Saddle Hunting: 7 Items You Didn’t Know You Needed
Allie D'Andrea 09.10.20
Saddle hunting has been around for decades. It was developed in the early 1960’s as a light weight alternative to the tree stand, however we’ve seen a huge spike in popularity in recent years. This is due in part to the increased number of public land hunters (including myself) looking for a light weight, mobile hunting solution. Whether you’re interested in saddle hunting for the first time or are a seasoned vet, here are 7 items to consider adding to your setup this fall.
1. Climbing Aider
The purpose of a climbing aider is to gain height without bringing extra climbing sticks, thus saving weight during long hikes. If you plan on using bolts or climbing spurs this won’t apply to you. Climbing aiders are for saddle hunters who opt for climbing sticks.
There are a few variations of aiders: close loop webbing, cables, ladder style, and plenty of DIY options. I like to use a closed loop webbing style, as seen below:
I use it on my bottom stick and it allows me to start an extra 4-5 feet off the ground. You can take that aider and use it on every stick as you climb the tree, or you can use multiple aiders on each climbing stick. I prefer using one climbing aider on my bottom stick, and that’s it. One aider and three climbing sticks get me to about 17 feet hunting height. Taller individuals (6 feet taller) should be able to get around 20 feet with this method.
2. Back Band
It sounds unnecessary, but trust me you’ll want one. Doesn’t matter if you’re 20 years old or 50 years old, it will increase your ability to stay in the tree longer without fatigue and discomfort. Back bands can be used in multiple positions to support your weight, which is especially important if you are a “low tether” kind of person.
It can also be used under your butt in the seated position to add a surprising amount of support and relieve pressure points. I’ve even used my back band as a deer drag!
3. Ropeman 1 Ascender
The Ropeman 1 Ascender is an invaluable piece of gear for both the climb and anchoring yourself at hunting height. It allows you to make one handed adjustments to your lineman’s belt and your tether rope (I’d recommend buying one for each). Prussic knots are fine and are proven to work, but they require two hands to make an adjustment. Ultimately the ease of use of the Ropeman will help to avoid potential slip ups while climbing and setting sticks.
4. Knee Pads or Foam Stadium Seat
If you spend any amount of time in the seated position, you are going to want to pack some knee pads or a foam stadium seat with you.
Driving your bare knees into the tree is extremely uncomfortable and trust me, you won’t be able to sit still for long. I like using a foam stadium butt pad with a strap and buckle that I can hook around the tree and tighten around knee height.
Any regular old knee pads will work fine as well, however some hunting apparel brands offer pants with built in knee pads which could be a great option!
5. Stealth Strips
Just like a traditional tree stand, there’s tons of metal involved in climbing sticks and platforms. Saddle hunting is not immune to the dreaded aluminum clang. Stealth strips are basically one sided camo tape strips that you can lay over areas likely to make noise. I use it all over my climbing sticks, buckles, and platform.
6. Tread Tape
T-Rex Tread Tape has been useful for the edges of my platform and my top climbing stick, especially when wearing rubber boots in wet conditions.
I know that’s specific, but you’d be surprised how often that happens in Pennsylvania. Rubber boots slip easily and tend to make squeaky noises. Anti slip tape mitigates both the slip and the squeak. A little can go a long way!
7. Nite Ize Twist Ties
These little things are functional and versatile. I usually keep 3 -4 in my pack and have used them for tightening down loose gear when packing in or out, a 3rd hand to hold something in place while i’m getting situated at hunting height, attaching my 2nd and 3rd sticks to my saddle while ascending, and even as a last minute bow or backpack hanger.
Saddle hunting is an excellent choice for mobile whitetail situations. While it can be overwhelming at first, the time spent familiarizing yourself with the gear and the fundamentals is well worth it. These 7 items are sure to increase your comfort and overall success as a saddle hunter this season.