“Snipe hunting” - [Fearsome critter]
Snipes are ridiculous looking creatures* that are very quick and nearly impossible to capture, many BoyScouts have been sent after them on moonlit evenings to capture them using pillowcases, they apparently go excellently in a pie…Nobody can agree exactly what it looks like.
• History and Early Appearances:
According to Henry H Tryon  who claimed to have seen one while on a hunt. (but was only able to observe it.) – the snipe is a 17cm tall, flightless bird(somewhat resembling a kiwi or a dodo.) with Floppy Ears, 3 legs ( the extra one is for balance) brown Fur and strange, marvellous plumage in every colour, with glints of gold it has a downward facing beak which can rotate (to catch pray) it has 'Sulphurous, fiery eyes' each facing vertically & horizontally: when it blinks, sparks ignite. - Tryon goes on to explain that this 'Snipe' was a marshland creature & that their coat of fur is waterproof, their feathers stay dry, and become smooth allowing them to remain agile in the water! - According to the included illustration, it appears that the snipes nest near reeds in the marsh, protected by a natural umbrella shade.
- Of course accounts of what snipes actually are vary wildly - The creature described is often endangered, terrifying, beautiful or incredibly difficult to capture. but boy, oh boy would ever you like to see one!! - The creature might be absolutely delicious (early records say that it would go well in a pie) or that it could be worth a lot of money if captured.
•"Snipe Hunting" has been a staple of American Summer Camps & a Boy Scouts 'Hazing tradition' (aka a prank) in North America as early as the 1840s (its origins are said to be the same as the french dahut*) in which an unsuspecting newcomer (often called a"tenderfoot.") is duped into trying to catch a mysterious animal often called a 'snipe.' usually in a bag or pillowcase. - Ultimately, Snipe hunting is a quest for an imaginary creature, whose name and description varies wildly: Strange Birds, Rodents, Lagamorphs, Hogs, Lizards, Fish, Insects or whatever else might come to mind, this also extends to certain far more fanciful creatures & oddities* there are several Cryptids & other Mythological creatures that could also fall under the umbrella definition of a "snipe."
The classic form of a 'Snipe hunt' sees a group of campers led on an outdoor expedition in the evening, the newcomer is given a bag or pillowcase along with instructions that can include: "waiting quietly" or making "ridiculous noises", dressing peculiarly, or doing something equally as silly to try and attract the supposed creature. - [for example: "Mewling like a cat, whilst rubbing your tummy, bouncing up and down while wearing your underpants backwards." or something equally as ridiculous.] - The other group members then leave, promising to chase the snipe toward the newcomer; instead, they return to camp, leaving the victims of the prank completely alone in the dark, only to soon discover that they have been duped and are left literally "holding the bag" either that or they'll stay just out of sight, to watch the victim behave foolishly, snickering to themselves the whole time...
This 'right of passage' might still be commonplace in the "scouts" in certain places, but growing up in Canada in the 90's, I never personally experienced this 'kind' of snipe hunt, at least 'in the form of a prank.' - I do recall once when I was a young Beaver scout that we went on what was advertised as a 'Monster Hunt' it was decidedly not a prank, but rather the whole group really just went out for a late evening mountain hike, we were told to keep an eye out for animals and things that might be 'magical or strange.' - Really, it was akin to bird watching, but we were certainly not watching for any birds. -- (I myself saw a huge owl, it was great fun.) --It was the fantastic idea that you could perhaps, see something 'Strange on a summer evening stroll' was enough to get us all excited to go out!! --And that I suppose was the 'magic' of the Canadian child-friendly version of 'snipe hunting' – at least in my personal experience. – (Unfortunately, my pollen allergies coupled with my flat feet ensured that my time hunting with the scouts was very, very short-lived.) - So, if something 'mysterious' ever did come from future iterations of these 'monster hunts', sadly, I cannot say!! - this might be a sign of the times changing or adults realizing that children really shouldn't be left alone in the forest. (Of course I can’t speak for everywhere!)
There is of course a real Australian marsh bird with a downward-facing beak also called the snipe. (Leading to much confusion for online searches.) However, the two are not related and should not be confused! - Interestingly, The difficulties involved in hunting these snipes also gave rise to the military term "sniper."
((**There are of course world wide variants to this critter and type of prank too; for example, France hunts the "Dahut", Spain has "Cazar gamusinos", Australia has the "Oozlum bird." Germany has the "Elwetritsch" while Scotland hunts "Wild Haggis" Japan has "tsuchinoko." [i'd like to draw/write about each of these individually, eventually, so i'm only including them as a foot note for now!])
• PopCulture: Kevin from Disney Pixars UP (2009) is officially said to be a Snipe & a reference to this critter. This adds up because one of the main characters is a boyscout.
Art by @samkalensky (yo thats me!) part of my fearsome critters series of stickers, check my shop for many more!!