The Right Conditions For A Saddle

The Right Conditions for a Saddle

When and How to Pick Up Saddle Hunting 

If you are like me, you are likely lured in to the romance of killing a big buck, deep in some public land timber or a swamp. You want to sweat, suffer, and maybe even bleed in the process. You want a chance to create the need of getting so far back you have to pack him out on your back. You’re looking for that suck…as a close-to-home but at the same time rewarding adventure. I totally get it! 

More and more of us are engaging with online content that has been resurfacing the opportunities of public land hunting, bedding area hunting, and more recently saddle hunting. The combination of finding a musky old buck bed tucked into some unreachable spot, and the equipment required to reach that spot somehow perfectly blends the hunter and gear nut in all of us. The fun part of this type of hunt happens now in the off-season, dialing in a lightweight setup that is specific to this style of hunting. Usually that gear requires the use of some ultralight hunting gear, sticks, or saddles. So if you are in the position I know I was in last year, then you are likely facing an internal battle of when to drop the climbing stand or hang-on and join the saddle hunting club. 

Why Saddle Hunting?  

The first and most obvious answer and why you are here in the first place, is that you are saving weight with a saddle compared to tree stands. Whether you are used to climbing tree stands or lightweight hang-ons, the weight is still drastic between stands and saddles. While 21+ pounds was the norm for a climber or a hang-on with climbing sticks a decade ago, today’s industry is cutting that in half, and Hawk is no exception. One of the lightest weight options on the market for a packable climbing stick and hang on setup is the Helium System. Below is that setup and a lightweight climber option, compared to the new Hawk Saddle System.

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Climbing Stand Weight 

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Ultralight Climber – 20 lbs

Hang-On Setup Weight 

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Climbing Sticks X3 – 2.9 lbs a stick at a total of 8.7 lbs 

Helium Ultralight – 11 lbs 

This combined setup is just over 19 lbs. 

Hawk Helium Saddle System

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Helium Hammock Saddle – Entire kit weighs 4 lbs

Climbing Sticks X3 – 2.9 lbs a stick at a total of 8.7 lbs 

If you go with no platform (resting your foot on the stick), your total combined setup weight is a measly 12.7 lbs! But if you prefer a platform, it doesn’t add all that much extra weight.

Helium HSP Platform – 1.4 lbs.  

Hawk Monkey Bars – 1.6 lbs 

As you can see, you are cutting significant weight off a day pack when saddle hunting. Whatever you might be shaving off counts for every pound out on public land. The idea is to make it a mobile hunting setup, something easy and so thoughtless that you take it with you every time, even if you’re planning on hunting on the ground. Saddles by nature offer so many more opportunities other than just weight shaving. It is not a question of if you are going to get a saddle…but when. 

When to Switch to Saddle Hunting?  

If you find yourself in any of these scenarios, it’s time to get a saddle. 

  • Seeking Lightweight Gear – if the overall experience of hunting deep in public land is miserable to you, a lightweight setup will allow for a slower burn. There is nothing worse than getting burnout before the rut ramps up. 
  • Employing a Run and Gun Strategy – hunting from the ground or up in trees, sometimes during the same hunt, is the name of the game for a run and gun strategy. A lightweight saddle hunting system facilitates this well. 
  • Hunting Buck Beds – When you need to get in close (within 50-100 yards of a bedded buck or bedroom), lightweight and quiet gear count. Climbers and even hang-on tree stands can be a bit too loud or make that single metal hitting metal noise that tips deer off. A saddle is a lot safer method of hunting when you are getting in tight.
  • Public Land Hunting – my entire 2019 public land hunting season was spent with a 20 lb climber and it wasn’t fun. I was pushing 1-2 miles in with decently steep Midwest terrain. When I switched to a saddle, I saved my back, my feet, and my hunts.

“Hunting out of a saddle meant that mileage wasn’t a deterrence for me to hunt certain locations in public.”  

  • Awkward Trees – like bedding areas, certain habitats (like old clear cuts, thickets, or even close to habitat diversity) just seem to have smaller trees with more branches. These areas make climbers and hang-on tree stands obsolete. If you are heading into one of these areas or an area with very little trees, always opt for a saddle. 

Saddle Hunting Gear List 

I’ll end this saddle hunting blog with a short and simple gear list to think about as you’re putting your system together: 

  • Saddle and tethers
  • Reclining Belt 
  • Ascender
  • Platform or Tree Ring 
  • Climbing Sticks 
  • Aider 
  • Solid Lightweight Pack
  • Knee Pads 
  • Public Land Gear Hanger 
  • Backpack Strap 

The Advantages Of The Hawk Helium Kickback Tree Stand and Helium Climbing Sticks

The Hawk Helium Kickback Tree Stand and Helium Climbing Sticks

Hunting season might seem like a long way off right now, but you know as well as we do that it will be here before we know it. That means it’s never too early to start planning your hunting strategies or tree stand locations. If you’re lucky enough to hunt private land where you can hang several tree stands ahead of time, you’re probably always on the lookout for new tree stands. The Helium™ Kickback tree stand by Hawk Tree Stands is a great hang on stand to add to your collection, and the associated Helium Climbing Sticks are top notch too. Check out the features and advantages of these two products and see how they could fit into your hunting season plans.

