By: Justin Hunold
I wake up at 2:30am, sneak in a shower and a quiet cup of coffee and then begin to quietly load my Rav4 for an early season whitetail hunt. This consists of one day bag, one large rubber tote of hunting gear, boots, and my bow of course. Sounds like your typical morning banging out to the woods, right?
The coffee in my tumbler is just cool enough to drink by the time I make it to the closest game lands an hour from my home in South Eastern Pennsylvania. As I pull past the parking area, I see 6 cars, some of them double parked like delivery drivers in Philly. Hunters are in my headlights piling out of their vehicles and strapping on packs and climbers or the occasional stand and sticks.
A few years ago, my morning routine would draw some weird looks, like the kind when locals see an out-of-stater in a place they never expected. These odd looks didn't come until it was time for the “well, good luck” that we often give the other hunters in a parking area. They would throw their climber on with a grunt and a clank. I’d grab my backpack with my climbing sticks strapped on the outside and my bow and start off. I could tell they were always trying to figure out if I was missing a stand or a few marbles
It’s the question that drives us, Neo, it’s the question that brought you here…..-Trinity (The Matrix)
More than likely you have come here to find the lightest, quietest, and safest way you could possibly conduct a mobile hunt from a tree. That’s how I got here. I drew those looks because I thought outside the box a few years before the saddle hunting boom started. I went on a quest to find the perfect way to ambush game as a mobile hunter from a tree. Much like The Matrix, in saddle hunting The Question leads to many other questions. Well, I’m no Laurence Fishburne but I’ll do my best to shed some light on some often asked questions.
Two and a half miles back in the dark, in full hunting regalia, with a twenty-pound stand on your back is the worst time to use a headlamp to look for a tree. A tree straight enough and barren of branches so you can attempt to climb up with two separate metal pieces held on by pressure and at best a rubber strap….quietly.
This is the first question that is answered. With certain tweeks to climbing methods and standing options you can be in a tree for a very minimum weight cost. Most folks can get a saddle set up with climbing and standing systems together that weigh in at well under 12 pounds. The tree options are nearly endless. Branches, no branches, straight, crooked, single trunk, multiple trunks, 4 inches to 18 inches. With the correct gear one can hunt out of any of these trees. My preferred tree is generally a two-trunk tree, with both trunks being roughly six inches. The beauty of a Trophyline is that just about any tree will do in a pinch.
Those same precautions that some saddle hunters use for weight savings can also lead to sound benefits. The saddle is essentially silent. If you wear your saddle into the woods you have the quietest hunting method strapped to your waist. Most saddle hunters run climbing sticks. For a lot of those hunters they use a rope system, daisy chain system, or at the very least a buckle system wrapped in some sort of sound dampening to get up the tree as quietly as possible. These same methods of tree attachment can be used on a platform. I use a platform with a cam buckle strap and a daisy chain to help stabilize it. Some folks will use a ring of steps to stand on in the tree. I also use a daisy chain with “S” style carabiners attached to hold my gear. In essence the loudest part of all of these systems can be controlled by taking one's time and attention to detail.
I am a new dad. My wonderful little family wants to see me home safe. There is no safer system than a Trophyline Tree Saddle and the ropes that come with the kits from Trophyline. At no point should a hunter not be roped to the tree. From the Black Diamond Carabiners to the red and black braided ropes with high tensile strength prusik knots there is not a single corner cut on a Trophyline System in the safety department.
Mobility is paramount. Because a Trophyline allows you to circumnavigate the circumference of a tree, there is no bad shot angle. There is also no bad wind direction. At times either of these may not be ideal but this problem can turn into an opportunity with a simple and deliberate approach to moving around the tree. Another amazing aspect of the versatility in tree choice is the mobility. Easy set up and take down in just about any tree opens avenues and ambush points that stand hunters can only look at and pass by.
All of these amazing benefits of hunting from a Trophyline system can open up a world of hunting that folks may think are off limits. In states where people have the opportunity to hunt feral hogs, hunters should immediately get a saddle. Gotta go into a swamp in a kayak or canoe? Worried about the weight limit of the vessel? Not with a saddle!
There are states where baiting for bears is legal and by far the most effective way to hunt. A bait site becomes a lot less daunting when a ladder stand isn’t involved. With their limited eyesight but unlimited olfactory senses wouldn’t it be the best possible situation to easily, quietly, and safely reposition yourself over the bait with changing winds?
With videoing hunting adventures turning into a pursuit in and of itself, what better way to run a camera than a saddle? The ability to reframe and adjust to the animals and hunters is unparalleled. I would be surprised if most video hunting content isn't shot from a saddle in the next ten years.
It’s funny, in 2017 I would get those looks from other hunters. This past 2019 season I have gotten a lot of questions and even a few tips as other people see and have adopted all the advantages of saddle hunting. It seems there are more out of the box thinkers in hunting than most in the box thinkers thought.
About the Author: Justin Hunold is a father, Spouse, entrepreneur and passionate outdoorsman. He enjoys sharing his passion for the outdoors through Answer-Outdoors.com and the Answer Outdoors YouTube channel. Justin forged a relationship with Trophyline prior to the launch in 2019. What brought him to the brand was the outstanding customer service and relationship to the hunting community that Trophyline prioritizes. You can follow him @jshunold on Instagram.