Saddle up

by Cory Dyer | September 28, 2023

Tree saddles are an increasingly popular method of mobile hunting for bow and gun hunters alike. This surge (spurred by US whitetail hunters) offers a great opportunity for Ontario hunters, and even has advantages over tree stands.

What’s a tree saddle?

A tree saddle is similar to an arborist harness but has been modified for comfort for those long sits in a tree. Most tree saddle brands use a fabric “seat” that wraps around your backside. The seat is secured by ropes to the tree. Unlike traditional tree stands where you sit with your back to the tree, in a saddle, you sit facing the tree. The securing ropes allow you to rotate around the tree, offering 360 degrees of shooting opportunities.

Vs. a tree stand

The primary advantage of a tree saddle compared to other elevated hunting techniques (self-climbing tree stands, hang-on stands, and ladder stands) is mobility. It is both extremely portable and extremely lightweight, and therefore has the flexibility to be set up in that perfect spot, no matter where that spot happens to be.

Tune your comfort

It is understandable for one to think about comfort. Stand hunting can be a long, and often uncomfortable ordeal. As someone who has hunted out of climbing stands, hang-on stands, and ladder stands, I would say a saddle is of comparable or better comfort than other options. I can easily sit in a saddle for multiple hours during a hunt with no issues.

By adjusting tether height and bridge position you can fine tune the pressure distribution of the saddle to optimize your comfort. You can also shift between leaning in the saddle by putting the majority of your weight on your feet, or sitting in the saddle and shifting your weight to the seat.

Is it safe?

Tree saddles use climbing grade ropes to support the hunter both during climbing, and in hunting position. This means you’re always tied to the tree once you leave the ground.

The saddle hunting technique evolved from equipment used by arborists who climb trees for a living and who know how to do so in the safest and most efficient manner.

As much as we all know we should, how many people can say they are always tied off while climbing, hanging, or hunting out of their favourite ladder or hang-on stand?

More pros

  • You can use the tree trunk as cover
  • No need to leave equipment in the woods and at risk of being damaged or stolen
  • Hunt as high or low as you prefer and use the tree foliage to your advantage
  • Packs up easily for travelling
  • You can use your tether rope or the tree as a gun rest/shooting stabilizer

Making the climb

Any way you prefer to climb can work while saddle hunting. Some options include:

  • Climbing sticks
  • Tree spurs
  • Ropes
  • Screw-in tree pegs
  • Strap-on tree steps

Application for Ontario

A tree saddle is typically used for hunting whitetail deer but really can be used for any type of game where it would be preferable to hunt out of a tree. It can benefit both bow and gun hunters pursuing deer, moose, elk, and bear.

Ontarians are fortunate to have a plethora of hunting opportunities, and this mobile-hunting system can help to increase your odds.

Originally published in Ontario OUT of DOORS’ 2022-2023 Hunting Annual 

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  1. Matt Logan wrote: In the past, you ran a article regarding using a climbing saddle to hunt from trees. After I read that article I sent in a comment showing my disappointment that you had published an article that talks about using spurs to climb trees. Arborists use spurs only in removal situations as they create damage in the tree, which can cause undue stress in an extreme circumstances, the onset of decay and disease and death. Please inform your membership that tree spurs are not a technique to be used if the health of the tree is of any consideration. Giving that these are outdoor people I would think that they may care about the forests in which they Hunt. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss this topic further. I'd be more than happy to inform your membership of proper practices. Matt Logan ISA board certified arborist ON-0931BT ISA Ontario chapter president
    • Jason Bain wrote: Hi, Matt. Thanks for sharing your concerns. We really appreciate the feedback. We wanted to let you know that we have a Q&A slotted for a future issue that reflects the very concerns you’ve outlined. Stay tuned.