Choosing The Right Tree For Saddle Hunting

I know that choosing the right tree for saddle hunting can be daunting.

In fact, tons of pressure comes with it when you realize that a lot is at stake from this tree selection. Your hunt success, your comfort, your safety: you name it!

But worry not because this post will guide you through your quest to find your home for this aerial journey. Dive into this comprehensive guide and become a master at choosing the perfect tree for your next saddle-hunting adventure!

The Basics of Tree Saddle Hunting

If you’re up for a more thrilling hunting style with tons of possibilities, then saddle hunting just might be your new best friend.

Saddle hunting is far more different from the traditional tree stands, offering a fantastic way to be part of the woods. It’s more flexible and can often allow you to get into positions that would be hard to achieve with a traditional stand.

In saddle hunting, instead of sitting in a stand, you’re sitting in a specially designed saddle (kind of like a harness) that you secure around a tree. Think of it like a high-tech tree-climbing adventure, mixed with your favorite hobby, but the twist is you’re in a new hunting height.

Remember, your hunting tree can either make or break your hunt. Yes, it is THAT important in your journey atop your desired game species.

Tree Species for Saddle Hunting

Like finding the perfect hiking boots, selecting the right tree is not just about looks or comfort – it’s about a reliable partner supporting and protecting you.

Some trees lend themselves better to this task, with sturdy trunks and just the right bark texture for a firm grip. Others, while beautiful in their own right, might not be the ideal choice for our adventurous purpose.

Let’s look at the MVPs (or, if I may, Most Valuable Plants!) in the saddle-hunting world:

Go-To Tree Species

Oak Trees

The mighty oak, a symbol of strength and endurance, often tops the list for saddle hunters. These stalwarts of the forest are sturdy and reliable, with strong trunks that can comfortably bear the weight of a saddle hunter. Their bark is a textured dream – rough and thick, offering plenty of grip for climbing sticks.

Not to mention, they produce a plentiful supply of acorns, which deer love to snack on. So setting up shop in an oak tree could put you right where the action is!

Maple Trees

Maple trees are not just a tree that represents the beauty of the autumn season. These trees can also be your best option for your thrilling above-the-ground venture.

They offer straight trunks and sufficient bark roughness, making your ascent easier and more secure. Like the oak, they’re sturdy enough to ensure a safe and comfortable hunt. In the fall, their colorful leaves provide great natural camouflage to hide you from the wary game.

Ash Trees

Lastly, the ash tree is a tall and straight tree species that is one of the saddle hunters’ favorites.

These trees often stand high above other trees, offering a broad, unobstructed view of the surroundings. The relatively rough bark provides a good hold for your climbing gear, ensuring a safe ascend and perch.

To-Avoid Tree Species

Again, not all trees are cut out for the saddle hunting spotlight. Some trees are physically not possible to support you on your aerial journey.

Here are the trees that you should never consider for tree saddle hunting:

Pine Trees

Even though pine trees stand tall and sturdy, they have a few traits that make them less ideal for saddle hunting. Their bark is often rather smooth and can become quite slippery, especially when wet. This could make climbing and staying in position a challenge.

Another thing to keep in mind: pine sap. It’s sticky and tricky to remove from your hunting gear and clothing.

Birch Trees

With its distinctive, light-colored bark, the birch can pose challenges for saddle hunting. The bark peels rather easily, which may not provide the most secure grip for your saddle and climbing gear.

Besides, birch trees aren’t as sturdy as some other species, which is an important consideration when spending hours aloft.

Willow Trees

Willow trees, although really beautiful, aren’t the best choice for saddle hunting. They tend to grow in wet, marshy areas, and their wood isn’t the most durable.

When you’re suspended off the ground, you want to be sure the tree you’re in is solid and stable.

Evaluating Tree Health

Before you rise above the canopy, it’s crucial to assess and evaluate the health of your chosen tree. Just as you wouldn’t trust a rusty old ladder to hold your weight, you shouldn’t place your trust in a tree that’s not in tip-top condition.

But really, why is it so important?

Well, when we saddle hunt, we’re not just taking a quick jaunt up a tree. We plan to hang out up there, sometimes for hours at a time. So, we need a tree that’s sturdy, alive, and strong.

A healthy tree has living cells and fluids moving throughout its structure, providing the strength and flexibility to withstand wind, weather, and the weight of a hunter perched in its branches. On the other hand, a dying or dead tree lacks this vital fluid movement and cell function.

This can lead to brittle branches, a weaker trunk, and a far higher risk of breakage. And let’s be honest, a sudden fall from a tree is not on anyone’s hunting agenda.

Healthy VS. Dying Tree

Again, the health of your chosen tree plays a big role in the success and security of your hunt. But truth be told, diagnosing whether the tree is healthy or dying is not as easy as one-two-three.

