May 21, 2008
Sit Down, Shut Up
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
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.