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May 21, 2008

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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.


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the suburban bushwacker

Great post its worth pointing out that Popes remarkable book about his time afield with Ishi is downloadable for free from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/8084

'you can either sit and think or you can sit'


Del in KS

It's true you have to be STILL if you want to see game. In 1988 shortly after shooting my second gobbler (24 pounder 11.5" beard 1.25" spurs) I was walking back to the truck when a hen started yelping. Needing to practice I stashed my bird and gun then sat next to a large oak and ansered her. That hen came in and literally walked around my outstretched legs without detecting me. I had on treebark camou, gloves, mask and brown leather boots. Another time the following year I was sitting on a large log working 2 gobblers. Heard something running in the leaves, looked around in time to see a large Raccoon jump up on the log and run toward me. That coon turned inside out when I jumped up. He was at arms length. Scared the heck out of both of us. He could have been rabid. Many times I've had squirrels and birds within a couple feet. If you think deer are tough try moving on an old Gobbler.


to Chad,
Many years ago I was duck hunting a flooded cypress brake. The water was high from flood and we had to sit in the cypress trees on limbs. A federal game warden in charge of the Wallisville Lake Project came by our spread of decoys in a canoe, looked all around, said something to his partneer about people leaving their decoys out and never knew we were right above him.


Dr. Ralph,

This was at Yellowwood State Forest about 10 years ago. (when I still smoked cigarettes and when I still had time to squirrel hunt on any given weekday afternoon. Oh I wish I could go back!)


The sporting goods stores would hate me. I don't believe all the stuff that they sell to hunters is all that necessesary, especially the camo. Camo underwear? C'mon, give me a break. When I'm at my little spot of heaven in the Kansas Flint Hills, I wear whatever I want to, right down to my white sneakers. I prop myself up beside a tree, sit still and wait for all the little animals to come by, (sometimes within inches), look at me curiously and go on their merry way.


I once stalked up on a nice trophy mule buck. I was within 30 feet of him and I was standing perfectly still. He craned his neck from side to side trying to look around me. In fact, I was directly upwind from him and he didn't seem to smell me either. He probably did smell me, but since he couldn't combine that sense with another (sight, sound) he didn't spook. Unfortunately, I was elk hunting and didn't have a deer tag that year, otherwise he would be on my wall.


Thanks Dave for the Blog.

I all comes down to
"It all depends"


To sit without moving anything but eyes is how my daddy taught me to hunt when I was 8. Later I found it to be the best therapy for someone with ADD or ADHD tendicies. I've had Bobcats walk within 10 feet of me. Once had a Bobcat walk within 10 feet of the base of my tree open stand and then roll over lay on his back with paws in the air compleately submissive when a large 8 point whitetail charged him. The buck having made his point walked away and the Bobcat bolted back to where he had come from. I always where a face mask to hide the shine.


About 1980, I was sixteen and full of what that age is full of. I purchased a new bow from a very young Cabelas company and practiced a lot. I had no one to tell me how to shoot (Dad was a math teacher and did not care for the outdoors that much). He did buy me several guns at first but decided to slow way down after I got a job as a lifeguard at the town pool. Anyhow, I had no idea what camo was. I had seen my grandad wear what used to be called WWII camo in a vest once when we were fishing. My first deer hunt with a bow consisted of going out at 4:00 a.m. and finding a stump to sit on. I wore a pair of work coveralls to keep warm...dark blue, I think. I sat still and a nice six point nearly ran over me. We were mutually scared to death and needless to say I didn't shoot the deer but learned a valuable lesson. Sitting or standing still is the best way to achieve success when hunting. Avoid the money pit of fashion and camo if you can...

WA Mtnhunter

I have even invested $12 in a comfortable folding chair that is light enough to hump to my spots. It keeps me still longer and off the hard often frozen ground or rock. It also elevates my point of view to just over the sage and oak brush to see better.

I find that my success rate has gone up proportionally with the length of time I can sit still.

Rusty In Missouri

My grandfather taught me to sit still many years ago. With my grandchildren 1st rule ZIP IT. 2nd Rule NO HAND BODY OR LEG MOVEMENT EXCEPT TO AIM. It works as well as it always did. If they don't follow the rules they get to go back to the house. I have had quail walk over my legs as I sit on the ground, making the hunt and sitting all worth while.

Duck Creek Dick


The story of Dr. Saxton Pope and Ishi is very noteworthy and of interest to all hunters , not just traditional bowhunters. Part of the tale is found in Pope's " Hunting With the Bow and Arrow", but if you haven't already, read the book by Theodora Kroeber on Ishi. She was the wife of Alfred Kroeber of the University of California-Berkeley anthropology department and a contemporary of Pope.
I am also a big fan of "Ichi" (Zatoichi), the blind Japanese masseur swordsman, played by Shintaro Katsu. That's how far gone I am. I need to get out more.