So, how can we tell the healthy trees from the not-so-healthy? Here are some clear signs every saddle hunters look for when considering a tree:

Healthy TreeDying/Dead Tree
LeavesThe leaves are vibrant, full, and plentiful. They’re appropriately colored for the season. The leaves are sparse, wilted, discolored, or entirely absent outside of winter.
BarkThe bark is intact, fitting closely to the trunk.There are areas where the bark is peeling away.
BranchesBranches are robust, with healthy leaves, buds, or needles.There are many bare branches, even during the growing season.
FungiThere’s no fungal growth on or around the base of the tree.Existence of fungal growth at the base of the tree or along the trunk.
Tree TrunkThe trunk is strong and robust with no significant cracks, splits, or cavities. There are unexplained cracks, splits, or cavities in the trunk.
LeanThere’s a consistent and natural lean that hasn’t changed over time.There’s a significant or sudden lean.

This comparison should give you a pretty good handle on what to look for when scouting for your perfect saddle-hunting tree.

The Ideal Tree Configuration

When choosing your partner tree in your venture, it is important to dive into two important subjects: the tree’s diameter and straightness.

When it comes to tree diameter, it’s all about finding that Goldilocks zone – a tree that’s not too skinny or fat but just right.

Why is this so crucial? Well, a tree that’s too skinny might not be mature or sturdy enough to support your weight safely. On the other hand, a tree that’s too thick could be tough to get your climbing gear and tether around and may restrict your movement and shooting lanes once you’re in your saddle.

Generally, a tree with a diameter between 10 and 20 inches hits the sweet spot for many hunters. It’s thick enough to be sturdy and stable, yet not so large that it hinders your movement or gear setup.

Moving on from diameter to tree straightness, it’s clear that a nice, straight tree will be easier to climb and set up in than one that looks like it’s doing a salsa dance. But there’s more to it than that.

A straight tree allows you to utilize your saddle’s range of movement fully. With a straight trunk, you can easily move around the tree, change your position, and have clear shooting lanes on all sides. However, a tree with excessive bends or leans can limit mobility, obstruct your view, and compromise safety.

But, hey, don’t be too quick to dismiss a tree with a slight lean or a bit of character! Sometimes, a tree with a gentle lean can offer a more comfortable sitting position, or one with a slight curve might provide a natural rest for your bow. It’s all about evaluating each tree on its own merits.

Location, Location, Location

Okay, hear this: even the healthiest, most perfectly configured tree won’t do you much good if it’s in the wrong location. A real bummer, right? We get you, but there are reasons why.

Firstly, the location of your tree can greatly affect your visibility. A tree in the middle of a dense thicket may obstruct your view, while one on the edge of a clearing or trail can give you a clear line of sight to spot approaching game species.

Secondly, consider the animal patterns in the area. Understanding your quarry’s habits, favorite feeding areas, and travel routes can be a game-changer in selecting the perfect tree. You’ll want to position yourself in a tree near these high-traffic zones, but not so close that your presence disturbs the animals.

Clear Shooting Lane

A prime tree in a prime location won’t amount to much if you can’t cleanly and safely take your shot when the moment of truth arrives. That’s why many hunters opt for saddle hunting than the usual tree stand because of the physical restraint from a shooting range.

A clear shooting lane gives you the best chance of a clean, quick, and humane kill. If your shooting lane is obstructed, your arrow could hit a branch or other obstacle, altering its trajectory and resulting in a miss, or worse, a poor hit causing unnecessary suffering for the animal.

Furthermore, clear shooting lanes allow for better visibility and aim. They give you a better view of the animal, making it easier to judge the distance, size, and sex of the game. They also allow you better to see the vital areas for a clean shot.

Saddle Hunters’ Safety

Saddle hunting, like any tree stand hunting, comes with its own set of risks. Hunting heights, climbing gear, and the unpredictable outdoors can all present potential hazards.

But, with the right saddle hunting gear and safe practices, you can enjoy your hunting experience confidently.

  1. Safety Harness/Saddle: Your saddle is your safety harness, keeping you secure in the tree. It should fit well, be comfortable for long hours, and meet or exceed industry standards for safety.
  2. Climbing Gear: This can include any climbing method (climbing sticks, ropes, etc.). Ensure they are in good condition, rated for your weight, and used properly.
  3. Tether and Lineman’s rope: These ropes attach you to the tree and should be strong, durable, and able to support your weight.
  4. Helmet and Leg Strap: While not all hunters use them, these gears can provide added protection from falling objects or in case of a fall.
  5. Emergency Whistle and First Aid Kit: An emergency whistle can be heard over long distances if you need to call for help. A basic first aid kit is also good for treating minor injuries.


In conclusion, choosing the right tree for saddle hunting is an art. It blends careful consideration of tree species, health, configuration, location, shooting lanes, and safety practices.

After you get yourself your partner tree, make sure you have your hunting saddle properly setup. Always remember, a fun hunt is a safe hunt!

John Uniforme
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