Snipe season in California opens in October
Snipe, though common throughout our state, but hunting and bagging a snipe during snipe season is no easy and fast deal.
This year’s snipe season opens on October 19, 2019, and closes on February 2, 2020. To hunt snipe legally, hunters need a valid California hunting license, an upland game bird validation, and a HIP, Harvest Information Program, validation. Junior hunters do not need an Upland game bird validation.
The daily limit for snipe is eight birds and the possession limit is three times the bag limit.
Read more about snipe in our previous article here. Snipe are a common shorebird in California. Brown and buff in color with short legs and a long bill. They gather at ocean shores together with other non-huntable shorebirds. They are wily, spook easily, and then fly away from the ground in fast zip-zag patterns that are hard to predict, especially during the snipe season when they are on heightened alert anyway.
On the ground, they are hard to see among all the other shorebirds. It is easier to identify them in flight. But because of their erratic flight patterns, they are notoriously hard to hit and to harvest.
Snipe prefer the muddy edges of ponds, damp fields, and other wet habitats where they are digging around in the ground for earthworms and invertebrates. Low vegetation in a habitat provides good camouflage and cover for snipes. The share some of these preferences with boar who also love to dig around in muddy, wet ground for worms and invertebrates.
Waterfowl and boar hunters, therefore, are more likely to encounter snipe in their natural habitat during snipe season than other hunters. Snipe are smaller than quail. It generally takes more than one snipe to make for a good meal. However, they make for tasty eating.
When waterfowl hunting is slow, snipe often provide excellent hunting scenarios and harvest opportunities. As long as a hunter is a good shot pursuing them with a light shotgun with an open choke and light loads (#7 steel shot). Regular waterfowl shotguns are too powerful for the small bird and, therefore, more likely to shoot nice holes into the sky than to bring down snipe.
Snipe gather in numbers but rarely flush as a flock. Most snipe flushes are single birds and very much akin to a wild pheasant flush. Missed by a hunter’s shot, they might take a short flight and land again not far from where they originally came from. Snipe hunting during snipe season is often characterized by fast and furious action. Don’t miss out on the fun.
Finally, a word of caution. No, not about lead-free ammunition but about the difficulty to even see snipe on the ground and how to identify them in flight. My advice: Go with an experienced snipe hunter to learn the ropes of snipe season hunting. Official snipe hunting information is located on the CDFW upland bird hunting page.