Hunting from a tree sling, or saddle, is something I’ve mentioned on this blog before. This is my first year to use one, and I love it. I just don’t see myself going back to any kind of traditional tree stand. But if you haven’t seen or heard of a tree saddle before, you’re probably asking yourself right now, what’s a tree saddle? I’m glad you asked.
What’s a tree sling?
A tree sling is a general term referring to some sort of harness that you hang from in a tree while hunting. There are a couple different types of slings, but all with the same design in mind. We’ll get into the different brands later.
When you hunt a traditional tree stand, your back is to the tree and you face outward. Hopefully you’ve scouted and your primary shooting lanes are to the front and left of you. Everything on your right and behind you is probably off limits for taking a shot, though it depends a little on how big of a tree stand your in, how big the tree is and how flexible you are.
With a tree saddle, you actually face the tree while hunting. You are sitting in a “sling” (picture a rock climbing harness), attached to rope that is tied to the tree a little over head level. You’re legs usually straddle the tree a little. The “platform” you stand on is either several screw-in steps that go all the way around the tree, or a combination of steps and branches. Since you are suspended by a rope, you are able to work your way around the tree using the steps and branches to brace yourself and walk on.
Maybe this sounds complicated, but it’s not. In fact, it’s simplicity and advantages make me wonder why everyone doesn’t hunt out of one.
A tree saddle offers an incredible amount of flexibility in several ways. Because you can work your way around the tree you can shoot in almost any direction. This is helpful in numerous ways. Maybe you’re hunting a spot you haven’t scouted for the first time and aren’t sure which direction the deer will come from. In high pressure areas, and also during the rut, mature bucks will often come from an unexpected direction. With a tree saddle you can still have a shot opportunity from whichever direction the deer comes.
A tree saddle is lightweight, which makes it portable for long distances. Most saddles are made of fabric material, so you can just stuff it in your hunting pack.
Because you always have the saddle with you, there’s no worry about it being stolen while you’re gone.
It’s very quiet to get in a tree with a sling on, versus hauling a metal stand up the tree and attaching it to the trunk.
John Eberhart is one of the big names who supports this type of hunting. I could write a lot more about the advantages of hunting from a saddle, but instead I’ll give you a link to an article Eberhar wrote about them. Just a heads up though, this article was written for Trophy Line tree saddles, which are no longer producing. The article is still good with valuable information on hunting from a saddle. There are other manufacturers who make similar style slings, which we’ll get into in the next article. Here’s the link. http://www.deer-john.net/pages/treesaddle.html.
Bigger guys find them uncomfortable for long sits. I’m 5′ 10”, 185 pounds, and I could sit in one all day. I have several friends who are closer to 300 pounds and they also are extremely comfortable in a tree saddle. But if you’re bigger than that you might not like the saddle too much.
Probably the only other major disadvantage I can think of is that it takes a little bit to get use to this style of hunting. It’s very different than most stands you see these days. However, if you try it and aren’t comfortable at first, don’t give up. The advantages this style of hunting has far outweighs any discomforts you might have at first.
Another disadvantage, at least in my opinion, is the price tag that comes with buying these slings. Often they are around $300.00. Ultimately I think they are worth the price, but there are a couple of homemade options (you assume all risks!) that I’ll show you.
I hope I’ve whet your appetite for this style of hunting. In the next article I’ll go into more detail on getting setup in your tree with a tree sling. I’ll cover the basics from getting up the tree, to cleaning out shooting lanes and setting up your platform.