Snipe Hunt

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
I found the snipe!

152. The following items do not exist: Keys to the Drop Zone, A box of grid squares, blinker fluid, winter air for tires, canopy lights, or Chem-Light® batteries.[1]

A common hazing ritual in real life, a Snipe Hunt consists of sending the Butt Monkey, Naive Newcomer, or a Bumbling Sidekick out on an impossible or imaginary task to get them out of the way or humiliate them. Oftentimes used in comedy as a B-Plot to the main action, and a common ending involves the getter finding what they were sent out to get (even if it was say, a unicorn) or finding the wrong thing and having hilarity ensue. Bonus points if the finder locates the imaginary item or accomplishes the Impossible Task right away.

Named after a common practical joke that involves sending a newcomer out to catch a snipe, a real-life marsh-dwelling bird that riflemen find extremely difficult to get a piece of (hence the term "sniper", implying that the marksman has enough skill to consistently bring down that same tricky bird), in a bag. The victim is left there "holding the bag" as part of the humiliation. Also commonly referred to as a fool's errand, and may overlap with You! Get Me Coffee!.

The fictional version of the snipe is often described as a rather horrific creature. Usually something akin to a werewolf, or mutant bird. Fictional snipes are usually described as being all black with glowing red eyes.

On occasion, someone who sends a new-hire on a Snipe Hunt will have dramatically underestimated his target's intelligence; one semi-famous example is that of a new Navy recruit being sent to the engine room to get a 'bucket of steam', only to return ten minutes later with a pail full of dry ice!

In a real-life work situation, Snipe Hunts are met with a variety of responses depending on the nature of the workplace—while a less 'formal' atmosphere, like your local FutureShop, might just shake their heads and bear the tradition, a lawyer's office is much more structured, and a Snipe Hunt means that you're holding up someone's (possibly time-critical) files in order to play a useless prank.

Oftentimes the character returns only to be sent out again, to fulfill a more specific version of the demand, eg: "I wanted a red flower" Or, "Get me DIET Soda".

And sometimes the person actually wasn't meant to go on a snipe hunt, but takes a joke literally. Akin to: "Go jump off a cliff." "Okay"!

The deadly version is The Uriah Gambit, when someone is sent on a dangerous mission by a "friendly" party who secretly wants them dead. See also Shaggy Dog Story.

Not to be confused with trying to find a sniper in a battlefield.

Examples of Snipe Hunt include:

Anime and Manga

  • Eureka Seven: The crew of the Gekko State did this to Renton in the episode "Absolute Defeat." Renton was sent to deliver a package of "highly-explosive" ramen noodles in a stupid costume, and told that his contact would be a man bearing a tattoo of a "legendary and mythical beast." Moondoggie (the previous New Meat of the Gekko State) gets sent out to videotape Renton making a fool of himself, but suspects that he's actually on a meta-snipe hunt when Renton takes the job unnaturally seriously. When Moondoggie finally snaps and starts beating Renton up, the boy was saved by a man with a tattoo of Holland on his back; Renton immediately decides that he's found his contact. Hilarity Ensues—on both sides of the screen. The guys back on the Gekko watching it all were laughing their asses off, almost to the point of literally rolling on the floor.
  • Naruto Shippuden: In the Six Tails filler arc, Utakata promises to accept Hotaru as a student if she fulfills tasks that he thinks are impossible for her (for example, mastering a water jutsu that is impossible to do without water-nature chakra), since he doesn't believe that he can truly give her what she wants. Contrary to what he expects, she manages to accomplish each task.
  • Hajime no Ippo: When Sendo arrives to spar with Miyata, Ippo isn't allowed to go watch because the gym had officially cut all ties to the Miyata family. In order to give Ippo an excuse to go watch the fight anyway, his gymmates send him to buy them some nonexisting products, including Pokarimin C drink, Tsuchinoko drink, Arowana Cola, Doctor Pappy, and next month's issue of a magazine. Surprisingly, he does find a Tsuchinoko drink.
  • In Magical Idol Pastel Yumi, the title character starts one by accident when she creates a golden bird.

