How To Get Started With Saddle Hunting

By Justin ZarrOctober 6th, 20221 Comment

Getting Started

Getting into saddle hunting takes somewhat of a big leap. You have the financial investment of getting a bunch of new gear, as well as the mental and physical challenges of learning a new way to hunt.

It may seem rather daunting when you see all the different ways of modifying and using gear. However, none of the modifications are actually needed to get started. In fact, it’s best if you don’t do any modifications to your gear when starting out.

Tree Saddle Hunting: Is It The Next Big Thing For Mobile Hunters?

Hunting out of a tree saddle definitely takes some time to get used to, and any premature modifications may hurt you in the long run. Just like how everyone has their own style of hunting and scouting, everybody seems to use a tree saddle a little differently.

That first season saddle hunting should be a sort of trial run. And depending on the way you hunt, you might want to make some modifications to your gear, or how you use your gear. Or, it might turn out that the basic stuff you have is already perfect for you.

In the video above, Justin mentions scouring the internet and social media, looking at all the different mods that he might potentially need. After just 1 season of saddle hunting, he realized that he doesn’t need to modify anything. Since he hunts mostly private land, and a bit of public, his basic setup of a Tethrd Phantom saddle and Predator Platform, plus 3 climbing sticks was perfect for him.

But if you’re a public only hunter that hikes in several miles on each hunt, you may want to go in a different route with your gear. Nonetheless, we’ll cover all the basic needs of how to get started with saddle hunting in the next section.

Saddle Hunting Gear Basics

Obviously, the first thing you’ll need to start saddle hunting is a tree saddle. A tree saddle is essentially a fabric seat that has a waist strap, and two leg straps. They’re typically made from a strong, lightweight fabric or mesh.

There are a few different companies that have come out with new saddles over the past couple years, but all of them function the same way. They’ll have the waist strap, two leg straps, a lineman loop on both sides for your bridge and lineman’s rope, as well as some ways to customize it.

How To Get Started With Saddle Hunting
The lineman's rope attaches to the lineman loops on either side of the saddle so you can safely ascend a tree.

If you know someone who already has a saddle, give that one a try and see how you like it. Despite how similar most saddles are, they all tend to have a different feel to them and different fit. Keep trying different saddles until you find one you like.

One of the biggest advantages of a tree saddle and platform over a hang on stand, is the lighter weight and ability to move to a different tree quicker. Something we always recommend to treestand hunters, is making sure you use a safety harness and lifeline when climbing up a tree.

Since most saddle hunters like to stay mobile, it isn’t realistic to be using a lifeline when hunting. So instead of a lifeline, you’ve got a lineman’s rope, and a tree tether. Most of you should be familiar with a lineman’s rope (or lineman’s belt), since it’s used when setting up a treestand. And a tree tether is what you put around the tree to attach to the bridge of your saddle.

How To Get Started With Saddle Hunting
The bridge of your saddle runs through a carabiner that is attached to the tree tether by an ascender. A standard prusik knot can work instead of the ascender upgrade.

Most saddles come with the bridge attached to the saddle, and you will likely have to purchase the lineman’s rope seperately. Every company usually sells a “kit” which includes the saddle (with bridge), lineman’s rope, and tree tether.

An optional upgrade that you can get is called an “ascender”. An ascender is a small mechanical device that can replace the prusik knot on your lineman’s rope or tree tether for easier adjustment when climbing, or in a tree. But like we said, this isn’t necessary for getting started, and can be a somewhat expensive upgrade that isn’t needed.

How To Get Started With Saddle Hunting

Another upgrade you can get that is almost considered an “essential” are gear bags. Tethrd makes the SYS Hauler System, which attaches right onto the saddle and is perfect for carrying your lineman’s rope and tree tether with you.

Whether you use a regular backpack, or fanny pack style bag, it’s a lot easier to have your ropes at your side. That way, you can start ascending the tree immediately when you get to it, instead of stopping to take your backpack off and pull out your ropes.

And even though we basically consider these an essential, it isn’t absolutely necessary to have them. Some guys like to just drape the ropes diagonally over their shoulder down to their hip. But speaking from experience, using the SYS Hauler bags is a lifesaver.

A basic saddle setup is pretty lightweight and easy to bring in and out of the woods. The part about saddle hunting that allows for the most modifications, is in the climbing sticks and platform.

How To Get Started With Saddle Hunting

Between adding stealth strips, cutting down sticks, and “one-sticking”, there are many ways to upgrade, or modify your climbing method. Now, you can absolutely use regular climbing sticks or screw in pegs for ascending a tree. But for those that hunt public land and like to move around a lot, cutting down on weight and noise can be extremely important. 

We aren’t going to go into all the different mods you can make to your sticks, because honestly that would make this article WAY too long. And for the purposes of this specific article, you can use any basic tree climbing method for ascending a tree when saddle hunting.

Another item that falls into the “basically essential” category, is a platform. Many people that are trying to get into saddle hunting likely don’t realize that you don’t even need a platform. It’s entirely possible to hunt from the top step of a climbing stick, or even a branch on the tree.

But if you want to be comfortable while saddle hunting, you should look into getting a platform, or at least some mod for the top step of your climbing sticks. Several companies already make mods for certain climbing sticks to replace the top step.

So if you plan on saddle hunting a lot, look into different platforms to use.

Best Saddle Platforms 2021
The Helium HSP Platform from Hawk Hunting replaces the top step of the Hawk Helium sticks and can be used as a "platform" for saddle hunting.

Saddle Hunting Basics Conclusion

When it all comes down to it, the basic items you need for saddle hunting are; tree saddle and bridge, lineman’s rope, tree tether, and a climbing method. Everything after that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Amongst all the possible upgrades and modifications that occur in the saddle hunting community, hopefully this helps you understand the basics and realize that getting into saddle hunting isn’t as confusing or complicated as you thought.

Justin Zarr
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General Manager at Bowhunting.com
Justin has been bowhunting for more than 30 years and co-hosting the popular bowhunting show Bowhunt or Die since 2010.  He lives in the NW suburbs of Chicago with his wife, 3 children, and semi-smelly dog.
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