a grounds guy, no problem. Just conversation will carry on. But the snipe is the little oddity out there in the upland world. And I think that’s why a lot of people like you and me and the die hards like it, because it is something different. It’s less pretentious I would say. It’s more approachable. I feel it’s kind of more of a working man’s bird to go after.

Hank Shaw:

It’s interesting, because it never used to be. It used to be super, super patches on the elbows kind of thing, and I think since the 1960s, it’s become what you’re talking about, where woodcock, it still has an aura of aristocracy around it. But snipe, much, much less so.

Scott Lindars:

And I think from what I’ve gathered, and again, by gathered, just looking it up on Instagram and pictures, the folks over in Europe and Italy and Spain and France where it’s equally popular, I think there is still very much the put on your nice wool and your tweeds and a little bit more of a proper gentleman’s sport.

Hank Shaw:

Oh yeah, the Irish and the French are legendary. So the Irish love snipe hunting so much, I don’t know if it’s still on their 50 pence piece, but a snipe on the wing is on their money. It’s such a big deal there.

Scott Lindars:

Oh, I didn’t know that. That’d be cool to have some of those-

Hank Shaw:

I know. I kind of want … I want to go to Ireland anyway, and now I think I have to go to Ireland and hunt some snipe and get a 50 pence piece.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. Last time I was there, I didn’t even know about snipe, so I would’ve probably had that piece in hand and handed it over to the cashier and never would have slowed down looking at it.

Hank Shaw:

I know. I had some Irish money in my possession before too, but I didn’t start hunting snipe until about 2004, so it’s been quite a long time since I’ve been over there, so-

Scott Lindars:

So how did you stumble upon the little quirky bird?

Hank Shaw:

So very similar reasons. So I started hunting only about 18 years ago, and I started as a squirrel and a rabbit hunter and then pheasants, and then I moved to deer. And then I moved to California in 2004, and duck hunting is amazing here. But deer hunting is very difficult. I mean, we have deer, but we have the lowest success rate in the United States for deer. And I kept finding myself in the marshes all the time looking for ducks. Well, nobody ever taught me how to hunt ducks, so it was a combination of me literally blendering around the marsh and some guy that hunts to get some actual legitimate education. So in the process of blendering through the marsh, I kept seeing all these other birds, all the rest of the residents of the marsh, right? So the first thing I knew that I could kill legally were coots and moorhens. So I became the guy at the Gray Lodge Refuge back in 2004 and 2005, “Oh, that’s the guy that kills all the coots and moorhens,” right?

Scott Lindars:

[crosstalk 00:17:57] up with that.

Hank Shaw:

So then the check station guys, were like, “You should hunt snipe.” I’m like, oh yeah. I see them all the time. And their first thing that they say is, “Be sure that you know what a snipe is.” As a forager, I’m pretty good with pattern recognition, so I did some reading and did some more reading, and then went online to the Cornell bird lab and listened to their sounds, and worked and worked and worked. And then, like, okay, I know which is a snipe and which isn’t a snipe, but it took a fair bit of homework, and we’ll get into that in a little bit. And I flushed probably, I don’t know, 50 of them before I ever took a shot because I wanted to be double dog sure that I didn’t shoot something that wasn’t legal. And this is the single largest issue with snipe hunting I think in modern day.

And so I ended up shooting one, then I shot two. And I have a common hashtag on Instagram, #giveapluck. So I pluck every one of my birds, and I found that they were kind of annoying to pluck because they’re kind of a hybrid between an upland bird and a duck in the sense that they pluck pretty easily like a duck, but they’ve got little black down feathers, which can be annoying. I’ve since figured out how to deal with them much better, but they were fantastic. And the thing, I had already been woodcock hunting, so I knew what a woodcock tasted like. And there are no woodcock in the West, so I had no option of hunting woodcock unless I go 2,000 miles to my east. So this was that. So that kind of lit a bit of a fire underneath me.

And then, chime in here if you have the same experience, with duck hunting in a wintering ground, one of the reasons the birds are there in the winter is because it’s really nice and calm and wonderful. Well, really nice and calm and wonderful is a terrible day to hunt ducks. It’s terrible. Bluebirds, fine, but if there’s no wind and it’s relatively warm, you’ve got maybe 90 minutes of duck hunting and then the birds are just maybe fly a little bit. But the snipe like it. So I very quickly brought a bunch of steel sevens … And so this is before we were required to shoot steel in California, but I wanted to be able to shoot a duck if I had also seen a duck.

So I switched over to steel very early, and in the middle of the day … And I mean, it was gorgeous. It could be 55, 60 degrees and sunny and no wind, I could be banging away at snipe and everybody else in the duck blinds were like, what is he shooting at? That’s crazy. And I’d come home with maybe not a limit, but four to six, sometimes eight snipe, and-

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, enough for dinner.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, exactly. And so now, I just, I’ve kind of gotten religious about it.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, and I think you touched on something that’s nice is the … It’s not just an early morning thing. I don’t know that it really … And there’s one situation where I think it does pay to be out there really early, but for the most part, it’s an all day activity. I mean, if you called me up and said, “I’ve only got time from 1:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon to go,” okay, fine. We’re still going to find them. They’ll be in a different spot that time of day probably, maybe not out on the edge, but you’re not restricted just to those ungodly or early morning hours like you are with duck hunting.

Hank Shaw:

For sure. Let’s get into the actual hunting in a minute. I want to go … There’s one more. This is crazy. This is the thing about this particular podcast is that every episode’s going to focus on a different animal, and almost all of these animals have some kind of myth or lore or greater connection to the larger society to them, and we’ve talked about the snipe hunt. And the other one is just the very word sniper.

Scott Lindars:

Yep. Yeah, and that goes back to what we would think of it as, the shooting from a long distance, from a concealed position. That’s what we think of it in military terms, but that’s one that goes back quite some time. Do you know the origins of that?

Hank Shaw:

I don’t know them as well as I do the origins of snipe hunt, but I’m guessing it comes from probably after the Civil War.

Scott Lindars:

Yep. And it’s kind of ironic there that there is that correlation. I mean, on one hand, both in theory difficult shots. If you think about the precision of a sniper where you’re rested, taking a very calculated, thoughtful shot. And then shotgunning in any bird, but especially snipets, it’s quick, it’s reflex. There’s no thinking involved because if you stop to think, you’ll miss. It’s all about reflexes. The one thing they do have in common is definitely a challenging shot. Some people say they’re one of the hardest birds to shoot, or they’re definitely on the upper end of it.

Hank Shaw:

For sure. Hey, all right, so I looked it up. The verb to snipe originated in the 1770s among soldiers in British India in reference to shooting snipes, which is considered an extremely challenging game bird for hunters. The agent noun sniper appears by the 1820s in the sense of the word sharpshooter. So it’s a British term that pre-dates the American Civil War, so there you go.

Scott Lindars:

There you go.