Comic Books

  • In Thimble Theatre, during the storyline Popeye makes his debut, Castor Oyl and Ham Gravy are about to leave on another adventure, and in order to ditch Olive, who insists on coming along to keep an eye on her boyfriend (Ham), they tell her to fetch a 'dimes worth of longitude'. Olive naturally gets laughed at. When Popeye tells her what longitude is, she gives Castor a good thrashing.
  • In Retail, one of the pranks Cooper plays to new employees is to go and search around for a "wall stretcher".
  • Justice League: Year One has Fish Out of Water Aquaman asked to find a "bulb wrench" to help with work on the new headquarters. He doesn't see the funny side.

Fan Works

  • Digimon: Used in this fanfic, when Wallace's friends send Daisuke off on a snipe hunt. Then he tells them he found one. He caught onto the joke. It's Chibimon inside his bag.
  • In a later chapter of Invader Zim: The Series, Sue sends Zoburg out to hunt snipe so that she can get some time alone with Spork.


  • The first Shrek movie contains an example where Donkey is sent off to find a blue flower with red thorns to keep him from distracting Fiona and Shrek while they dealt with the arrow in Shrek's behind. Not only does he find the flower, he wanders through a whole copse of them, complaining that his task would be infinitely easier if he wasn't colorblind, and he only brings back the right flower because he grabs one - any one - in a panic when he hears Shrek yell. The other characters don't even react weirdly, making it a relatively subtle sight gag.
  • In Ocean's 11, Rusty sends a detective out to "Go find Griggs," as a distraction while he's recruiting Basher in the guise of an FBI agent. This is also an example of the Bavarian Fire Drill, as Rusty brazenly walks into the police crime scene and walks off with their bombing suspect.
  • The premise of A Bugs Life. Princess Atta sends Flik out to find some bugs to fight Hopper, not expecting him to actually find anybody willing to defend an ant colony.
  • Up features a literal example. Carl sends Russell away on one to get him to stop annoying him. Eventually, he actually finds one, although it's a bit bigger than he expected. Alpha sent Dug away on a literal Snipe Hunt as well, due to the fact that Dug's foolishness was viewed a burden on the pack. True to this trope, he finds the bird. The bird becomes a principal character of the film!
    • What makes it even funnier is that Carl truly believed that it was impossible because he didn't know that there is such a bird as a snipe.


  • Invoked in America: The Book, in which a new hire at the EPA is told to save the North American Gutter Snipe.
  • Played with in A Song of Ice and Fire. Robert Baratheon sent his hapless squires off to Ser Aron Santagar for a (non-existent) "Breastplate Stretcher" when he discovered he'd gotten too fat to fit his old armor. They hesitate, probably knowing there is no such thing, before scampering off at his insistent roaring.
    • Made explicit in the TV series, with Robert wondering out loud how long it'll take Lancel (his squire in the series) to figure it out.
  • Discworld
    • A variation appears in a number of Watch novels. Nobby and Colon are sent on these by Vimes to prevent them from interfering with actual police work, but often stumble upon important clues which are vital to solving a case. Also played with in that Colon occasionally sends himself on such errands, such as making sure a bridge or the opera house isn't stolen, so he doesn't have to do any real work. No major landmark has yet been stolen—except the University, but that was a student prank. This is no mean feat, seeing as how many of the city's major landmarks are less than a foot tall, courtesy of "Bloody Stupid" Johnson's bloody stupidity.
    • In Maskerade, Mrs. Plinge mentions how other young men pick on her son Walter, including sending him out on Snipe Hunts to the market for non-existent things, e.g. transparent paint or a packet of holes.
  • Inverted in the Posleen War Series: when Thomas Sunday is sent to look for a tube of "Nannite Undercoating", he returns with an entire case of KY Jelly.
  • Vorpal Blade: when an arrogant Marine non-com is sent looking for "ID Ten T" decontamination fluid (ID10T)
  • City of Thieves except they are actually expected to find the 'snipe'
  • In Catherine, Called Birdy, Catherine celebrates April Fools by asking three of the household servants to bring her pigeon's milk, striped paint, and hens' teeth. To her disappointment, the first two ignore her and the third reminds her that she tries the same trick every year and they haven't fallen for it yet.[2]
  • The protagonist of Evelyn Waugh's novel Scoop is sent to buy a variety of non-existent items to prepare for a foreign journey. He's served by an extremely resentful shop assistant who has had the bad luck to always get stuck serving naifs on similar shopping excursions, and who believes that they're just pretending in order to waste his time.
  • Still More Tales for the Midnight Hour: A scouting troop does this to a disliked member. However, not only does the scout find 'the snipe', in the form of an unknown and extremely aggressive bird, said bird has lots of friends.
    • That was actually another story, The Gooney Birds. The Snipe Hunt had the same scouting troop discovering a nest of snipes, some form of rat-like creatures, that surround the campsite.
  • Not sure if this belongs here or in Real Life, because it comes from a memoir, but Matthew McGough's Batboy: Coming of Age with the New York Yankees reveals that a common hazing ritual for new batboys was to send them to get a bucket of steam, or the key to the batter's box, or a left-handed bat stretcher (a double whammy as there is no such thing as a bat stretcher, and if there was it would likely be ambidextrous).
  • In the Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan novelization, a junior engineer calls Admiral Kirk out on his condescending behavior by offering him a 'left-handed spanner'.
  • Referenced in the Aubrey-Maturin series of books, specifically The Far Side of the World: after rescuing the crew of a whaler and de facto recruiting them (mainly because there's nowhere else to put them), the crew of the Surprise start having a bit of good-natured fun with the whalers, like having them ask the gunner for "a length of firing line". Works nicely because the civilian whalers and the naval crewmembers operate by two sets of discipline and two sets of jargon.
  • Harry Dresden pulls an interesting variation on this in the infamous Donut Incident, in which the "hunter" knows exactly what's going on and is fine with it. (It Makes Sense in Context.)

