Monday, August 29, 2011

Tree Saddle - a better tree stand?

Having never used a tree stand before, I began considering one after taking the leap into archery this year. Whitetail are the most prevalent quarry in the areas that I hunt and those in the know advised that hunting elevated would be the best tactic if I hoped to tag an archery deer.


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

The Good

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...

The Bad

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

10 comments:

  1. Hi Brian. Thanks for the review! I think you have covered something new that many here in the U.S. have not used.

    How much does this set up cost? I realize I can go over to their website and look it up, but as a product reviewer for a few manufacturers, they usually recommend listing the price. They also want to know if you agree or disagree with the price point. Do you think the price is fair?

    You said the lineman's belt was semi-functional. In what way? I am assuming it came in the complete package. Is that accurate? The reason I ask is that you mentioned you emailed three addresses. On the TrophyLine site there is a listing of eight email addresses, six of which could be contacted about the product.

    I can see why the date on the lineman's belt would be an issue. I believe they are referring to five years of use, but it doesn't state that. Good catch! They should definitely be made aware of that.

    You mention the packaging, too. It would also be helpful to see a photo of the packaging so we know what to look for.

    All-in-all a well done review. Looking forward to hearing your responses!

    Cheers,
    Al

    ReplyDelete
  2. Al,

    I bought the saddle through one of their Canadian pro-staff/agents. I did deal with one person at Trophyline while researching it and she was very helpful but my emails outlining my concerns (sent with photos) remain un-responded to.

    I paid CDN$200, for the Ambush model, which I think they sell direct for US$199. I think the price is OK. Considering you can buy a top brand, fully rated climbing harness package for $80 I think the safety rating would a nice ‘extra’. I would change the supplied karabiner to an aluminum one. The unit was shipped with the saddle, lineman’s belt, safety strap and accessory pouch you clip to the saddle.
    The karabiner loop-end on the lineman’s belt was not tapered before it was stitched. This means that the ‘biner cannot be rotated as it should and when you open the gate it butts against the loop. It does work but makes it a pain in the butt to clip to the saddle because the gate gets jammed in the webbing (so is semi-functional). The ‘biner should be rotated but couldn’t in mine as the loop had been stitched to wide.

    The packaging was a clear vinyl bag. Oh yes, I also never received the instructional DVD, so relied on their website, YouTube and the supplied instructions.

    I do like the idea of the saddle, it’s stealthy and quick to use.

    Thanks, the review was very basic, just to give readers an idea of how the saddle works.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I purchased a saddle this year and have been having fun learning how to use it. If you'd like my copy of the DVD, just let me know and I'll send it to you. I relied upon Beudreaux Boswell's youtube videos more than the DVD however (http://www.youtube.com/user/BoudreauxBoswell#p/u). He covers all of the bases and then some.

    I've never hunted from a tree or elevated stand of any kind, so this is going to be interested. When looking at the various options, the tree saddle seemed by far the safest. All of the other tree stands that I have seen whether in the store or in the woods struck me as being distinctly rickety if I may use that phrase. I know that they are all perfectly safe, but still.

    A friend who hunts from one gave me a tip to purchase a second lineman's belt for when you are ascending and descending the tree. The second belt comes in handy when you have to climb around limbs. You can clip it around the tree to hold you while you unclip the main belt and move it above or below the limb.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, in case you don't already know this, the saddle is distinctly non-sexy and WILL not impress the ladies. In fact, my wife refers to it as my "camo hunting diaper". :-0

    Of course, the kids love it! Way cooler than a tire swing.

    My 11 yr old son
    My 7 yr old daughter

    ReplyDelete
  5. Weird, my original comment didn't seem to post. Here's what I said at first.

    I purchased a saddle this year and have been having fun learning how to use it. If you'd like my copy of the DVD, just let me know and I'll send it to you. I relied upon Boudreaux Boswell's youtube videos more than the DVD however. He covers all of the bases and then some.

    I've never hunted from a tree or elevated stand of any kind, so this is going to be interested. When looking at the various options, the tree saddle seemed by far the safest. All of the other tree stands that I have seen whether in the store or in the woods struck me as being distinctly rickety if I may use that phrase. I know that they are all perfectly safe, but still.

    A friend who hunts from one gave me a tip to purchase a second lineman's belt for when you are ascending and descending the tree. The second belt comes in handy when you have to climb around limbs. You can clip it around the tree to hold you while you unclip the main belt and move it above or below the limb.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bobby,

    Thanks for the comments! I watched Boudreaux's videos as well - very helpful. Haha, a camo hunting diaper is quite accurate. At least it doesn't work as a 'package enhancer' like a cllimbing harness!!

    I do agree with you about some of the traditonal stands, the lower cost ladder stands I looked at did not seem very robust at all!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very interesting product. This is the first I've heard of them, thanks for sharing. I could see this being a great addition to a multiple tree stand collection (which I think is ideal). Although as you mention, I'm skeptical about how comfortable it could be in the sixth hour.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It looks like an interesting piece of equipment to say the least. I'd give it a shot but $200 seems a little steep especially if I decide I'm not a fan. Do you know what their return policy is like? I might just have to stick with one of these ladder stands. In a completely honest and objective opinion do you think that harness is better than a ladder stand (that one I linked if you have the time to look and judge)? I would really like to hear your opinion if you have the time. Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
  9. After some use I would say that the saddle is useful and has some advantages BUT I find it difficult to shoot from and feel that it is over-hyped in my opinion. Its way more mobile than a ladder stand but I find my ladder stand much easier and more silent to get into once its up. In fact I discover last season that if getting close to the first legal deer is your aim you simply can't beat the comfort and convinience of a ground blind.

    ReplyDelete
  10. hi ! Thanks for your information about Tree Saddle - a better tree stand?.now its is easy for me to hunting.thanks again.

    ReplyDelete