Hunting snipe and jack snipe with a Labrador
"Rather hunt woodcock with a bad dog than no dog,"
"Rather hunt snipe without dog than with a bad dog ! "so says the proverb.

But hunting jack snipe you need a very good dog, if you want to see any.
This study shows the different attitudes of my Labrador, while hunting snipe and jack snipe in the same meadow.
Labrador hunting snipe in the marsh

My Labrador and I are passionate water fowlers. My Lab started to hunt in the marsh when he was three months old. He is now 6 years old. Here are photos of him hunting snipes in a wet meadow.
On the left photo, the dog trots, head up, combing the field perpendicular to the wind.
On the right photo, the dog crosses a scent. He knows that the bird is not there anymore. It 's just a place where a snipe has landed for a while during the night He smells the place but trots on.

On this photo, the Labrador is seeking, still trotting perpendicular to the wind. The head is up, muscles are relaxed and supple. His tail swings balancing the movements of his body.

Here, the Labrador meet the scent of a snipe brought by the wind. He slows down and walks now cautiously. His tail does n't swing anymore. His muscles are tensed. The neck is stiff, the head is stretched you can see that he try to locate the bird as well with his nose as with his eyes.
Now, he knows that the snipe is exactly windward of him a few yards ahead. He walks as in a slow motion movie, paws bent to be lower. His tail is down and his head is under his shoulders. His attitude is very close to big game hunting its prey.

Sometimes, the snipe will walk away in the reeds for 50 or 60 m, with the dog creeping slowly on the scent. Till both stop and the dog points.
It's magic !
Do I have to say how your heart is beating ?
Snipe flushing off
The snipe is taking off.
Its legs throw her out of the reeds. This first jump can throw the snipe 3 to 4 meters forward. In the same time, the bird spreads its wings and then draws them down and backwards powerfully. At once, this first spring gives a very high speed to the snipe.
Labrador hunting jack snipe

Looking for its food, the jack snipe walks a lot. Sometimes, the bird will run away to flee the dog when the vegetation allows it and the jack just like a quail will use trickery to lose the dog.
When my Labrador crosses a jack 's scent, he will try to follow it to find the bird. Then looking at the dog's work, you can see all the tricks of the jack snipe. I saw once the bird dive under water and cross 70 cm of a puddle. Two of my friends observed the same phenomenon. For that kind of hunt, you need a tenacious dog. My lab loves this hunt because he knows that he is the star, the major actor. When he hunts for a jack snipe, his tail speaks of his fun. But when he blocks the bird and finally points, seeming to hypnotize the bird, his tail will be straight and motionless.

On the three photos underneath, you see the dog following a jack snipe's scent, nose to the ground.

Three photos of the Labrador pointing jack snipes

First photo
: The jack flushes away as I was trying to disentangle my camera's strap tangled with my sporting gun.
Second photo: The jack snipe won the party. The scent crossed the holes made by a wild boar and the dog lost his latin.
Third photo: 5 seconds after this snapshot, through the viewfinder I see the jack flushing off at 5 cm of my Lab's nose. I could have taken the most extraordinary photo; but I forgot I had a camera in my hands and thought like a hunter holding a sporting gun:
"if I shoot now, I 'll crush the bird and kill my dog"
So I followed the bird with the camera, and in the swing take a photo before the bird. As the jack had done a sudden turn, I was in the zig while the bird was in the zag, and the photo just shows the sky over an empty meadow.

To take great photos, you need to be in the marsh, to have a few birds and enough light. Some days, the jacks will flush without letting the dog point. A week later, hunting with my camera, I did n't have any chance to take a snapshot of the lab pointing.

- Autoportrait of the author in the marshs at sunset

Feel free to give me your advices, your comments or questions

Lymnocryptes Minimus or Jack Snipe
Size : 18 cm
Wingspan: 30 à 36 cm
Weight : 35 à 70 g -
Its beack is flexible and articulated in the middle.
The Jack snipe lives in marshes and wet meadows.
The bird often migrates by pairs. If you find the first one, search the second one. It should be hidden in a circle of 10 or 15 meters.

In case of danger, the jack snipe will lie flat on the ground trying to be intermingled with the vegetation. It won't move and will let you walk very close. If you don't have a pointing or flushing dog, the jack snipe will take off right against your boot.
While taking flight, the bird will stay silent when snipes makes the noise of a kiss. Its flight seems hesitant, beating its wings then gliding right and left. Sometimes it flies like a butterfly or a dead leaf in the wind, sometimes like a snipe, always confusing.
Most of the time, the jack snipe will have a short flight and land after 100 or 200 m.
The jack snipes migrates through France from October to January.
Photo on the left, A wounded jack snipe in a meadow. If the bird had not been wounded, it would have been impossible to see it.

Photos by Cyrille Jubert.

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