Featured in the photo: the Trophyline Covert Pro Saddle Kit, decorated in Mossy Oak Bottomland.
Have you ever wondered why many bowhunters have converted to saddle hunting when hunting deer? Have you ever wanted to learn how to bow hunt from a saddle yourself? John Eberhart, referred to as the “Godfather of Saddle Hunting,” shares the most significant advantages of saddle hunting and what hunters need to know before they try it themselves.
Before recent social media trends and the famous do-it-yourself hunters, The Hunting Public, very few were seen hunting from a saddle. Lack of publicity does not mean that saddle hunting is a new technique; in fact, it has been around for quite some time.
The hunters who have heard of the self-taught deer hunter from Michigan named John Eberhart know that saddle hunting has effectively helped him harvest many deer. Eberhart has authored multiple books on bowhunting deer that contain vital information on how he has used saddle hunting for many years. Eberhart learned through many years of trial and error, an intense dedication to detail, and his desire to succeed. The years of attention put forth to succeed as a deer hunter have led Eberhart to harvest 53 record-book bucks, 31 with his bow and two with a muzzleloader. Thirty-three records were from his home state of Michigan, and he has taken 20 Pope and Young class bucks in other states.
One fascinating fact is that Eberhart has never owned or leased land, hunted managed or relatives' property, and has never participated in a paid hunt. He has also never hunted over bait or a food plot. What separates Eberhart's success from other hunters is that a 100-percent of his hunting has exclusively been on public land or knock-on-doors, free hunting permission properties.
One of Eberhart’s most effective tools that have aided in harvesting record-book bucks on public and free-to-hunt properties is that of hunting from a saddle. Since 1981, he has been exclusively hunting from a saddle. Eberhart began hunting from one of the first tree saddles ever manufactured at the time. Since then, he has helped make many modifications over the years to original saddles, making them more mobile, comfortable, adjustable, lightweight, and user-friendly.
Eberhart’s recognition as the “Grandfather of Saddle Hunting” has also led top hunting manufacturers to seek his expertise when designing new products for hunters. In 2020, Tethrd Nation, makers of quality hunting saddles, released a design by John called the Eberhart Signature Saddle. In 2022, ScentLok, one of the leaders in scent control garments, released a signature suit called the Saddle Hunter that Eberhart designed. The Eberhart signature suit features designs tailored to the saddle hunter's needs. The Saddle Hunter suit is for hunting in temperatures between 20 and 40 degrees, typically the weather during the rut phases throughout the Midwest, which is when Eberhart has had most of his success. The Saddle Hunter suit is exclusively featured in Mossy Oak Country DNA.
I recently visited with Eberhart and learned more about his success as a saddle hunter and the most significant advantages of saddle hunting while bowhunting deer. Here are ten advantages to why Eberhart says hunters should try saddle hunting:
The number-one advantage when saddle hunting is safety. You are 100-percent always tethered to the tree when you leave the ground. No one has ever made a claim against a saddle company for falling out of a saddle.
Saddles are made of fabric and ropes. Unlike pulling up stands or using a climber on a rough-barked tree, no noise is associated with saddles. There are no creaking noises from metal joints or platforms when the hunter shifts their weight for a shot.
3. Lightweight & Packable
Many public-land hunters must spend time and effort walking longer distances into an area to find the right spot when deer hunting. A saddle weighs less than two pounds and rolls up into a compact ball that is easy to carry. Less weight on a hunter's back when walking gives hunters an advantage to quickly travel to wherever they want to hunt.
4. 360-Degree Shooting Mobility
When hunting from a saddle, the hunter has a 360-degree motion of shooting ability, so there are no missed shooting opportunities. When hunting areas near food sources such as fruit trees or mast trees such as white oak acorn trees, deer are likely to be lingering in the area for several minutes at close range; when hunting in a saddle, the hunter can tether to the opposite side of the tree to keep from getting picked off by a deer's keen eyesight.
5. Hunt Destination Locations
Typically, when hunting from conventional treestands, the tree must be a specific size to function correctly; Eberhart says that he has taken bucks in trees that were 4 inches in diameter and from trees that were over 30 inches. The ability to choose any tree size allows the hunter to be in specific destination locations, such as over a scrape or near a water source, instead of hunting a spot where there is a tree is large enough to hold a treestand.
6. Shoot More Accurately
When hunting from a tree saddle, the hunter always has three body points of contact. Their two feet are on a platform, and their body is sitting on a seat, which is 70-percent of their body weight. As the hunter swings around to put themself in a shooting position, they maintain the three body points of contact, allowing for a more accurate shot, especially when bowhunting.
7. Save Money
Most hunters have treestands or blinds for different locations on their land. On a medium to large-sized farm, it is not unheard of for hunters to have ten to 15 different setups. Sitting up on different stands takes up time and is hard work, not to mention it can cost a lot of money to have multiple setups. When saddle hunting, the hunter can use the same saddle no matter where they are hunting, saving them hundreds of dollars.
8. No Theft
Treestand theft is a major issue when hunting on public or heavily pressured land. When saddle hunting, the hunter never has to worry about someone else hunting from or stealing their stand.
9. All Day Sits
For many hunters to harvest mature bucks, sitting all day is highly likely during the rut. When sitting in a metal ladder stand, hang ons, or climbing stands, a hunter often becomes uncomfortable after sitting for hours on a tiny seat. In a saddle, the hunter has much of their weight supported in a soft, fabric seat. When the hunter feels discomfort, they can easily adjust their body or swing out into another position.
10. Keep Your Spot A Secret
Taking your saddle with you prevents other hunters in the area from knowing your secret hunting spots. No ladders or tree steps are left behind when hunting from a saddle. With the ability to hunt any sized tree, there is no predictability from other hunters of where you will be at any given time.