It’s one of the first questions saddle hunters get. And not unlike treestand hunters, it’s largely the same way–with a few exceptions. Saddle hunters by and large are minimalists. To them, shaving every extra ounce out of their setup is one of their main goals... so they’ll use climbing sticks–but they’ll cut their length down so that instead of having three steps available, it reduces the stick down to two steps. They’ll then make up that lost step by tying a rope step on(think of a stirrup on a horse saddle)which is lighter. Just as importantly, it reduces bulk. A 20-inchlong section of climbing stick simply packs easier than one that’s a full foot longer.LoneWolf climbing sticks, Muddy Pro, Hawk Heliumsand now Dan Infalt’s “Beast sticks” are all popular sticks in the saddle-hunting community. If you decide to cut a factory stick down, just be aware that you’re most likely voiding any warranty associated with it. Another popular climbing method is to use a strap-on step like the ones offered by Bullman Outdoors. Saddle hunting is perfect for going in deep and bouncing around public land where you don’t want to leave a stand out to be stolen. But almost always those public-land regulations dictate that climbing methods that would harm a tree are illegal, meaning no screw-in steps. Bullman’s Silent Approach Climbing System consists of 12 injection-molded plastic steps combined with a nylon strap and cam buckle that weigh less than 5 ½ pounds total. Another option is Cranford Manufacturing’sEZ Climb Folding Rope Step, which is a steel step with a rope attachment system, with each step coming in at 9 ½ounces.In the world of strap-on steps, probably no other offering provides more of a solid foundation than the SteppLadder by Wild Edge. Consisting of a steel rung in a triangular-shaped design, a rope is spliced onto one end and then passed around the tree and looped with a specific knot to the other side. Once the rope is fairly tight, the hunter pulls up on the Stepp and then “cams” it down onto the tree which locks it in place. This simple action results in a public-land legal foothold so sturdy that Wild Edgeoften shares pictures and video on their website of a full-grown man sitting atop a 400cc four-wheeler dangling by a come-along winch from one.EachSteppweighs less than a pound and can be ordered in any number the hunter wishes. Many saddle hunters have taken to using “aiders” in the form of nylon webbing which they loop around their foot and clip the other end onto a step or loop tied onto a climbing stick with a carabiner. This technique can possibly reduce the number of steps needed to climb a tree from10 or more all the way down to three or four; however, it does take a good bit of athletic ability and confidence to employ. As with any time you leave the ground, you should be securely attached to the tree through the use of either a lineman’s belt or tether above your head. If you have the luxury of hunting private land, even more options are available to you. The aforementioned screw-in steps have long been a favorite of mobile hunters, and climbing spurs such as those worn by arborists when removing trees are rapidly gaining in popularity. Another common technique is drilling a hole and slipping a 6” grade-8 bolt in. Of course, all these methods can potentially damage a tree, so either make sure you’re using these methods on your own land or have permission from the landowner.
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