Is Saddle Hunting Safe? What You Need to Know


If you are used to hunting out of a ladder or climbing stand, it is only natural to feel less secure in a hunting saddle. Generally, climber and ladder stands are super sturdy and safe. So standing on a little platform and swinging around a tree looks like it would be much easier to fall. However, that is actually not the case. You are much safer in a tree saddle than most people realize at first.

Saddle hunting is the safest way to hunt from a tree. Unlike other tree stands, you are the main instrument connected to the tree, not a stand. You will always have at least 2 points of contact with the tree, making it impossible to fall to the ground.

How to Prevent a Fall

Most falls happen when we are climbing up and down a tree, which is true for all tree stands. When you are climbing up with a tree saddle, you will always have two points of contact. We use a lineman’s belt to attach ourselves to the tree. Then you climb up just as you would with a hang-on stand. Most people choose to use climbing sticks or screw-in steps. 

Your two points of contact while climbing are your steps and the lineman’s rope. The most important thing you can do in this step is to make sure your climbing method is secure. If you are hanging climbing sticks as you are going, make sure they are 100% secure before you climb up on them. There is no need to rush. When you rush in the woods, you have a higher chance of getting hurt.

Once you get to your preferred hunting height, you hang your standing platform. Again, you want to make sure you hang it securely. When you hang the platform, make sure to tighten its strap around the tree while the platform is folded up. This will make the strap tighter when you force the platform down.

Then, the most dangerous part of the whole method is going from the climbing method to standing on the platform. Before you step up from the climbing method, you want to attach your tether to the tree. Then you will have your lineman’s rope and tether attached at the same time, giving you three points of contact during the most dangerous part of the climb.

As you can see, you are always securely connected to the tree. There is a very small chance that you would ever fall, and if you did, your ropes will catch you. Plus it is actually much easier to recover yourself if you fall in a saddle than it would be from a tree stand. 

Think about it, if you fall from a climbing stand or it falls, your safety harness will catch you but there is little to no chance that you will be able to get back in the climber. You will likely have to call someone to come get you. 

With a tree saddle, your tether will catch you from falling from your platform. Then you can easily reattach your lineman’s rope and swing around to your climbing sticks to climb up or down if you want. Then you can get right back on the platform, or hunt from the top of your climbing sticks if the platform fell. 

One of the biggest benefits of tree saddles is the ability to shoot from nearly any angle. Although some of these angles will require you to move in non-traditional ways. That scares a lot of people that think they may fall. The best thing about tree saddles is that it is nearly impossible to fall. Sure, it takes some practice to be able to shoot from every angle. However, even a first-timer can shoot around most of the tree.

The most important thing is having the right gear, set up the right way. Then you just have to practice time and time again until you can comfortably shoot from all the angles you would want to during a hunt. Let’s take a look at what gear you should have and how it should be set up.

Having the Right Gear

To make a saddle hunting set up, you only need a few pieces of key gear. Of course, like any hunting gear, a saddle setup can get expensive if you want it to. So check out this compiled table of saddle hunting gear to see just how much your setup would cost. 

To start off, you will need the saddle itself. There are plenty of brands out there, and most of them are fairly solid. I recommend putting the most money into your saddle. It is going to be the core of your whole setup. 

Then you are going to need some ropes. They sell specialized rope for climbing and I recommend getting some and cutting it to your needs. Of course, you can buy prebuilt lineman’s ropes and tethers, but there is always an option of building your own. Then you will also need some miscellaneous carabiners and possibly a couple of ropeman ascenders.

Then you will need a climbing method. There are a ton of ways to climb a tree, but a couple of the most popular with saddle hunting are climbing sticks and screw-in hooks. Screw-in hooks are definitely the cheapest option, and they work well for a property where you frequently hunt the same spot, but they are not mobile, or public land friendly.

Climbing sticks are a bit more versatile and easier to set up. You can take them into a brand new area and once you find a tree, you can be up it and ready to go in 15 minutes. Plus they do not damage the tree, so they are public land friendly and you can take them anywhere.

Lastly, you need a platform to stand on once you get to your preferred hunting height. There are a few options here, you can get a small platform or a ring of steps. It comes down to preference but a ring of steps helps you get around the tree a little easier if you do not want to do a lot of leaning.

I know that was a lot to digest, and even more to buy, but you really do need all of this gear to have an effective and safe saddle set up. To make it a little easier to visualize, check out this YouTube video all about hunting saddles and how to set yours up.

Injuries in Other Types of Stands

There is no doubt that there are tree stand accidents every year. Obviously, tree stands are not a super risky thing. If they were, no one would use them. Nonetheless, that does not mean that they are 100% safe. Granted there are millions of hunters every year in the United States, thousands of them fall from their tree stands and require medical attention. 

According to the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), in 2020, 2379 hunters fell from their tree stand and had to call emergency services. Thousands more probably fell and handled the injuries themselves. Luckily that number is decreasing over the recent years.

You can see from this chart just how many people have fallen from their stands in the past decade. The question is, what did they fall out of? Luckily the TSSA also has this graphic to answer this question.

As you can see, tree saddles are not a huge addition to those numbers. The argument could be made that many more hunters use climbers, ladders, homemade, and lock on stands than tree saddles. That may be true, but if tree saddle hunters had a significantly higher chance of falling, I would think the TSSA would have something to say about saddles. However they never mention them on their website. Therefore, tree saddles are safe, if not safer than traditional hunting stands.

Conclusion

Tree saddles are an extremely safe way to hunt out of a tree. If you have never used a saddle before, it is only natural to think they are more dangerous. As long as you set your saddle up correctly and take your time while climbing the tree, you will be just fine. Saddles always keep you connected to the tree and your feet are always on your climbing method or platform, so you have two points of contact. All and all, saddles are safe and if that was your only thing holding you back from trying a saddle, you only have one more question to answer. What brand of saddle are you going to buy? 

Patrick Long

I am a college student, writer, and an avid outdoorsman in the great state of Georgia. I have been hunting for over 15 years, and writing for a few years now. If I am not studying for my next exam, I am probably in the deer stand or behind my keyboard writing my next article. If you would like to know more about me, visit my about page.

Recent Posts