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 
Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

Benefits of the Hawk Helium Saddle System

Saddle Hunting 101 with the Hawk Helium Saddle System

If you’re a deer hunter who watches any online hunting shows these days, you’re no doubt familiar with hunting saddle systems. It’s true that tree saddle hunting has really exploded in popularity in recent years. And it’s no wonder. A saddle system has many advantages and very little downside. It allows hunters to be very mobile and take minimal gear with them between hunting locations. Here’s a look at what’s typically involved with this hunting approach, specifically looking at our Hawk Helium saddle system, and how you can start using one this season.

Benefits of a Saddle System for Hunting

First, there are many reasons why a deer hunter should consider a saddle and platform system for hunting. Here are just a few:

  • Portability – when it comes to mobile hunting strategies, a saddle system makes a ton of sense. They are lightweight and can be packed in a small package, which makes carrying your other hunting gear easier. While carrying a full climber or hang-on tree stand is certainly doable, a saddle makes it even simpler. 
  • Flexible Hunting Locations – because saddle hunting can be so mobile, it’s a great excuse to start utilizing multiple tree stand locations. By identifying several locations and trees ahead of the season, you can quickly change locations if things aren’t working out at a different spot. Or you could just strike off into a particular direction and find a suitable tree as you go. A hunting saddle gives you that flexibility.
  • Tree Options – with a hunting saddle, you aren’t limited to a perfectly straight and limbless tree, as you might be with a traditional climbing tree stand. Much like a hang-on stand, if you can attach the climbing sticks to the tree, you can use the tree. So feel free to use the next gnarled old oak tree with branches sticking out everywhere.
  • Shot Opportunities – with a fixed tree stand, you have some opportunities to turn around and face another direction if a deer comes in from an unexpected direction, but it’s not perfect. With the Hawk Helium saddle system, you can use the platform, climbing sticks, and even separate steps to maneuver around the tree and give you basically 360 degree shot angles. This also helps you stay out of a deer’s sight line – simply scoot around to the back side and keep the tree between you and it. However, it takes some practice to quietly maneuver around a tree like that or to shoot from these different angles.
  • Comfortable – most hunters that are new to saddle systems are doubtful about how comfortable they could be. But when you set them up correctly, saddles are actually really enjoyable to sit in. You can partially stand by resting against the saddle, fully sit down in it, or just keep changing positions until you find something that works for you.

Check Out the Hawk Helium Saddle System

Now, let’s look at some of the components of the Hawk Helium Saddle system, so you can see what we’re talking about. Our hunting saddle kit includes the saddle itself (which is covered in a Chaos Camo™ pattern), a removable padded seat, and a sturdy carrying bag to store all the components. It also comes with all the associated ropes and attachments, including a reclining belt, climbing-grade aluminum carabiners, climbing-grade rope grabber, climbing-grade tether rope with prusik, and climbing-grade climbing rope with prusik. The whole kit is extremely packable – in fact, it weighs less than 4 pounds and it can fit into an  8” x 8” x 10” carrying bag. Try that with a traditional tree stand. Yet despite that small package, the saddle has a weight rating of up to 300 pounds and fits waist sizes from 28” to 40”. 

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

Next up, our Helium HSP platform is exactly what you need to stabilize yourself when up in a tree. It also helps take some of the load off of your saddle and allows you to move around easier when you want to shift positions or stretch. Because the hunting saddle platform is constructed from durable aluminum, it has a weight rating of up to 300 pounds. But it only weighs 1.4 pounds and measures 10” x 6”. The tree digger teeth help it grab hold of the bark to provide a very secure platform. It is also designed to connect to the top of the climbing sticks with the simple use of two snap pins. The saddle climbing sticks feature high-grip steps with raised ends to keep your boots from slipping. They are also cast from aluminum and have a weight rating of 300 pounds, but each step section has a weight of 2.5 pounds.

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

Why Choose the Hawk Helium Saddle?

For a good system to work, it needs to have compatible parts and be easy to use. You can certainly achieve that with the Hawk Helium saddle system. Using our 4-pack of the 20” Helium climbing sticks, you can quietly maneuver through the woods without the fear of metal clanging noises. Our versa button design prevents noise when packing them, and you can stack all four sections together to maximize efficiency. They will stay securely bound together as you sneak through the woods. After setting up the climbing sticks, our Helium HSP platform connects directly to the top of the top-most climbing stick with two simple pins, which provides a rock-solid foundation for you to stand on. 

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

If you’re going to be doing a lot of mobile bow hunting, you need to pay attention to weight considerations. It’s no fun lugging a lot of heavy items through the woods at any time, let alone when you’re trying to be stealthy. Luckily, the Hawk Helium saddle system is very lightweight by design. Assuming you use the four climbing sticks discussed above together, they will weigh about 10 pounds. The platform weighs about 1.4 pounds. And the saddle system weighs only about 4 pounds. So for just a little over 15 pounds, you can have the ability to climb almost any tree and get hunting in short order. That’s a definite improvement over even the lightweight modern aluminum tree stand options on the market, and it’s a life-changing difference if you’re still using the old steel tree stands that weigh upwards of 40 pounds.

How to Hunt with Saddles

Now that you know why our Hawk Helium saddle system is so effective, here’s how you can implement this system to use on your own. It takes a little practice to get used to using a saddle system. But when you get the hang of it, you can follow the steps below to go from hiking to hunting in about 20 minutes.

  1. Locate the tree you want to hunt in. Take your climbing sticks, platform, and carrying bag full of the saddle and associated other pieces out of your backpack. Disconnect and lay everything out.
  2. Attach your first climbing stick segment at ground level. Make sure it is securely attached to the tree and does not wiggle.
  3. Wrap your lineman’s belt around the tree and ensure you are securely attached.
  4. Climb onto the first climbing stick and attach the second one higher up, using your lineman’s belt for support. Continue this process until you have attached all the climbing sticks.
  5. Attach the platform to the top climbing stick and connect it with the two snap pins. 
  6. Climb up further and attach your tether to the tree. It should be attached at about head height if you’re standing on the platform.
  7. Connect the saddle to the tether so that it will support your weight. Also attach your reclining belt at this time for additional back support.
  8. Squat down and gently test how the saddle feels, and adjust the height if need be to what feels best.

That’s the whole process. As you can see, it’s pretty simple. But here are some other tips to make the most of your hunt. After climbing up into the tree and connecting all your ropes and tethers, it’s a pain to climb back down and grab your bow/firearm or hunting pack. Instead, attach a pull rope to them when you’re on the ground level and keep these attached to your waist as you climb. When you get settled up in the tree, you can simply pull your stuff up to you and start hunting. It helps to have a few tree hooks with you as well, so you have a place to hang your bow/firearm or pack while you’re in the saddle. While you should definitely practice with your hunting weapon and the saddle system ahead of the season, it also helps to just quickly visualize a few shot scenarios when you’re up in the tree. Imagine drawing your bow back in different positions to either adjust something right away or make a note of your limitations. You don’t want to find out when a buck is actually 20 yards away.

Saddle hunting is a fun and adventurous way to hunt. It opens up many more opportunities for you and can get you to try some different hunting areas. And when you have a solid package like the Hawk Helium saddle system, you know it won’t disappoint either.