Like most men of his region and era, My Grandpa, Buck called them snipe. “Most folks think of ‘em as a trash bird, but that’s because they don’t know how to cook’em.” He said as we headed down the foot worn path to the creek bottom. “I’d just as soon eat snipe as quail. Of course, most people over cook quail too”. As far as we were concerned, woodcock hunting in the Piedmont of North Carolina was our little secret.
“Snipe” hunting was usually secondary to squirrel hunting for us, but when the flight was in he’d trade the #6’s in his Spanish made 20ga for the #7 ½’s in the right pocket of his coat. My Topper .410 stayed broken until we were moving birds regularly, then he would pass me a single shell and walk with me step for step through the canebrakes, coaching me on gun safety and reminding me to let them get the “above the scrub” before I shot. I never took a bird in the woods with Grandpa, but it was the most exciting hunting we ever did together.
By the time I was old enough to handle a shotgun effectively he was too old and unsteady to get into the woods with me, but he planted a seed back then that became one of my life’s great passions. That old creek bottom cover has matured into a green-space shared by the residents of a vinyl village on the far bank, Grandpa and Grandma’s house is long gone, and Grandpa has gone on to be with Jesus and Grandma.
Aside from my little French Brittany’s, I mostly go alone into my little creek bottom covers. Sometimes I carry Grandpa’s old 20, but I just can’t seem to shoot it the way he did. These days I keep the #6’s in my right pocket and the squirrels are a target of opportunity. Most of my birds end up being tossed in a pan with olive oil and seasoned with things that never saw the inside of Grandma’s kitchen, but on occasion they’ll be flash fried in butter and served with white gravy on toast, just the way he liked ‘em.