- Tree Saddle Hunting: Things worth considering
Tree Saddle Hunting: Things worth considering
By Eric Clark with Okayest Hunter
If you're new to saddle hunting like I am, it can feel overwhelming to get into it all. Just the terminology can feel like learning a whole new language.
Saddle Hunting Terms
Saddle: A sling or harness system used to hang in an elevated position for hunting.
Tether: the rope/webbing/strap used to attach the Saddle, and therefore the hunter, to the tree.
Bridge: the central connection point from the Saddle to the tether.
Lineman Belt: It is a belt/strap that goes around the tree and connects to the Saddle at each hip via "lineman loops," usually with a carabiner. The Lineman Belt is used to climb the tree and is removed once you're safely attached to the tether.
Platform: What you'll need to place and rest your feet on, stand on, and use for readjusting throughout your hunt.
If you're considering getting into Saddle hunting, you're likely going to get made fun of for drinking the Kool-Aid, but who cares. There are a bunch of benefits.
Saddles are lightweight, compact, quiet, and super versatile.
I got my first Saddle in the summer of 2021 and exclusively hunted out of it for the entire bow hunting season of 2021. I spent many hours in my backyard getting comfortable with the setup process and hanging out. From there, I started shooting from my new Saddle as well. First from the ground (in the Saddle) and then elevated. Getting comfortable with all the various positions is essential. Each person will have their preferences, and the best way to figure out what makes you feel most comfortable and confident is by experimenting as much as you can.
There seems to be a school of thought to replace your traditional tree stand with a saddle set up fully. That may not be advised for everyone. Although this may be true, and it is in my case. For example, our co-host of the Okayest Hunter podcast, Greg Tubbs, uses his tree stand and Saddle depending on the unique situation he's hunting in. By having both, he's able to increase his odds at killing whitetails based on the various types of terrain and habitat he's hunting.
The differences between a hang-on tree stand and a tree saddle
Tree selection: There are still trees that may be better suited for your tree stand than a Saddle. Conversely, there may be trees better suited for a Saddle. It all depends. Branches may get in the way of where you'd be hanging if you're in your Saddle vs. if you're in your tree stand.
Comfortability: I will say this. Depending on how long you plan to sit during a hunt, nothing is comfortable for eight hours. Not my truck seat, and not even my couch. So comfortability only carries so much weight. Hunting with a platform vs. no platform will make a demonstrable difference in comfortability. I use a two-piece Saddle from Latitude Outdoors. I have found that adjusting each pannel throughout the hunt and shifting weight to my butt or my back going in between standing/leaning or sitting helps me stay comfortable longer.
Placement: In a tree stand, you sit with your back to the tree facing the way you'll likely end up shooting. With a Saddle, you literally face the tree. The benefit of the Saddle is that you can use the tree to conceal yourself, whereas, with a tree stand, you stick out a bit more. In either scenario, it's still important to not silhouette yourself and ensure you have a good backdrop.
Safety: With a tree stand or a Saddle, safety is paramount. I'll say that I feel a little safer in a Saddle. This is because it is always tight to the tree with the tether in place. Whereas in a tree stand, you're free-standing, and if you fall, your safety line will unfurl but is not tight to the tree, taught like a tether is.
You may have heard the term hip pinch when looking into Saddle hunting. I have hunted out of a single-panel Saddle in the past and have experienced this phenomenon. I have experienced significantly less hip pinch in a two-piece Saddle. Hip pinch is something you likely won't experience from a quick hang in your backyard. Instead, you'll probably notice four hours or more on a long hunt.
Saddle Hunting Community
There is no shortage of Saddle hunting communities and pockets of people willing to help. The best way to start, in my opinion, would be to get to a trade show to try out some of the brands that are exhibiting physically. This will help you identify a brand, make, or model that fits your style before opening up your wallet. It might also be a good idea to see if any hunters nearby are willing to let you try their Saddle if they have one. The GoWild app has a feature that allows you to see which users are nearby and may help you see if anyone is willing to let you try it out!
Good luck, have fun and be safe!