Hank Shaw:

All right, let’s talk about that, about the difficulty of shooting snipe. If you talk to old timers, they say that there’s really two good times to shoot a snipe, right when he gets up and then after he finishes doing the zig zag. Are you a snap shooter or are you a … Do you like to get them when they stop zig zagging?

Scott Lindars:

I think all things being equal, if you can get them when they’re just coming up, that’s a great time to get them because it’s typically just a nice going away shot, or off to your side. And yeah, they do … So the flight pattern is just what you described. As we bring people up to skeet, they’ll make their initial flush and, what would you say, you’ve got 10, 20 yards of kind of straight takeaway, and then they get into a pretty erratic zig zag pattern. And that’s when you can waste a lot of ammo.

Hank Shaw:

Oh yeah. I mean, until you know you’ve got two chances and there’s a middle time when you just need to look at them, oh, it just, it’s ugly.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. Take a box of shells with you on a snipe hunt, and make sure you’ve got a couple more waiting in the truck.

Hank Shaw:

I’m much more of a snap shooter, and I don’t hunt-

Scott Lindars:

Oh, me too.

Hank Shaw:

Snipe with a dog. So I can get on them really quick, and I don’t have to worry about a dog between me and the bird. So you have to wait that extra half second because you’ve got to wait for the bird to lift over the dog.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. Oh, God, last year, that was kind of killing me because it was … We had a really bad season last year in terms of bird counts, at least in Florida. It was really, really dry. And I can’t tell you how many birds I just had to pass on because the bird was in front of the dog as I wasn’t able to get that clean shot. Normally, that’s not a problem. Okay, move on to the next. But when you’re only moving five, six birds a day, that was quite a handicap.

Hank Shaw:

I have found that the second method, the wait until they straighten out, that’s almost if not more challenging in the sense that by the time they do that, they’re about 40 to 50, 60 yards out. So the only time I ever had a really fun time doing that, because normally I shoot, and we can talk about guns in a second, normally I shoot a very short barreled Franchi Veloce in 20 gauge over and under with a … It’s a 24 inch barrel. And that’s fantastic for snap shooting, but you don’t get that great pull through that you would with a 28 or a 30 inch barrel gun. And I shot a friend’s 30 inch barrel 20 gauge, and it was an [inaudible 00:25:58]. Wow. It was like night and day. I mean, it allowed me to do that pull through on the longer bird, and it was just dropping them left and right that I could not do with my short barreled over and under.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, that little 24, that’s probably great for the woodcock woods, but-

Hank Shaw:

It is. It really is. What do you end up shooting most of the time?

Scott Lindars:

The answer to that will change in a few hours, because this afternoon after this podcast, I’m going to pick up a new gun.

Hank Shaw:

Nice.

Scott Lindars:

But I’ve shot everything from … I mean, when I first started, I was just using my 12 gauge duck gun, because that’s all I had with whatever steel shot I could find, which was-

Hank Shaw:

Auto loader or pump or-

Scott Lindars:

Auto loader. That was a Benelli, Benelli Vinci.

Hank Shaw:

Oh, okay.

Scott Lindars:

Then was it last year or the year before? I picked up two Ithaca side by sides. One is a 20, which was kind of my go-to gun, and then I found a really cheap 16 gauge for, like, $215, so I snatched that up. I was using them both. Yeah, that was two seasons ago. 16 on a moorhen hunt two years ago, ended up breaking, which was really unfortunate, on part of the ejector. A little tab or a tang broke off, and I just can’t unfortunately find a part from it. So I can manually extract the shells. It’s just not very convenient. On a moorhen hunt where you’re only shooting and you’ve got time to reload, it’s not so bad, but since then, I haven’t been able to use that one in the field because it’s just, I have to break it down to get the shell out. So for the last year, it was the 20 gauge. I think I used that exclusively for dedicated snipe hunts, meaning I was only going out to snipe hunt.

And like you mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of times where I want to mix the two and do a little bit of duck maybe at first light and then move on to the snipes. So those days, I would still bring my 12 gauge. And the reason with that old Ithaca was an Ithaca Flues from, like, 1910 or ’12. It only shoots a two and a half in shells, which are a pain to get. You’ve got to mail order to get those. But forget about being able to go down to Walmart or Bass Pro or anywhere else and find steel in that size. So that was kind of dictating which particular gun I would take. And then this afternoon, I’m picking up the CZ Bobwhite gen two, which was their remake of their old classic Bobwhite, and I’m getting that one in 28 gauge, so … I made a post the other day. I think it was, like, I really needed to make shooting these things more difficult.

Hank Shaw:

I was just going to say, I’m like, 28 gauge, huh? That’s going to be fun if a duck gets up too.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, well, I was intrigued by the weight of it. It was only five and a half pounds with 28 inch barrels, a neat little gun. It’s got the English straight stock, removable chokes versus fixed, so it kind of brings the modern benefits to an otherwise classic looking gun. It wasn’t very expensive, should be a good all-around gun. But I’m definitely going to wonder how my target practice si going to go.

Hank Shaw:

You’re going to find out.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, I’m going to go pick up a case of clays and I’ve got two boxes of shells sitting on my floor, and on Friday afternoon, we’ll find out.

Hank Shaw:

There you go. So I have generally settled on 20 gauge steel seven and a halfs, and the barrel choice is yours, but … And I tend to use, because I use that over and under a lot, it’s improved and modified the two different barrels. And I have definitely found that your style of shooting determines what your choke is. If you’re going to shoot long, I don’t know that you need a full choke, but you need something much more patterned for if you’re waiting on them than if you’re trying to get them right off the get go.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, well, that’s what I like about the setup in those Ithacas is they are choked modified and full. Fixed chokes, you can’t change those with the two triggers, which I found to be a good combination. For that first shot, you can get on the flush with the front trigger and that’ll shoot the modified, and then for that follow up longer shot, now you’re already into that tighter full choke. And that goes great unless you’re like me and, I don’t know, every other time I pull the wrong trigger.

Hank Shaw:

Oh. Yeah, that’ll do that.

Scott Lindars:

I don’t know what it is. My finger always goes to the back trigger, and I’ll shoot that full choke first.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah. Let’s move to the first thing that you need to do if you want to go snipe hunting, which is to be able to identify what a snipe is.

Scott Lindars:

Right, right. Well the first thing, you need to get legal, get your license.

Hank Shaw:

Well, yes. That’s true.

Scott Lindars:

Your story you told earlier about focusing on identifying, it parallels the one I flushed and how I got three flushes out of it. And the first one I didn’t even shoot because it caught me by surprise. I was by myself, had never seen one before other than pictures, never heard one before other than audio files. So the first one was just, like, confirming, great. That was a snipe. And I was 95% positive about it. I’m like, okay. I saw it land. And so the next flush, I took a shot, missed, and then he landed, I don’t know, another 100 yards down. But after the second one, I knew I was onto the right bird, and-

Hank Shaw:

I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve flushed a snipe where it didn’t do that kind of scrapey, squirky noise that they do when they flush. So it’s a very distinctive … it’s almost like … When they take off, and some people write it as escape.

