As a kid growing up I heard stories about people being taken on snipe hunts as a practical joke. Snipe were supposed to be some elusive bird, animal or whatever. A snipe hunt occurred during the night with the victim trying to catch the mythical "snipe" in a burlap bag. As the stories went the ending of the hunt would occur when the perpetrators would abandon the unwary victim deep in the dark woods.
While I was very familiar with hearing the "snipe hunting" stories, I was not familiar with the real thing; the Wilson's Snipe. Some years later, perhaps in the mid to late 70's I remember spotting a bird I did not recognize at a spring where the cattle watered on our family farm. Looking it up in a bird ID guide I found that I had spotted my first real snipe!
As the years passed I learned that snipe could be found nearly every year probing the wet pasture land surrounding the spring during late March and early April. With that in mind I began watching for their return as the snow melted this year, intent on photographing the wary little birds.
As I was making my rounds on the farm Saturday a snipe flushed from near the spring, signaling that they had once again returned. With nice weather both Tuesday and Wednesday I spent some of each evening working my way within photographic range with a John Deere Gator. I had learned from past experience that they were much more tolerant of the Gator than they are of a man on foot.
As I would approach the birds would hide, and believe me when I say that with their camouflage they can disappear in open spots where it would seem absolutely impossible for a bird of their size to hide. Once within range, with the tripod set up on the gator's deck, and the engine shut off it would be only a matter of 5-10 minutes before the birds would begin to make a few furtive test moves. As I waited, remaining motionless, their nerve increased quickly and within a few more minutes the entire flock would be busy running about, preening, or probing the mud for tasty morsels.
The following are some of the better shots from the two evenings.