The snipe hunt is a modern day wild goose chase. It is a time honored rite of passage among members of the Boy Scouts, or pretty much any group that includes naive young campers.
While the details vary, certain things remain constant:
- Young campers are told of the mysterious snipe, a bird that lives in caves and is only active at night. The only problem is, this bird doesn't actually exist.
- Since the snipe only leaves its cave at night, this is of course when the hunt occurs.
- The snipe is always said to roam the least accessible parts of the campgrounds, such as sites that are heavy with waist-high weeds, or full of muck.
- Campers are equipped with only a flashlight and possibly a sack. No weapons are ever provided, for obvious reasons.
- The goal is never to kill the snipe, only to catch it.
Once this has been done, the hunt itself can be done in several ways. The most common is for the older campers who engineered this hunt to just stay by the campfire and laugh their asses off as they send all the campers out individually. Each makes his trek through the forest, in the dark, banging all over the place, before finally coming back empty handed.
I've also seen it done where the entire group goes hunting in a pack. The older campers come along and "spot" the snipes hidden in the densest bits of weeds. "I've got one! Over there, in that bush! Quick, someone get it!" Of course, it's always too dark to tell for sure, and by the time everyone has lumbered over, it's easy to say that it simply got away. Older campers may also throw rocks into the bushes so that it seems there's really something there. This results in many an "I almost had it!" from the poor campers. (Thanks Oeq1st1 )
One final variation is the "snipe call". Those in on the joke teach the campers a mating call that will lead the snipe right into their sack. Rather than having campers simply running around in the night, we have campers running around in the night making ridiculous noises.
The snipe hunt usually makes all the campers feel a bit stupid for a day or so, but I've always remembered mine with a bit of nostalgia.
http://home.att.net/~coledon/snipe.htm for info on variations