Get Back in the Saddle—Tree Saddles
by David Higginbotham
If you’ve followed hunting over the last few years, you’ve likely come across a tree saddle. Saddles have been around for more than 30 years, but they’re making a resurgence in the hunting industry. The concept is simple enough—it’s a saddle that supports your body and lets you hang and hunt effortlessly and differently from traditional tree stands.
Tree saddles are making in-roads with those who prefer a more mobile setup. Many fans of tree stands are switching to tree saddles, and for good reason. The tree saddle and equipment are easy to use, secure, and very safe.
USA Director of Field Operations Kevin Grubbs is a recent convert. He’s an avid bowhunter who hunts the pine stands of eastern Virginia and the hardwoods of central Virginia. “I’ve been doing the same old thing for 40 years,” Grubbs said. “Tree saddles seemed exciting—a different kind of challenge and experience.”
So, he made the switch. “This is another tool in my toolbox,” Grubbs added, “and it gives me the option to hunt virtually any tree—from big to small trees and even leaning trees, anything you put in front of me, really.”
After researching his options, Grubbs decided on the Crüzr XC. Crüzr saddles are made in America, which was extremely important to him. The saddle features an expandable pleat in the mesh seat that allows for greater coverage on your hips to reduce pressure points, if needed. This feature, along with many outstanding reviews, led to his purchase. Along with the saddle, you typically need a platform along with lineman ropes and tree tether ropes. Everything you need to get started can be purchased separately from Crüzr or all together in a convenient package.
The XC is a comfortable ride—almost like a miniature hammock that wraps around your hips. The saddle is your safety harness and attaches you to the tree using an adjustable bridge from the saddle, which is attached to the tree tether. Two hunting positions from a saddle are leaning out from the tree or sitting. Both methods are extremely comfortable and provide a very solid base to shoot from.
For Grubbs, this mobility and security made tree saddles even more attractive. “Last year, I was on a hunt and had difficulty feeling secure in my tree stand. I’ve always been a mobile hunter. I liked carrying my stand and finding the right place to hunt, but on that morning, I felt like I was going to fall out. I couldn’t shake that feeling the rest of the season. I didn’t feel secure being attached to the tree from my traditional safety harness anymore because I couldn’t feel the tension from my tether.”
The feeling Grubbs describes is common. Many hunters feel it when trying to find the delicate point of balance that will allow the musculoskeletal dexterity needed to place a perfect shot from a bow or rifle from the awkward angles allowed by small tree stands.
Part of this is physics. Standing on a stand, you can’t spread your legs to stabilize a shot. Sitting isn’t much better, as it often compromises the strength of your core.
Stability and Mobility
A Tree Saddle, like the Crüzr XC, is different. A hunter has two points of contact—the saddle that wraps around your hips and your feet on the platform. Tree saddles allow your trunk to move in coordination with your legs in a way that is ideal for archers and marksmen.
And unlike a fixed tree stand, hunting from tree saddles allows you to rotate 360 degrees around a tree for that perfect shot, while using the tree as a blocker from oncoming deer. As a deer approaches, for example, you can quietly re-position yourself keeping the tree between you and the deer. Finding that balance between camouflage and the perfect angle for an ethical kill shot can be much easier to negotiate from a tree saddle.
“The tether allows control of your midsection,” Grubbs notes. “And your shooting form is better than if you were in a traditional stand. The points of contact make you steady as a rock. As with anything new, practice is necessary to become comfortable and proficient.”
For those who are hunting with rifles or crossbows, the saddle’s bridge itself can be used to steady the firearm—almost like a shooting rest.
If mobility and comfort weren’t enough, the Crüzr XC has another benefit. While a tree stand may weigh upwards of 20 pounds, the Crüzr XC weighs just under two pounds. This allows for less energy exertion during the hike in and set-up. Grubbs hits the woods with just over six pounds of climbing gear. His traditional hanging stand and sticks or screw in steps, on the other hand, weighed 30 pounds or more. (4)
Ascent & Descent
Getting up the tree when hunting out of a saddle can be accomplished by traditional methods like screw in steps or climbing sticks combined with a lineman’s rope. Grubbs pairs his lineman’s rope with the Wild Country Ropeman 1 Ascender to climb the tree when using traditional methods. However, he prefers to use a one-stick system with a tree tether and Mad Rock Safeguard to climb the tree.
“I attach my one-stick to the tree. I climb up and advance my tether as I go. Once I reach the top step, I sit down in the saddle, reach down, grab my stick off the tree and re-attach it above me. As I climb, I’m always advancing the tether. In three moves, I can climb up 20 feet.”
Grubbs built his one-stick system at Eastern Woods Outdoors—a great resource and a one stop shop for everything you need for saddle hunting accessories.
“For me,” Grubbs concludes, “the Crüzr XC is a game changer. I can get up a tree in 7 minutes with no noise and minimal energy.”
Getting down is even faster. With this system, Grubbs can rappel out of the tree using the Mad Rock Safeguard and a 40-foot tree tether. The removal of the platform and one-stick along with the rappel takes less than two minutes.
Grubbs recommends visiting YouTube for more information on climbing methods. There are channels with instructional content for each method.
A tree saddle and climbing gear may look like an investment, but it is a sound one. A tree saddle will get you increased mobility, better range of motion, enhanced comfort, and a greater sense of security. The combination of these, with the new hunting tactics that a tree saddle allows, may increase your success rate, and it’s hard to put a price on that.