What’s Really Needed to Begin Saddle Hunting | Saddle Hunting Gear Setup
By: Adam Miller
As we begin to look forward to the upcoming deer season, now is the time to start putting together the pieces of gear you will need. As someone who has made the decision to start your journey into the realm of saddle hunting you are probably wondering what it is that you actually need. We are going to take for granted that you have hunting clothes, something to carry your gear into the woods like a pack of some sort and all other ancillary gear. Let's also assume that you have found a saddle that works for you and that saddle has a pouch or two to place some small gear.. Whether you have a Trophyline, Latitude, Cruzr or Tethrd tree saddle there are a few items that you need no matter what and a few that will make your saddle hunting journey a much more pleasurable experience.
The hunting portion of saddle hunting requires a few items that you must have including the saddle itself, a tether to attach you to the tree, a carabiner to attach your saddle to the tether via some form of friction hitch or a mechanical ascender and something to stand on. This may sound complicated but all of the companies mentioned previously offer a kit consisting of all of the components needed for the tether. An important item to note is that, yes you may be able to use some things that you have had from previous hunting experiences however it is imperative that items you are using, especially carabiners, are climbing rated because after all they are the only things keeping you from falling. We now will need something to stand on.
Most saddle hunters choose to hunt from a platform although there are many hunters choosing a ring of steps. A ring of steps is basically a ratchet strap or cam buckle strap with 4-8 strap on tree steps used to stand on. Using a ring of steps ensures that the hunter, usually a bow hunter, is able to maneuver 360 degrees around the tree to execute a shot or hide from the approaching animal. While a ring of steps has less bulk and allows for 360 degree shooting it can cause hot spots on your feet and most hunters coming from a tree stand will choose a platform for this reason.
Most saddle hunting platforms have the same basic principles, small, lightweight and allow for good traction and taking side pressure well when getting in position for a shot. Tethrd, Trophyline, and Cruzr all make great examples of this that all use a similar cast design. One thing to note with saddle hunting platforms especially when coming from tree stand hunting is that when saddle hunting you may not need as much room to stand as you think you would. All three of these companies offer a large and a small version of their platforms although the smaller versions are certainly sufficient and are less costly, less weight and less bulk, which is likely why you are getting into saddle hunting.
Now that we have established all you need to be hunting whitetailed deer we need to figure out how you are going to get up the tree? There are a million climbing methods and this may be the most debated topic in the saddle hunting community, so for now we will stick to climbing sticks. Climbing sticks come in all shapes, sizes, materials and cost. If you are new to saddle hunting, but not hunting in general there is a good chance that you have a set of climbing sticks. If so, use them, and if you have them you likely have a lineman's belt, again if you have a lineman's belt, use that. For those who do not have either, a lineman's belt is similar to a second tether however you will have a carabiner on each end allowing you to attach one end to the saddle, throw the rope around the tree, connect the other end to the saddle allowing you two free hands to set you sticks and platform. Now onto the sticks. Sticks generally come in packs of 3 or 4, have 2 or 3 steps at varying step distance. My advice would be to figure out what you can afford and then save up and buy the next level up. Climbing sticks can make or break your hunting experience and you will save money in the long run by not buying two sets of sticks.
Now we have everything we need to get up the tree and saddle hunt. But wait, you said there were things that could make for a better experience. Yes and we are now to that point. There are a couple items that can make for a much better saddle hunting experience and those are mechanical ascenders such as a Ropeman or Kong duck, band bands as well as a retractable bow rope. Mechanical ascenders allow for one handed adjustments to your lineman or tether. I run mechanical ascenders on both my lineman and my tether but if you could only use one I would highly recommend you run it on your lineman's belt. One handed operation makes climbing a tree much easier and in my opinion, safer. Back bands are a strap similar to a camera strap that goes through the carabiner on your tether and around your back under your armpits. Back bands offer relief and additional back support on those all day sits, not necessary but they are referred to as the saddle hunters lazy boy for a reason. Lastly a retractable bow rope, like a Doyle’s gear hoist can really come in handy, preventing tangles when climbing those hard to climb trees you wouldn’t be hunting from in a treestand.
Overall hunting from a tree saddle has pretty simple requirements which are a saddle, lineman’s belt, tether, something to stand on and a climbing method. From there the customization is all up to you and that’s one of the beauties of saddle hunting.