Live Action TV

  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Fire Maidens of Outer Space, Joel and the robots imply that the monster wandering the woods was sent on a Snipe Hunt by his friends.
  • An episode of Cheers revolved around Frasier being sent on a Snipe Hunt, though he later gets back at the others by agreeing to go on another and abandoning them in the cold.
  • In an early episode of Carnivale, Ben gets sent off to "clear out the baggage trailer" on his first day of work as a roustabout; naturally, there's no such thing. He finds it anyway. (It's that kind of show.)
  • The Wire: The detectives at Homicide make the newbie call the zoo about a "Methane Probe for Mr. Lyon".
  • In the Father Ted episode "Escape From Victory", Ted gives Dougal the task of guarding the corner flags from theft during a football game. Predictably, he struggles with this.
  • The Office when the whole group is on an evening cruise, the captain assigns Dwight the task of piloting the ship which Dwight eagerly accepts. Turns out Dwight is put in front of a prop steering wheel to get him out of the Captain's hair. Even Michael can tell it's fake.
  • The Bill: The repercussions of Snipe Hunts are seen when to catch a serial graffiti artist, someone really does have to keep a wall under surveillance. Assuming it to be a joke, the policeman watching the wall wanders off.
  • In iCarly, annoying fan Mandy is sent off to get "fladoodles," which of course don't exist. She comes back an hour later, claiming she had to go to some store in a different state, and then she is told "No, we wanted fat free". Guess what else is in the bag.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Data got suckered into a snipe hunt once (as did Wesley).
  • The Mickey Mouse Club contained the serial Spin and Marty which feature a Snipe Hunt in its first run.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, Eli Thompson tries to send his son to the neighbor on a snipe hunt, but the neighbor apparently didn't understand. The son returns right back home saying the neighbor had never heard of the item.
  • Game of Thrones: Robert Baratheon is too fat for his armor, so he sends Lancel Lannister to find the breastplate stretcher.

Newspaper Comics

  • FoxTrot
    • In an early strip, Peter asks Jason if he wants to be go on a snipe hunt. Jason refuses and says only an idiot wouldn't know what a snipe hunt is. Cut to them asking their dad if he wants to go on a snipe hunt.
    • Another strip had Peter and Paige again asking Jason if he wants to go on a snipe hunt.

Peter and Paige: Hey, Jason, wanna go on a snipe hunt?
Jason: Why? So you two can lead me out into the woods and ditch me? Where under a full moon every tree will look like a gnarly zombie reaching out to grab me and every shadow will look like Bigfoot moving in for the kill?
Peter and Paige: Um, maybe.
Jason: Cool. Can we wait 'til it gets a little darker out?