Why Try This Hang On Tree Stand and Sticks?

Although other types of tree stands work great for different scenarios, it’s tough to beat hang on stands when it comes to private property or mobile hunting. You can easily hang a few stands in different locations to allow for hunting in different conditions. For example, you could hang a tree stand on the east and west side of a pinch point to allow you to hunt regardless of the wind direction. Or if a certain location isn’t working out for you, it’s fairly easy to move them around to another site. The other advantage of using a hang on tree stand is that you can utilize large, twisted trees to hunt out of. Climbing tree stands are limited to straight, limbless trees, while ladder stands are restricted to a certain height and may not fit in a given tree very well. But gnarly, twisted oaks with lots of branches are no problem with hang on stands. You just have to navigate the climbing stick sections around the branches, and then you’re set. Check out the Helium Kickback tree stand and climbing sticks below for more information.

Helium Kickback Hang On Stand

The Hawk Helium Kickback stand is very solid, lightweight, and comfortable. It is made from durable aluminum to lighten the pack weight to only 10 pounds, yet it is extremely strong (able to support a load of 300 pounds). The platform is large enough to move about and the thick seat cushion is constructed of memory foam to ensure an enjoyable sit on any fall day. Teflon washers help remove any little squeaks between the pieces before they happen, keeping you undetected in the tree. Like the stacking Hawk Helium sticks discussed below, the Helium Kickback stand features Tree-Digger™ Teeth to anchor you in the tree so you can focus on hunting.

Advantages Over Other Tree Stands

  • Coming in at up to half the weight of other popular hang on stands, the Helium Kickback tree stand can really make a difference when hanging tree stands for mobile hunting or when you face an extra-long hike into a hunting spot.
  • Staying rock-solid is critical with climbing or hang on stands, and the aggressive teeth on this stand really sink in. By adding a simple strap around the stand and tree, you will stay securely anchored.
  • At some point, you’ve probably hunted in a squeaky tree stand and maybe even had it ruin a hunt for you. Teflon washers help this stand remain quiet when you shift your weight.

Helium Climbing Sticks

These climbing sticks (to accompany the Helium Kickback tree stand) offer a new level of quality than you’re probably used to with many other products. The Helium 3 Pack Climbing Sticks are constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum to make them super durable and each 30-inch section weighs only 2.9 pounds to make them extremely packable. The steps fold up and the stick sections quietly and securely nest together using Hawk’s new silent lock technology suction cups. They essentially lock together (via these suction cups) without even using any additional straps. But to further add to the stealth and make the setup in the field even easier, we have added a new versa button and silent strap setup to keep them secure and make setup on the tree a breeze. They are very sturdy on the tree too, using Tree-Digger™ Teeth to bite into the bark and stay there.

Advantages Over Other Climbing Sticks

  • At 2.9 pounds/section, the Hawk Helium climbing sticks weigh on the lower end of most of the market’s options. Yet they are still rated to hold up to 300 pounds.
  • The versa button and silent strap design allow you to quickly and quietly secure these climbing sticks to the tree without using a noisy ratchet strap.
  • The dual-sided steps allow more flexibility while climbing than many of the market’s every-other step design. Additionally, each step has rough grooves to improve traction, which is important for stability on rainy or cold days.

Planning Next Season

As you start to prepare for next season, here are some hunting tips to help you make the most of your new Helium Kickback tree stand and climbing sticks.

  • First, always bring (and use) a safety harness when you are hanging or hunting from a tree stand. There’s always an element of risk when you leave the ground, so don’t take any chances. Connect to the tree as you hang the climbing stick sections and especially when you get to the top to connect the platform itself.
  • Before you climb the tree, connect a rope from your belt line to each climbing stick section and your tree stand. That way, you won’t have to come down to get new sections each time – you can simply pull a new one up as you go.
  • As mentioned above, try to find a tree that is wide enough or has enough cover (e.g., branches, leaves, etc.) to hide your profile. For example, you can tuck hang on stands into some ancient oak trees to remain invisible to deer below you. Whereas you would stand out more if you were in a wide open aspen tree.

We think you’ll enjoy the Helium Kickback tree stand and climbing sticks. They have many advantages over other tree stand options, including being much lighter, very durable, and extremely silent. With any luck, they will help you get that much closer to a mature whitetail next fall!