September 13, 2022
By Emily Schaad Konkler
As I swung around to the backside of the tree I was in last November, I saw a big set of antlers coming through the woods. I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I make this decision a lot sooner?” I was ready to draw and make the shot, but unfortunately, he ended up not being the shooter I was looking for.
Without choosing to saddle hunt that day — if it would've been a mature shooter buck — I never would have been able to get an arrow released from that angle if I were hunting with a normal treestand setup.
Times Have Changed
When I first started bowhunting, I never imagined in a million years that bowhunting tactics and the evolution in treestands would come as far as they have over the years. I know I have personally struggled finding a more lightweight, simpler way to bowhunt whitetails. As others have also struggled with this same issue, the saddle hunting revolution really started to unfold and more and more bowhunters have taken that jump out of their comfort zone to try it for the first time.
I'll admit, when I noticed more people using saddles I thought they were crazy. Never once did I actually entertain the idea of ever using one myself. There was no possible way hunting like that could even be remotely comfortable. Well, at least that is what I kept telling myself. And how in the world can you execute a shot to the best of your ability while hanging off the side of a tree? I’m sure I’m not the only person that asked themselves these same questions, but I'm here to tell you that it's time to see for yourself. Honestly, if you refuse to give it try how do you really know?
Why Saddle Hunt?
“You don’t know until you try.” That saying have withstood the test of time in many aspects of life, and the same goes for saddle hunting. I never once thought I would like saddle hunting — or would even be remotely comfortable — until I actually gave it a shot. To my surprise, I've really enjoyed it and it has been a super beneficial tool to add to my bowhunting arsenal.
So, why saddle hunting? What makes it such a unique and beneficial tool for bowhunters? Well, it’s pretty simple really — you now have the ability to be 100 percent mobile. Having the opportunity to hunt anywhere you might desire and move quickly and quietly from location to location is something that bowhunters are seeking more and more. Many people have asked about climbing stands. The truth is, climbers can be heavy, bulky, loud, and you are very restricted on shots and maneuverability. Saddle hunting gear is lightweight, compact, and simple to move. With this, there is no more struggling with making multiple trips in and out of the woods to carrying sticks, stands, harnesses, bulky climbers, and other gear. With saddle hunting, everything is packable into one trip. Simply throw it on your back, grab your bow and go.
Without question, one of the biggest advantages of saddle hunting is the ability to shoot all the way around the tree you are hunting from. The amount of shot options you have compared to hunting from a fixed stand or climber is a night and day difference. We've all watched whitetails give us the slip and go behind our stands or stay just outside of our shooting windows. Until you actually hunt from a tree saddle, you'll never comprehend how many shot opportunities have truly passed you by over the years without even knowing it.
Staying undetected and outsmarting deer is another huge benefit to saddle hunting. While hunting from a saddle you have the option to sit close the tree, lean out, and swing around the tree in any direction. Having these options gives you an edge for staying undetected from wandering whitetail eyes as they pass by or come into bow range. This also gives you the option of not having to climb higher than you want in a tree for the sole reason of staying hidden.
When it comes to outsmarting whitetails, being mobile and not overhunting a particular location is super important. With saddle hunting you now have the tools to be mobile for every hunt if need be and the ability to make quick adjustments if a buck makes a sudden pattern change. Overhunting your favorite locations will undoubtadley education deer and could ruin your opportunity at getting a mature buck into range. Again, the mobility of saddle hunting can and will help you with this.
Learning how to saddle hunt or knowing what gear will work best for you does not have to be difficult. With social media, YouTube, and websites such as this one, getting started and learning all the tips and tricks of the trade is right at your fingertips.
If you decide to try saddle hunting — and trust me, you're not going to be disappointed — it's best to get your gear and start practicing with it ahead of the coming season. Like all new setups, it does take a bit of time to get used to. It’s not hard, but takes a few practice sessions and to feel completely comfortable with it. For me, a few trial runs were exactly what I needed to put together what gear and accessories worked best for me. Below is my gear list for my saddle hunting setup I currently run.
Once you get your saddle hunting gear, do yourself a favor and be sure to learn from ground level before actually climbing a tree. As bowhunters, safety has to be our number one priority in every situation. Make sure you know your equipment inside and out before climbing to higher heights.
Simply put, bowhunters need to have several different hunting tools/tactics that you can utilize in order to be successful. There isn't a piece of gear out there that will work every time you head afield. When one tactic doesn’t work or is impractical for a particular hunting situation or location, it's good to have other options to keep you in the game. Saddle hunting is one of those very useful mobile-hunting tactics that really gives you the upper hand in a lot situations, especially when it comes to chasing whitetails. Embrace it! You'll be glad you did.