Scott Lindars:

Yep.

Hank Shaw:

It’s like a … kind of thing.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, we’ll have to use the audio file of that in some post-production so we can … Because it’s such a distinct sound. And you’re right, I’d say, I don’t know, like you said, nine out of 10, maybe a little less in my experience, but most of the time, they’re going to make that noise. And that’s a huge clue into, like, yeah, I found the right bird, so-

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, that’s a beginning one. Another one I find is, it’s very rare that a flock of snipe gets up. They tend to hang around together, but by themselves if that makes any sense. There might be a field with 100 of them in it, but they’re not going to be like dowitchers where they’re all going to be together. And they’re going to be all doing their own thing in that field.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, yeah, I’d say I found that as well. It might flush a single or a double, but I’ve never seen a group of a dozen get up. Now, what has happened a lot is you get into an area and one goes … And then maybe take a shot, and then another one goes, you take another step. And before you know it, you’ve got them flying everywhere. But they’re all staggered within seconds of each other, versus-

Hank Shaw:

Exactly.

Scott Lindars:

And I hate it when that happens.

Hank Shaw:

Oh yeah, because especially if you’ve dropped one and five others get up … You have a dog, so you have an advantage. We should talk dogs in a second. But you have an advantage because your dog can mark the first one that you shot, and then you can mark the second one. My strongest advice beyond ID of the birds that you’re hunting in the marsh, for those of you listening out there, is to shoot one bird and walk straight at it. Don’t take your eyes where it fell at all, ever.

Scott Lindars:

That’s one of the, I think, hardest things to force yourself to do. And I won’t proudly admit it, but I’ve lost more snipe than I would like to admit by being greedy, by trying to take the second shot-

Hank Shaw:

Especially-

Scott Lindars:

Getting distracted, because you do flush another one or a third one as you’re going to it, because without a dog, if you … You have to just be so laser focused and not take your eye off it.

Hank Shaw:

I’ve had one … I’m walking to it, right? I’m almost there. I can almost see where it is, and I’m pretty sure I know exactly where it is, and then one flushes right beyond it. I’m like, really?

Scott Lindars:

So here’s what I do. If I have the dog, it is a heck of a lot easier. But sometimes it’s bad, because he’s out now making retrieve, likely to push up another one. And again, that just starts bumping the birds sooner than you want to, and that’s why it kind of … When it gets [inaudible 00:34:59], it’s almost a bad thing because you would want to move a little bit more slowly. But with or without a dog, but definitely without, and this maybe talks to gear, you need … I keep two handkerchiefs in either my back pockets or my game bag, and as soon as I drop a bird, I drop that first handkerchief. I just reach around without even having to take my eyes off it. So now I know where I was when the shot happened. And then I’ll lock in on that singular spot. Maybe it’s a blade of grass, maybe it’s a twig.

But you try to pick out something very exact where you think it fell, and again, laser focus, walk to it and then drop the other handkerchief, or your hat or something. I don’t like to take my hat off because … So now I’ve got those two points of reference, because once you start walking around, if you don’t find it right away and you’ve got your head down, it’s so easy to veer off course. And you wait after a few minutes, you’re way off of your original marks. So I like having those two things, because if all else fails, you can go back to where you started, re-lock in on your trajectory where you think it is, and resume your search. And then the other thing-

Hank Shaw:

That’s a good tip.

Scott Lindars:

I’ve really found is wherever you think they are … I mean, sometimes they just stone fall, but they’re past it. Because what we see as they’re falling is that last reference mark, again, that blade of grass, that twig. But they’re moving still, so you might find them five, 10 feet past where you think they are.

Hank Shaw:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). The one good thing is, I rarely get runners. They’re not like pheasants. Typically if you don’t drop one, it’s not super mobile on the ground. So it’s not like when you shoot a pheasant and drop a pheasant and you’ve got to be damn well sure that that bird is anchored. Otherwise, you could be on a wild chicken chase.

Scott Lindars:

I agree. And the other thing is, if you flush one … We’re kind of jumping around here, and you don’t shoot it, they are going to land. If you just watch that bird, get a mark on where it lands. Again, probably nine out of 10 times, you’re going to flush it again. Back to the walking thing, I don’t see a lot of times where you get up to it and you’re like, man, where did that bird go? He walked away. Sometimes, but most of the time it’s going to be holding and you’ll get your follow up opportunity.

Hank Shaw:

So I talked to a biologist, and they will say that a lot of times, the … By the way, for the record, we are always talking about the Wilson’s snipe, which is Gallinago delicata. It’s the only snipe that lives in North America. There’s a lot of other kinds of snipes, but we only have the one in America. So everybody calls them a jack snipe, but they’re not a jack snipe.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, over in Europe, they’ve got the common, the jack, and there’s one other one.

Hank Shaw:

The great snipe.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, the great, which is …

Hank Shaw:

I’ve got to get myself down to Paraguay and Argentina. And I have heard tell of a giant snipe that lives in sort of Argentina, Paraguay area that’s double the size of our snipe.

Scott Lindars:

That’s got to be bigger than a woodcock then.

Hank Shaw:

Right? I think I need to eat this bird.

Scott Lindars:

You know what I was thinking about in reading this, or I mean, doing all this research and reading up on this and doing reading, it was like, there’s not a lot of other similar birds in the genus that is the sandpiper family. You’ve got the woodcock, the snipe. But those are the only two that you can hunt. But you look at, say, a plover. Very similar looking, [crosstalk 00:38:43] look and feel. How is it that the snipe became the game bird and all the other ones got a safe pass and were never hunted? Because I’d imagine a plover tastes just as good. It has the same diet. It has the same body structure.

Hank Shaw:

I’m just going to guess on this one, but back in the market gunning days and in the days before the second World War, plovers were on the menu, curlews were on the menu. There’s a giant list of marsh birds that were fair game. And the plover was one of the first to be taken off the game list, largely because of unregulated market hunting. But I have old cookbooks from, like, 1900 that have plover recipes in them.

Scott Lindars:

[crosstalk 00:39:31].

Hank Shaw:

Oh yeah, golden plover.

Scott Lindars:

I want to say in England, they still hunt them.

Hank Shaw:

I think they do.

Scott Lindars:

I read something maybe two years ago in Gray’s Sporting Journal about guys going over there and hunting them over decoys.

Hank Shaw:

My only guess is … oh yeah, decoys. This is another story. I get guys who would tell me, “Oh, you’ve got to get snipe decoys.” I’m like, yeah, you’re high. Snipe don’t decoy.

Scott Lindars:

Well, I don’t know. We’ll get into that.

