Common Snipe

Common Snipe

The Twelfth is not exclusive to the grouse; it also marks the commencement of the snipe shooting. This diminutive wader also breeds on the moors and its appearance over the butts inevitably creates a frisson.

Together with the woodcock, the snipe is classified as a wader but enjoys gamebird status due to its sporting and culinary qualities.

Owners of specialist driven snipe shoots generally consider the average Gun fires eight cartridges for every snipe bagged. The snipe zigs and it zags - and does one shoot on the first tack or the latter?

Its erratic aerobatics evolved to win the dogfight with its predators, the peregrine and merlin. Once they have shaken off real or perceived danger, such as a beater’s flag, the snipe settles into more level flight. Guns who take trouble to conceal themselves will find the birds fly over relatively straight.

Sometimes they will appear so high as to be little more than specks but this is deceptive. When directly overhead they are seldom truly out of range.

This does not hold with walked-up snipe and sensible Guns keep conversation down and dogs in check. A rising bird emits an alarm call similar to the sound of a gumboot being pulled from a bog and success comes to the Gun who does not hesitate. Take the shot immediately.

Mark fallen birds carefully. They are notoriously difficult for dogs to scent and their small size and excellent camouflage make them hard to pick. The best method is to walk towards the fallen bird without taking one's eye off the mark. Snipe are counted singly on the gamecard but a keeper will give you a couple, not a brace.

Rights-and-lefts at snipe are rare for most Guns. They were, however, commonplace for Lord Elphinstone and JD Cobbold. In nine days in 1906, 25 October to 3 November, they accounted for 1,108 on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. It was no fluke; two years later the pair had 1,292 in 11 days.

They are delicious, roasted whole and ungutted. The brains are an especial delicacy. Winston Churchill liked a couple for his breakfast, washed down with a bumper of port.