As do-it-yourself hunters, we often have to keep moving and changing stand locations in order to encounter quality deer and adapt throughout the stages of the season. The best hunters I know have their mobile setups dialed to perfection, even though each hunter’s choice in equipment varies greatly. Let’s dive into the setups of five of the best DIY hunters out there to see what they use and why they use it.
I personally use a tree saddle because it really suits my style. My go-to is the Tethrd Phantom Saddle and Predator Platform combo. It’s the lightest and most effective setup I’ve used to date. I love the reduced weight and bulk and the ability to hunt anywhere from ground level to 30 feet up. But that’s not to say I don’t still use a tree stand when the situation calls for it. I recently got the new Hunting Best Stand and it’s the best mobile tree stand I’ve ever used. I have multiple sets of sticks, but my favorites are the Tethrd One Sticks.
Jesse Coots “My mobile setups are a lot like my hunting style: The fundamentals are all the same but the setups differ depending on where I’m hunting. I’m not a big guy, so I prefer to get away with small setups. My go-to climbing stand is a Lone Wolf Hand Climber that I’ve had for 20-plus years and I’ve killed a ton of great animals from it.
“I hunt a lot of states and a lot of public land, so spending big money on multiple sets is out of the question. A lot of my sets are pretty humble. I like a lightweight, compact stand that’s easy to carry in and hang. I buy the cheapest stands I can find most of the time because I can’t afford to have someone else steal a $300 stand. I don’t stress over leaving a $30 stand hung, so that’s what I buy. I like a lot of different climbing sticks, but the price adds up so I only have a few sets. I recommend finding a style that’s quiet to carry and that you’re familiar and confident with.”
Eddie Claypool “My mobile setup is actually a lightweight homemade stand. It’s nothing glamorous but it works for me. I use Ezy-Climb Tree Steps to ascend the tree. For my ‘run-and-gun’ approach to whitetails, in which I do zero pre-scouting and have no prior knowledge of the area, I carry my lightweight tree stand and support gear on my back. I’ll scout through a new area slowly until I find a spot that feels or looks right, then quickly and quietly set up for a hunt. In the rut, I try to sit all day.
“On multi-day hunts, as I glean knowledge of the movement of the local deer, I’ll often adjust my stand location by hunting my way to the better spot. In the early season I’ll move in on observed movement. I often slip through an ag field in the early evening to the woods edge and set up quietly for the ambush. This approach is usually a one-shot, do-or-die type of intrusion.
“For open country whitetails, I’ll sit back, preferably from an elevated viewpoint, and glass deer movement in the evenings and mornings. If I notice a great ambush location, I’ll take full advantage of it and move in for the kill.”
Nathan Killen “I use mobile hunting gear mostly during early season. I want to relocate bucks by moving around strategically and to change location with food sources as they get eaten up. Early season bucks often shift their movements and core areas in response to either changing food sources or pressure from competition among bucks when seasonal rutting activity starts ramping up. It’s equally as important to stay mobile during the late season. Depleted food sources and bedding needs have likely changed since the peak movements of November.
“I also use mobile equipment for out-of-state hunts. The ability to scout on the run and cover large distances in unknown areas is required to locate hot sign or evade hunter pressure. Lightweight equipment is helpful for stealthy movements and just makes the task that much easier and efficient.”
Joe Miles “I guess I’m a bit old school with my mobile setup. I’ve been using it for years and it has always worked well for me. I use a Lone Wolf Assault and the Lone Wolf 3-foot sticks. The only modification I made was adding aiders to the bottom two sticks and covering the sticks in hockey tape and the buckles in silent tape. For the stand, I hockey-taped the edges of platform base, seat, seat tube, and covered the buckles in silent tape. I also run a small pouch on the bottom of the stand that keeps a bow holder, quiver holder, and a screw-in hook. These are the three items I need when I get up the tree to hang my stuff and I don’t want to forget them. I’ll keep backups in my pack, but seeing that pouch reminds me to pull them down and keep them in there.
“I pack five 3-foot sticks and put aiders on the bottom two. I don’t typically use all five sticks, but some of the spots I hunt I really need to get high as the tree cover is not good. When you are going into an unknown area or if you want to be mobile, you don’t know exactly what you are getting into. I like the option of getting up high when terrain or tree cover calls for it. This system gives me that advantage.
“I do also have a saddle and use it some, but it isn’t my go-to. I am very accustomed to my Lone Wolf setup but there is no question a saddle can get you in trees other stands can’t and they’re also super quiet. I used the saddle on a DIY hunt this year in Texas where I was literally hanging off limbs in the mesquite trees. There was no way I could have gotten my portable stand in those trees. I did end up killing a great buck—one I never would’ve gotten a crack at without the saddle.”
Justin Wright “I started mobile hunting at a young age. Since then, I’ve tried to find a quiet yet light setup to move around the terrain. One of my favorite styles is to move around the terrain while still hunting and look for the freshest sign I can find to set up on. I’ve always had a hard time finding a stand that works well for this type of movement. Most stands were just too bulky.
“The Tethrd Saddle and Predator Platform combination is hands-down the best system I’ve found and used. I wear the saddle around my waist with everything I need in the side pouches and the Predator Platform on my back with my cut-down Lone Wolf sticks attached to the Platform by Predator Talons. The system is simple, quiet, and extremely lightweight. I can use it in many ways, either 20 feet up a tree or resting my feet on the ground with the saddle attached around a trunk. It’s effective in any situation, and I’ve also found that shooting from the saddle offers a much wider range of versatility than other tree stands I have used.”
Staying mobile and being efficient with your equipment is so important when hunting pressured areas, and even more so when you target mature animals like the hunters highlighted in this article. As you can see, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to mobile hunting. Different hunters value different things, and everything from light weight to versatility to comfort is important. One thing is for certain—you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to be an effective mobile hunter.
Feature image via Captured Creative.