Hank Shaw:

But this is my guess. This is only … My supposition is that as they bring birds out of the game category and into the protected category, the history of snipe hunting is such that it whereas today is pretty much everybody does it, back then it was a bit of a patch on the elbow kind of hunting. So my guess is that important, rich, influential people kept snipe hunting alive before the second World War because they wanted to continue to hunt them. After the second World War, there’s almost no place in the United States where there is a culture of snipe hunting. Florida is one of them. Louisiana is another. But there really isn’t … I mean, I’ll put it this way. Holly and I shot one third of all snipe killed in this particular very large public refuge. And it’s not like we killed that many.

Scott Lindars:

You’re the only guys doing it.

Hank Shaw:

Exactly. So that’s just a guess of why snipe stayed on the game bird list. I think the hunting pressure is arguably the least among most … Yeah, I don’t know, moorhens, purple gallinules, and rails are probably the least hunted legal game in the United States, but snipe’s right in there.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, I think me and my friends, I think we’re some of the … I mean, I see a few other guys doing it, but yeah, we go out for the moorhen opener every year and get on them a couple more times. And you just do not see a lot of people doing it. And I don’t know why. They’re really good to eat. They’re not hard to shoot, but they are good in the kitchen.

Hank Shaw:

Do you pick your moorhens, or do you skin them?

Scott Lindars:

It’s a question of time.

Hank Shaw:

So you have picked a moorhen and cooked it with the skin on.

Scott Lindars:

No, no. But I’ve cooked the legs of them.

Hank Shaw:

Okay.

Scott Lindars:

So how is the skin on them?

Hank Shaw:

I was asking that question because I’ve only ever skinned moorhens. I have tried skin on coots, which are their cousin, and I was less than impressed. The problem with the coot is while he might look really fat, and their fat is often beautiful and white, it smells like the bottom of a pond.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah.

Hank Shaw:

So I learned almost two decades ago that they’re fine when you skin them, but they’re not fine … The fat is very pond-y. Whereas snipe, on the other hand, I always pick those birds.

Scott Lindars:

Oh yeah. Yep, yep. The little skin, what little fat they have is good.

Hank Shaw:

Oh, sometimes they’re super fat. They get that … If you ever had a woodcock out there and you’ve picked a woodcock, they have a very specific thick line of fat on either side of their breast that kind of curls around the front of the breastbone, and that fat is delicious.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. I’ve noticed, it’s really interesting to sort of watch the difference in the fat on birds, and it’s almost like you can tell where they’re coming from. And I can’t triangulate it all the way up north, but on the same day in the same week and month, we found some birds have tons of fat, and others really just don’t have any. And I can only attribute it to, hey, these are the ones that are coming all the way down from Canada and higher, and the ones without fat, maybe they’re just coming down from New England and got out of town before it got cold.

Hank Shaw:

I’ve had the exact same experience, and my guess, again, this is just a guess, is that who’s been here longest? So maybe your Canadian theory is right in the sense that not because they flew such a long way, but they just got here, and so they haven’t had time to build up fat reserves.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. I guess the inverse is if they’re coming down early, do they need as much fat down here from a warmth and insulation-

Hank Shaw:

That’s true. It’s true.

Scott Lindars:

And you get pictures of people hunting them in the snow where it hasn’t completely snowed over, so they need to have that fat reserved to be able to stay warm in those conditions.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, they have a little bit of down on them, which is … Like I mentioned before, they’re kind of this weird, unique, half upland, half water fowl. And I mean, that’s kind of how you hunt them too. I mean, we’ve talked about guns and we’ve talked about … I have typically chosen to hunt them with hip waders because while you will never find a snipe in a place where you need hip waders, snipe tend to fall in places where you need hip waders.

Scott Lindars:

Or getting across something.

Hank Shaw:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. So what’s your snipe habitat out like there where you hunt?

Hank Shaw:

I typically hunt public land, and it is the fringes of our duck refuges, so a flood grain field, a flooded just regular fallow field. It should be squishy, and your feet should be wet but you … I’ve never found them where my feet are under water. It’s always squishy boggy.

Scott Lindars:

That’s the kind of guiding rule I go by if someone was asking where to look is … On the opposite of it, if your feet are dry, hey, you very well may find them. But if you’re over ankle deep water or your toes are covered, you’re probably in too deep.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah. They like grass.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, yeah.

Hank Shaw:

So the diet of them as far as I know is 80% of it is all fly larvae or other kinds of insects and a little bit of plant matter, but they’re not strict earthworm eaters the way a woodcock is but they really, really love little buggy, fly larvae things.

Scott Lindars:

Yep. But they do eat worms. I shot one one time, and as it was flushing, I could still the the worm hanging out of its mouth as it’s flying away. And shot it, and I didn’t really think much of it. And getting home that night, I remember cleaning them, and there was that worm all dried out at that point, still hanging out of his mouth.

Hank Shaw:

Nice. So yeah, it was a good tip about if your feet are dry, but you’re looking for wet spots in dry fields sometimes. So not all fields will be laser leveled like they are in California so that you’ll notice that there will be a little spot in any given field that’s damp or boggy or wet. You can walk right up on that and very many times, you’ll find a snipe somewhere in there.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, so that’s interesting that you can hunt them on the refuges out there, because at least in Florida, the places that are permit only, and they’re not … Most of them are refuges, but the higher class duck hunting spots that are public land permitted access, none of them allow you to snipe hunt on during the regular season. Now, there’s a couple spots that have some dedicated days in there but are really good permit based places, like Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. And we have these things called the stormwater treatment areas, which are flooded impoundments that are used to filter the water coming out of all the sugarcane fields. And it’s well past duck hunting, but most snipe packs nest in there.

Hank Shaw:

Interesting.

Scott Lindars:

So we mostly are hunting them on public land as well, and it could be pot holes. If you look at sort of anywhere in the middle of Florida on Google Earth, you’ll see all these just patchwork of little pot holes, and those are all really good habitat. And as the water recedes, it’s constantly creating new habitat as the water levels go up or down, because that layer of mud is changing. So we look for those. We look for cattle. Cattle fields can be great for-

Hank Shaw:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’ve hunted them too.

Scott Lindars:

And a lot of our public lands have grazing leases on them, so you have the cattle there. So it’s not restricted to getting onto private land. And what do cattle do? They create mud. They poop. I’ve seen snipe making their little probing marks directly in the cow pies.

Hank Shaw:

Oh yeah?

Scott Lindars:

Oh yeah, yeah. And around the sort of the watering holes and the feeding stations where they’re wreaking havoc on the actual habitat makes for really good snipe habitats. So cows are definitely something we look for.

Hank Shaw:

Here in our duck refuges, you can find them often at the edges or on little muddy spits. So there might be a great big duck pond, and there will be little islands or spits that stick out into the water that are kind of grassy muddy, and they’ll be in there. And tell me this. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the snipe before it flushed.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. And I even see these guys taking pictures of them, beautiful wildlife photography photos. And I’m like, man, are you … I give it off to those people, because rarely do you see one. Now, I’ve seen them flying. I’ve seen them in the air. I’ve seen them coming in for a landing. But yep, not that often do you see them get up from the ground.

