Saddle Hunting Setup:  The Easy Way to Saddle like a Pro 

What is Saddle Hunting?

Saddle hunting is a mobile form of tree stand hunting where you use climbing sticks to ascend the tree then you securely hunt from the tree by attaching yourself to the tree using a tether and your tree saddle. Saddle hunting has recently gained popularity as the equipment has become lighter, more efficient and more cost effective. Saddle hunting is one of the easiest ways to “hang and hunt” anywhere on both public land and private land. The following article is an overview of a proper saddle hunting set up and what you need to know in order to climb your first tree with a saddle.     

See our full overview on saddle hunting for more information.

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What equipment is needed for a saddle hunting setup?

Saddle hunting gear essentials

From left to right 

1 – Tree Saddle: The harness you wear around your body and lean into/sit in while saddle hunting
1 – Tether: Rope that wraps around the tree and then through itself and then clips onto the bridge of your saddle
1 – Lineman’s Rope: single rope with carabiners on each end that attach to either side of you saddle
1 – Platform: single rope with carabiners on each end that attach to either side of you saddle
1 – Gear Strap: small strap that you wrap around the tree and then hang your backpack and weapon on either with carabiners or some other device.
3 – Climbing Sticks: Metal steps you strap onto the tree and use to climb up the tree
4 – Tree Straps: Metal steps you strap onto the tree and use to climb up the tree
2 – Dump Pouches (attached to saddle): Pouches that attach to your saddle that hold your straps and ropes while walking in and also climbing the tree. 
1 – Aider (Optional): A step or steps made of rope that attaches to the bottom of the climbing stick so you can get higher with just one stick placement. (without an aider I can only gain three feet with one stick, with an aider I can climb six feet with one stick.)   

How to pick out your tree for saddle hunting

When deciding which tree is best for saddle hunting you want to first make sure the tree will be fairly easy to climb no matter what climbing method you chose. This means you want to find a tree that is somewhat straight with no large limbs branching off from the main trunk below where you think you will be setting up in your saddle. If there are multiple trees to choose from in one area your next priority is to look at the shot angles you will get from each tree. This means you look at the surrounding canopy and then pick the tree that has the most shot opportunities with the least amount of branches/leaves covering your shooting lanes. 

It’s all about the set up

saddle hunting set up 1

Once you start climbing the tree you are basically stuck climbing the tree.

So, the most  important part about saddle hunting is to make sure everything is exactly where you need it to be before you start the climb. You can tweak your set up however you want but I personally have found this set up to be the most effective for easy saddle hunting: I have two large dump pouches, one attached to my saddle by my right hip and the second attached to my saddle on my left hip. In my left dump pouch I carry (4) straps (3) for my climbing sticks and (1) for my platform. Finally, I carry (1) five step aider in my left dump pouch. In my right dump pouch I carry my line man’s rope, my tether and my gear strap.

Once I am at the base of my tree I take off my back pack, and get out my (3) climbing sticks as well as  my platform. I then hang those from the back of my saddle. I use a small carabiner to attach two climbing sticks to the left side of my saddle and I use another small carabiner to attach the platform to the right side of my saddle. My third climbing stick I keep in my hand because that is the first one I will attach at eye level of the tree. I clip my bow onto a retractable cord on the right side of my backpack and then I put my pack back on so when I am finally up in the tree saddle hunting I can lift my bow up into the stand with me.

saddle hunting set up 2
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Climbing a tree safely

saddle hunting set up 4

After getting everything just right in your set up, climbing the tree should be simple but requires concentration to make sure everything is safe. I start the climb by wrapping my line man’s belt around the tree and clipping it to my saddle on both sides, I then make sure a majority of the slack is out of the lineman’s rope. This rope is the most important part of climbing a tree safely as it ensures if you do slip and fall you can only fall as far as the amount of slack that is in the rope. Once you have the lineman’s rope securely attached to you, you can strap on your first climbing stick. I put my first stick up around head height and strap it tightly to the tree. I then pull out my five step aider and use a carabiner to attachthe aider to one of the steps on my climbing stick.

