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The Naked Truth About Snipe Hunting, March 5, 2012

February 26, 2012

Snipe, a double-barreled D. Pedersoli muzzleloading shotgun and a Hobie Boat used to cross the canals to reach the flooded former rice fields on Butler Island, Georgia.


   This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes.  

Dottie Head

Snipe are so often encounted as a crude outdoor joke perpertrated on children that some, like my guest Dotty Head, don’t find out until they were adults that these are game birds that are legally harvested throughout North America and not made-up creatures.  Head relates her snipe hunt on Daufuski Island, South Carolina, where she and two younger friends were put out in the scary woods at night to catch some of these all-too-ellusive birds with a burlap sack, baseball bat and flashlight.  

  The smallish snipe belong to the family of shore birds and are almost always found near water feeding in saturated ground. After having been successful in taking a few snipe per trip in prior years, I returned to Georgia’s Altamah Wildlife Management Area to hunt Butler Island with the same muzzleloading shotgun that I had used a few weeks before to shoot a North Carolina swan.

  In a contrarian sort of way it seemed appropriate that having taken the Nation’s largest waterfowl with the gun that I sould also attempt to bag  the smallest. The prior-hunt-preparations went well enough, and I developed a load using 7 1/2- steel shot that would comply with the area requirements that only non-toxic shot could be used.  This shot would be loaded in my Thompson/Center Arms 12-gauge Mountain Magnum single-shot, which I would carry on the hike to the paddocks and back using a new sling just sent to me from BPI Industries.  It was comfortable on the shoulder, did not slip and used steel fasenings to connect it to screw-in eyes on the shotgun.

Mountain Magnum 12-gauge muzzleloading shotgun shown with BPI sling and J.J. Audubon's snipe. This scene was likely from Louisiana's Mississippi River Delta.

  To date, the Mountain Magnum has taken swan, geese, ducks, squirrels, rabbits and a turkey. Now it would attempt to bag itself a snipe. I had been sent the gun from Thompson/Center Arms. I increased the gun’s weight by putting beeswax and lead shot in the buttstock and adding a solid metal ramrod. This made the Mountain Magnum much more comfortable to shoot with 1 1/4-ounce waterfowl loads and 100 grains of  Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder. The gun’s interchangable choke tubes give it added versatility. Reliability was enhanced by its using musket caps, instead of the tiny no. 11s. This gun, as a shotgun, was only made in small numbers and its production life was only a few years. Nonetheless, modified as I have explained, it remains one of the most useful of modern muzzleloading shotguns.

 The uncharacteristically warm weather on February 4, 2012, caused me to decided to hunt wet, wearing only calf-length rubber boots, rather than the more cumbersome hip boots or waiders.  On a previous hunt I had used a Hobie Boat to cross the canals around the flooded paddocks, but as that had been returned to the manufacturer, I hoped to find some of the DNR’s boats still in place to ferry me across the canal. None were present on the first launch areas that I checked.  One may have been in use by another hunter whose shots I could occasionally hear from a distant corner of the island.

  I slung my gun and trudged on to a crossroad on the west side of the paddocks. Here the ditch had not been re-dug in decades and the matted grasses had so clogged the canal as to make a dry-land bridge from the roadway-dike into the paddies. I saw a distinctively shaped tree growing by the road and took that as my landmark as I broke through the very thick and tall marsh grasses into the once-flooded part of the paddock.

   I did flush a few snipe, but did not manage to hit any of the swift flying birds. After tromping around for a hour or so, my hip joints started to bother me, and I decided it was time to move to a fresh area. The problem was that on this cloudy day I was unable to pick out my tree. (A good argument for carrying a GPS.) I knew the general direction, so I started towards the west end of the paddock, knowing that I would intersect a road. I did, but there was a water-filled canal in front of it. I thought about just plunging in and swimming across, but I did not know how deep that water was, I was carrying  heavy cameras and gear and there was also a 12-foot alligator in those canals somewhere.

Getting into and out of these flooded paddocks proved to be an interesting experience.