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons: A sourcebook called Relics mentions a very stupid ogre king who was told by a mage he will gain respect if he'll slay a dreaded weresnipe living in a nearby cave. The king was lucky enough to stumble upon an artifact which enhanced his mind.
    • Mentioned in one of the sample dragon entries from the Draconomicom - one particular green dragon gets his kicks by capturing adventuring parties and holding their equipment hostage until they bring him back some rare or hard-to-acquire item. Whenever they come back, they find that the chimera pelt or whatever is the wrong size or wrong color, and get sent out again. The game ends when the adventurers wise up and don't return, or when the dragon grows bored and just eats them.
  • Vampire: The Requiem has the Carnival bloodline in Bloodlines: The Legendary, who send prospective initiates to go find "the key to the midway" (an actual carny tradition). This is generally to keep the fledgling off their backs while they assess the fellow's worth. If the fledgling refuses, they can never join the bloodline... but if the fledgling refuses because they saw through the trick, their odds of being allowed in shoot up. A similar trick is used to divert noisy vampires who might rat the Carnival out to the Prince.
  • A Legend of the Five Rings supplement had a story about a Lion husband and Scorpion wife. The wife sends him on a Snipe Hunt for a left-handed widdershin oatmeal stick which he dutifully goes looking for, day after day. On the day she invites over the ex she would have preferred to marry, but her husband barred from the house, an unscrupulous merchant sells him a left-handed widdershin oatmeal stick at a ridiculous price and he triumphantly returns... to find the guy who was barred from his house sitting in the living room. Hilarity and romance ensued.

Video Games

  • Fallout: The Glow Quest in the first game is little more than an extended Snipe Hunt—one that's expected to kill the questant, no less.. Like many examples, the place is filled with great loot (and good info on the backstory) if you buff your radiation resist beforehand.
  • And of course, Super Mario Bros. has the dreaded line "Thank You, Mario! But Our Princess Is In Another Castle", which while not technically a Snipe Hunt can certainly feel like one after navigating an entire castle and finding out she's not there.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic 4 has a passing mention of a coming of age ritual called "Snark Hunting", which basically comes down to this. It's then subverted when it turns out the heroes' quest was not one of these.

Web Comics

  • Girl Genius
    • Agatha is sent on one. She actually manages to get the Silverodeon working again, though they'd given her the task just to keep her busy and weren't expecting her to succeed.
    • At one point, an an airship crewman gets told that he's now working for the heir to his boss; his reaction is to ask one of the others if he was just 'sent out for a crate of balloon juice'.
    • Also, the Jägers' quest to find an heir was believed by everyone to be a snipe hunt, albeit a necessary one (it keeps their honor). When Agatha turned out to exist, one of them burst into tears.
    • And way earlier, Agatha herself sent Aedith on such a hunt to keep her little clanks a secret.
    • When Agatha arrives at Castle Heterodyne, she isn't sent on a snipe hunt—but Wilhelm tells her that "people will have you fetching devil dog chow [3] and left-handed trilobite tighteners [4] soon enough."
  • The Order of the Stick has the main characters sent on a wild goose chase to find some "Star metal" to repair Roy's sword (which was shattered in the previous arc). There actually was some where they were headed at some point in time, however the Linear Guild assumed that it would have been claimed by other adventurers by now, not to mention it wasn't even needed to repair the sword. They do find it, though; however, it turns out to be a chunk about the size of a pebble—but later it turns out that that chunk is actually enough to reforge Roy's sword with a +5 bonus and undead slaying abilities.
    • Durkon has technically been in a Snipe Hunt since before the start of the comic: a prophecy foretold that Durkon's return to his home would cause the destruction of the dwarven homelands. Therefore his superiors sent an unknowing Durkon to the human lands and told him not to return until they called him back. Another Oracle foretold that Durkon eventually would return... posthumously. And he did - once he was turned into a vampire, he returned to the dwarven homelands. As of January 2018 real-time, he was still there, although he'd been raised, and the dwarven homelands were in very serious threat of being destroyed.
  • The "hatchet joke" in Lackadaisy Cats. The Savoys make Mordecai Heller chop some... compromising evidence up with a hatchet. He is not happy when they tell him it was a joke. Boss Asa Sweet later asks him if the rather OCD Mordecai put the pieces in alphabetical order. After a moment of silence, Mordecai snarks "A is for amygdala, Mr. Sweet.
  • In 8-Bit Theater, after fetching three of the Elemental Orbs for Sarda, Black Mage starts to feel like the orbs are just a Snipe Hunt. When told to find the Orb of Air, he says "Oh, sure. The Orb of Air. And after that maybe we'll get the "Orb of Headlight Fluid" and "Then the Orb of Elbow Grease" too, right?"
    • Once, to get Fighter inside a room rather than outside, Black Mage uses an old trick: a paper with "There is a map to Swordtown on the other side of this note" on both sides. Somehow, he found it.
      • Or, for some of you who won't believe it, he got into the Real Light Warriors supplies.
    • Also, when the Warriors wanted to take over the town Mafia, they got the well-meaning Fighter out of the way by sending him off to play in a Drownball tournament (a parody of Final Fantasy 10's Blitzball), where the rules are, apparently, that you have to drown in order to win. And it's unclear where the ball comes in.
      • Incidentally, Fighter won the tournament by default, since he was the only player who failed to drown, on account of his brain using less oxygen. That's perfectly logical.
  • In Nodwick adventurers distract their naive cleric when they're about to abuse the henchman. For example:

