Tag Archives: snipe hunting

Snipe Hunt


The snipe hunt was a sort of hazing ritual for older boy scouts to conduct and younger boy scouts to take part in. The basic gist was that the scouts would go out at night in order to hunt a mythical creature called the “rocky mountain snipe” or “west coast snipe”, or any other similar name depending on who told the story and where it was told. Said creature was supposed to be a very fast flightless bird, with feathers along its backbone that would glow in the dark. To simulate this effect, the older scouts would break a glow stick, tie it to a black string and have it pulled by a scout wearing entirely black, who would pull the stick as fast as they could through the forest. The older scouts would react to the “snipe”, while the younger scouts would attempt to chase after and catch it.
One night, a kid caught the snipe and was “bit” by it. They applied a crushed up hostess fruit pie to simulate an allergic reaction- with the raspberry filling resembling blood.


The informant is a Scout Master for a Boy Scout Troop. Their account of the snipe hunt comes from when they were still a lower rank Boy Scout, with them first hunting the snipe as a younger scout before learning about and assisting in the hunt as an older scout.


The boy scouts as a whole is an organization heavily rooted in the wilderness and nature, and I believe that the snipe hunt is heavily connected to that. It feels like a way to encourage that association among younger scouts. While it is used as a practical joke by many people outside of the boy scouts, especially people who attend summer camp, it nonetheless feels like an encouragement to be curious about the natural world through a legendary creature. It also serves to establish the hierarchy of the boy scout troop, with the higher ranking, older scouts being the ones who lead the hunt and call out the snipe, and the younger, low ranked scouts being the ones who chase down the snipe and fail to catch it. When a scout finally learns the truth about the snipe hunt and gets to join in on the activity, they enter somewhat of a right of passage into the higher ranks of the troop as well.

Snipe Hunting

Informant Information — KL

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 19
  • Occupation: Student
  • Residence: Los Angeles, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: April 10, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

The informant shared this story with me in an in-person interview. She participated in a “snipe hunt” during a visit to her grandparents’ house when she was about ten years old.


How did you come to participate in the “snipe hunt”?


When I was probably ten years old, my parents sent my brothers and I to spend a few weeks with my grandparents in Arizona. We were super excited to see the desert because my mom told us that there would be lots of cool animals there. 

About halfway through the trip, my grandparents were probably starting to get kind of tired of us, so they told us that we were going to spend a day snipe hunting. They drove us about 20 minutes away from their house and let us run around for like three hours… they didn’t even tell us that the snipes weren’t real! We found out after we got home and told our parents that we couldn’t find any. 


Had you heard of snipes before? What did your grandparents tell you to look for?


We hadn’t ever heard of snipes before, I thought they were native to the desert. My grandparents said we were looking for little brown birds that couldn’t fly and had really long beaks. They said that we would have to creep up on them and jump on top of them to catch them. 


How did you and your brothers react to learning that they weren’t real?


My brothers didn’t really care. I think they would’ve been happy to catch any animal at all. I was a little disappointed because I really wanted to catch a snipe and hold it, since they were supposed to be soft like birds. Now I think it’s really funny. 


The snipe hunt was a joke played on my informant by her grandparents, but it could also be considered a rite of passage (transitioning from being in the group that doesn’t know what snipes are to being in the group that’s in on the joke). I hadn’t heard of snipe hunting, but I have been sent on similar fool’s errands. As a child, my father once let me run around Home Depot looking for a “left-handed screwdriver” while he was shopping.