How to Start Saddle Hunting in 2024

When I first started looking into saddle hunting, I was overwhelmed. There seemed to be lots of equipment options, unlimited ways to climb a tree, and modifications to be made on every piece of gear. And no two saddle hunters seem to agree on equipment or technique.

But once I finally bought my gear and got started, I realized it didn’t have to be complicated at all. All you really need is some basic equipment and plenty of practice time to get started. Once you learn the ropes (pun intended) and get comfortable in the saddle, then you can look into upgrading or modifying equipment, if you want.

My goal with this guide is to walk you through the basics of what you need to know and buy to get started in as simple terms as possible. If you have any questions after reading this, please don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Photo of the basic equipment required to start saddle hunting.

What is Saddle Hunting?

Saddle hunting is a method of elevated hunting that involves wearing a tree saddle or harness that is tethered to a tree with ropes. The hunter typically rests their feet on a small platform or ring of steps and leans away from the tree, with their weight supported by the tether rope.

If that sounds confusing, I included the photo above to help you get a visual.

Saddle Hunting Necessities

One of the biggest roadblocks I ran into when I started saddle hunting over three years ago was figuring out exactly what equipment I needed, and what I didn’t. There are lots of different products on the market, and lots of guys modifying their equipment to best suit their hunting style.

What I finally realized after a lot of research was I really only needed three pieces of saddle hunting gear to get started. I realize the video thumbnail above says five, but if you buy a hunting saddle kit, the ropes will come with it.

Equipment Needed to Saddle Hunt

  1. A hunting saddle kit
  2. A platform or ring of steps
  3. Climbing sticks

The hunting saddle kit should include your lineman’s and tether ropes and necessary carabiners. I’d recommend going that route rather than buying the items individually to simplify the process.

You’ll then just need a platform to rest your feet on, and some climbing sticks to climb the tree.

Must-Have Accessories

While you can start hunting with just a saddle, lineman’s rope, tether, platform and climbing sticks, there are a few accessories that will make saddle hunting a little easier.

Back Strap or Recliner

This is another accessory that’s worth its weight in gold. The back strap – or recliner – is just a strap that hooks into the carabiner on your bridge and goes around your body up under your arms to support your back as you lean away from the tree. It doesn’t look like much, but it adds a whole new level of comfort to saddle hunting. When a deer comes in, you can lean forward just enough to release the pressure and the recliner should fall down around your waist and out of your way for a shot.

Knee Pads

As I mentioned above, if you’re going to spend time in the sitting position with your knees against the tree, you will want knee pads or a cushion that straps around the tree. I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t take long with your knees digging into the side of a tree to get very uncomfortable.

Accessory Strap/Bow Hook

The last accessory item I recommend is some type of strap and hooks to go around the tree and hold your gear. Tethrd makes a simple one with a series of loops to attach hooks to so you can hang your pack, binos or a rangefinder, grunt call, and even your bow.


And to carry all this gear in the field with you, you’ll want some type of pack. The size and type of pack will depend on what gear your choose and personal preference. Fortunately, with the increasing popularity of saddle hunting, more and more packs are being manufactured with that style of hunting in mind.

Did I miss any important accessories? If you think so, be sure to let me know down in the comments, and I can add to the list!

You Have Your Gear, Now What?

Once you have your gear, you’ll want to spend a lot of time practicing with it before hunting season rolls around. I’d recommend spending the first few practice sessions just above ground level until you get comfortable in the saddle.

To do so, you can simply strap your platform to a tree a foot or so off the ground. With your saddle on, step up onto the platform, loop your tether rope around the tree about eye level, and attach the carabiner from the loop of the prusic knot on your tether rope to your bridge rope.

You are now tethered to the tree, and should be able to lean back away from the tree while standing on the edge of your platform. You may need to adjust the length of your tether by moving the prusic knot up or down the rope to get an angle that suits you.

This is the perfect time to practice maneuvering around the platform, and getting into shooting position for various potential shot opportunities. As you get more comfortable, you may actually want to incorporate your bow and a target into the practice sessions so you can shoot at various angles.

I can tell you from my experience, it’s going to feel very strange leaning away from that tree and putting your faith in that tether rope the first few times. But once you get used to it, it’s a freeing feeling. I actually feel safer and more free in the saddle than I ever did in a climber or hang-on stand. But it takes some time to get there.

Once you’ve developed that faith in your gear and gotten a feel for the saddle, you can then incorporate climbing the tree with your climbing sticks. That part is pretty self explanatory, but the key is to use your lineman’s rope from the time you leave the ground until you’re hooked into your tether rope at hunting height. Not only will that help keep you safe, but it also frees up your hands to hang each stick as you climb, as well as your platform when you get to hunting height.

Final Thoughts

Saddle hunting is a great way to lighten your load, get more mobile, and put another valuable too into your deer hunting toolbox. No, it’s not for everyone or for every situation, but it has it’s place, and I would recommend every deer hunter at least give it a try.

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