How to Hunt from a Tree Saddle

How to Hunt from a Tree Saddle Outdoor Life

Real Talk on Saddle Hunting. Is It Time to Ditch the Treestand?

Hunters often spend numerous days deer hunting over several years, but Billy Phillips does it every year. Thanks to a long season, unlimited doe tags, and damage permits, he has extensive experience with tree saddles since 2006. If you’re seeking a saddle hunting expert, Phillips is the best.

Phillips believes tree saddles are the best tools for hunting whitetails. He doesn’t care about celebrity hunters using saddles; all he cares about is having the right tool to kill a deer from the best tree. If you have a similar mindset when choosing hunting gear, Phillips has valuable advice for new and aspiring saddle hunters.

Why Saddles

For mobile hunters, there’s a natural progression. It starts with a climber, then transitions to climbing sticks and a hang-on stand after seasons of searching for limbless trees near deer signs. While some people may be satisfied with this setup, others want something lighter and easier to carry. That’s where saddles come in.

“The saddle gives me more options,” says Phillips. “I can pick the tree I want to hunt out of instead of looking for the right area and then searching for a suitable tree.”

With a saddle, you can hunt from small-diameter trees, large-diameter trees, limbless oaks, bushy pines, and everything in between. Additionally, tree saddles are lighter to carry than hang-ons or climbers, making them advantageous for hunting public land or large properties.

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Although there are lightweight hang-ons and sticks available, even a 13-pound stand and stick setup weighs more than a saddle, platform, and sticks. Cutting down on weight becomes crucial when dragging out a deer.

Why Not Saddles

Using a saddle requires a steeper learning curve, requiring practice before feeling comfortable hunting from one.

“A saddle is not right for occasional hunters,” Phillips said.

If you don’t dedicate enough time to hunting, you won’t fully experience the added mobility benefits or become comfortable with the setup. However, investing time before the season to learn how to use a saddle will allow you to benefit from it when the season arrives.

Getting Comfortable

When you first buy a saddle, start two feet off the ground and experiment with the setup to find comfort.

“Determine the length and height of the tether, as well as the bridge length,” Phillips suggests.

These three adjustments directly affect your comfort level in a tree saddle by redistributing weight. Once you find your settings, you’ll have a saddle comfortable enough for all-day sits.

How to Hunt from a Tree Saddle Outdoor Life

Getting comfortable also involves shooting from a saddle. Shooting from your left side (for right-handed hunters) is similar to shooting from a treestand. The learning curve comes when shooting to the right.

“You can shoot 360 degrees around the tree,” says Phillips. “With practice, it becomes second nature.”

To shoot to the right, turn, facing outward like in a treestand. The tether will sit across your chest, allowing you to shoot to your offside.

If you have experience hanging a lock-on stand, mounting a saddle platform will be easy. Practice and find a system that works for you. “Once you find your system, you’ll move up and down the tree faster than with a climber,” Phillips recommends.

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Saddle Hunting Gear Basics

The author demonstrates shooting from a tree saddle. Scott Einsmann

Saddle hunting gear might seem complicated, but the basic items you need to get started are simple:

Choose a saddle that suits your personal preference. Read gear tests, but trying out different saddles from friends or attending manufacturer events is the best way to find the right fit. There are saddles for people of any body type.

Once you have the basic gear and start practicing, you can make some modifications to quiet the setup.

“The number one tip I give is to silence every piece of metal in your system,” says Phillips. “I use Camo Form tape to reduce noise from sticks, platform, and carabiners.”

“Another thing I do is fill my sticks with spray foam,” he adds. Don’t fill them completely to avoid expansion overnight.

Phillips recommends replacing the prusik knot with a Ropeman 1 Ascender for one-handed adjustments on the lineman’s belt and tether.

Final Thoughts on Saddle Hunting

Despite the recent hype around saddles, if you’re in need of mobility and flexibility, get one, practice with it, and increase your deer kills. But if you don’t require those characteristics, stick to your preferred treestand to fill your tags.

Despite the recent hype around saddles, if you’re in need of mobility and flexibility, get one, practice with it, and increase your deer kills. But if you don’t require those characteristics, stick to your preferred treestand to fill your tags.