Hank Shaw:

Exactly. Oh, so one little note, you were talking about seeing them flying. One good indicator if you happen to be duck hunting or something and you think you see a snipe, they’re super talky in the air. You’ll hear them like … They’ll do that little squitchy sound while they’re flying, which helps a lot in identifying them on the wing.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, and their flight, how they fly. So we talked about the flush. They do this sort of erratic zig zag, which is when you’re wasting your ammunition. And then at least the ones that we see down here, they’ll go really, really high and do giant circles. Now, you’ll read about people say flush one, it’ll come back to where you were and land. And there’s some truth to that, and I’ve definitely seen them get shot off taking a pass. But I’ve yet to see one come back and land at our feet. But when we do push them and we don’t get shots on them, we like to kind of crunch down and attempt to be camouflaged. But they’ll go really, really high and take these big, big, giant loops around the field or the marsh. But they’re not taking off, so if you can keep your eye on them long enough, eventually you will see them come down, mark it, and where they head over to, where … Mark it so you circle back there on your way through.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, I find that works about 50% of the time. We have so much marsh ground where we hunt that the other 50%, they’re going to some other spot that they know, and you’re like, bye bye, snipe.

Hey, I’d like to take a moment to say that Hunt to Eat is a proud sponsor of this podcast, which makes sense, because I own and wear a lot of their shirts, hats, and other gear. When you reach into your drawer to grab a shirt to wear to a barbecue or a conservation event, you always grab the same one, right? Well, you’re about to find your new favorite tee. Head over to hunttoeat.com and check out their line of hunting and fishing lifestyle hats, hoodies, tees, and more. They’re super soft, they’re a great fit, and they’re designed and printed in Denver, Colorado. Be sure to check out the new line of Hunter Angler Gardner Cook apparel, and use the promo code HANK10 for 10% off your first order. That’s HANK10, H-A-N-K 10, and you get 10% off any Hunter Angler Gardner Cook merchandise you feel like picking up and wearing to your next event. Thanks.

Hank Shaw:

You were talking about camouflage, and I pretty much generally wear ye old Filson gear, like Filson webbing game vest and pretty much whatever else I happen to be wearing. I don’t wear blaze orange, nor do I wear camo when I’m snipe hunting.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, I don’t-

Hank Shaw:

I don’t know that it’s made a difference.

Scott Lindars:

I don’t think camo would make a difference whatsoever. I mean, I wear a pair of upland pants with briar guards on it, whatever shirt I happen to have. I like wearing a little bit of [inaudible 00:52:29]. I have some on my game vest, and I’ll wear an orange hat, only because I usually, I’m with another gunner or two and I don’t think there’s in any harm in being seen to them. But I don’t think it makes a difference to the snipe. They’re going to see you towering six feet above walking up to them as they’re hiding in six inches of grass, and it’s your present and your sound, not the color, that-

Hank Shaw:

That is an excellent point. I have found in my experience, and you tell me yours, that if you’re with more than one person, they need to shut up, because talking loudly will make them wild flush.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, I agree. I think how you approach an area is really important too, especially when it’s in thinner cover. You approach it the wrong way, they can see you from … Like I said, it’s hard for us to see them, but they see you coming, and they’ll start flushing super prematurely. So kind of playing the cover … Like if I know I’m going to work up to an edge of a piece of water, and that’s generally where you’re going to find them, as we said, maybe those first couple inches up to the first, I don’t know, 10 yards in. Can you use the cover as your concealment to work up to it so they don’t see you so soon? Because that’s frustrating when you just see one after another just peeling away down the line, and you’re like, ugh.

Hank Shaw:

Oh yeah.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, now I’ve got to wait for them all to settle and change my tactic.

Hank Shaw:

I find two things are also a good help when you’re actually trying to put some snipe in the bag, and one is, if it’s a good duck day, hunt ducks, because I had the misfortune of hunting snipe in the Delta Marshes one year, and it was the only day that the photographer, a guy named Fred Greenslade, it was the only day he could come for Delta Waterfowl Magazine to shoot what was supposed to be an amazing snipe hunt up in the Delta Marshes in Manitoba. And I had drawn them there because the previous year, it was just epic. It was just snipes everywhere, everywhere. It was amazing.

So I said, “You’ve got to come back. It’s going to be amazing.” Well, the only day that he could come back, there was probably sustained 30 to 40 mile an hour winds. And you had a split second to hit that bird on his way up. Otherwise, he tips a wing and he’s all the way in Alberta. High winds are terrible, wind and rain is even worse. Rain with no wind is fine. But I mean, I find I have my best days where it’s either no wind at all or a slight breeze, in which case I tend to walk downwind because they like to flush into the wind.

Scott Lindars:

Right, yeah. I was going to mention that, and on those really windy days where you’re seeing them do that where they were flushing into the wind and then making off, the real windy day, were they flushing into the wind?

Hank Shaw:

Well, I was pushing them. So I think the deal with the highest winds was they were hunkered down so tight because they didn’t want to fly, and then I would get right up on top of them, and then they’d freak out.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah.

Hank Shaw:

I didn’t know the downwind trick at that point.

Scott Lindars:

So I think if you can, play the wind, but I wouldn’t let that be the only deciding factor in how I’d work a piece of area, because you’ve got to also factor your approach and are they going to see you and all those things. But yeah, as a general rule, no flushing to the wind, right?

Hank Shaw:

Yeah.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah.

Hank Shaw:

Most birds do. Let’s talk about dogs before we get to the food aspect of it. So I don’t hunt with a dog, and I have not heard of … Well, let’s just say I have heard very conflicting views on the utility of a dog while snipe hunting. I’ve heard everything from you have to have one to you shouldn’t have one and everything in between. I do quite well without a dog, but then again, we’ve already talked about how the lack of a dog prevents me from shooting a potential double. But you’ve got a Brittany, and I’m going to guess that you’ve hunted snipe with other people’s dogs, and I’d like to hear your experience.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, dogs and snipe … I think if I boiled it down, I think the biggest place they’re going to help you is on the retrieve, because I know plenty of guys who don’t hunt with them, and I started out without a dog as well, and you move birds. If you’re in the right area and you’re walking the right piece of ground, you’re going to move birds. But finding them is where I think a dog really, really shines. Again, without a dog, more than I would want to admit, but probably over the years lost a dozen or more. The times I’ve had the dog with me, I’ve never lost a snipe.

Hank Shaw:

Ah, okay.

Scott Lindars:

So that’s what I really like about it, because nobody likes to do that. And I’m one of those guys who will spend 20 minutes looking and go back another time and a third time, and all of a sudden, you’ve spent an hour of your collective day trying to find a bird. So I really like having it for that aspect more than anything.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, I’ve been there too. How do you train your dog on a snipe, with snipe wings and stuff like that?

