There’s only five pieces of gear you need to start saddle hunting: a saddle, tether rope, lineman’s rope, platform, and climbing sticks. But there are lots of accessories that can make for a much better hunting experience.
One of the first accessories I recommend new saddle hunters purchase is an ascender (two actually) to replace the prusik knots on their tether and lineman’s ropes.
This article will explain why ascenders are important, and how to safely use them.
What’s an Ascender?
Ascenders are specialized climbing devices intended to help climbers efficiently ascend ropes. Their key purpose is allowing smooth upward progress on a rope while preventing sliding back down.
They grip the rope tightly in one direction using camming mechanisms but slide freely in the opposite direction. This enables a climber to pull up on the rope through the ascender and stand up in it to progress upward.
Ascenders in Saddle Hunting
In the context of saddle hunting, ascenders play a slightly different role. They replace the common prusik knots that come on tether and lineman’s ropes, so you can easily adjust the length of each with the use of one hand.
Prusik knots typically require two hands to adjust and can be difficult to break loose when they cinch down tightly on your rope.
Safety Measures in Using Ascenders
As with any hunting gear, safety is paramount when using ascenders. They are generally safe to use, but misuse can lead to accidents. For example, if an ascender is not properly attached to the rope, it could slip, causing a fall. So it’s essential to understand how to use ascenders correctly.
Here are some safety tips:
- Always double-check your gear: Make sure your ascender is securely attached to the rope in the proper direction before you start climbing.
- Use a backup system: Always have a secondary safety system in place in case your ascender fails.
- Learn from the pros: Take a course or watch online tutorials from experienced saddle hunters to learn the proper use of ascenders.
Popular Ascenders in the Market
There are several brands that produce quality ascenders. When choosing one, look for durability, ease of use, and weight. Some popular options include the Wild Country Ropeman 1 and Ropeman 2, and the Kong Duck.
Each of these models has unique features and varying price points, so do some research to find out which one best suits your needs.
Here’s what you need to know about each to help in your decision:
- Wild Country Ropeman 1: A lightweight and compact ascender, the Ropeman 1 is known for its easy handling and reliable grip on the rope. Its minimalist design doesn’t compromise its durability, making it a popular choice for saddle hunters.
- Wild Country Ropeman 2: The successor to the Ropeman 1, this model has all the reliability and efficiency of its predecessor but with the added benefit of working with a wider range of rope sizes. It is praised for its versatility and is ideal for those who frequently switch between different ropes.
- Kong Duck: This compact and lightweight ascender is designed to work with a variety of ropes and even slings. Its unique shape allows for easy sliding and secure locking, offering saddle hunters efficiency and safety.
When comparing models, remember to focus on more than just the price. Consider the versatility, durability, and ease of use. An ascender might cost a bit more upfront, but if it’s robust and meets your needs, it could save you money and trouble in the long run.
Hands-On Guides and Tips
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here’s a simple guide on how to use an ascender:
- Attach the ascender to your climbing rope. Most ascenders have a safety latch that you can open, place the rope inside, and then close securely.
- If using a hand ascender, grip it firmly and slide it up the rope. Your weight will cause the ascender to grip the rope, allowing you to climb.
- To descend, you’ll need to slightly lift the ascender to disengage it from the rope, then slide it down. Don’t do this with your full weight against the rope!
Maintaining your ascender is just as important as knowing how to use it. Clean it after each use to remove any dirt or debris. Regularly inspect it for signs of wear and tear, and replace it if you notice any damage.
Finally, here are a few expert saddle hunting tips to get the most out of your ascender:
- Practice makes perfect: The more you use your ascender, the better you’ll become at climbing with it.
- Choose the right rope: The diameter of your rope should match the specifications of your ascender.
- Be patient: It might take a bit of time to get used to using an ascender, but once you do, it’ll be a game-changer!
In addition to using and maintaining your ascender, it’s crucial to know how to troubleshoot common issues. For instance, if your ascender gets stuck on the rope, don’t force it down. This could damage the device and the rope. Instead, try to relieve tension on the rope, which might help the ascender slide down more easily.
Furthermore, always keep a spare ascender. Having a backup can be a lifesaver if your primary ascender fails or gets lost.
Lastly, connect with other saddle hunters. They can share their experiences, give advice, and maybe even introduce you to new techniques. Forums, social media groups, and local hunting clubs are great places to meet fellow hunters.
While you can certainly saddle hunt without ascenders, they do make the process easier and more efficient. Just follow the steps outlined above to choose the right ascender for you, and you’ll be on your way to saddle hunting success this fall. Good luck this season!