Tree Saddle Tips for Whitetail Season

Are you ready for this upcoming whitetail season? If you are like me, you have been thinking about this since January. Soon, you will be in the woods looking to restock the freezer in the hopes that the buck of a lifetime will wander past your tree this month or October.

It’s not too soon to prepare for opening day, and as a longtime tree saddle hunter, here is my list of tips to get you started:

  1. Scout for the best trees: Seek out trails that cross over in many different directions. Wind direction can give you that extra advantage, so understanding its changes and when it happens is key. Select hunting locations based on the types of wind conditions and directions likely to be expected for that time of the season. One of the great benefits of tree saddle hunting is that if the wind does change, you can rotate in the tree to the opposite side, silently and quickly.

Tree saddles can also increase your choices. Trees without limbs below the area you intend to climb can provide great cover. Use a tree saddle lineman’s belt and attach it to the tree so you can swiftly begin your climb without removing any limbs. Troublesome limbs can be avoided by attaching the tree strap to the trunk above the limb. This will secure you to the tree a second time. Detach the lineman’s belt and reattach it above the limb. You can then safely remove the tree strap and continue up the tree.

There are three basic options to preparing the tree for climbing:

  • Screw-in tree steps attach permanently, but can damage the tree. This is an important consideration when you are hunting on private land. In my experience, I have found that removing these steps can be pretty difficult. Ensure that the tree is a good “candidate” for these long-term steps.
  • Consider climbing sticks as a short-term alternative. These can be used for a shorter hunt. Use them just as you would for a lock-on stand. I like to remove these at the end of the season to preserve the straps.
  • Purchase strap-on steps and platforms; a wide variety of products are available. Choose a product that is easy-to-use, quick-to-assemble, silent when in use and fits within your budget. This is an option for public lands that do not allow you to screw in anything or leave your steps in a tree for more than a day.
  1. Review your equipment: Proper preparation of your hunting clothes is critical for scent control, regardless of the type of hunt. After a season ends, I put my camo gear in their designated plastic totes until spring. Once the weather starts to warm up, I’ll gather my hunting gear and start to wash the clothing with a scentless laundry detergent. The clothes are soaked in a solution of activated carbon powder and water, and then hung out to dry. Once dried, I’ll return the garments to their plastic totes. I find that this preparation process—followed by sprinkling carbon powder on the clothes after each hunt—keeps me scent-free. Be mindful that activated carbon powder will change camo to a darker shade and your hands may retain deposits of carbon.
  1. Practice from a tree: Tree saddle hunting is very different from most hunts from a traditional stand. A tree saddle offers far greater mobility and gives more options and angles from which to shoot. By now, you have likely spent many hours practicing your bow skills on the ground and working on your distances. Your final task is to spend some time in the tree, shooting at targets. I get together with a fellow hunter for a day of practice and we take turns shooting from up in the trees. The person on the ground will move the target to various locations. Then, the shot is fired without the aid of a range finder. This is ideal for practice, because while you may have figured out several ranges from a particular tree, the deer never seem to get the memo and move into areas where you did not specifically determine the range.

Enjoy this wonderful sport, and once your preparations for this season are complete, it’s up to nature, the moon, the weather, including the wind, and a good dose of luck.

If you have any questions regarding the concept of tree saddle hunting, please contact Ian Munnoch at [email protected] or 812-322-5080.