Scott Lindars:

Look, he’s not the best snipe dog, I’ll openly admit that. But together, we get the job done. I started him on quail when he was around a year. I sent him up to a guy named Albert Allen who specifically trained Brittanys. He was associated with a quail preserve, but did his own training on the side. So he helped really break him in and sort of get the basics under his belt, and then I kind of just set out doing it on my own. The first season, the dog was more trouble than he was worth, mostly because he was ranging out too far and just bumping birds that … he was finding them, he was moving them, but they were long out of … A long ways from me, so I wasn’t even getting shots on them. And we’ve kind of learned the game together, and he starts to understand I need to work a little closer, and I’m better at keeping him in within the kind of the 20 yard range.

So if he is moving one now, he’s able to do it within range. In terms of pointing versus just flushing them, they don’t hold like a woodcock or a quail, and that’s something you tend to universally read, that they just don’t hold as well as most birds. And I think to some guys who are really into the purity and the form and just having that perfect dog, it can be frustrating for them and frustrating for the dog because they’re trained steady to wing, steady to shot and all that. Again, I don’t take that part of it that serious. But he’s figured out he needs to be a little closer. And when he can get the scent right on them, again, that’s where it comes down to working the wind, being downwind of them, he’s able to point them and has just picked up the smell of them. So just by shooting them, exposing them to the wings, and he’s put the two and two together.

Hank Shaw:

Well, that’s good to hear. I definitely want to do it at some point, because I haven’t really experienced that kind of third party, having the dog in the field with snipe, and it sure would be a lot easier to not spend 20 minutes to find every snipe you’ve shot.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, that’s the part I like. But man, I tell you, if I’m out on a hunt and I see him go on a point, and whether we’ve even killed a bird or not, but that’s the best part when one point and kill, my day is … I’m done. I could go home a happy person after that, because it’s really cool to see it all come together. And watching him get down low on birdy and put the creep on him and eventually bust that bird up.

Hank Shaw:

Well, tell me about Marshdoodle. So this is, to my knowledge, the only snipe oriented web site on the internet. I mean, I think actually there’s one other, so there’s snipehunter.com, but it’s kind of a cool little spot for this very small brother and sisterhood of crazy people.

Scott Lindars:

And that’s kind of where I got the idea for it. Yeah, you mentioned snipehunter.com. Skip Hutchinson runs that web site, and when I first started, that was probably the most thorough source of information out there on snipe hunting. And I know the site’s still up. I don’t think he maintains it with new content and moved somewhat over to a Facebook group, but-

Hank Shaw:

Ah. He’s from Florida too, isn’t he?

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, he’s up in the Tallahassee area. And that guy hunts quite a bit. He’s definitely really knowledgeable on it as well, but when I started reading into it, there just wasn’t a lot of information out there. He’s got a good resource. There’s a handful of articles that have been written over the years about snipe hunting, but there wasn’t a lot of information. But there also really wasn’t, as you said, sort of that brotherhood, camaraderie type of thing around it. And then I looked at how much sort of there is of that when you get into, say, woodcock and grouse and all the folklore and the romance of going to grouse camp or guys out West doing their form of it. And it was just sort of this little void of man, I know I’m not the only guy that likes to do this. There’s other people into it. And that kind of was where the brainchild of it came from. And the Marshdoodle, the story behind that is so snipe, woodcock, we know they’re in the same genus. Woodcock has lots of nicknames. People call it the mud bat, the swap bat-

Hank Shaw:

Worm burglar.

Scott Lindars:

Worm burglar, and the timberdoodle. That’s one of the more famous ones. So I don’t know when it was. It was probably driving home from a hunt, I was thinking about that, that timberdoodle, and I’m like, well, okay, well look, they’re cousins so to speak. They look very similar. They behave very similar in terms of how their diet, the way they feed. One’s up in the woods, one’s down in the marsh, and just creative moment coined the Marshdoodle. And from there, just kind of cached it away, oh, that could be something cool. And eventually, that led me to grabbing the domain name and doing the Instagram and the blog around it. And it was really just a place to give the other people that are into it their own little bit of a rallying cry, their own sort of badge of honor so to speak.

Hank Shaw:

Very cool. I will definitely link to that in the show notes.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. I’m more focused on awareness and getting new people to do it, hunter recruitment. The last thing we need to be doing is discouraging people from getting out there in the woods and hunting upland, and so-

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, especially because snipe hunting is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, yeah.

Hank Shaw:

It’s easy to get into. It’s hard to be good at it. Walk me through how you like to prep and cook your birds, because I always like to finish this on the eating aspect.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. I want to talk about one other hunting habit style, because we mentioned it with a little bit of skepticism.

Hank Shaw:

Okay.

Scott Lindars:

And I’ve only figured out half of this equation so far, and that is the notion of being able to decoy or sit for snipe. So I had this experience, it was last year. It was probably one of my more favorite snipe hunts of the season, and I was intending to do sort of the two for one day. So I went out to sit the spot for ducks in the morning. I had my 12 gauge that day, and sat up on the edge of this little marsh water area, built a little blind out of palmetto fronds and tuckered in. Ducks were not flying that day, wrong place, wrong time. Heard some shots off in the distance. But what was flying were snipe, and I saw one just come in and land maybe five yards from me, right on the edge of, as we sort of described, the transition from the cover mud into the water.

And so that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a live just snipe doing his thing, and just watched that one and took some video as best as I could and got to watch him just kind of walk around and eventually go out of sight. But then more started coming, and at that point I was like, okay, I’m going to take these things on the wing. And they were flying into this mud flat and I shot three, technically four because this was the downside of having a 12 gauge with number four shot at about 10 yards. You can imagine the damage it did.

Hank Shaw:

Ouch.

Scott Lindars:

I went to go retrieve this one, I’m like, oh, I got a double. No, I had split that bird in half.

Hank Shaw:

Ouch.

Scott Lindars:

So wrong setup, but they were definitely flying in, and that was just really cool to watch them come in and land and … I was getting them on the wing before they landed, but seeing them come in, wings cupped up, feet down and everything. Now, that wasn’t over snipe decoys. My friend Matt has bought some. We haven’t used them together, but that led me to feel like you could actually go out and decoy over them, so I want to go back to an area like that where you have the cover, put the decoys out, and just see what happens, because I think they would come in. And if not, pick them up and get on foot and walk around.