Piffany: I didn't find the undead snipe you said was lurking in — where did Nodwick go?

Alice: Today young Asok learns that life is NOT like 'Star Trek.'

Western Animation

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko's task of finding the Avatar, who had been thought dead for a century, was essentially just this. All this is courtesy of his Evil Overlord father Ozai, after he personally scarred and banished his own son.
  • An episode of King of the Hill involves Bobby and his friends being sent out to hunt Snipes and accidentally injuring an endangered Whooping Crane instead. Oops. Hank and his friends had it pulled on them in the backstory, and don't seem to know even as adults that the snipe is a real bird, and think it's some kind of imaginary animal.
    • The description is similar to the conventional fictitious description of a "snipe" for the purposes of snipe hunting. So, that part is Truth in Television.
      • The use of the snipe hunt itself tends to lead people to believe that the snipe is a fictional creature, rather than an actual bird.
  • In an episode of Kim Possible, Drakken tells a Brainwashed Shego to go out and accomplish various meaningless tasks to keep her occupied, including finding a dodo bird.
  • On Doug, the titular character's introduction to Bluffington involved being sent out to find the fictitious "Neematoad". He avoided any embarrassment when his dog, Porkchop, got covered in pond scum and the natives mistakenly believed he had succeeded in his impossible task.
    • The nematode is actually quite real, but nothing like the creature described in the episode.
  • Family Guy
    • In "The Son Also Draws", when Peter - after Lois gambles away their car at a Native American casino - claims he has Native American blood, management has him go on a vision quest to prove it. Subverted, as Peter has a vision (or at least an insightful hallucination), even though his claim to Native American ancestry was a con and none of the actual Native Americans figured he would have one—and immediately start whining that they want a vision quest now.
      • This actually plays off of the fact that vision quests and spirit guides are not exclusive to Native Americans. Tradition generally holds that everyone has a spirit guide and that anyone can go on a vision quest.
    • In the episode where Chris becomes an artist in New York, his manager decides that his family is an embarrassment and decides to get rid of them for the afternoon so they don't cause trouble at a party. When Chris asks where they are, he tells him that they decided they would rather wander around Soho for hours looking for an address that doesn't exist.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants pilot, Mr. Krabs and Squidward send Spongebob on a fool's errand for "a hydrodynamic spatula with port and starboard attachments and turbo drive", to keep him from getting a job as fry cook in the Krusty Krab. Astoundingly enough, he shows up with one near the end of the episode ("Can you believe they only had one in stock?"). Lucky for Mr. Krabs and Squidward too, since Spongebob uses it to save them from a pack of unruly anchovy customers.

Squidward: I want something else to eat now. Something that’s very difficult to find.
Patrick: What do you hunger for, master?
Spongebob: Whatever you want, we’ll find it, we’ll find it!
Squidward: Cherry pie.
(Patrick holds pie)
Squidward: Where’d you get that?
Patrick: I found it.
Squidward: (throws pie off screen) Well go find it again!

