After considering a climber, hang-on or ladder stand and weighing them against the usefulness of a ground blind, I was introduced to the idea of a tree saddle by a fellow on a local outdoor forum. The Trophyline Tree Saddle is essentially a suspended sling seat built into a fall protection harness. The unit incorporates a lineman’s belt for safer climbing and a second independent webbing strap that acts as an adjustable anchor once wrapped around the tree. One climbs the tree using any of the step systems you would use for a regular stand. There is no safety harness as your ‘stand’ is essentially a safety harness with a sling seat. The seat on my ‘Ambush’ model is made from heavy duty mesh.
The process of using it is basically as follows: Once wearing the harness you begin climbing using the lineman’s belt for support as you go, affixing whatever tree steps you choose as you ascend (I am using ClimbPaws strap-on steps). The final steps you attach will serve as foot rests and foot supports when seated in the saddle. Once at the desired height you wrap the safety strap twice around the tree, above head height, and finish it in an overhand knot. You then feed it through the waist loop on the harness, clip the steel loop to the snap hook and you are ready to hang. The lineman’s belt can be removed and stowed at this point. The safety loop is adjustable while in use, so you can lengthen it for a more sitting type position or shorten it for a more straight legged position.
One really needs to practice with it in order to find a good position. You will also require knee pads in order to rest your knees against the tree trunk at times. For the sake of brevity I’ll list the good and bad points of this unit…
|At rest in a straight-legged position|
Its light and very portable (you wear it while walking), meaning you can change trees quickly to adjust your hunting style; something you cannot do easily with conventional stands (except perhaps climbing stands) unless you have a few previously set up. It’s also quiet with no metallic sounds.
It can be used on virtually any tree that is safe to climb, regardless of how crooked it is or how many branches it has.
Facing towards the tree seems counter -intuitive but it works. The tree provides extra cover (and for rifle shooters works as a rest).
You can turn and shoot from different angles and in different directions. The marketing blurb states 360 degrees but in my inexperience with this tool I battle to achieve more that about 270 deg – still versatile though.
Many users appear really devoted to their saddles. They claim them to be far superior to conventional stands. It just seems these devotees are few...
My unit had a semi functional lineman’s belt when I received it. The Canadian agent was very helpful and sent me a new one. I emailed my problem to the manufacturers (3 different email addresses) and have never received a reply.
Construction and materials: The saddle is undoubtedly strong. The safety belt, for example, has stitching that is designed to shear in the case of a fall and spread the peak shock-load (the principal is similar to what ice-climbers call ‘screamers’). However…the fact that my first obviously unfinished lineman’s belt passed QC concerned me. In addition, the lineman’s belt carries a warning that it should be retired after 5 years. This is prudent but very much erring on the side of caution. What I found odd was the one I received was manufactured in 2007. That means I was shipped a belt that the manufacturer states should be replaced next year – not much longevity is it? I realize that the belt is totally fine and will be until it starts showing obvious wear, induced from supporting my butt up a tree(the warning is prudent and obviously meant to mitigate liability). BUT, why sell products with your own warnings that render them unfit for use soon after sale?
The product advertising and packaging is plastered with Treestand Manufacturers Association logos. They are not affiliated with the TMA, I know, I emailed the TMA to confirm. Perhaps they used to be? I am not suggesting the product doesn’t meet TMA standards but I feel this is unfortunate advertising. I have used a fair amount of climbing and high ropes gear of high quality that all carry CE and/or UIAA ratings. A TMA rating would be welcome. I realize that climbing gear is made to withstand factor-2 falls and is used under much harsher conditions. I might just be too pedantic; besides, I balk at the weld jobs on some of the ladder stands I have looked at. I am probably just over cautious but peace of mind is nice. I have incorporated a second safety rope and sliding prussic into my saddle system.
Personal experiences thus far:
I have been practicing with the saddle a fair amount. You need to find your comfort zone with it. I was assured of how amazingly comfortable they are and how you can sit in them for hours. They are indeed quite comfortable and each time I have practiced with it, the comfort has improved. As for sitting in it all day? The jury is still out on that one for me…
Shooting from the saddle is very different! You use your feet, on whatever steps or supports you choose, to push away from the tree or hook your feet under to help you rotate and make shots in different directions. The key is to rotate your whole body as much as possible in the saddle, not just turn your shoulders. I am shooting acceptably at closer ranges from the saddle but it needs work!
Well those are my preliminary thoughts on the tree saddle. I will be using it more and will hopefully enjoy success with it this fall. I’ll keep you posted!
|Rotating to shoot behind you is actually quite easy.|
© Brian Joubert