Have you ever been forced to forgo hunting out of a tree, in the perfect location along an active deer trail, because the tree in question was not suitable for use with a traditional treestand?
If so, then you are certainly not alone. Though this can be a frustrating proposition to be faced with, the rise in popularity of tree saddles in recent years has virtually made this dilemma a thing of the past.
Or are you curious about the prospect of tree saddle hunting, but do not know where to begin?
No problem. The following guide to tree saddle hunting will catch you up to speed, allowing you to make an informed decision when considering whether to implement the use of a tree saddle in your hunting strategy.
What Is Tree Saddle Hunting?
A tree saddle is an alternative to the use of a treestand when seeking to hunt from an elevated perch. Made up of a seat, bridge, and tether rope, a hunter can ascend to whatever height that they see fit, and tie-off to the tree accordingly.
Instead of sitting in the seat of a stand, you sit in a resting position within the saddle’s mesh seat. This can be closely compared to the use of a rock-climbing harness or a lineman’s belt in each of their respective fields of use.
To use a tree saddle, you simply select your choice of tree to hunt out of and begin climbing to the desired height. Lightweight tree sticks are commonly used as a means of reaching this predetermined height.
Once you have completed your climb, you will tie into the tree with the assistance of your tether rope, which encompasses the diameter of the tree and is secured into the bridge of your saddle by way of a specialty carabiner.
With the carabiner clipped in place, you are securely tethered in place.
The use of a tree saddle is hardly a new concept, with recorded usage dating back some thirty-plus years. Perhaps one of the most well known of these early tree saddle proponents was the highly accomplished whitetail hunter, John Eberhart.
Eberhart stated in 2003 that he had been hunting from a tree saddle for approximately 15 years. Although such early tree saddle usage is well documented, the technique’s rise to mainstream popularity did not come until the past few years.
To get a better idea of what tree saddle hunting looks like, check out this video.
Benefits Of Using A Tree Saddle For Hunting
Tree saddle hunting differs in many ways from treestand hunting, and as such, offers its own distinct set of advantages. When determining if hunting from a tree saddle is right for you, it is important to keep the following points in mind.
One of the greatest advantages of tree saddle usage is that you can be fully mobile, as you are not restricted by a particular size or shape of tree for proper placement.
A tree saddle and corresponding tether system also weighs only mere pounds, making it a wonderful choice for those who frequently walk long distances into public-land hunting areas.
A treestand even can be considerably bulky and cumbersome to carry great distance when long walks become necessary. Additionally, tree stand use is often limited to a relatively small percentage of trees that present the perfect conditions for usage.
If a tree is not sufficiently straight or of the correct diameter, it is often unsuitable for treestand use.
A tree saddle allows you a level of maneuverability that is not easily recreated with a traditional climbing stand. A climbing treestand is fixed in place once it has reached the designated height at which a hunter has chosen.
The hunter that is perched in this stand faces in a particular direction, being required to physically stand and lean around the tree in question if a deer does not approach within the 180-degree radius that a hunter is facing.
With the use of a tree saddle, you are facing the tree that you are tethered to, allowing a far greater line of sight in every direction. You can also easily maneuver around the tree in a circular motion to access shot opportunities that are not available at your initial position.
Various shot angles are also feasible when hunting out of a tree saddle. This is made possible due to the way that a hunter is securely tethered to their tree. A hunter can lean out to angles of approximately 45 degrees, allowing precise shot-placement, even when hunting in dense brush.
Many shot opportunities offered by tree saddle usage would not be possible when hunting from a treestand.
This is because shots from a treestand are taken when standing vertically and the potential to lean away from the tree is limited due to an increased risk of slips and falls.
Hunting from a tree saddle also offers the ultimate in stealth (read.. quality hunting face mask). Because you face the tree that you are tethered to, deer cannot easily catch the sight of a hunter’s outline as they approach.
Additionally, you can maneuver in a way that keeps the tree between you and a deer should they approach from an angle that leaves you exposed.
The same level of concealment is not always possible when hunting from a fixed stand location, as the platform will always protrude from the tree, leaving you somewhat vulnerable to having your silhouette picked off by an approaching deer.
Your ability to keep the tree that you are hunting out of between yourself and a deer is limited due to a stand’s fixed position.
While it is indisputable that a tree saddle offers a number of advantages to those looking for freedom of movement when hunting from an elevated platform, there are also potential drawbacks associated with their use, as well.
Comfort Is Relative
Though many hunters find a properly fitted and adjusted saddle to be quite comfortable, this is not always the case for everyone.
Some hunters, especially those that are larger framed, report a level of discomfort associated with saddle use that is largely due to a pinching or binding effect that is caused by the saddle seat’s grip on a hunter’s lower body.
However, a number of saddle sizes exist, and by properly matching saddle size to your body type, much of these concerns can be alleviated. Many individuals also find it to be worthwhile to use a platform that is specifically built for the purpose of saddle hunting.
The use of such a product allows a hunter to periodically shift his or her weight and readjust the saddle’s seat portion for increased comfort.
Difficulties With Shooting Form
If you have spent the bulk of your hunting career shooting from a treestand, there will likely be a learning curve involved with shooting from a tree saddle.
This stems from the fact that your body is almost exclusively positioned at a non-vertical angle, making it immensely important to consider upper body geometry when striving to maintain proper form and posture.
It can also be quite difficult to become accustomed to taking offside shots, as this will require you to bring your bow over the saddle’s bridge in order to place yourself in contention for an opportunity.
Many of these concerns can be overcome with ample practice. Just as when first becoming accustomed to shooting from a treestand, experience is everything.
If a tree exists in your yard, it can be of great benefit to replicate a wide array of shots that you might face in a real hunting scenario.
This allows you to sort out any shortcomings in your form prior to the actual moment of truth.
Making The Most Of Tree Saddle Use
Although the use of a tree saddle can come with a learning curve of sorts, those that are determined to maximize their hunting efficiency can make great use of this noteworthy tool.
By considering the distinct advantages in mobility, maneuverability, precision, and stealth that a tree saddle allows, and remaining diligent in your shooting form when hunting from a system of this nature, you can elevate your deer hunting prowess to the next level.
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