  • Camp Lazlo has all the campers on a literal Snipe Hunt, but the animal described sounds more like Big Foot. Edward's brothers' past hunts lead him to conclude Snipes aren't real. The others mistake Lumpus for a snipe.
  • Stimpy of Ren and Stimpy is sent on a Snipe Hunt in the woods to prove his worth after the duo joins a Girl Scouts offshoot. When a skeptical Ren opens Stimpy's bag, he gets mauled by the big, hairy bug-eyed monster that emerges.
  • Phineas and Ferb In the episode "Undercover Carl" Monogram sends Perry on a mission to find a goose that has gone missing for YEARS!! In the end of the episode Perry finds the goose...while wearing a space suit.
    • Monogram didn't expect the goose to be ever found. He was just afraid Phineas and Ferb were working for Doofenshmirtz so he got Perry out of the way during the investigations. The Moon was among the places Monogram told Perry to go while searching for Agent G.
  • The Talented Mr. Bixby: Lampshaded in one episode, in which Mr Bixby sends the students of the auto repair class he is substituting to get some "blinker fluid" to avoid having to write a ridiculous paper. As the students leave the room, they pass a sign that says "There is no such thing as Blinker Fluid". They come across an identical sign at the auto parts store, and stare blankly at it.
  • The Simpsons: During a safety audit, Homer Simpson and two other less-gifted employees are put in a room out of the way and given the task of guarding a bee in a jar. The other two question it but Homer, thinking himself brighter than the other two, boasts of his position as "head bee guy".
    • After Marge accident cut of Homer's thumb in one episode, she phones the emergency services, but when it becomes clear that Wiggum intends to arrest her for this, she gives the address as "123... Fake... Street". Later on it Wiggum bursts into an actual house with that address to find Bart and Milhouse trying to hide illegal fireworks stolen from the mob... It's a long story.
  • In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbah 4 is ordered by Numbuh 86 to guard a random flower in a garden, in order to prevent him from following her. Four places the flower in a pot and takes it with him.
    • in Operation F.A.S.T.F.O.O.D, Numbah 3 wants to lead a mission for her birthday. Because 3 is The Ditz and a Cloudcuckoolander, Numbah 1 tasks her with the duty of...getting a kids meal from a fast food place. Things get out of hand when they learn that the restaraunt's propriator is an old enemy of the KND, and it's most frequent customers are sharks...
  • In an episode of South Park, Kyle wants to go to a rock concert. His parents agree to let him go only if he can accomplish a long list of tasks ending with "and bring democracy to Cuba". He actually manages to pull this off, only to be told he still can't go, as his parents admit they only made him the offer because they honestly didn't expect him to succeed.
  • In an episode of Zigby (a preschool-age series broadcast in Canada and Australia, but also available on DVD, about a Zebra), Zigby stages a scavenger hunt to help people clean up. A group of monkeys, who are keen on ducking work, decide to a play a trick by pretending to be Zigby and telling a couple of Zigby's friends to go find a wild goose. Technically, that makes it a wild goose chase, but essentially, it's a snipe hunt.
  • One episode of Donkey Kong Country has multiple snipe hunts...all surrounding the same trinket.
  • In the pilot of Invader Zim, the Tallest assign Zim to a "mystery planet" on the edge of known space. In truth, they didn't even know if there was a planet out there (they pointed to a post-it note on the edge of their map that read "Planet ?"), and they just wanted to get rid of him. Unfortunately for them, Zim stumbled upon Earth, and kept calling them up with annoying reports about his "mission".

Web Original

  • In episode 3 of Red vs. Blue, the Red team sent their rookie Pvt. Donut to go fetch some elbow grease and some headlight fluid from "the store." He returned with the Blue flag, thereby starting the plot proper.
    • Made even funnier by the fact that he instantly caught on that they were sending him on a Snipe Hunt with the elbow grease. He was completely fooled by headlight fluid though.

Donut: Elbow grease? How stupid do they think I am? Once I get back to base with that headlight fluid, I'm gonna talk to the Sergent.

  • In Suburban Knights, The Nostalgia Critic prevents Ma-Ti from joining the quest with various snipe hunts. First, he tells Ma-Ti to stay back and guard the children and elderly...that don't exist (that's what makes the task so difficult). Then, when Nostalgia Chick "loses her contact lens", Ma-Ti must stay behind and search for it. He eventually finds someone's contact lens (exactly whose it is isn't made clear), but still can't join the group because Mickey has erectile dysfunction, which can only be cured by goat porn, which Ma-Ti must go forth and find.
  • Chronicle of the Annoying Quest actually began as a Snipe Hunt. Ellers wanted to drink with his fellow paladins (and pick up chicks), but they told him Only the Worthy May Pass and sent him to kill a Black Dragon, knowing it would likely just kill him.
  • In Shadow of the Templar, Team Templar sends Dave on one of these when he's first assigned to the team: find a way to break into Rich's computers. Although they eventually accept him as one of their own, they forget to tell him to stop. And are therefore doubly shocked when he announces that he's succeeded.

