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1. A practical joke in which the victim is sent on a hunt for a fictitious animal called a snipe. When I was in the Cub Scouts, the youngest members were always sent out on a snipe hunt by the counselors on the night of our first big campout.
2. By extension, any hunt, search, or quest for something that is fictitious, non-existent, elusive, or illusory. The president has pledged to make universal healthcare a reality, but I think he's really just on a snipe hunt.
snipe at someone or something
1. Lit. to fire a weapon at someone or something from a concealed position. Someone with a rifle sniped at the troops as they went through the jungle. A rifleman was busy sniping at the platoon.
2. Fig. to make petty complaints attacking someone or something. Stop sniping at me and everything I do. Ken is always sniping at my reports.
See also: snipe
n. a cigarette or cigar butt. Down on skid row, a snipe won’t be on the sidewalk for ten seconds.