SQUASHING 5 BARRIERS OF SADDLE HUNTING

Trendy, hippie, monkey style; whatever you want to call it, saddle hunting is here to stay. The beat of the mobile hunting drum is thumping, and if you haven't given it a try, you're missing out.

Mobile hunting is nothing new. Climber stands, saddles, and hang-on stands with sticks were all made around the same era. But the claim for fame went first to climbers. As far as being light and efficient, climbers were as good as it gets. The hunting crowd widely accepted them because they just made sense. They looked like a normal tree stand, worked as a tree stand, and expanded hunting options. 

Safety was another key aspect that kept hunters coming back. With the extra mobility, hunters saw more consistent success. Also, roaming further from the truck felt more relaxed. But there was an issue with climber stands; they only worked well in straight, branchless trees. 

Climber stands fell out of favor because they are not as handy and led to more interest in a hang-on with sticks. Stand and sticks became a top choice. Soon people learned they could be even more mobile, especially the "beast-style" crowd. Climbing almost any tree was an option with this setup. 

These methods made many hunters continue to search for ways to get better. Any tree stand carries a lot of bulk, and extra bulk while hunting isn't fun. With a renewed interest in going deeper into public land, people were looking for ways to be even more mobile. Saddle hunting is nothing new, but it is the answer to being the most mobile.

While saddles are becoming favored, there is still some reluctance in the hunting community. Many people don't even want to try a saddle based on looks alone. If you are uneasy about some of the assumptions and rumors of saddle hunting, let's squash them now. 


  • It's a trend that will fade. I thought this too for a long time. But after about five years, without the topic slowing down, I truly believe they are here to stay. More manufacturers are on the scene, and hunters have bought more saddle equipment every year. On top of that, tweaking them has become a hobby of its own. Think about it; carrying a saddle makes trekking deep into tucked-away places much easier. Unless, of course, you're a ladder stand slinging Pennsylvanian.

  • Learning to shoot from a saddle looks tough. Sure, is there a learning curve? There sure is, just like there would be if it were your first time shooting from an elevated position! But once you're in one and take a few shots, you'll see that your form won't suffer. The T shape needed to hold good form is mindless in a saddle. Because of how easy it is, it removes some effort from a shot routine.

  • If form isn't a concern for you, shooting from the saddle's weak side might be. There will be some practice here, but you'll have off-side shots aced after one or two sessions. Weak-side shots will broaden your range of shot options providing more than you would have from a tree stand.

     

  • There's no way a saddle can be comfortable. At first glance, a saddle seems like it would hit too many pressure points. It almost looks like there's nothing but straps digging into your body. Hundreds of saddle hunters say comfort is no issue. Of course, it would seem like those people are trying to avoid looking dumb. But it's true, saddles are forgiving and don't have the same constant pressure as a tree stand seat. 

  • Similar to any time spent in a tree stand, readjusting in a saddle might be needed. Moving is easy, quiet, and fast in a saddle. Once you've found a good tether height, staying still and comfy is more painless than in any tree stand. 


  • It doesn't weigh much less. After a few minutes with ten to fifteen pounds in my pack, I can't say that I notice much of a difference. But ask that question after a mile pack-out with a whole deer on my back. I'd likely have something else to say. Even if weight isn't your issue, there's no dispute that a saddle kit has less bulk than any other climbing system. 

  • If cutting weight is on your needs list, there are plenty of ways to tailor a saddle kit. Even choosing thinner ropes can make a difference.


  • It doesn't look very safe. Tell that to the rock climbers of the world. They are the real experts, and we're the people buying up their gear. Rock climbing gear is made from the best materials. With ample weight and safety ratings attached to their labels, there is little concern when you're dangling 20 feet up in a tree.

  • Tree stands also have great safety features, and paired with a harness; they aren't that bad. But there's nothing quite like that constant feeling of connection to a tree. I am not a fan of heights, but being tethered to the tree has taken that unsteady feeling away. That has meant an increased ability to maneuver around the tree for more shot options. Balance is also less of an issue, which means much better form for a better lethal shot.


     


    Saddles have changed hunting in a big way. More people are willing to go further and hunt harder. It opens many options for staying hidden at elevated heights. They have renewed interest for many people who love to bow hunt but need something to give them an edge. 

    I've been a user of both. With confidence (minus one noteworthy permanent tree stand), I will never go back to a standard tree stand platform.

     

    AUTHOR: Aaron Helpler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member