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