If this hunting method has been bugging your mind, then you’ve probably wondered about the pros and cons of saddle hunting.
This post is your one-stop-shop for understanding the pros and cons of saddle hunting, sourced directly from the wisdom and experiences of seasoned saddle hunters.
Remember, every hunting method has its peaks and valleys, and saddle hunting is no different. So buckle up, and let’s delve into this thrilling hunting method together!
Table of Contents
History of Saddle Hunting
Once upon a time, hunters were only limited to ground hunting, hiding in the bushes, or balancing on tree branches hoping for a successful hunt. But all had elevated (literally!) in the late 20th century through saddle hunting.
In the 1980s and ’90s, commercial tree saddles appeared on the market. These early models were rudimentary compared to today’s designs, but they sparked an interest. They were different, cool, and offered a new way to engage with the hunt – from above!
As the years rolled on, these pioneers refined their techniques and equipment. Modern hunting saddles, like the ones we see today, started taking shape in the 2000s. Designs became more comfortable, efficient, and safer, taking cues from climbing and safety gear advancements.
The last decade has seen a boom in saddle hunting popularity. Thanks to the internet, saddle hunters can share their experiences, tips, and tricks and make their custom gear. Today, saddle hunting is a testament to the adventurous spirit in the heart of many hunters – a blend of tradition, innovation, and the age-old love of the chase.
Understanding Saddle Hunting
Saddle hunting is essentially a method of hunting from an elevated position in a tree, just like you would from a tree stand. However, instead of a full rack, you use a specialized hunting saddle – a harness that securely wraps around your waist and thighs, kind of like a rock climber’s gear.
It’s paired with a tether system attached to the tree, which allows you to safely lean back into the harness and sit or stand with your body facing the tree.
The necessary gear for saddle hunting typically includes:
- The Saddle
- Tether and Carabiner
- Climbing Method
- Platform or Ring of Steps
- Safety Gear
The beauty of saddle hunting is its versatility and minimalism. It allows you to use almost any tree (within reason, of course), and you can pivot around the tree for a 360-degree shooting range.
Pros of Saddle Hunting
With its unique blend of versatility, stealth, and minimalism, Saddle hunting offers profound advantages that can elevate your hunting experience.
Here are the pros of using tree saddle:
Lightweight and Portable
One of the main draws of saddle hunting is its portability. Compared to hauling a big tree stand into the woods, a saddle, tether, and a few climbing sticks or ropes are considerably lighter and less cumbersome. This minimalistic approach not only makes trekking through the forest easier but also leaves more room for other hunting gear in your pack.
It’s the perfect choice for mobile hunters or those who enjoy hunting far off the beaten path.
The saddle-hunting setup brings a new level of versatility to your hunting adventures. Unlike tree stands that require specific tree types or structures, saddle hunting allows you to choose from various trees. As long as the tree is healthy and safe to climb, you’re good to go.
This versatility can open up new hunting locations that may have been inaccessible or less optimal with a traditional stand.
360-Degree Shooting Range
In a traditional stand, you might be limited by the stand’s position or the tree’s structure, but saddle hunting offers the flexibility to move around the tree.
This ability gives you a potential 360-degree shooting range, which means you can take shots at the game species from any direction. It’s an excellent benefit when your quarry is unpredictable in its approach.
Saddle hunting can make you a master of camouflage in the eyes of your prey. Because the saddle’s design and position against the tree have a low profile, you can blend in with the tree’s natural shape. Plus, there’s less risk of gear clanging together or making other unnatural sounds since you’re carrying less bulky equipment.
This stealth factor can increase your chances of going unnoticed by the game, giving you an added advantage.
Although climbing a tree for hunting can seem risky because of the hunting height, saddle hunting can be safer than using a traditional tree stand when used correctly.
From the moment you ascend, until you’re back on solid ground, you’re tethered to the tree. This reduces the risk of fall-related accidents when moving on or off a tree stand.
Less Competition for Hunting Spots
One of the significant advantages of saddle hunting is its versatility in choosing a tree to hunt from.
It can be used on various trees as long as the tree is healthy and can support you on your hunt. This means you can access more spots and areas other hunters may overlook or cannot use with a traditional stand.
By having the ability to hunt effectively from almost any tree, you’re less likely to run into competition for the ‘perfect’ hunting spot. You might even discover entirely new areas where the game isn’t accustomed to being pursued from above.
Easier to Set Up and Take Down
Regarding setting up and taking down your hunting gear, saddle hunting has a clear edge over traditional tree stands.
A traditional tree stand can be bulky and somewhat complicated to set up safely, especially if you’re trying to do it quietly. It often involves securing heavy platforms and braces to the tree; in some cases, it may even require tools.
