A snipe hunt is a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The snipe hunt may be assigned to a target as part of a process of hazing.
A snipe hunt is a specific type of "wild-goose chase", where a person embarks on an impossible search. Where a wild-goose chase may be accidental, a snipe hunt is always initiated by a second person, as a prank.
The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises such as banging rocks together. Real snipe (a family of shorebirds) are difficult to catch for experienced hunters, so much so that the word "sniper" is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.
- In the pizza-making business, newcomers are told to look in the fridge for the dough repair kit.
- Another variation includes being sent to procure a "big weight" or "long stand", the idea being that the dupe will reach the shop (or equivalent source of the mythical object) and place the request. The target is then left waiting by the shop keeper (who is presumably familiar with the trick) and thus receives a big wait.
- Other common restaurant practical jokes include sending the new employee to another restaurant to borrow the "bacon stretcher", or a can of steam.
- In the casino business, table games employees are sent from casino to casino searching for "fifty feet of pass line" for the crap tables, or the "wheel crank" for the roulette wheel.
- In construction, a "left handed screwdriver", "board stretcher", "eye measures", "hammer grease", "wall expander", "glass hammer", "striped paint", or "box of assorted knots" are the analogous pranks.
- In the Australian Navy, asking new sailors and gullible civilians to look for the on-board 'Golden Rivet' is also a common occurrence.
- In the U.S. Navy, sending a new sailor after "red lamp oil for the port running light" and "green lamp oil for the starboard running light" are similar pranks. Another example is to send the naive on a search for a "spool of water line".
- In U.S. Army Airborne units, sending a new trooper after "riser grease", "canopy lights", "a bucket of prop wash", or "keys to the dropzone" are common.
- In the Canadian military, a common joke is tasking a new soldier to find a "brass magnet" to ease the collection of spent ammunition casings.
- In the US Marine Corps, sending a younger Marine such as a Private or Private First Class to get the keys to the HUMVEE (They do not require keys.)
- In the US Air Force, senior NCOs send new 2nd Lieutenants in search of a specific length, say 60 yards, of flight line.
- In the automotive repair industry, someone unfamiliar with cars and car parts is sent to search for, "headlight fluid."
- Another prank involves sending the victim to look for a "henweigh".
- A common thing is to require an ID10T form to be filled out for a government form with the military or taxes. The unsuspecting person will ask be asked to write down the form and go ask someone for it.
- In Boy Scouts, sending a new camper after a "Left Handed Smoke Shifter" is a similar practice.
- This class of jokes was behind the what was pulled on Olive Oyl in Thimble Theater in the 1922-01-14 strip. Castor Oyl, not wanting Olive to sail to Dice Island with him, sent her to get a "dime's worth of longitude", expecting to be sailing before she gave up. Popeye made his debut in the strip, during this sequence.
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- Paris, Leslie (2008). Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp. NYU Press. p. 104. ISBN 0814767508.
- Etymonline.com – snipe
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- The Little Red Book of Firehouse Pranks by Jeff Hibbard (ISBN 0-9667810-0-7)
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