I make sure everything is tight and locked in securely, then I use the aider to start climbing the tree. As I move up the tree I shift my lineman’s rope up with me so it is always above my waist- this is a crucial step for limiting your fall distance if you slip up. Once I have reached the climbing stick I unclip the aider and clip it to my saddle, this allows me to use it on my next step. 

saddle hunting set up 5
saddle hunting set up 6

So when I am at a comfortable position on the first climbing stick while being supported by the lineman’s rope I then strap on the second climbing stick around chest to head height. Once the second climbing stick is tight to the tree I grab it and put weight on it to really tighten it down and take the slack out of the strap. I then again attach my aider to the climbing stick and climb up it. Once at the top of this climbing stick you just need to repeat these steps until at your desired height. A lot of times in the early season I only use two climbing sticks because three would put me too far above the canopy and I would have no shooting lanes. Wherever you decide is the right height for you it is now time to attach your platform. Pull it off your saddle and attach it with the strap. When strapping the saddle do not unfold it, once the straps are as tight as they can be, pull down on the platform and then unfold it, this should create leverage and really tighten the platform to the tree.

Stepping on to the platform is probably the moment of biggest risk when saddle hunting so I double down on safety. Before you step onto the platform attach your tether above the platform to the tree and then attach it to your saddle. This means you will have two safety nets if something happens when stepping onto the platform, your tether will be able to hold you to the tree as well as your lineman’s rope. After double checking both ropes I step onto the platform. In the sixty hunts I have been on the worst thing that has happened is the platform has shifted a little bit but I have never had it give way or fall. Once safely on the platform I shift my tether up to the desired height which for me is about nose high when standing on the platform. I can then detach from the lineman’s rope knowing the tether has me secured to the tree.

saddle hunting set up 7
saddle hunting set up 9

I then pull out my gear strap and attach it to the tree, I hang my backpack off a hook on the right and then I pull up my bow and hang it off a hook on the left side of the tree. If you are left handed you should set up opposite of that. That is how you safely climb a tree with a tree saddle, the best part is that you are always attached to the tree and if you did fall your ropes would always catch you.  

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How to comfortably hunt out of a saddle

When hunting out of a saddle, comfort is key. There are a few major ways you can change your saddle to fit you. The first is the height of the tether. This affects where your weight is distributed through the saddle. I like to run my tether at head height because it gives me a balanced weight distribution. The second part of the saddle I look at is the bridge, the tighter the bridge the tighter the saddle will be on your hips, so if you have a lot of hip pinch loosen the bridge. The third thing is shifting where the saddle is in contact with your body. One great thing about this is that every thirty minutes or so you can shift where the saddle is on your rear so that you don’t get saddle sore. I find on different days I prefer different saddle positions.  But really comfort is all up to you and the great thing about today’s saddles is they are optimized for customization and you can tweak just about everything to make your saddle perfect for you.  

saddle hunting set up 8

How to safely get down out of the tree

saddle hunting set up 9 2

Getting safely out of the tree is as simple as it is the reverse of getting in the tree. I always reattach my linemans before stepping off my platform. This is probably the most important step to safely getting down. The only thing I change about getting down is that when I unstrap my climbing stick I gently drop it onto the ground while in the tree because I don’t want to worry about clipping it back on my saddle. Once I get to the bottom of the tree I then organize everything making sure I have everything I need in my left dump pouch and then make sure everything is good to go in my right dump pouch so that on my next hunt I know I am ready to go.  



Saddle hunting is a great way to get tight into a buck bedding area late in the season but you can also use saddle hunting to do an observatory sit over an ag field in the early season. Saddle hunting is without a doubt one of the most versatile ways to deer hunt out of a tree and it may change public land deer hunting forever. Just like everything in deer hunting, saddle hunting has its time and place and should be one more tool in your toolbox for knocking down a public land giant. Saddle hunters and the saddle hunting community is ever growing with new innovations popping up every season, my biggest piece of advice is figure out which saddle hunting setup and which climbing method works best for you and then ignore the noise. There are some saddle hunters who need every new piece of gear and it ends up weighing them down. Meanwhile, the whole point of saddle hunting is that the streamlined system makes it easier to hang and hunt. 

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