Monday, March 10, 2008

Snipe Hunt

Growing up, I was in Cub Scouts, then Webelos, and finally Boy Scouts. Though I never really excelled in these or became highly decorated, I did have a lot of fun in them. One of the most fun activities I remember was going on camp outs. For a growing boy, there was something magical about packing up some survival gear, a tent, and a bunch of snacks, then heading to the deep woods for a few days with a fraternal order.

On one particular camp out, my next door neighbor Greg and I were introduced to something called a "snipe hunt". Snipes, we were told, are small birds that live in the forest, and dwell mostly on the ground. The idea was that one group of boys would spot the snipes, and then chase these birds directly toward us. We had a bag for catching the snipes, and were supposed to scoop them up as they came our way.

In case you haven't heard of this or figured it out by now, the whole thing is a ruse. While there apparently really is a bird called the snipe, there weren't any snipes anywhere near our camp grounds. Ultimately, the idea was to lead a couple of young newbies out into the deep woods, then tell them to "wait here for the snipes and scoop them up", then to head immediately back to camp and sit around laughing, wondering how long it would take for the poor idiots to figure out they'd been had. If well-executed, the dupes would also be pretty well lost, since they were led deep into the woods in a completely unfamiliar area -- meaning it could take hours for them to make their way back to base camp.

Anyway, Greg and I heard buzz about this "snipe hunt" for the entire day leading up to it. We were told how delicious ("like chicken") they were, and how much fun it was to bag them. I'm not sure about Greg, but I was genuinely suspicious right from the start. I had never heard of such a bird, and couldn't quite believe that the presented method of hunting could actually work. As the time drew near and we headed out, something just didn't seem right. The other boys seemed to be having a hard time containing their giggles and glee, and seemed like they were trying a little too hard to sell us on the whole "snipe" thing. But for whatever reason, we decided to play along anyway and head out with them to the appointed hunting grounds.

Sure enough, it was a long walk, deep into an obscure area of the woods. There Greg and I stood, bags in hand, and off went the other boys to "chase the snipes our way". I don't think we were there for even 30 seconds when I announced to Greg that we'd been had, just like I knew we would, and that we had better start back to camp so we didn't end up looking like idiots. He agreed, and so off we headed.

At some point, we appeared to be making pretty good time, and the thought actually crossed our minds to try and beat the others back to camp. "Imagine," we thought, "the looks on their faces when they see us sitting there waiting for them." But unfortunately, we didn't know the quickest or most direct route back to camp, so eventually we had to abandon that plan. We did get back mere minutes after everyone else had arrived, and naturally told them that we knew there were never any snipes, and that we just played along for the fun of it. But at some level, there's just no saving face when you've been led out for a snipe hunt. So you laugh along with the others and shrug it off, and in some strange way, you're now a little closer to the mystical inner circle of camaraderie that only boys can share.

If you've heard a lot of good sermons, or read a lot of witty short stories by good authors, you realize by now that this final paragraph is where I present the great life lesson behind my experiences -- the "moral of the story", if you will. And this particular story, about the snipe hunt, is no doubt chock-full of great possibilities in this regard. But you know what? I really don't have anything in mind here. Never did. No point to make; no great underlying truth. Just a story from a boyhood memory. Sometimes a snipe hunt really is just a snipe hunt.


  1. Good memories. Catch any lately?

  2. Catch any lately?

    You mean snipe, or memories? Both are rare and elusive, it seems.