 Once again going into the interior of the paddock I paralled the road, pushing my way through the head-high grasses. I made my way towards the road heading for a tree that somewhat resembled the one I had passed going in. Myfeet suddenly broke through the vegetation, and I was rapidly sinking. I sat down, put my shooting bag and gun down on nearby clumps of stiff grass and extracted first one foot, and then the other.

  Fanny Kimble, the northern wife of a plantation owner, had lived on that island in the early 1800s and wrote a book, Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation,  in which she complained about her experiences and dammed slavery as an institution, although she and her husband profited from it. She rightly termed  Butler Island as, “The most amphibious piece of land I ever saw.” In this she was quite correct, and to extract myself I had to do my best imitation of a frog.

  After recovering both feet, I put my gun and bag down for added support and lurched forward about six inches, beat down another platform of  marsh grass, did another “hop” and so proceeded until I reached the drier ground next to the roadway where I beat down some 15 feet of   thorny briers to once again stand on the dike-road. My gun was now too wet to shoot, and that ended my hunt. Returning to my truck which was parked under the I-95 overpass, I stripped off my clothes, dried off and changed. My hunt finished, I went back to Darien on U.S. 17.  They were having  what they call a “First Saturday” event with music, crafts, food, fresh produce and seafood. It was there that I met Chef Eric of the Darien River House, who I interviewed later, for the cooking section of the show.

  Chef Eric serves Thursday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and has a Sunday brunch from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.   You can visit his website at or call for reservations at (912) 437-2510. He and I have almost identical thoughts on how to best cook wild-caught American shrimp and other seafoods, and he shared some interesting recipes.

  Ads on the show include one from a new sponsor, Man Scent, who retails fragrances like cosmolene, wood smoke, rosin and bread to make, “A man smell like a man, rather than a bucket of floral-scented slop water from your local florest.” SIN, Synthetic Industrial Non-Nutritives, Inc., also offers a new presentation of  its basic raw material “glop” shaped like  a 6-inch shrimp which its focus groups preferred to the 1, 2 and 3 foot lengths, ” to give consumers the salt, butter and sugar taste they crave, anyway, anytime, anyhow they want it,” according to company officials.

  Started too late to include on this show is the launch a new outdoor-friendly Christmas play. As explained below, support from listners, the outdoor industry, friends and business associates is vital to make a go of this project.

Old Auntie Thresa Claus soon to be young Princess Thresa Claus

  On March 1, I did a Kickstarter launch of  “A Visit from Auntie Thresa Claus.” This play includes gifts of a wild goose for Christmas dinner and a Daisy Air rifle to a young son. At this stage in the launch numbers are particularly important. Donations as little as $1.00 are accepted and will receive a reward. The first 100 who give $25.00 or more will also get a signed print featuring Thresa Claus. The first five who give $100 will see the performance/filming, attend the after-play party and have a chance to visit with me, cast and crew. Because I hunt, publish about guns, cook and eat wild game, this will turn off some potential doners who might otherwise support a new short Christmas play. The support of the outdoor community is needed to overcome this funding gap. If the project is not fully funded you will not be billed and I will receive no support.

Please pass this along to anyone who you think might be interested.  For details go to Kickstarter at:
Thanks very much. Your support will be most appreciated,
Hovey Smith
Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures 



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Craig Hollingsworth permalink
    February 29, 2012 6:44 pm

    Hi, Hovey!

    I have often wondered about loading shot in a muzzle loader. Do you wrap the shot in paper before leaving on the hunt?

    Craig Hollingsworth

    • March 1, 2012 2:55 am

      During the 1800s almost everything possible was loaded down the tubes of muzzleloading shotguns to coax them into shooting tighter patterns. I do not pre-wrap shot charges, but some did in paper, metal foils or encased in some substance. I do use plastic shot cups with the abrasive HeviShot and sometimes with lead shot. Most commonly, lead shot was, and is, loaded down the bore without wrappings or wads for close-range shooting.

  2. Victor Paul permalink
    April 26, 2012 6:37 pm

    Living in Carolina now, but made many a snipe hunt on Butler thru the 70’s & 80’s. Yes i sat down in those canals more than once. Great story, brings back many great memories.

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