The Art of the First Sit
putting your buck encounters on steroids
It’s a phenomenon widely known in the whitetail world, but one rarely broken down into the why’s and hows. It’s the art of the first sit - that magical opportunity of being in an undisturbed hot spot for the first time, that yields high-odds success on a mature buck. Most seasoned hunters know this, but how can you drastically increase the “first sit effect,” and put your buck encounters on steroids?
My 2018 whitetail season was a prime example of leveraging the art of the first sit. In the first 20 days of season, in one of the hardest and arguably toughest states (Michigan), and on high-pressure public land, I had three shots at three different mature bucks. On October 5th I missed a big split G2 - 9 point while hunting on the ground due to misranging a patch of weeds (and thus shooting low when the buck was standing next to them). On the 13th I arrowed an 8 point that was surprisingly hounding a doe in its bedding area, and on the 20th I ended my season with a 12 yard shot at a 4.5 year old 9 point. The first was at a food source tight to buck bedding cover, the second tight in cover on a funnel near doe bedding, and the third on a hot buck scrapeline close to bedding cover. Each was a different situation, but each shot opportunity was my first sit in those locations. If I had not been successful in those sits, the chances of me having those encounters would drastically decrease with each subsequence sit. This is based off experience, but also scientific research. (HERE). The “why” of the first sit being your best bet (hunting pressure changing deer behaviors adversely) is fairly straight forward, but there is more to it than just being somewhere the first time. There is a bit of art to it as well when it comes to potentially making every sit a magical one.
THE ART BROKEN DOWN:
Some people “have it” and some just don’t when it comes to putting something on a canvas or writing a hit song. However, there is a learning component to art and skills can be developed. If Bob Ross made a living teaching it on TV to stay-at-home moms, then a whitetail hunter has to be able to develop some “happy” and deadly hunting skills.
1. BE A HISTORY BUFF. Knowing how bucks use an area, where they frequent certain times of year, what their food sources are those times of year, where doe bedding is located, and where bucks go when pressured are huge keys to honing in on the right “sit” location. This doesn’t happen the first time on a property, or just after one scouting mission. This happens over years of experience with an area, both hunting it and scouting it extensively. Observation is king - old sign, and new, and tells of buck patterns. You need to be keenly aware of these patterns and the timing of them. History, as they say, repeats itself, and you need to be the beneficiary of what bucks historically do in areas you hunt. This thorough understanding will allow you to develop a knowledge that will help put your stand in the right spot, at the right time, so the first-time is a high-odds tactical operation, not a first-time roll of the dice.
2. DIVERSIFY YOUR PORTFOLIO. Your goal should be to have many of these known haunts, for all times of the season, in multiple areas. The more options you have, it stands to reason the more first time sits you can have that are of high quality. Remember, quality matters, it’s not just a “first sit,” it’s a quality one. Off season scouting is key to locating these areas and having stand sets ready for differing winds. Also, you should identify what type of year each spot is good for, so you will know when the first sit in this area should be most productive. Take notes, and go with them to up your odds for every first sit. Some of this make take years of data collecting (scouting and hunting an area, as well as trail cam information). One question that arises is how many stand spots are necessary so you can keep having first sits, or how diverse do you need to be? The answer - enough so you aren’t pigeon holed and always have a spot you feel great about hunting. This may be harder said than done, but should be the goal to work toward as you add spots to your portfolio.
3. EMPLOY SHIFT WORK. There is a reason why companies cycle employees in rotations: it’s efficient and maximizes resources. You must use it too to work these high-odds spots you’ve identified based on history, current sign, and time of year. Get a chart, make a rotation. The question arises, “how much time is needed to let a spot cool after a hunt, and get a “first sit effect” again at that spot?” Studies show. One study showed that 3-5 days and possibly a week were needed to get back to normal behavior (HERE). However, this was in a controlled area, and
I’ve found that some areas do not recover until the next season in some cases (depending on type of pressure and number of hunters in an area)Also, the distance between spots doesn’t necessarily have to be extreme, like miles, but could be just a few hundred yards depending on conditions like thickness of cover, and if other hunters are using the area. More hunters will mean less first sits in an area. Thicker cover will allow more “first sit” locations within a given area.
4. BE RIGHT ON. Once you know the history of an area, have many of these areas ready, and have employed a shifting rotation, the last piece is being in the right spot at the right time. This is the X factor in the art of the first sit. You’ve got the good spots, but what is THE HOT spot? This is where in-season scouting and observation is key. Find a hot spot, hunt it immediately, and if it cools off be one to one of your many other potential hot spots until you discover which the next one is, and hunt it. This type of continual intel gathering might take away from the number of total hunts, but allows for each one to be of “first sit” quality, thus upping your odds and success. Also be aware that the right spot could be as much as moving 50 yards. With archery, this definitely makes a difference.
THE HARD PART: The hardest part about this I’ve found is foregoing feelings, and habits, and going with a sound process and intel. As a human, we like familiar things and don’t like new and uncertain things. As a hunter, this translates into shying away from trying new spots, and gravitating toward known locations. I believe this is the biggest reason for hunting pressure, and people overhunting an area. We just like to go to the same spots over and over, and hunt the spot where we shot the big one 5 years ago. Although there may be some history here, we have to temper that with current intel, and a low impact rotation to have the best luck learning the art of the first sit.
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