Opinion: Saddles Will Never Replace Tree Stands

Opinion: Saddles Will Never Replace Tree Stands

I hate talking about the first time I experimented with a tree saddle. It reminds me that I'm not exactly young anymore.

The first time I dove into the world of saddle hunting was when reading John Eberhart's book Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails. The classic was the first mention of a hunting saddle I'd seen, and the book was released in 2003. For those who didn't major in math, that's more than two decades ago.

At the time, saddle options were limited, and there weren’t brands dedicated to producing saddle-hunting accessories. Still, it was fun to experiment, and I could see where a saddle would offer some advantages. Ultimately, I decided the saddle game wasn't worth the sore hips and weird shooting angles.

Fast-forward twenty-plus years, and today, we're in the midst of a certified saddle-hunting explosion that has all the cool kids and influencers unable to utter a sentence without first asking, “Do you even saddle, bruh?”

I own a few saddles and will spend a fair amount of time hunting from them this fall. That said, they are a tool and, in my opinion, one that's inferior to a lock-on stand in many (if not most) situations. I realize there are plenty who will disagree, and that's fine. But I'm pretty set on the statement. A tree saddle, while useful, can never fully replace a lock-on stand setup. Here's why.


Yes, I have heard the claims and seen the YouTube testimonials. And the fact is, a tree saddle is super comfortable. And then gravity takes over. No matter how great your saddle fits or how many gallons of pre-workout you pound before blowing up at the local gym, you can not defy the effects of gravity. Hanging from a saddle will take its toll on your body. I feel it in my hips, my back, and my legs. To combat this, I spend more time standing on my platform to relieve the fatigue and pressure.

None of this happens when using a solid, moderately sized lock-on stand. Yes, when spending multiple hours in one of the uber-light (and uber-tiny) stands, I'll get a sore butt, an aching back and a touch of claustrophobia. But when using a stand with a larger platform, it's much easier for me to stay on the stand most of the day.

The bottom line is that a lock-on stand provides comfort for a longer period of time.


One of the primary selling points of a saddle is its ability to be used in a variety of trees. I won't deny this versatility. You can deploy a saddle in a wide array of trees, including those that lean heavily.

But here’s the thing: While you can technically utilize a saddle in those trees, actually hunting or shooting from can be big-time problematic. Again, gravity comes into play. When using a saddle in a tree with a heavy lean, I’ve found it exceptionally hard to set up in a way that doesn't have me face-planting into the trunk of the tree any time I try to maneuver, or swing around the opposite side of the tree because of the pull of gravity.

While lock-on stands are limited to trees with moderate leans or less, stands with adjustable bases will work well in all but the heaviest-leaning trees.

Saddles can also be tough to use in trees with multiple limbs as the tethers and ropes tend to be hampered by those limbs. Again, multi-limbed trees aren’t much of a problem for a lock-on stand.

To be fair, there are certain trees on which a saddle can be used that would give a lock-on stand trouble, and trees with smaller-than-ideal trunks are one such instance. But overall, I’ve had fewer issues selecting a suitable tree when using a lock-on stand than when using a saddle.

Shot Options

Another primary talking point of a saddle is the ability to shoot at virtually any angle from the tree. This is, technically, true. In reality, some shots are pretty darned tough to pull off. In fact, shots on your offhand side are tricky, requiring you to spin around on a tiny platform and use your tether to lock yourself against the tree trunk. That shot option would be stupidly easy to pull off from a lock-on stand.

I'm not saying shooting from a saddle is always difficult. It isn’t. Strong-side shots are a breeze, and shooting behind the tree is far easier than doing so on a saddle or a lock-on stand in most instances.

But I will say this: I have missed out on close-range shot opportunities from a saddle simply because I couldn’t get my body positioned in a manner that would allow me to draw my bow. That has never happened in a lock-on stand.


This point (like this entire piece) is a point of personal preference formed from experience.

To me, deploying a lock-on stand is just easier than dealing with a saddle. I'm not saying there's a huge difference between the two, and I will be honest and admit that if I were to spend more time using a saddle, the familiarity factor would be reduced. But I can get a set of climbing sticks in place, a lock-on stand secured to the tree, and ready to hunt in a hurry.

My saddle setups don't take much more time, but there is almost always a bit more of a fiddle factor in getting things set just right, which I don't encounter when using a lock-on stand.

Overall, my preference is to grab a solid set of climbing sticks and a lock-on stand. I'll certainly keep the saddle in my arsenal. It's a handy tool that I wouldn't want to go without, but, for this bowhunter, a saddle simply isn't a complete replacement for a lock-on stand, and likely never will be.

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