Article By: Jason Redd
I’ve been mobile hunting my whole life, which we just called it hunting because there wasn’t a registered term for the style. We hunted public land because we couldn’t afford private property or lease private property. During those early years, I tried all types of methods to get me to an elevated perch which varied from climbing spikes, driving in nails, ascending fixed ropes, ladders, sticks, etc, etc. Those perches we used varied as well, from being home-welded platforms, plywood wedged into the crotch of a tree, 2x4 seats nailed to a horizontal branch, and many more. While in these elevated positions, there have also been many ways of protecting yourself in the event of a fall (I didn’t use anything for years which is a bad idea), which also too varied from webbing girth hitched around my chest, seat belt webbing harnesses, swami belt, climbing harness, riggers belt, and now a hunting saddle.
Photo: Beau Martonik / Justin Mueller
What Is A Hunting Saddle?
As most know, the hunting saddle isn’t something new to hunters because it's been around for decades. Mainly, it was a product that was utilized by Old School purists of public land hunting that were looking for lighter ways of getting elevated. It never became mainstream but has had a resurgence in the 5-6 years and is quite the buzz amongst hunters that want to stay more mobile.
What really is a hunting saddle?
At the end of the day, a hunting saddle is actually a fall restraint harness when you look at it from a safety perspective. It’s a device that keeps you tethered to a tree, so to limit you from actually taking a fall from an elevated position while hunting. You can extend the tether to allow yourself to pivot or perhaps walk around the tree for better positioning. It's been a very light and effective “tool” to add to your arsenal.
I Don’t Identify As A Saddle Hunter
With the resurgence of the hunting saddle, a flood of marketing was applied from companies seeking to capitalize on their spot in the market. It was very successful, so much so that it became a lifestyle for some. In fact, it's been so successful as a lifestyle some refer to it as the “Crossfit” of the hunting community.
As an owner of a Mobile Hunting products company, Timber Ninja Outdoors, I receive numerous messages and calls from new and old hunters that want to know more about being an efficient hunter. A lot of our customer base knows that I’m pretty much a minimalist and use all types of methods to hunt. I’d say most people want to discuss climbing methods most then followed by questions about being protected from a fall. Keep in mind most of these consumers want to be as minimalist as possible. I always explain my history with mobile hunting and give my preferred recommendations. My preferred method for safety is a hunting saddle. Immediately, a lot of people that don’t currently saddle hunt say, “I don’t want to hunt on such a small platform”, or “I don’t want to be referred to as a saddle hunter.” This is where I give my speech that a hunting saddle is essentially a fall restraint device and not necessarily an all-to-be hunting style.
Photo: Jason Redd / Jordan Hotchkiss
Why A Hunting Saddle Is The Safest Mobile Hunting Method
I’ve been involved professionally and recreationally with items that keep you safe at height for almost two decades. The use of a “properly manufactured and tested” hunting saddle is one of the most compact and safest ways to hunt from any elevated position. The ability to have a lineman’s positioning loops to use a lineman's rope while climbing is one of the best assets because it keeps you from falling while climbing or setting up a stand or platform.
Can you use a hunting saddle when hunting from a treestand?
If you’re a permanent stand hunter and use a fixed safety line, you can clip your bridge of the saddle into that, so if you were to fall, you’d catch yourself. The biggest benefit of a saddle for hunting is that it keeps you from falling because you’re only allowing 2 or fewer feet in the system which restrains you. This works really well, not only from a saddle platform but also when hunting out of a hang-on style treestand. You can adjust your tree tether length to keep you tight out to the edge of the platform, which you can apply tension against that and shoot around the tree. If you’re a traditional saddle platform hunter, then you can pack in very minimalist and use different components to essentially allow you to walk around the tree to take various shots.
Photo: Beau Martonik / Justin Mueller
In summary, a saddle is just a fall restraint device and can be used with multiple applications. You don’t have to identify as a saddle hunter, but you should look at the safety benefits of using a saddle to keep you safe this season. Always think about what's going to keep you the safest in the event of a fall. In my opinion, a product that allows less rope in the system that restrains and a product that allows you to self-rescue from the front will be the safest way to hunt from an elevated position.