Saddle hunting is an awesome way to hunt whitetail deer, and any serious whitetail hunter definitely needs to give it a try. Although if you are a rifle hunter, saddle hunting can come with a number of challenges. Fear not, in this article I will go over everything you need to know in order to rifle hunt from a tree saddle.
It is very possible to rifle hunt out of a tree saddle. A rifle can safely be held by a single gear hook while not in use. The same hook, tree, and saddle itself can also be used as a support for an accurate shot. Plus, you are still able to shoot 360 around you like you can with a bow.
Let’s take a look at how exactly you are supposed to safely saddle hunt with a rifle with the use of gear hooks, while still being able to make an accurate shot.
Holding Your Rifle in the Tree
To hold your rifle on the tree, you need to use a gear hook and your rifle sling. While it may feel more natural to hang it with two hooks horizontally, I suggest using one hook and hanging your rifle with the barrel up and stock down.
This will not only make it easy to grab and lift to your shoulder, but it also makes your silhouette in the tree smaller. If the rifle hangs alongside the tree and is not sticking out, you are less likely to be spotted, and it just looks more natural in general.
You can also have one of these hooks on each side of the tree, not just for hanging but also for taking stable shots. I also recommend getting a gear hook that is more secure than just a bar sticking off the tree. This is going to be the only thing holding your rifle up and you definitely do not want to drop it.
If your rifle is not overly heavy, you can also just hold it for a while, or put it on your lap. I like to do this during those “prime times” of the day. Whenever I feel like there should be deer moving or I am just excited, I will have my rifle in my lap and ready to pull up in case a buck comes running by during the rut.
Making an Accurate Rifle Shot From a Saddle
The gear hook you get will also be very useful as a support when you are taking a shot. A popular option for one of these hooks is a common bow hanger that many hunters use earlier in the season. These bow hooks can swivel back and forth so it gives you a greater range of motion while still keeping you sturdy.
However, if you are just using a standard hook, you can also use the tree as a support when you have to move to a position that does not allow you to use the hook. The tree is going to be a great support, you just need to grab onto it with your bottom three fingers, and then your pointer finger and thumb make a great nest for your rifle.
The bridge of the saddle is also a useful support for those shots that have to be nearly free-handed. If there is a deer approaching from your rear, it can be hard to swing all the way around the tree without being busted. Instead, you can grab onto the bridge just like you do with the tree, grab it with three fingers, and then nest your rifle between your pointer finger and thumb.
This will allow you to make those nine o’clock to nearly six o’clock shots without having to move all the way around the tree. Likewise, if you are right-handed and have a deer coming from three o’clock to six o’clock, this is another option you have if you do not want to swing around the tree.
Although, I would personally prefer to swing around the tree to make the straight three o’clock shot, but it is an option and it depends on how well you can move without being busted. I also recommend that you lean your knees on the tree, the more points of contact you have with the tree the more accurate you will be.
How Using a Rifle Will Limit Your Shot Options
When you are using a bow in a tree saddle, your ideal shot is from about ten o’clock to near six o’clock. When you are using a rifle, your ideal shot is from about ten o’clock to two o’clock, and there is a tree in the way of most of that. So that means you need to move around a little more, but it is still very doable to get a shot 360 degrees around you.
There is not an angle that you just cannot get to with a rifle, but some angles will be more challenging. Here is an awesome video on YouTube by Boudreaux Boswell about how to use a rifle in a tree saddle.
Rifle Safety in a Saddle
Without any real solid surface to put your rifle on while you are in the saddle, you need to make sure you are doing things safely. This is especially important if you are hunting near others, or next to a hunting partner/cameraman. Dropping a loaded gun out of a tree is obviously not safe, and muzzle awareness can get away from us sometimes if we are swinging around a tree. As always, safety first.
To wrap it all up, you can definitely use a rifle in a tree saddle. It is not as hard to hold your rifle in the tree as you may think, one simple gear hook and your rifle sling will do the job. Gear hooks, your saddle bridge, and even the tree all make great supports while shooting so you can still get accurate shots off. Plus, you can still get that amazing 360 degrees of potential shooting angles that you have while bow hunting from a tree saddle. So, if you are not a bowhunter, that does not mean you cannot be a saddle hunter, try out a saddle hunting rig this fall.
Thank you for reading my article about rutting bucks. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something you didn’t already know. If you like my content, subscribe to my weekly update. If you have any other questions about caring for wild meat, or just want to connect, feel free to email me at Patrick.Long@omegaoutdoors.net.