Saddle Hunting vs Treestand: Which is Right for You?

Outdoors Allie • March 03, 2023

Saddle hunting has increased in popularity exponentially over the last few years. Compared to traditional treestands, saddles offer greater versatility and mobility, making them a popular choice among modern hunters. However, treestands remain a time-tested method for hunting, providing a stable platform and comfortable seat that helps you remain concealed and still for hours. In this article, I will compare the two methods of hunting, both of which I use.

I have been using treestands for over a decade, ever since I started hunting in Pennsylvania in 2013. To this day, I still use tree stands for many of my hunts. However, in 2019, I was intrigued by the buzz and resurgence of saddle hunting. Curious to try it out myself, I gave it a shot and have been hunting with it ever since, harvesting numerous whitetail bucks on public land.

In this article, I hope to share my insights and tips on how to choose the right method for your hunting needs, as well as compare and contrast the two methods in terms of mobility, comfort, and effectiveness.

Choosing a Tree

One of the key advantages of saddle hunting is the greater versatility in spot selection it offers to hunters. Unlike treestands, which generally require sturdy, straight trees to hang on, saddle hunting allows you to climb any tree, no matter how narrow or crooked it may be. This is possible thanks to the use of climbing sticks, which are designed to be used on trees of various sizes and shapes. As a result, saddle hunters have a virtually limitless range of locations to choose from, even in heavily wooded areas where straight, thick trees may be scarce. This level of mobility can be especially advantageous when hunting public land, where competition for hunting spots is fierce. In contrast, hunters using treestands may be limited to a smaller pool of trees to hang their stands, which can restrict their ability to move to different locations as conditions change.

Set-Up

When it comes to treestands, the setup process is straightforward. Once the stand is secured in place, hunters can simply climb in and start hunting without further preparation. This convenience can be a major advantage for folks who want to minimize the time it takes to climb in their tree and start hunting. In contrast, saddle hunting requires more preparation before each hunt. It can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to get set up depending on the hunter's familiarity with their gear. This extra time spent setting up can be a drawback for some hunters, especially those who prefer a more streamlined and efficient approach to hunting.

If I’m hunting the same location over and over again, it’s much easier for me to keep a stationary set up there. Majority of the time that means a tree stand, because I like the convenience. However, I have left my climbing sticks and platform on the tree as a way to minimize the fuss climbing in and out while using a saddle.

Mobility

For hunters who frequently hike long distances to reach their hunting spot, using a saddle can be a lightweight, packable alternative to setting up a traditional treestand. The portability of a saddle allows hunters to easily move from location to location, even during a single hunting trip. This is especially valuable for folks who are always on the lookout for new opportunities, like myself, as it allows you to explore multiple areas and easily adapt to changing conditions. I think it’s important to note that climbers also give you this mobile freedom, but for the purpose of this article, I’m only focusing on hunting saddles and stationary treestands.

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Comfort

Most hunters find tree stands to be very comfortable, even during all-day sits. However, comfortability of saddle hunting is a mixed bag. Some find hunting from a saddle to be just as comfortable as hunting from a treestand, but others struggle to stay comfortable for extended periods of time. I find saddle hunting to be incredibly comfortable, and I tend to prefer the position it puts me in over that of a treestand. However, this is definitely a personal preference and the only way to really find out is to try it for yourself.   

Price Differences

A good quality treestand can cost anywhere from $150 to $500+, depending on the brand, features, and materials used. It’s also important to buy a safety harness, which adds another $100 or so. On the other hand, saddle hunting requires a lot of gear. You’ll need a saddle, lineman's belt, tether, climbing sticks and platform at minimum, which can cost between $300 to $800+. Therefore, the initial cost of a saddle set up is usually higher than a treestand.

In conclusion, saddle hunting and treestand hunting each have their advantages and drawbacks, and the choice between the two ultimately depends on your hunting needs and preferences. Saddle hunting offers greater mobility and versatility in spot selection. On the other hand, treestands are comfortable and require minimal time to climb in and out of, which can be advantageous for hunters who prefer a more traditional approach. Whether you're a seasoned hunter or a beginner, it's worth exploring both methods to find what works best for you and your hunting style. For me, I love both! Keeping each method as a tool in my toolbelt have contributed to a lot of success notching tags over the years.  

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--Outdoors Allie