This is a good time of the year to reiterate two facts of nature that many people don’t believe when they hear them. Those two facts are:

Yes, there really is such a thing as a snipe and …

Yes, in Missouri, you really can go on a snipe hunt.

Contrary to what many people believe, there actually is a bird called a snipe. Not only can this bird be found in Missouri, it can be hunted here as well. One of the state’s lesser-known hunting events, snipe season, opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 16. The bag limit is eight and the possession limit is 24. Missouri residents who wish to hunt snipe need a small game hunting permit if they’re ages 16-64 and a migratory bird permit. (The age requirement for the migratory bird permit is 16 and up.)

The exemption to this regulation is Missouri resident landowners hunting snipe on their own land. They do not need a small game hunting permit, but the Migratory Bird Hunting Permit is still required for hunters age 16 and up.

How the pursuit of this long-beaked shorebird came to be associated with the well-known prank of getting naïve people lost in the woods is a mystery. Snipe hunting — the kind you do with shotguns, not gunny sacks — was more popular in the 1800s than in the current century. The bird’s explosive take-off and rapid zig-zag flight when flushed made it a challenging target for wing-shooters. As the number of hunters pursuing quail, mourning dove, grouse and other gamebirds increased, snipe gradually slipped in popularity.

However, these birds still migrate through Missouri each fall and can be an unusual sight for the novice nature watcher or the casual birder in addition to the hunter. Here are some snipe facts:

Wilson’s snipe (the snipe that migrates through Missouri) is one of a number of sandpiper species — the sandpiper being the largest family of the shorebird group. Snipe are usually found in marshes or other wetland-type habitats. They’re approximately 11 inches long and are brown with buff-colored stripes on the back and a striped head. Like other sandpipers, snipe have relatively long wings and short tails.

The most distinguishing characteristic of the common snipe is its long, straight bill. This comes in handy when the birds are probing the mud for insects, snails and small crustaceans.

Even people who don’t live near wetland marshes can sometimes see snipe in the fall. Snipe can occasionally be seen on fence posts near wet fields or other low-lying areas that are barely flooded. Its long beak makes a snipe fairly easy to recognize from most other birds — although they’re sometimes confused with the American woodcock and the long-billed dowitcher; two other long-beaked birds that migrate through Missouri in the fall.

The reason Missouri’s snipe season is in the fall is because that is when the bird can be found in this region in abundance. During their nesting season of late spring and summer, snipe are in their breeding range in Canada and the northern United States. Fall migrations move snipe to a wintering area that extends roughly from mid-Missouri down to the Gulf of Mexico.

More information about snipe and snipe hunting — as well as other gamebirds — can be found in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “2016 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest,” a free publication available at most Department of Conservation offices and places that sell hunting permits. You can also learn more about snipe and other Missouri birds at