Hank Shaw:

So definitely let me know if that works, but I’m taking my information from Worth Mathewson, who’s, he’s from Oregon and he’s hunted snipe all over the world. And he’s hunted them since 1956, and he says that he has never, ever seen anyone successfully decoy snipe and that there’s this weird myth about snipe decoys because they sort of kind of maybe-ish existed back in the day, but they didn’t really. So they were … This is back in market gunning days when people decoyed sandpipers and plovers and dowitchers and all these other things that absolutely will decoy. So there are these handmade wooden peaks of other shore birds that either people think are snipe or they just assume that snipe are decoyable. And I mean, I would live to hear that yes, you had a great hunt with snipe decoys and I can’t wait to hear it. But right now, I’m skeptical.

Scott Lindars:

Well, I am too. But Matt’s going to bring his decoys down and we’re going to go sit a spot or two this year and just see what happens.

Hank Shaw:

Pics or it didn’t happen, man.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, yeah. And look, if it does happen, I like to do woodworking as well, and decoy flocking, not decoy painting. But if it works, I’m going to go make some out of wood and hand paint them.

Hank Shaw:

Either way, it’d be cool just to have one.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah.

Hank Shaw:

So all right, you’ve got yourself a limit of snipe. What do you do with them?

Scott Lindars:

Throw them in the refrigerator and forget about them for a few days.

Hank Shaw:

Me too.

Scott Lindars:

That’s the first thing I would do. I like to-

Hank Shaw:

Because it makes them easier to pluck.

Scott Lindars:

And I just think … I mean, I do the same thing with ducks and woodcock. I’ll let them sit for, I don’t know, three or four, sometimes five days until Robin comes in and reminds me that they’re in there and I need to clean them. But yeah, I think the longer the better. Then I like to pluck them, always. They’re just too small to even think about breasting up. So pluck them. As you know, the skin is really fragile on that. It’s a pain in the butt when it rips, but it’s going to happen. After I pluck them, gut them, I like to take a pair of scissors, go down the spine on one side around the anus, come back up the other side and now I’ve … I guess that’s spatchcocking them, you would call it. Put the wings … There’s really nothing to eat on the wings, but I’ll try and keep it at the first joint. And I like to keep the feet on.

Hank Shaw:

I do too. I just like the way it looks.

Scott Lindars:

It looks so primal and sort of medieval.

Hank Shaw:

It does. It’s sort of creepy cool.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, and Robin doesn’t mind it. I think if I was serving it to some other people, I might chop them off, but the legs are really tasty. All the meat on them makes a perfect little handle for them, so-

Hank Shaw:

Another cool thing is if you deep fry the whole bird, or even halves of birds with the feet on, the process of deep frying them in 350 degree oil until the rest of the bird is done will often leave the bones of the feet and the leg so … It will tenderize them in a sense that you can eat them like the end of a fish fin when a fish has been grilled. So it’s sort of nutty crispy. And you can’t necessarily eat the whole thing unless you really fry the heck out of the bird, but it’s good.

Scott Lindars:

I read something that pertained to doves in one of … What cookbook is that? I’ll have to … If it comes to me, I’ll let you know. But it was talking about plucking them and frying them and being able to eat the whole thing, so I always figured it would work with snipe. I haven’t ever tried that. We like to grill, so most of the time, we’ll season them with a compound butter and just try and grill them as quick as possible, because there’s not a lot there to protect it from getting burnt. I’m not a fan of putting the bacon and stuff on them, even though that would make them a little juicier and stuff. I want to taste the snipe, not the bacon. I know what bacon tastes like.

Hank Shaw:

One thing I have done is taken bacon fat and painted the birds with that and then grilled them.

Scott Lindars:

Oh, that’s smart. That’s smart.

Hank Shaw:

The key is I think with anybody who eats snipe is to not overcook this bird.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, that’s-

Hank Shaw:

It is a bird that needs to be medium at the most.

Scott Lindars:

Have you ever tried sous-videing them? Because I got my wife a sous-vide last year. I started loving it for duck, because it would just come out perfect in that. And I think that might be an interesting way to keep it at that right temperature and then throw it in a cast iron or a hot grill just to get the char marks on it.

Hank Shaw:

You could. I mean, what you could do is you could pack them and sous-vide considerably below what you want, so about 125 or 130 degrees, and just to get the internal temperature to that color. And then, because the problem is if you do put it in a cast iron pan after sous-videing it, you’re going to have flabby skin, and you want to crisp the skin. By the time the skin is crisp, your meat can be overcooked. I have generally found, besides a half or a whole bird is very difficult to vacuum seal. It’s not impossible, but it’s not … It’s a weird shape.

Scott Lindars:

Yep.

Hank Shaw:

So I just, I tend to fry them, roast them over a crazy hot, crazy hot, like as hot as your oven will go, and oven better, the single best way of ever eating snipe was I was at a place and a guy had a brick oven in his back yard. And we got this brick oven at, like, 700 degrees. So I got these birds, and it was a limit of snipe, and I painted them with bacon fat and salted them, and they were whole, so they were whole. And I stuffed herbs inside the cavity, and then I arranged them all breast side up on a cast iron pan, and we put it in there at 700 degrees, and in, like, seven minutes, they were perfect.

Scott Lindars:

That sounds good. Oh, I was going to say, do you do anything with the hearts and the gizzards?

Hank Shaw:

The gizzards I don’t, because the gizzards are very small and the aspect of cleaning a gizzard that size fills me with terror. But the hearts and livers for sure. If I’m in a really good snipe year, I’ll keep saving the livers. And I usually do just throw them in with duck livers or dove livers and make a pate or put it in a sausage or something like that. The hearts I like to stick on a skewer after marinating and, again, searing hot fire.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah. I like to take them … Well, I will go to the effort on gizzards sometimes and dice them up really, really small along with the hearts and the livers, cook that in with some garlic and diced up mushrooms and then work that all into a wild rice. That adds a really nice-

Hank Shaw:

Sort of a dirty rice thing.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, it adds that really nice sort of earthy innards flavor to it. But I like eating all that stuff, and I find that goes really well with them.

Hank Shaw:

Another thing to look for is either Cajun food or low country food. I have a recipe in my book Pheasant Quail Cottontail for either rail or snipe perloo, and that I actually do take the breasts off for those. But I don’t waste the rest of the bird if I have a bunch of snipe. The breast meat gets into the rice. So perloo is a cousin of jambalaya is one way to think about it, but with very different flavors. So the diced breast meet from the snipe goes in kind of at the end, just so its still medium in the rice. But you’ve made a stock, a real quick stock out of the rest of the snipes by roasting it in a 400 degree oven until it’s nice and brown and pretty, and then make a real quick stock off of that and you cook your rice in that. So you get a use out of the whole bird, even though the only thing you’ll see on the plate is the breast meat.

So my friend Jesse will often roast his snipe. He’ll pluck all the way up to the beak, and so he’ll pluck the head and everything, and then use the beak to truss the bird. Apparently it’s a European thing, and I’ve never seen anybody other than Jesse … This is Jesse Griffiths in Texas. He’s another very, very, very accomplished snipe hunter. And it might be his book that you’re thinking about. He has a book called Afield, which is one of the best wild game cookbooks out there.

