Snipe Season Is Upon Us

OUT ON THE EDGE

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Have you ever been on a snipe hunt? They're great fun. My first try at snipe was as a Tenderfoot member of the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 42.

The older members of our troop who were mostly First Class, Star and Life rank escorted us Tenderfoots on a nighttime adventure through the Coconino National Forest during a weekend Camporee.

Armed with gunny sacks to snag the birds, we marched obediently into the night under a full moon.

Moments before we headed out, our troop leaders gave us a spirited talk which convinced us to smear toothpaste on our faces. Our leaders said it was one of the best ways to lure snipe into our sacks.

One thing's for sure, once you've enjoyed a snipe hunt, the desire to share the adventure with others is almost overwhelming. Some of the most stimulating hunts I've been involved with since my Boy Scout days have been with the Tucson Amphitheater High School basketball team.

Each summer during the Payson Summer Invitational Basketball Tournament, the Amphi team coached by my longtime buddy Pat Derksen spends the weekend with my wife and me in our home above Pine. Only a few hundred yards from our home is the challenging Pine Creek Trail.

During the years the Amphi Panthers have been participating in the tournament, a strong school tradition has developed.

Amphi players on their first trip to the Payson tournament mostly freshman and sophomores are required to go along on a hunt guided by Derksen, myself and veteran members of the Panther team.

I'm told that on the Amphi campus in Tucson, the annual snipe hunts have become the stuff of legends. The thrill of the hunt has even developed a certain mystique among nonplayers. Derksen has told me that girl basketball players have asked to go along on a hunt, but that privilege has been reserved exclusively for the boys' team.

The traditional hunt usually begins with a rally in my living room. With hands and arms held high, and the players gathered in a tight circle, the seniors begin the chant.

"Gimmie an 'S,' gimmie an 'N,' gimmie an 'I,' gimmie a 'P,' gimmie an 'E.' What's that spell? Snipe, Snipe, Snipe!" the players roar in unison.

Once they're thoroughly motivated, it's off to Pine Creek Trail.

The first-year players, who march crisply in single file with shoulders square, are led by Derksen, myself and the veterans of the hunt.

The leaders are armed with flashlights, while the rookies sport the all-important sacks that will be used to snag the snipe.

Once deep into the forest, the rookies are positioned for the hunt usually behind rocks and trees where they will lay in wait for the animals.

Following an age-old strategy, the leaders then march ahead with the flashlights. They tell the rookies that once they get a few hundred yards ahead, they'll use the lights to flush the snipe out of the bushes and send them scurrying back toward the eagerly awaiting rookies and their sacks.

But the carefully laid plans of the hunt normally unravel when suddenly all the batteries mysteriously fail and the flashlights are rendered useless. This unfortunate circumstance leaves the rookies alone in the dark, surrounded by a maze of towering Ponderosa pine trees.

One of the best snipe hunters to ever come out of Amphi was 6-foot, 10-inch Anthony Oates. Since the 290-pound player was deathly afraid of snakes, he had no trouble corralling his snipe early.

With a bag of birds in hand, he'd scamper back down the trail to the friendly confines of the Foster home. Only trouble was, by the time he got back to the house, his catch had mysteriously escaped.

Anthony now plays basketball for the University of Massachusetts. He says he's planning a snipe hunt for the UMASS freshmen.

(Article by Max Foster, originally appeared in the April 28, 1999 issue of The Rim Review.)

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