On the other hand, a hunting saddle and its accompanying gear are designed to be lightweight and compact. The setup involves securing your saddle (which you’re already wearing), throwing your tether around the tree and connecting it to your saddle, and setting up your climbing method and platform or steps, if you’re using them.
The process is typically faster and less noisy than setting up a traditional tree stand. This speed and simplicity mean less time spent getting ready and more time focusing on the hunt. Also, at the end of your hunting session, the take-down process is just as simple and fast, allowing you to exit the woods quietly.
Cons of Saddle Hunting
Even with all the exciting and advantageous aspects of saddle hunting, it’s important to consider the other side of the coin. No hunting method is without its challenges, and saddle hunting is no exception.
There’s a unique feel to hunting from a saddle. Unlike a conventional tree stand, where you have a large platform to sit or stand on, a saddle offers a more active engagement with your surroundings. You are essentially hanging in a harness and leaning against the tree. For some hunters, this can be an exhilarating and comfortable experience, almost like lounging in a hammock.
But for other hunters, especially those with back or joint issues or those who prefer to sit for extended periods, this position might cause discomfort. The comfort level can vary widely between individuals and the saddle design, as some may provide better lower back or leg support than others.
Mastering the art of saddle hunting isn’t something that happens overnight. It involves many new skills, from learning how to safely ascend a tree using climbing methods like sticks or ropes to figuring out how to position yourself for effective shooting.
Mastering the tether system to get the right angle and height, learning to maneuver and pivot for various shot opportunities, and even understanding how to use your body’s leverage while sitting in the saddle can all require practice.
Although many hunters find this learning process enjoyable and rewarding, it can be a significant time commitment and might be daunting to newcomers.
Quality saddle hunting gear can be more costly than some might expect. While this one-time expense will last for several hunting seasons, the initial investment can be higher than for a traditional tree stand. The saddle, tether system, climbing method, and potentially additional items like knee pads or a platform can add up.
However, most hunters see it as a worthwhile investment for its mobility and versatility.
Saddle hunting is a more dynamic form of hunting than sitting in a tree stand. It requires physical stamina and core strength as you move around the tree, adjust your position, and maintain balance. This active engagement can be great for keeping your body warm in cold conditions and keeping you alert.
However, the physical demand might be a drawback for hunters with certain physical conditions or those who prefer a more relaxed hunting style.
Unlike hunting from a traditional tree stand, where you have a large platform to place your gear and move around, saddle hunting confines you to a relatively small area.
With saddle hunting, there’s no large platform to place your gear. Everything you bring must be attached to your person or hung from the tree. This means careful consideration of what equipment you really need.
Overpacking can lead to a cluttered and noisy setup while underpacking might leave you without an essential item. Finding the right balance is key and typically comes with experience.
Unlike enclosed or semi-enclosed tree stands, hunting from a saddle exposes you more to the elements. Whether it’s a drizzle, a downpour, biting wind, or even a flurry of snow, being perched on a tree with little protection means you’ll feel the full brunt of Mother Nature.
Although experienced hunters know that proper clothing and gear can mitigate these conditions to a great extent, it’s still worth noting that a saddle doesn’t offer much in the way of shelter.
One of the charming aspects of hunting for some is the camaraderie. Whether whispering with a buddy in a double tree stand or sharing the thrill of the hunt, the social aspect can be a big part of the experience. By its nature, saddle hunting is typically a solo endeavor – one saddle, one tree.
This doesn’t mean you can’t hunt with companions in nearby trees, but it’s something to consider if shared hunts are a significant part of your hunting tradition.
Why Choose Tree Saddle Hunting
Saddle hunting offers a unique and versatile approach to hunting. It grants exceptional mobility, allowing hunters to access varied terrains and trees, often in less pressured areas. The lightweight gear is a boon for those on the move, simplifying setup and take-down for a quick, quiet entrance or exit.
Though it comes with a physical demand and learning curve, these challenges can foster growth and engage hunters in an active, immersive experience. The necessity for a minimalist approach due to limited space encourages thoughtful gear selection, promoting stealthiness.
While exposure to the elements can be greater, with the right gear, it’s part of the authentic outdoor experience that hunters adapt to. The unique perspective of being part of the canopy rather than atop it offers an intimate connection with nature.
While saddle hunting might not be everyone’s cup of tea, its advantages make it an appealing choice for those craving mobility, versatility, and a fresh challenge in their hunting adventures.
When considering the pros and cons of saddle hunting, it stands out as an adventurous approach offering unmatched mobility and a unique, immersive experience, despite the learning curve and physical demands.
Remember, saddle hunting can be more fun while keeping in mind the facts and fiction of hunting to ensure a good relationship with mother nature.