Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sitting Still Is An Art

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Anyone who has bow hunted more than one day or has hunted spring turkeys knows the importance of sitting motionless and quiet. Knowing that, and doing it, are two entirely different things.

I seldom hunt with another person, but in the past when my kids and grandkids were young, they would go out with me. Most adults can’t sit still, and even fewer children can. I took my father bow hunting once, and thought I’d have to tie him up in the corner with stocking stuffed in his mouth. He wanted to talk and move constantly. Perhaps he realized early on that sitting still wasn’t for him.

One of my grandchildren was fidgeting when I whispered to him to sit still. He whispered back that he was sitting still.

Your idea and my idea of being motionless and quiet may not jibe. I’ve mastered the art of silent sitting, and have taken more black bears than I have fingers and toes. I’ve learned some of the tricks to sitting as motionless as a stone for long periods of time.

The first bear I shot was on Sept. 10, the opening day of the Upper Peninsula bear season, many years ago. It was well over 30 years ago, and tree stand hunting wasn’t legal. I sat downwind of the bait and six feet downwind of an active bear trail. My back was against a big cedar root-wad on a warm day.

Sometime later, I awoke from dozing and cracked one eye to see a black bear walking past at eight feet. The animal walked by, and a smooth draw and an clean bow shot took that bruin behind the front shoulder.

The bear didn’t go far, and the reason this tactic worked was because I was absolutely motionless when the bear walked by. I’ve since learned to sit without movement or sound, and admit that my nodding off in the warm sun made me motionless. The bear couldn’t smell me, I made no noise and wasn’t moving. The first dozen bruins I’ve taken with a bow, muzzleloader, pistol, rifle and shotgun were killed at a distance of 20 feet or less while sitting on the ground.

I’ve found one trick to being still is to be comfortable, and a hunter must learn how to relax if he hopes to be motionless. The first step is to remove anything that can cause discomfort while sitting. My only problem is I must remove my billfold from my back pocket. I can sit on it for 30 minutes before it becomes irritating.

Sit on the ground, and a root an inch under the dirt will put a crease in your butt, and you’ll start moving to get comfortable. I make certain if I’m in a tree stand that no branch stub is digging into my ribs or spine. A stone in the dirt under you butt will feel like a boulder after 30 minutes.

Check out each spot where you hunt. Remove offending branches or broken branch stubs. Many tree stands have uncomfortable seats because the seat is too low, and your knees are up under your chin and that makes for an uncomfortable sitting position. Just as bad or worse is a seat that is too high, and you must sit on the edge of the seat to keep your feet steady on the platform. This cuts off blood flow in your legs, and your toes and feet go to sleep, which always leads to movement.

Learn to get comfortable first, and then learn to relax your body and mind. I once meditated while in a stand, and although my eyes were closed and my heartbeat and respiration had slowed down, I could hear the rustle of bear hair against bracken ferns or the faint twig snap of a wandering buck.

This isn’t recommended for someone unaccustomed to meditation or other relaxation techniques. What works for most of us is to free our brain of all thought, to feel comfortable and relaxed, and to will yourself to be motionless. I’ve had bucks approach to within several feet without seeing any movement, and that is part of the secret. Keep your mind uncluttered by unnecessary details, and it’s much easier to remain motionless. I once had two wild bear cubs running back and forth over my legs. They had yet to fear human scent.

Fix your attention on a distant object, and stare at it. It will blur, come back into focus, and blur again. Stick with it, don’t think of anything, and try to become one with your surroundings.

This works for me and some other people I know, but it may not work for you without a great deal of practice. The first and foremost thing is to be comfortable. Once the human body is comfortable, start working on the mind. Learn to tune out buzzing insects, and remain calm.

Soon, with continuous practice, it will be possible to sit motionless for 30 minutes. Then start working on being motionless for an hour. If you can get up to two or three hours, many of your hunting problems will be solved.

You won’t be moving so you won’t be making a sound (unless you snore). Without movement or noise, the only thing you must worry about is being winded. Stay downwind of where bear and deer travel, and you will have removed most of the key things that spook wary animals.

Practice now, long before bear, bow or turkey seasons open, to sit motionless and silent in a non-hunting environment. If you can pull this off for two hours, and you follow the other rules of hunting, there won’t be a bear, deer or gobbler that will be safe around you.

Posted by Dave Richey on 02/16 at 11:42 AM
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