By: Justin Hunold
You’ve gone down the path far enough, you’ve done the research, you’ve weighed out the cost- benefit ratios of sitting twenty five feet up in a tree in a Trophyline Tree Saddle against anything else and just like any analysis of weight, the saddle won the day. But where do you start?
I will answer some often asked questions of new saddle hunters and I will answer them starting literally from the ground up. Picture yourself at the base of your chosen tree. Let’s climb and answer the big questions at the same time.
Question: What do I use to climb the tree? How can I get to hunting height?
Answer: Let’s look at this from the base level- none of the trendy, super light, DIY climbing methods. The answer is simple... kinda. Public Land hunters: you can use climbing sticks, or some sort of strap on steps. Both climbing methods have multiple options for brand and style. A few popular climbing stick options are Hawk, Lone Wolf, Lone Wolf Custom Gear, The Hunting Beast, Out on a limb, Muddy and API. You can find options for strap on steps such as Wild Edge steps, Bullman Outdoors Silent Approach, Eastern Woods Outdoors Double Steps and Cranford rope steps. By no means is this a comprehensive list of all of the options, just a small snippet of the popular ones.
On private land you can use screw in steps or drill holes and put high tensile strength bolts in. These are both inexpensive and a great option especially when setting up multiple locations during pre-season prep.
Question: How many sticks do I need?
Answer: Well, this is dependent on your physiology (length of step), your preferred hunting height, and the tree you decide to climb. I bring four twenty inch sticks. I often use three and leave one at the base of the tree, but other times the fourth is warranted. You may be able to hang with less if the sticks are longer or if you like to hunt sub-15 ft. A good rule of thumb is if you want to be twenty feet or more nearer to the clouds you’ll need a fourth stick. I would generally say most folks will average 5 feet of elevation comfortably per stick. Use that as a base. Most every stick set comes in a package of three. Start there and adjust if need be. Do not buy four because someone says you have to. You will find most saddle hunting types are tinkerers and each set up becomes as individual as bow set ups.
Question: Now that I am climbing how do I get to use my Trophyline to the fullest extent and get around branches safely?
Answer: My suggestion would be to get two lineman’s ropes. Wrap the second one around the tree above the branch and then climb past the branch and reattach the first. The other option which works is to get another Black Diamond Carabiner from Trophyline.com and use your tether rope in the same process. DO NOT LOAD TWO ROPES ON TO ONE CARABINER. The carabiner (all climbing gear) is designed for particular size ropes and angles and distribution of load. I prefer to have two lineman’s and one individual tether. I promise this will lead to less noise, movement, aggravation and sketch factor once you reach hunting height.
Question: Hey Justin, now that we are at hunting height what should I stand on?
Answer: Hey Hunter, there are essentially two options. You can either use a Ring of Steps (ROS) or a Platform. I use both, sometimes I use a platform with half a ring of steps on the opposite side of the tree. Most of the time one or the other. For most people a platform seems to be the go to. Basically, a platform is a very small tree stand, think of the seat of any lock-on stand. I happen to use a seat from an old tree stand as the base of my platform system. There are commercial options available now. Most of the companies mentioned for climbing sticks have them. Wild Edge actually has both a platform and ring of steps option. I personally own the Silent Approach ROS and have used them successfully on hunts in 2019.
On private land, use the same pegs or screw- in steps you used to get up the tree to build a Ring of Steps at hunting height.
Side Note, if you are using two lineman’s you can ascend to the platform or ROS in the same fashion as bypassing a branch.
Question: I’m on my platform! How high should my tether be?
Answer: In most people's experience you will initially put your tether higher than you actually need to, or will probably come to in time. Most folks want to put it at hairline or hat brim level off the bat, my suggestion: go with eye level. Inches matter! The lower tether height may feel weird at first because it feels less like hanging from the tree. Remember you’re tethered to the tree not from the tree. A lower height will relieve hip pinch and make maneuvering your weapon or camera around much easier.
Also, you will either end up being a leaner or a sitter. Most folks will switch between leaning all of their weight against the tether and bridge while standing or sitting in their saddle and putting their knees against the tree. Both of these work, I am a leaner mostly. The beauty is having two options during the sit to help ride out long hours. If I set up before daylight I sit in my saddle, knees against the tree, until about twenty minutes before shooting light. Then I adjust my Ropeman 1 a bit on the tether and then lean so I am essentially standing and ready to shoot. You will find your groove but more than likely you will end up being one or the other.
Question: Okay, I am up in my tree where do I put all of my awesome gear?
Answer: Find a daisy chain, cloth tape, and S style carabiners. Wrap the carabiners in the tape, hang one end of the daisy chain through the other once it’s around the tree, put the carabiner in the loop just below the now horizontal daisy chain strap on your release hand side of the tree. Okay...Hang your pack there. Now hang a big, huge S ‘biner opposite that and hang your bow there. Repeat the process with all accessories needed. I remove my quiver and hang it directly opposite of me. Binoculars and Rangefinder are around my neck. I’m good to go. Most folks put the gear strap above the tether. Either will work but above seems to have less impediment of the tether bridge combination during movement. When you’re setting all of this up remember you’re facing the tree so you will want your bow arm essentially pointed from say 8 o’clock to 11 o’clock towards the expected point of game movement. That can be a trail, bait, waterhole, decoy, any expected point of intersection.
Question: Speaking of that, what about shooting?
Answer: You should practice shooting your bow from your saddle. The change in ergonomics of shooting a bow from the ground to the saddle only really differs in foot positioning. You still hold your “T” shape and bend at the waist. If you have good form you should be okay. As far as a gun goes, it’s pretty easy. I would assume a lot of public ranges aren’t going to allow someone to shoot from a Trophyline. It's just like shooting from the ground, except you can use the bridge and tether as a rest of sorts. I had never shot a gun out of a saddle before I shot the first time at a deer, which by the way tastes amazing.
Question: Will I be comfortable?
Answer: If you dress for success, meaning dress for the conditions, and take time to adjust your Trophyline to how you like to sit, then yes you’ll be comfortable. I have done all day sits in my Trophyline plenty of times now. I would suggest starting to spend a couple hours here and there in a tree with your saddle before the season. Your body will need to get into saddle shape, but once you find your sweet spots for adjustment, in my opinion, there is no more comfortable way to spend a day in the timber.
Question: What else do I need?
Answer: The minimum load for a saddle hunter excluding the things listed above and their normal gear is knee pads. That’s it. They don’t have to be anything special but you need to have them. You will have your knees against the tree varying from occasionally to quite often. You need knee pads.
Other than that, I would suggest getting a great backpack to carry all of this gear in and on. Trophyline has a new model coming out soon, with details on their social media. You should be looking at that now. You can even help name it!
Truly, all of your other hunting gear will work as well as it worked in a treestand. So do yourself a favor, hang that stand up in the garage or shed, get an Ambush Lite or Ambush Pro and get to it. There is no better time to start your Trophyline adventure than right now.
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.