Folk Beliefs
general

Snipe Hunt

My informant shared a story about a “snipe hunt” he went on when he was in boy scouts at age 10 or 11. The setting is having lunch at an Italian restaurant. This was also not the first time I have heard a story about snip hunting, my friends have told me that they used to dress up and go on snipe hunts as children. My informant grew up in Texas and California and my friends that have told me stories in the past grew up in Minnesota, which shows the universality of the practice. This informant is the same as my entries on the surgeon occupational lore and the cattle myth.

Informant: “So when I was a boy scout in Southern California, when we went out to summer camp, at night before we went to bed, the senior boy scouts took all the younger ones outside and said we were going to be going on a “snipe hunt.”  And that the snipe was kind of like a bird and an animal so it could fly and run around on the ground and it was brown and had sharp teeth and we were supposed to go try to find one and catch it. And so everybody was outside and the older guys ran off and all the younger guys were kind of scared and looking around and walking around and looking under the bushes looking for a snipe or something that looked like a snipe, no one really knew exactly what a snipe looked like. But you know in your imagination its kind of like a creepy, creepy squirrel with wings and sharp teeth and stuff. So you run around and the older guys were out in the woods and they were like throwing sticks and making noises and hitting sticks on trees, and rustlings the bushes so then you get kind of scared. Then you are all kind of walking along kind of quiet and then they all start screaming and yelling and running and everybody rubs back to the camp and then you find out that there’s no such thing as a snipe.”

Me: How old were you?

Informant: 10 or 12? It was a long time ago

Me: Did you do it to other people?

I: Oh yes! I had lots of little brothers to do it too. Yeah, definitely did it to my little brothers. They were in the boy scouts too. You guys did it to Moira

Me: we did? I don’t think so

I: Maybe I did it to Moira

The snipe hunt is a type of practical joke that was used as an initiation process for my informant in Boy Scouts. Once the young boy scouts learned the snipe hunt practical joke, they could then play it on other new Boy Scouts. The snipe is a real bird species, but few live in the US, which is how the snipe hunt ritual began being played on inexperienced campers. My informant tells this story because of tradition: he was told it as a child so he told it to his children. My informant also finds playing jokes on people quite entertaining. He also has an interest in animals, and he said if given the chance to find a real life snipe, he would. A snipe hunt is also a general term for any practical joke that sends someone on a “wild good hunt” or an impossible task. The snipe hunt is also commonly found among children across the country, in many states. I had friends from the midwest that have told me that they have gone on “snipe hunts” with their friends in the past. There are many examples of such snipe hunts, such as the bacon stretcher in restaurants or the double headed monkey wrench as in my technical theater entry, it is commonly used to play a joke on the “new kid.”

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