Customs
Initiations

The Snipe Hunt

My father was in the boy scouts all throughout his childhood. He’s very proud of the time he spent and the fact that he was the youngest Eagle Scout in the state at the time. When we found a box containing his old boy scout badges and uniform, he told me this story.

When there was a group of two or three “Tenderfoots,” the youngest boy scout members, on a camping trip, they would be taken out of the camp during the night. Their scout leaders would direct them to collect one metal wash basin (that was traditionally used to clean dishes) and return to the clearing. As the boys were collecting these wash basins, every other person in the camp knew what they were being directed to and was in on the joke.

Once the boys returned, they were told about the “snipes.” Creatures that ran very fast through the forest at night but they were drawn to light and shiny things. The boys were directed to hold their wash basins just so towards the moon so that the light reflected off of the metal and the snipes would run towards them. Once the snipes arrived they could simply drop the wash basins on them and they would have caught their first snipe!

The boys who would be around 10 or 11 years old, were left out for around thirty minutes, mostly terrified and waiting for a speeding snipe to approach them, until the leaders came and collected them. Then the boys were told the joke and they were officially done with their first snipe hunt.

For another person’s experience with their first snipe hunt, see: A Snipe Hunt Robert D. Tollison Public Choice , Vol. 120, No. 3/4 (Sep., 2004), pp. 241-246

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