« So Who Knows? Politics, Presidents, and the Second Amendment | Main | Bourjaily on Lucky Guns »

May 21, 2008

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

Sit Down, Shut Up

In the early part of the 20th century, Dr. Saxton Pope (one of the founders of modern bowhunting), became the caretaker of a Yahi Indian (the very last of his tribe) named Ishi, and got to watch a genuine subsistence hunter at work. Ishi, said Pope, was not a particularly good shot with a bow, nor were his bow and arrows very much, but what Ishi could do was sit and wait. It was uncanny how still he could remain, and for how long. After a while he would seem to melt into his surroundings, and any game he got a chance at would be taken from only a few yards.

Learning to sit still is one of the great pleasures in hunting. In some places, it's the only viable method. But it's also difficult to acquire the discipline to sit truly still. Years ago in South Carolina I was on a hunt where I shot lots of deer and no one else shot any, and there was ugly talk about the Field & Stream bastard getting the best stands. But it wasn't that at all.

I had learned by then that these deer were highly clued in, and would watch a stand from the woods before coming out into the open, and that sitting still did not include nose picking, scratching, yawning, lifting one cheek to fart, stretching, moving your rifle, or anything else.

I think that if you can sit truly still you can go into the woods wearing purple, lime green, mauve, and Prussian blue and you will still fool the animals because they see movement, not color. And the other benefit of sitting corpse-like is that all the other beasts of the field forget you're there, and you get to watch all sorts of critters going about their lives. Sometimes that's such a good show that you forget all about what you're there for.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Sit Down, Shut Up:



Great point. And I think you would do better wearing purple, lime green, mauve, and Prussian blue camo, or even paisley than you would do wearing a solid brown shirt.

Sitting still is probably the best thing you can do but breaking up large color patches will really help all those times we screw up and shift our weight, shrug at a nat or shiver.


As usual, a very interesting story.

I don't give out compliments very often, but this blog is one of the most well thought out and kept up sights on the web. I read it every day, and enjoy it very much. It is truly refreshing to find someone who has a blog and an I.Q. over that of the average lab rat. This blog truly helps me escape the daily grind and all the other crap I hear elsewhere.

Thanks for the blog and keep 'um coming.


Sage advice. I never had the luxury of hunting deer from a stand. The only way I've ever done it is "still hunting" (walk a few steps and freeze) or with my butt on the ground and my back against a tree.

My friends and I hunted crappy, over-pressured land, so dead stillness was the only option. It worked. A young buck once came within about 5 yards of me, and damn near took a nibble off my buddy one tree over.


But Daaave, (whinny noise)
That is how I call the deer in. When I lift a butt cheek and pass gas it sounds like a deer grunt.

Tom the Troll

Chad Love

Truer words were never typed.
Sit down. Shut up. Be still.
I'm a mildly successful public land deer hunter, but I don't use blinds, stands, scents, scent blockers, feeders, trail cams, calls, decoys, rattlin' horns, tactical sniper rifles, NASA-designed camo or personal invisibility forcefields.
I usually shoot deer not because I'm some kind of uber-hunter, but because I get there earlier than anybody else, I find my spot, I sit down, I get everything arranged the way I want, and then I don't move. Period.
I think, just for giggles, I'll take a camcorder out this fall and record every single hunter or pair of hunters, or threesome of hunters, or foursome of hunters (yes, I've seen it) that will invariably come crashing by me during the course of Oklahoma's nine-day public land season and then post it on Youtube.

Dr. Ralph

It took me ten years to figure this one out. People always talk about reading on stand, but where I hunt if you turn a page the deer will notice movement from 100 yards and you will never see them. I'm always amazed at the TV hunters whispering and motioning before they shoot. That dog don't hunt here. Deer will stand directly under you and stare you down and if you can take the heat eventually they will turn away and you can raise your rifle very slowly. Don't even blink.

Mike Diehl

Well spoken Dave.

Sitting motionless in blaze orange consistently works better than the most fashionable camo on a fellow who can't sit still.

Dr. Ralph

Dartwick, I believe that is why the standard hunting uniform for many years was the infamous red plaid flannel shirt or coat. They were wearing break up camo and possibly didn't even realize it...

Jim in Mo.

You nailed it Dave.
The last two things I say to my son (17) before splitting up is be careful and sit still.
I dislike the solid blaze orange the broken pattern orange seems much better but Cons. Dept. won't hear of it here.


I realized the wisdom of this advice a few years back. I was squirrel hunting on a weekday afternoon outside of Bloomington, Indiana. I was sitting still, leaning up against a tree with my single-shot Winchester model 37 in 20 gauge. I had on jeans and a t-shirt, had smoked a cigarette only about 1/2 hour earlier, and still had on deodorant and aftershave from that morning. A doe and a couple fawns walked by me at about 2-3 yards without knowing I was there(wind obviously was in my favor, or so I guess). I was floored, and realized that all that scent blocker, super duper camo clothing was just great marketing whose purpose was to unneccesarily take my money.

Dr. Ralph

dinfos... Hoosier National Forest? Used to be one of my favorites for Grouse.

Brian T.

Sitting still? Believe it. I took the time and trouble to try to learn to do that. Much harder for me that I imagined. If all you do is breathe and move your eyes, after even 20 minutes, nature will be revealed to you.

