For a pretty good while I have shrugged off the hype around saddle hunting. I have historically gone back and forth between climbing stands and hang on stands for run and gun hunts. On my lease I use primarily hang ons and a couple ladder stands. I’m really not a fan of ladder stands unless they are the only option. After many many hours of research through listening to podcasts and videos I decided that I was going to have to give it a go.
My Saddle System
With my microscopic frame of reference for who makes a good saddle I had to lean on who marketed the best and what seemed to have the biggest following. I’m pretty impatient so availability also became a key decision point for me. With these factors in mind, Tethrd was the obvious choice. They have a strong internet following and the lead time on products was the shortest of all the options out there. I received my saddle and platform in 3 weeks.
I ordered a Mantis XL saddle, platform and a couple of gear bags made by Tethrd. I also ordered another Ropeman#1 for my actual tether. All of the Tethrd gear is very well constructed and was delivered in the timeframe originally estimated. The Saddle is very lightweight yet durable. The lineman loops are positioned well and are easy to get to. The accessory webbing is stitched well and is pretty handy.
Saddle with the SYS Hauler ES bags
I’m using 13mm static rope for my tether with a Ropeman#1. I also installed a Prussik and a carabiner to connect to my bridge as a back up since the Ropeman is a mechanical device. Probably not needed but I feel better having it. Total length of my tether is 7′. This stores in my left SYS hauler bag along with the back band which fits nearly in the side pouch of the SYS hauler.
Tether with Ropeman#1 ascender
I keep my lineman’s rope and Ropeman in the right side SYS hauler. I connected one side of the lineman’s rope directly to the lineman’s loop on the saddle. At first I thought this would be in my way but I never noticed it being an issue. This makes it very easy to use and stow when not in use.
Lineman’s Rope with Ropeman#1 ascender
The platform is also made by Tethrd and is called the Predator platform. My initial thought was that the platform was incredibly small but after using it I learned that it’s plenty big enough for use with a saddle. It weighs 3 pounds and is very easy to put on a tree. I did find that the strap was just a little bit short for a couple of the bigger trees I got in so I’m using a strap from my XOP stand that is about 18″ longer. The platform is very sturdy and it never moved when I put side pressure on it which I found was part of moving around the tree in a saddle. Some folks are painting their platforms but as well as it blends with trees I’m not sure I see a reason to.
First Hunt from a Saddle
When I got my saddle I practiced with it a couple times to try to get comfortable using it and moving around on the platform. I got comfortable with it pretty quickly. My first hunt with it was actually while I was hunting with LaDonna. She was in a ladder stand so I just set up my predator platform about a step up from her ladder seat. I stepped up onto my platform and connected my tether with no issues at all. I was a pretty cool morning and I had on a heavy outer layer. My tether height was about chin level and that worked well in this situation. Let me just say that I took the best nap I can remember on my very first sit from a saddle. As you can see, my wife found that photo worthy😬
I had three other sets that weekend in the saddle and each one got more comfortable as I learned what works and what doesn’t. I figured out that each situation may call for a different tether height, saddle placement on your butt, etc. All of the adjustments I needed to make were easy, quiet and didn’t require excessive movement.
Packability and Weight Saving
I believe this is where the saddle has a clear advantage over other hunting methods. I can either put it in a pack or wear it in. I tried it both ways and there isn’t a noticeable difference to me. I packed it on on a Gameplan gear bag and it worked really well.
I use the same climbing method with the saddle as I do with my XOP hang on stand. API Huntn Sticks are really nice with the rope mod so I see no need to change. I’ve been playing around with a single aider on the bottom step but I’m not completely sold on that yet. I save a total of 10.8 lbs by using the saddle instead of the stand. I’m not sure about you but that’s a huge win when I’m packing in and hunting a spot one time and moving on.
My first impression of this system is very promising. Here is my initial list advantages and disadvantages with a saddle system.
1. The weight savings and packability are definitely worth it if you are packing in to hang and hunt.
2. Versatility of tree selection. While this depends on you climbing method, I did find that I was able to set up in any tree I wanted to so far.
3. Mobility in the tree is certainly an advantage. Now I’m not sure I’ll jump out there and say I could get 360 shot opportunities in every situation but it’s more versatile than a hang on stand or a climber.
4. While there is a learning curve when it comes to finding positions that are comfortable for me personally, I have spent around 20 hours in my saddle so far and haven’t had a back ache like I tend to get when setting in a hang on stand. Not sure I’d say it’s as comfy as a summit climber but it’s hard to bank on the difference.
1. Learning curve. Most of us want instant comfort and success with a new product. I’ll just say that if you’re that guy this may not be for you. I have a feeling I’ll still be tweaking on this system well into next season.
2. I’ve got around $600 invested in my system including Ascenders and ropes. It’s pricey to get set up. There are probably some DIY ideas out there to save some money but again, I’m impatient.
3. I feel like a move much more that if I was using a hang on or a climber. Since I’m setting up behind the tree one could argue that I have a concealment advantage but I’m 6′ 240. I’m hoping that I get more comfortable with the movement associated with a saddle over time. I believe it’s something that will take practice.
Overall I’m pleased with the system so far and I believe it will be my go to on public land trips. I also believe it will replace most of my set ups on my leased hunting ground. I’ll likely make another post once I get thru late season with some saddle hunting tips and tricks.