By Erik Barber
The recent growth of mobile bowhunting tactics and a surging demand for portable, lightweight treestand alternatives are making bowhunters ask if they should try tree saddles.
To explore that option, we talked to Taylor Chamberlin, a longtime saddle rider who spends nearly nine months each year bowhunting suburban whitetails in Washington, D.C.
Chamberlain considers tree saddles a treestand alternative and safety device all rolled into one. “A saddle lets you hunt from nearly any sized tree, including ones you couldn’t dream of getting into with a traditional treestand,” he said.
Tree saddles offer lightweight portability, combined reasons to forsake traditional treestands.
“My climbing sticks weigh less than 5 pounds, my saddle and all the ropes weigh less than 2 pounds, and my platform is around 4 pounds,” Chamberlin said. “For 11 pounds, I can hunt any tree in the woods and keep deer guessing.”
Tree saddles are significantly smaller than any treestand. Rather than snagging branches with a bulky platform as you walk to your hunting sites, you’ll cruise in silently with saddle gear because you can wear it or stuff it into your backpack.
A tree saddle also offers significant safety benefits for bowhunters.
“The saddle lets you clip into the tree while ascending and descending, making it incredibly safe from the second you leave the ground until you return,” Chamberlin said. “You won’t worry about stepping off a platform like on a treestand. You’re tethered to the tree and fully supported by your climbing harness, which is also a safety harness.”
The tree saddle’s setup and takedown is much like a lock-on treestand. Saddle hunters can also modify their gear to be more efficient. That includes adding Nite Ize gear ties that keep climbing sticks on your hip during setups. With practice, you’ll set up your saddle quickly and efficiently.
“If it were a race, I could be up a tree and set up in less than 5 minutes,” Chamberlin said. “However, I care more about moving silently. I can do that in less than 15 minutes.”
Once you’re set up, experiment with rope positions to comfortably lean or recline while in the tree. By making small adjustments to your bridge or tether position, you’ll stay comfortable for hours in a saddle. Chamberlin said saddles naturally encourage hunters to bend at their hips while shooting, which improves their form and accuracy.
The offseason is a great time to evaluate your gear list and identify areas to improve. If you want to be more mobile and opportunistic this fall, a saddle might be the most important gear you can add to your bowhunting pack.