Jim in Mo.

You jogged up a suppressed memory of around 1980. Was squirrel hunting 8 miles outside Steelville Mo (population center US, at least then). Was sitting against a small tree when I heard what I thought was squirrels playing on ground and coming my way. I wasn't camo'd or anything else but I raised my shotgun on top of my knees aiming in their dirrection. Thru the green tree leaves and limbs pushed two black noses along the ground (seaching for acorns I guess). On came two very nice sized deer, on up to no more than 2 foot from my foot. I had my mind made up if they take another step, for self protection, I'm gonna shoot that lead deer in the head. At that point they saw me but couldn't figure out what I was (at this point I had never sat so still in my life). I guess I was just a strange object that they couldn't figure out so they turned to their right and mossied off a bit apprehensive.


Sitting still was the very first thing I learned as a deer hunter. When I was 8, I would practice. By the time I was 12 and on my first deer hunt I could stand, holding my 30-30, completely motionless for just about 45 minutes. By the time I was 16 I could sit in a stand even in 10 degree weather for just about 3 hours. I know that hi tech is often fruitless money burning but I would gladly pay a few hundred dollars not for scent blocker but for great thermo wear. The seasons when I came home empty handed were always the seasons that I got bored early. Shame on me. The most challenging thing for the young generations that are so used to video game instant gratification is trying to make it more than 20 minutes sitting in one place, let alone without hardly breathing. I like to think of it as a skill, like holding your breath under water or meditation. Not to sound like a new age whack, but once one finds the stillness, the single act of being, hunting deer becomes something you happen to do to fill the deep freeze while you are out in the woods.

Jim in Mo.

Sounds like you have a 17yr. old like I have.

Trae B.

I killed my last deer with my Ipod on, I have the volume on 1 where I can barly hear it but when im listining to music I just zone out for a few hours. My guess was that the deer liked the song and came to see if he could listen too.


They say that most fishing lures catch fishermen, but not fish. I think the same sort of thing could be said about a lot of the camo on the market - it impresses hunters, but not deer. I spend more money on really warm clothes than on camo. Sitting still for several hours in sub-freezing temperatures is impossible when hypothermia becomes an issue.


It's a skill that seems sadly lacking in the West, where if there's nothing moving in a couple passes of the binos, it's time to head for the next ridge. But even out here in the great wide open, sitting still pays real dividends. Personally, I think it's a skill as important as stalking and tracking.


I like the way Gritz described it, "the single act of being".
As an older hunter with a bad back, I can't really sit all that long without exercising. However I've found that I can lay down and hide pretty good for extended periods of time. The day I knew I was doing something right, I was Turkey hunting with a decoy and was lying prone with all this camo stuff on and a little bird of some kind landed on a twig about 3 inches from my right eye. Then it was a contest to see who would move first, me or the bird. I won, after what seemed like 10 minutes, (probably more like 1-2 minutes) the bird flew. By the way I got my Turkey about 15 minutes later. I call it blending in with the mountain. I first learned the art of not moving by sitting in a Duck Blind with my step dad and uncle, a couple of grouchy old Italians who were masters of the art. If you moved when you shouldn't, you heard about it for weeks. Good training for a kid.

Jim in Mo.

Trae B,
If thats what it takes go for it.


Sounds like Forrest Gump!
"Sit down!" "Be still!"

As a kid growing up, we went from tree stands to box blinds! Box blinds were a relatively "new" concept and worked very, very well.
With a small kerosene heater, I could sit still for quite some time even in the coldest weather which brings this story to mind.
It was extremely cold one morning. I lit my heater and sat back waiting for daylight. Since my job required working days, afternoons and nights, my sleep patterns were the pits! I woke up a bit after daylight, shivering in the cold. The heater was doing fine but the breeze was slipping the warm air right out my shooting window. An 18 inch square of plywood lay in the corner of the stand and placing it on top of the heater, forced the air back into my lap and I warmed up and dozed off again. I awoke with a start about an hour later, deer galore in the back side of the opening I was hunting and my eyes began to burn! I suddenly realized the plywood was on fire! Trying to find a buck with burning eyes and fighting fire was a tall order, but I finally got the fire out and the deer never figured it out!


Dr. Ralph

Since everyone has their knee waders on after Bubba's fire story I'll just say a friend of mine says he fell asleep in the woods hunting and a doe woke him up with it's nose 3" away from his...

Ed J

Hey Bubba

Is that when you learned that wood burns?

Ralph the Rifleman

Sorry Dave, but if I need to break wind; The cheek is going up!
ps-Remember to keep that methane away from the heater!


A woman who works for me bowhunts every year for deer in the Bighorns since she prefers not to mingle with the grizzleys in the Absorkas. She mixes and matches camo patterns but admits that she tends to use wide spotted camo rather than darker smaller patterns. In the west where the ability to see a considerable distance is always present if you look at someone wearing a small pattern camo shirt from quite a ways off they appear to be wearing a solid color. Additionally this lady even has camo lens in her sunglasses. Often she kills a really good buck with a single arrow. To prove how still she sits in her stand, on one occassion she had a rather large owl actually land on her shoulder. It was about mid-morning. Needless to say she did move at that point, so did the very much surprised bird.

Our Blogs