Real Life

  • This is common in many fields of employment as a welcoming ritual (also commonly known as hazing) and a list on The Other Wiki catalogs the most common items involved, of which the "long stand" (not, as the hapless newbie eventually finds out, a supporting structure of greater than average length) is perhaps the most celebrated.
    • Subverted in that the Snipe is an actual type of shorebird that is notoriously hard to catch. The term "sniper" actually originally referred the skill of someone who was able to hit one.
  • This is apparently very common in the military. Examples from The Other Wiki, at least for the US Navy, include:
    • DCA Horn (as in "blowing the DCA," who is the Damage Control Assistant, an officer)
    • B-1RD (pronounced "Bee-One-Romeo-Delta") or C-GU11 ("Charlie-Golf-Uniform-One-One")
    • PEN-15 or ID-10-T ("Eye-Dee-Ten-Tango") forms.
    • Since the actual code for most batteries starts with "BA", a newer one is to send someone for a form to purchase a "Bravo-Alpha-Eleven Hundred-November" battery. (BA1100N, Balloon). The proper response if you know the joke is to ask if they want it blown up or not
      • On a related note, there is a common school prank whereby the (admittedly quite gullible) victim will be offered an invitation to join the illustrious Pen Fifteen Club. To accept, they simply have to write "PEN15" prominently on their forehead.
    • Newbie mechanics in aircraft hangars in all branches may be asked to go and fetch a bucket of Propwash. For the uninformed, propwash is the term for turbulence behind an aircraft created by a propeller (or in the case of Jetwash, a jet engine).
  • A U.S.N. classic is to announce that a Sea Bat has been trapped on a weather or flight deck. Any green sailors arriving to see this rare specimen will find a group struggling to hold down a large box or basket. They are directed to get on their hands and knees, so that the edge of the box can be lifted for observation. Suffice it to say, there is a real bat involved, of the Louisville Slugger variety, applied vigorously to the victims posterior.
  • The U.S. Navy’s Equator-crossing tradition involves –among many other jests – placing the uninitiated on a watch schedule with binoculars to look for the big red line . . .
  • To add insult to injury, when someone is sent on a Snipe Hunt in the military, everyone knows what is going on when he asks for one of the nonexistent items. The most common response it to tell him that they used to keep it here, but the moved it to "building-on-the-other-side-of-base." When he makes it all the way there, he's informed that this is a mistake, and they moved them back to the first building a month ago.
    • For bridge types, asking someone to polish the "Relative bearing"
    • In the aviation community, sending the new guy to take "exhaust samples" by way of holding a trash bag up to the exhaust vents of turning engines. Hilarity ensues. Or how about sending the new guy to Maintenance Control for the keys to the airplane?
    • Best real life subversion was when a fellow recently transferred from the Army to the Air Force was sent out to get "100 yards of flight line". Turns out that 1) he used to be a Combat Engineer, B) his former unit was based in the same town, and III) Combat Engineers love playing pranks. A quick phone call resulted in a big pile of busted up tarmac being delivered to his new unit's office.
    • The US military uses the PRC designation for radios, such as the PRC-77, pronounced "Prick Seventy-Seven". Thus, it is common to send the poor PFC or Lcpl to go find the "PRC-E7". Now, consider that E-7 is the rank designation for a Gunnery Sergeant, and the PFC or Lcpl will inevitably ask "the Gunny" where it is...
    • Another naval tradition was to go to the engineroom to get a BT Punch... A BT being a Boiler Tech...
    • Fresh Finnish marines might be asked to fetch the key to the wake water tank.
    • US armored cavalry regiments sometimes send newbies to find the key for the turret lock on an Abrams tank. The lock exists, the key doesn't.
      • Our military, ladies and gentlemen.
  • A common snipe hunt is sending rookies looking for left-handed versions of naturally ambidextrous implements, like a left handed javelin or a left-handed screwdriver.
    • Left handed allen wrenches work especially well, as other things called wrenches often do have handedness.
    • Left-handed smoke shifters are fun as well.
    • Day of the Tentacle featured a left-handed hammer, needed to solve a problem involving Mirror Twins.
  • Another famous one is sending them out to look for tartan paint.
  • In Spain, Portugal and Cuba the equivalent of a snipe hunt is hunting "gamusinos", an even more jerkish version since (unlike the snipe) the gamusino does not even exist. The term ultimately comes from the Provençal word gambozi, meaning "lie".
  • Many a new employ at Microsoft have been sent to a meeting at Building 7 (where all the important decisions are made)
  • This anecdote.
