While you may only need the five items to start saddle hunting, there are plenty of accessories that will make life easier for you. Some of them serve to keep your gear organized and accessible, while others make saddle hunting more comfortable than it would be without them.
Here are seven accessories that will help you take your saddle hunting game to the next level:
- Climbing stick aiders
- Knee pads or a knee cushion
- Backband or recliner
- Gear strap or gear holder
- Clips or gear ties
- Saddle gear bags/haulers
Climbing up a tree is one of the most labor intensive and potentially dangerous aspects of saddle hunting. The right climbing accessories can make all the difference in terms of safety, efficiency, and ease of use. In this section, we’ll explore two common accessories used to ascend and descend the tree.
Ascender (Ropeman 1 or Kong Duck)
An ascender like the Ropeman 1 or Kong Duck, while not necessary, is a popular accessory for saddle hunting. It is a mechanical device that replaces the prusik knot on your tether and/or lineman’s rope. Unlike a prusik knot, it allows you to adjust your tether or lineman’s rope length quickly with just one hand as opposed to two.
The Ropeman 1 is rated for ropes 10-13mm in diameter, while the Kong Duck will work on ropes from 8-13mm. So, if you plan on using smaller ropes to shave some weight and space in your pack, you’ll probably want to go with the Kong Duck. However, if you’re using standard 11mm ropes, you can save a few bucks with the Ropeman 1.
Climbing Stick Aiders
The second and last climbing accessory on our list is aiders for your climbing sticks. Aiders are small “ladders” made from rope, nylon webbing or cable, that attach to the bottom of your climbing stick, essentially extending the length of each stick. They typically have anywhere from one to four steps.
Aiders are extremely light and affordable, making them a great alternative to buying extra climbing sticks. The downside is that because they are made of rope or nylon strapping, they aren’t as stable as a climbing stick. The more steps the aider has, the more likely it is to kick out from the tree while climbing, which can result in a fall. So keep that in mind as you choose which aiders to buy.
A lot of saddle hunters will add a three- or four-step aider to their bottom stick, where if it were to kick out they wouldn’t fall far, and then use one- or two-step aiders on the rest of their sticks. Personally, I stick with one-step aiders on all my Tethrd One climbing sticks.
Once you’re up the tree, comfort becomes key. Being comfortable allows you to stay in your stand longer, increasing your chances of success. In this section, we’ll take a look at the different accessories you can use to stay comfortable during a long hunt.
Knee Pads or a Knee Cushion
Most saddle hunters spend at least some of their time in the tree sitting, which typically means your knees are up against the tree, supporting some of your weight. If you have bony knees like I do, that means you’re going to get very uncomfortable very quickly. An easy fix is a good set of knee pads or a knee cushion.
The good news is that knee pads are readily available, fairly inexpensive, and most any pair will get the job done. Obviously some fit better and are more comfortable than others, but you don’t need anything fancy to get the job done.
Some saddle hunters, myself included, don’t care about wearing knee pads. Knee pads have a tendency to shift around and the straps can wear on the back of your knee, causing discomfort. For me a better option is to strap a cheap foam hunting seat to the tree and lean my knees against that when I feel the urge to sit in my saddle.
You can pick up those cheap foam seats, throw on a nylon strap long enough to reach around any tree you may hunt, and you’re ready to go.
Backband or Recliner
When it comes to saddle hunting comfort, you won’t spend a better $30 than on a backband or “recliner”. The backband is a really simple nylon strap that forms a loop. The loop hooks into the same carabiner as your saddle’s bridge rope, then goes around your body just under your arms.
The portion of the strap that goes behind your back is padded, and there are adjusters on each side of the band so you can tailor it to your size and how far back you want to lean.
The sole purpose of the backband or recliner is to provide support for your back while in the saddle. When a deer approaches and you’re ready to draw your bow (providing you’re bowhunting), you simply lean forward and the backband slips down on your body and out of the way.
Deer hunting requires a lot of gear, and keeping it all organized in the tree can be a challenge. There are several saddle hunting accessories that can make all the difference in terms of keeping your gear easily accessible and organized, including the three discussed below.
Gear Strap of Gear Holder
While you could get by without many of the accessories on our list, a gear strap or gear holder is an absolute necessity. You have to have a place to hang your hunting gear so it’s easily accessible to you in the tree, and a gear strap/hanger is your best option.
Most of these gear straps are constructed of a nylon strap that loops around the tree, with a series of loops sewn on the strap where you hang your gear using a variety of clip types. This is where I hang my rangefinder, grunt call during the pre rut and rut, binoculars, my backpack, and sometimes my bow. I say sometimes, because if I’m hunting an area that allows me to use a screw-in bow hanger, then that’s what I use. If not, I attach a Hero Clip to my gear strap and hang my bow on that.
Clips or Gear Ties
There’s a wide variety of molle clips that will work with your gear strap, or the popular Nite Ize Gear Ties that will work to attach your gear to the gear strap. Get enough for all your gear, plus extras.
For your bow or gun, you’ll want something that can handle the weight. Many saddle hunters use a Hero Clip for the task. There are certainly other options out there, but I haven’t found a better one.
Saddle Gear Bags/Haulers
Saddle gear bags or haulers are accessories that are used to transport equipment while hunting. They typically attach to the saddle and provide a convenient location to store and carry items that you use the most.
I have a gear bag on each side of my hunting saddle, and it’s where I keep my gear strap, pull rope for my bow, headlamp, bow release, and my rangefinder. Once I’m up in the tree and get my gear strap on the tree, and hang my rangefinder on the strap, I now have an empty pocket that I use to keep my cell phone easily accessible.
Saddle hunting can seem complicated and gear-intensive to someone just getting started, but it’s really not. Once you have your 5 key pieces of gear to get started — your saddle, tether, lineman’s rope, platform, and climbing sticks — there’s not a whole lot left you need.
The seven accessories discussed here should make your life easier and your time in the tree more comfortable. And the good news is that most of the accessories discussed here are relatively inexpensive.