Hunting from an elevated position, whether you use a tree stand, saddle or hide, offers numerous benefits compared to other forms of hunting – from clearer sightlines to better camouflage. There are various pieces of equipment hunters can use to hunt from the trees, with tree stands and saddles being some of the most popular choices. If you’re wondering which method is best for you, read on.
Safety for Hunters
Safety should always be your number one priority when hunting. Hunting can be a dangerous sport. Not only are you handling firearms and other weapons such as knives and getting close to wild animals, but you also have to contend with the typical risks associated with spending time in the wild.
However, one of the most common hunting accidents is falling when hunting from an elevated vantage point. Falling from a tree stand, saddle or hide can lead to various injuries, from minor bumps and bruises to broken bones and even traumatic brain injuries.
Because tree saddles look more precarious, it's a common misconception that they are more dangerous than tree stands. The opposite is true. While hunting from the treetops always comes with risks, tree saddles are considered to be safer because the hunter remains tethered to the tree at all times.
The tree saddle design is similar to the equipment used by tree surgeons and telephone utility workers, so it has been tried and tested with many years of use. There’s still always an element of danger when hunting, so you should take all precautions possible, no matter how safe you feel in your equipment.
The Portability of Equipment
One of the most significant selling points of tree saddles is that they are incredibly lightweight, usually coming in well under five pounds for the whole saddle system, including lineman's rope, hoists, tethers and pouches.
This is considerably less than traditional tree stands, which is incredibly useful when carrying your kit while covering long distances on a hunt. However, it's worth noting that although some hunters claim that climbing sticks aren't needed for using tree saddles, many still use them.
Whether you're bow hunting deer or gun hunting elk, your success often depends on your ability to move quietly and remain undetected by your prey. The weight and bulk associated with carrying all the kit needed to set up tree stands have an impact on your mobility and, even more worryingly, your ability to be stealthy.
Because tree saddles weigh less and require less bulky equipment, you can make much less noise while you walk, giving you a better chance of going unnoticed by the wildlife. It also makes it easier to traverse rugged terrain and get to more difficult-to-reach areas.
Once you’ve found the tree that you wish to make your base for the day’s hunt, you should set yourself up as quickly as possible to remain undetected. It tends to be easier to keep quiet while setting up a tree saddle, particularly if you use a metal stand with screw-in steps.
Besides keeping quiet, it’s also crucial to remain unseen by your prey. Although both tree stands and saddles can be highly effective in providing hunters with a good hiding spot, setting up a tree stand requires some forward-thinking. If you don’t set it up well, you will be easy to spot. On the other hand, tree saddles allow hunters to hide behind the tree to obscure visibility from all angles.
The Comfort Factor
If you’re planning a day out bow hunting deer or other game, you will probably spend extended periods in one spot waiting for the optimum moment to take your shot. It’s essential to be comfortable, not only because you could find yourself in a lot of pain the following day but also because if you’re not comfortable, you’re more likely to fidget, giving away your position.
Some hunters simply find tree stands more comfortable than saddles, particularly if they prefer a seated setup or a larger platform. Getting used to using a tree saddle and the feeling that you are hanging can take some time and, while some hunters would never go back to stands, others never adapt to saddles.
The Best Shooting Angles
One of the greatest benefits of hunting from above is the angles it provides. The more angles the hunter has access to, the better their chances of making a good shot. Fixed tree stands generally have a much more limited range of angles than tree saddles because they are set up to face in one direction. When using a tree saddle, however, you have 360-degree shooting mobility around the tree.
Adaptability and Convenience
Although good hunters tend to have an in-depth knowledge of how animals behave and the layout of their favorite hunting grounds, they must also be adaptable. Tree saddles offer hunters the ability to be more flexible with the trees they choose to hunt from because you can use them with any tree. Stands, on the other hand, can be limited by the diameter and shape of a tree.
The adaptability of tree saddles is particularly useful if you’re hunting in an area you don’t know well. If you have your own land, or the use of other private properties, a stand is more ideal. You can set it up in an area that you know is a good hunting spot and leave it there for the duration of the hunting season. This also removes the need to carry a kit when you hunt and allows you to be super stealthy.
Space for Equipment
One of the advantages of tree stands is that they offer you more space to store your equipment, such as extra ammo, water and grunt calls. Even a single bar or ledge can provide enough space to set yourself up comfortably for the day, with everything in easy reach. However, when tree saddle hunting, you usually have to keep everything on your person, which can be much less convenient.
When it comes to tree stands vs. saddles, there is no definitive answer. It’s a personal choice. Although tree saddles offer more benefits in mobility and flexibility, some hunters don’t feel comfortable using them and prefer to stick to the comfort of tree stands.
Whichever method you use, it’s crucial to make safety your top priority. If you hunt regularly, it’s easy to get blasé about the risks of hunting from the treetops. Always take the appropriate precautions.