  • It's an initiation ceremony in German military as well. Among weird stuff to find (like a key for the supply room which in German military is a part of the battle field rather than an actual room) noobs are sent all about the base with an open container of 'highly dangerous battery fluid', which is usually simple juice consumed finally by some superior.
  • Another example of keeping children away while the grownups get down to business: In rural Sweden back in the good old days, a child, deemed too young to witness the slaughtering of a large animal, would sometimes be sent to the neighbouring farm for some non-existent tool that the adults claimed to need before they could start. The neighbour, being of course in on the joke, would send the kid even further away, and so on until somebody decided that the poor kid had been running far enough, and confesses that the tool isn't needed. When the child gets home, all the gory and icky stuff is already taken care of.
  • Working in stores or grocers, powdered water (Just add water!) is a favorite item.
  • It used to be that strapping young electricians were sent to fetch one-farad capacitors, that being a ridiculously large value for the actual components. Nowadays, though, you can probably find one for under fifty bucks.
    • Another example: "Wireless cable". Now that we have fiber optic cables, these are real.
  • The Oil Patch is also full of these. From pipe stretchers and buckets of steam, to "Push Slaps" (the Rig Manager is also known as a "Tool Push"), "Glasses for the Blind Rams" (blind rams are a set of hydraulic rams used to close off the well completely) or the "Key to the V-Door" (The V-Door on a rig is the metal slide that drill pipes ride on when brought up to the floor).
  • Actor Nicolas Cage proposed to future wife Patricia Arquette on the day they met. She gave him a list of extremely rare things to find (including a black orchid, J. D. Salinger's autograph and a Bob's Big Boy statue, among other items), saying that that's what it would take to win her. When he started to actually find and deliver the things on the list, she got scared and avoided him. They still went on to marry (and divorce), however.
  • Being sent to retrieve the keys to the lean-to.
  • Newbies to shop classes and technical theatre work calls are sometimes sent to fetch a replacement level-bubble or a wood stretcher
  • In Israeli youth movements, the traditional "snipe" is "electricity powder".
    • This one works in the Israeli army too. Another thing they ask you to get is a glow stick charger.
  • A radiator hose for a '72 VW Beetle.
    • For those readers not familiar with Beetles, the originals had air-cooled engines. No radiators.
  • Often, when Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout Open Houses, there will be a snipe hunt. This is the nice person kind, so the teenage Boy Scouts will pretend to have caught a snipe, and show up later with a glued shut box with a rock in it, claiming that the snipe is in there.
  • Elbow Grease is sometimes used for hapless rookies who are unaware of the term "put some elbow grease on it."
  • Even the fast food industry has some of these. New hires at the local McDonald's will often be asked to go get "more steam for the bun steamer".
  • A common prank in the sailing world is to send a raw hand to the marine supply shop for fifteen yards of shoreline.
  • New hires at baseball parks used to be asked to fetch the keys to the batter's box, a left-handed fungo bat, or 100 feet of foul line.
  • In the film industry, it's a C-47. (A clothespin.) There will be clothespins on a film set because wood conducts heat poorly, so they're used to gel lights and that sort of thing. But it's fun watching the littlest production assistants run around with haunted looks in their eyes. There's also a practical purpose to using Insistent Terminology - if you want to get rid of someone, you can tell them to get a C-47, and if they don't know what it is you can yell at them for not knowing how to do their job and fire them on the spot.
  • Another common one is a newbie, or a person in for work experience, to be sent to retrieve a 'long weight'. The person the newbie is sent to is often in on the joke and when asked for the item will usually, on the pretense of going to retrieve the item, clear off and leave the newbie will be left standing, waiting for the person to return. The newbie can be left standing for as long as half-an-hour before they finally catch on.
  1. Note that in a bit of Technology Marches On, the last of these does exist now.
  2. Though in fact pigeon's milk does exist. It is a high-fat, high-protein secretion from the crop lining on which newly-hatched chicks are fed. It looks somewhat like pale yellow cottage cheese.
  3. "devil dog" is a nickname for local hunter-killer units, so that's probably just a rude reference to the prisoners themselves
  4. trilobite is a major element of Heterodyne heraldry and as such also a form of local pastry, with either one is out of luck as much as with the real thing