Scott Lindars:

I think that’s it. Yeah, it has yellow binding on it, right?

Hank Shaw:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is.

Scott Lindars:

That’s the one where I read about the-

Hank Shaw:

The dove feet?

Scott Lindars:

The feet, yep. I use that book as my source for how to clean them when I-

Hank Shaw:

Well, there you go. There you go. Jesse and I have hunted snipe in Texas.

Scott Lindars:

Yeah, so that’s something we should mention is that you can pretty much hunt them everywhere. I’m sure various degrees, but every state except Hawaii has a snipe season, from Alaska to Florida and everywhere in between. So there’s ample opportunity out there. Now, how good is it in every single state? That I don’t know. But I’ve talked to people all over the country, from Montana and Alaska to Maine and New Hampshire that get on them to various degrees. They’re migratory, so I’d say if you’re living up north, your season is over or winding down versus we’re just getting started down here.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, I mean, I think you’re right. It’s very much like the woodcock migration. I don’t know that they migrate together, but it’s about the same period of time, so that means August in Canada and Alaska into early September and to late September in the northern states, and they’re pretty much all down in wherever they’re going to winter certainly by Thanksgiving, and probably by early November.

Scott Lindars:

We start seeing a few down here late September, early October.

Hank Shaw:

So we’re recording this on October 21st, and I went duck hunting yesterday, and I didn’t … Actually, I did see some. We didn’t jump any because we were duck hunting, but they were all over the marsh in Northern California on October 20th.

Scott Lindars:

Yep. During our early teal season, which was end of September, the last two weeks, I started seeing a few of them being out there scouting for them, not a lot but enough to realize that they are starting to come down and conditions are favorable. So at least for the southern states, I kind of put their migration after the teal but before the ducks really start coming down, so-

Hank Shaw:

That sounds about right.

Scott Lindars:

For us, that’s October into November.

Hank Shaw:

Kind of running out of time, but one cool thing to end on in terms of the techniques in hunting of snipe is that very often, snipe season will extend after duck season. This has happened to be a year in California where snipe will last for one weekend after the duck season is over. So you get that crazy last week between the end of January and the first weekend of February where there are no duck hunters around and you get the marsh to yourself.

Scott Lindars:

Yep. Yeah, that’s what we have as well. Our goes until February 15th, I believe. And I mentioned earlier that most of our spots, permit areas you can’t duck hunt on. There’s one particular area that once the duck season closes, they draw the water down really aggressively and they opened it up. And that can be a great place because they haven’t been touched at all all season long, not a single shot fired on them. So they might get bumped around by hunters and hero shots, but they’re not getting hit with a lot of pressure. Now last year, it was really dry. It wasn’t a good year. We’ll see what this year holds.

Hank Shaw:

Yeah, every year is going to be different.

Scott Lindars:

Oh yeah. So far, I’m optimistic that it’s going to be a good snipe year, or maybe that’s me just wanting the pendulum to swing. But it’s weather down here, we just had a really nice rain over the weekend and a couple others, which I really was hoping for to sort of keep all the wetlands recharged from getting too dry. I think that’s what happened last year was if they did show up, they said, eh, I’m out of here. I’m going to go move on. And kind of across the state, everyone was really having a hard time finding them, because it was just so damn dry. But I think we’re in much better shape this year.

Hank Shaw:

All right, Scott. Where can everybody find you on the various social media platforms?

Scott Lindars:

Let’s see. On Instagram, @marshdoodle. Got the web site, marshdoodle.com. On my Facebook, I’m just myself, Scott Lindars. I haven’t switched over to that. If you want to reach me on e-mail, marshdoodlehunting@gmail.com.

Hank Shaw:

All right, sounds good. I really appreciate you being on the show, and we need to get down to … You either need to come to California and hunt with me, or I need to go to Florida and hunt with you at some point.

Scott Lindars:

Clearly, we need to do both.

Hank Shaw:

All right. Good luck this season.

Scott Lindars:

All right, you too.

Hank Shaw:

Thanks again for listening to the Hunt Gather Talk podcast. Please subscribe on any platform that you get your podcasts. And if you like this episode or any of the other episodes of the podcast, please leave a review if you can. It really, really helps me out. We’ll be going back to a bi-weekly format after this, which is to say every other week, you can expect a new episode of Hunt Gather Talk. And the episode that you should be looking forward to now is going to be Hungarian partridges. So we’ll be talking to Tyler Webster of the Birds, Booze, and Buds podcast in a couple weeks, all about Hungarian partridges. Thanks again to our sponsors, Filson and Hunt to Eat. This is Hank Shaw. You can follow me on Instagram @huntgathercook and on Facebook in the Hunt Gather Cook group. It’s a closed group, so in the questions, tell me that you heard about the group through this podcast. Again, it’s Hank Shaw. I really appreciate you listening and supporting this podcast, and I will see you in a bit.

 

You May Also Like

Hunt Gather Talk: Sandor Katz!

This episode about fermentation is with one of the legends of the practice, Sandor Katz. We dive deep into the word of ferments in this talk.

Hunt Gather Talk: Pressure Canning

A podcast explaining all about pressure canning, with expert Cathy Barrow. We discuss myths, dispel fears and talk about our favorite projects.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed listening to this. I just began hunting snipe last year on our duck club and i’m addicted to the little things. there seem to be a lot more of them around this season at our club in Dos Palos. Do you have any tips for plucking them other than leaving them in the fridge for several day? The little black down like feathers are a real challenge!

    1. Maury: They are a challenge. You can wax them like a duck, but if you do, don’t pre-pluck the big feathers on a snipe and don’t get it too entombed in wax. It works.

  2. I am from Michigan and we have morels mushrooms and fall one we call stumpers. Can you tell me what other mushroom to pick here. I am not going to all anther place to pick. And when to pick the Fiddleheads. And the ramps. and when to get Cattail Root and cattail flower.

  3. Snipe hunting is tough. They like to fly low, to avoid having the sky as a background. I heard that the word sniper from the fact that a successful snipe hunter was a good shot. They are a blast to hunt.

  4. You are out of date, Hank. The taxonomists have decreed that it is no longer the Wilson’s snipe, but the common snipe, a step down in dignity in my estimation.
    Snipe were favorite game birds for me when I was hunting. As a testimonial to my keen eye, I think I shot the limit of 8 only one time, though opportunities were many.

  5. Snipe are an overlooked game bird. Can be challenging targets.
    An old story about an American vacationing in Britain. He heard a lot of shooting on an adjacent marsh across the lake. He watched a man rowing back from the marsh while dining on the patio. He asked the guy what was going on, and he replied “snipe hunting”. The American was invited to hunt with him the next morning. As they walked into the marsh, a snipe flushed and the American promptly put it down.. The Brit looked at him, saying, “now look what you’ve gone and done old chap… you’ve spoiled our whole day’s sport” ?