A friend of mine fell asleep in the woods but was awakened by a gunshot. The nearby hunter had missed and the largest mulie my friend had ever seen (or shot) came bounding past him. Dropped it with one well placed shot!


Don't believe everything you read. Key to deer and elk is the wind direction, forget the bottled wonder-juice, super-camo. Move and position well, be patient and STILL. (OK, turkeys may be different). I used a 6.5 Swede for years, then degenerated to an unaltered Springfield 1903, no scope. Elk, Mulies, Whitetails, Antelope all die cleanly with the 30-06 and wonderful old military precursor to a peep sight. The scoped rifle has become hoo-hum to me, when my 50 yr old eyes get worse, I'll gladly go back to the scoped Swede. Just started to hunt deer with an Win. 1873 in 44WCF (44-40) loaded w/ blackpowder. Stay within 75 yards and that soft lead bullet goes in one side and out the other. Won't try it on elk, but it is perfectly adequate for deer and antelope. You'll pass up shots that would be easy drops with the scoped longer range gun, but this is really hunting, and so much more gratifying. If I had to travel across the country and hire an expensive outfitter with all the extra expenses I certainly would without a lick of shame bring a 30-06 Model 700 and scope or the equivelent, it increases your success curve, and the return on your investment of hard earned dollars. I lucky enough to be able to hunt big game right out the door and have the luxury of using 1873 and 1903 technology, but if I lived in New England or PA I think I'd do the same as distances are usually pretty close. The big magnums are fine if you want to use them, you aren't doing anything detrimental (except maybe your shoulder). But woods/prairie/mountain savvy and a moderate gun will go a long way.


Wise man say, " never break wind in a super tight coverall."


That is the one thing that getting older and being disabled helps with while hunting. I am very happy to sit still nowdays! When I was younger I could not sit still for more than a half hour, I was just itching to see what was just beyond the trees I was looking at and couldn't stay put. That is not a problem anymore, and I do see more critters than I did always roaming around.

Jim in Mo.

Duck Creek Dick,
Tell me more about this blind Japanese man who gives you a massage then cuts you up with a sword. Was that a Alfred Hitchcock movie?


Even with a pad, my backside starts to whine after an hour, and then scream as time passes. It IS hard to be still, but I will keep trying. Watching the world wake up and start moving in the morning is never boring. I had a squirrel make me move one morning last year, when I thought he was going to check out the inside of my pant leg!

Tommy D

Are you suppose to lift one cheek to fart...??


Good blog! Sitting rock solid is the name of the game hereabouts; but somewhat hazardous. Had a partridge mistake my leg for a runway and damn near got run over by an eastbound coyote this past season. Squirrels and birds don't know what the hell to make of me. 'nuff said.


These are great comments. Like many of the posters, I can become part of the scenery ...... when wrens and sparrows land on your gun barrel when turkey hunting, you know you have reached the appropriate meditative state of non-movement. I've called a turkey hen to 2 or 3 feet and when the bird strayed away to 10 feet, just ticked the call to get the bird back to 2 feet again.
Scent-lok, green light for walking to deer stands and most of the other stuff out there is only for the hunter --- if it helps your confidence, fine, buy it, but the game animals are indifferent.

Del in KS

Can't remember the title but there is a movie starring Graham Green as Ishi. We can all thank Ishi for getting Pope and Young interested in bowhunting.

One other thing. It's much easier to be still if you have a comfortable tree stand. I've tried many and none are more comfortable than the Summit Goliath climber. IT has a BIG soft padded sling type seat. Almost like sitting in my lazy-boy. It is my favorite stand, quiet too.

Jim in Mo.

I'm not much on this scent lok stuff just figure they want my money. It's all about being still, but I do have a bottle of stuff in my backpack I'd have to dig out to get name of, but we spray ourselves down with it and it smells like dirt, the kind that if you bent down and pulled a sunflower stalk out of the ground and just smelled the aroma coming up. Thats all I would use.

Duck Creek Dick

Jim in Mo.

Shintaro Katsu starred in about 26 of these movies from 1962 thru 1973. I got hooked on them watching "Samurai Saturday" on the IFC channel. Most of the movies follow a plot of Ichi wandering into a small village controlled by thugs. He puts up with a lot of insults with patience and humor, but invariably kicks some serious butt at the end. The idea of a blind man doing what Zatoichi does is far-fetched, but he carries it off. See if you can rent one of these movies and I bet you will enjoy it.


Dr. Ralph - Ed J.

You guys are soooo funny!
Youth and a touch of ignorance led to the fire (no flames, just smoldering wood and glue!) in blind!
Not only that, there wasn't a horn in the bunch! Leon County was 3-point or better at the time!
As someone stated above, being handicapped has helped me alot. I am grateful to sit still and quiet. Had a wren light on my shooting stick last fall!


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