Here's what makes tree saddle hunting unique, and a look into how good these things actually work.
The tree saddle is a serious alternative for hunters who want to hunt from the height of a tree without the need to mount a portable stand or build a permanent one.
The first time you see it, you'd probably say the tree saddle looks nothing like a horseback riding saddle. And you wouldn't be too far off.
A tree saddle consists of a climbing harness (usually made of heavy nylon straps) and a bucket-shaped seat that attaches or wraps around your waist and upper legs.
Instead of sitting on a platform stand or using a traditional tree climber, a tree saddle easily clips into a secure rope on the tree and the hunter simply sits or leans into the harness. It's similar to a mountain climber using their specialized gear to comfortably hang from the side of the cliff.
The tree saddle allows the hunter a range of motion to keep the tree trunk between themselves and the deer, thus hiding the hunter from the deer's view and eliminating the hunter's outline completely.
Saddle hunters get to their preferred hunting height and generally set up facing the direction in which the deer are expected to travel like any other traditional treestand hunter.
Maybe the biggest question is, can you safely climb a tree with this product? And if so, how?
The answer is yes, but climbing methods are not specific to saddle hunting. There are a lot of options for climbing the tree from inexpensive stick ladders, portable climbing sticks, and of course a lineman's belt.
Tree Saddle Hunting
Tethrd has become a notable name in the tree saddle marketplace, and their Phantom model shows what they can do.
As Tehtrd likes to say, "Safety harnesses do nothing to stop you from falling from the tree. They are designed to catch your fall and stop you from hitting the ground. Conversely, the Tethrd Mantis is designed to prevent your fall in the first place."
According to the experts over at Tethrd Nation, "First of all you'll need the Mantis saddle or the Phantom saddle. If you're new to saddle hunting, we recommend going with the MicroFit Adjusters (for the Mantis only) to really dial in your comfort. If you're familiar with saddle hunting, you may opt for the SYS Hauler to conveniently store your ropes or accessories on your saddle."
There are four basic shots that saddle hunters can take from this type of stand. For instance, right handed shooters moving counterclockwise around the tree can take their strong side shot or roughly the 10 o'clock to 7 o'clock position, the 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock position, and from the weak side, 2 o'clock to 5 o'clock with the final shooting position from about 2 o'clock to 10 o'clock.
The versatility is that tree steps can still be used to gain the desired elevated position for deer hunting, since not everyone wants to climb a tree with lineman's belt style gear. Not only that, but this system is perfectly suited for the bowhunting crowd as bowhunters are practically made for the Tree Saddle.
There is also a hang-on style of foot rest known as the Tethrd Predator Platform to use for those who prefer to have something to feel for their feet, and can even stand on for short periods.
The two main types of Tree Saddles offered by Tethrd represent the common styles; they are the Mantis saddle and the newer Phantom saddle. You'll also need a tether and of course a lineman's belt. The lineman belt helps to ensure that you are connected to the tree at all times (extremely important!) from the ground all the way up to hunting height.
For those that are new to saddle hunting, Tethrd suggests going with the MicroFit Adjusters (for the Mantis only) which allows you to custom fit your Mantis Saddle to your exact specifications.
If you're more familiar with saddle hunting, you may opt for the SYS Hauler to conveniently store your ropes or accessories on your saddle for the day.
Also, the tether and lineman belt come with upgraded and now load-rated carabiners that work hand-in-hand with the rest of the gear. You can even get the SBW Heater to stay warm during those late season hunts. This is a seat heating device to keep your backside warm and keep you on stand longer during colder days.
One of the most commonly asked questions is of course about comfort. The easy answer is yes, the Tree Saddle is quite comfortable, but it is always subjective to those that have tried one versus those that have not ever hung in a tree for a long period, or even climbed a tree in such a way.
A few users will experience mild discomfort due to improper setup techniques or simply due to physical excursion levels that they may have never experienced. This is almost always caused by setting up the saddle incorrectly or having the wrong size for your body type.
As Tethrd says, "Another comfort factor is something we like to call "saddle shape". Some users bodies are slower to adapt to different pressure zones and angles created by hanging from a tree. I call this getting in saddle shape. The more time you spend in your saddle, the more your body will adjust to the system and your saddle shape will improve dramatically."
This type of hunting gear is the epitome of of mobile hunting; it is practically a recliner in the sky for those who seek to hunt the whitetail rut, whether on public land or private.
This lone wolf style of hunting has found its place among the tree climbing deer hunters of the world, and it appears it's here to stay. Kill a few big bucks yourself using a tree saddle, and you might never go back.
For more hunting gear, check out Bass Pro Shops.