At first glance mobility isn’t much of an issue in bowhunting. Stand hunting for whitetails isn’t like elk hunting in the mountains, you just sit and wait for the deer to walk by, right? And who needs to be mobile while hunting over a food plot or bait, just wait long enough and the deer will eventually show up, especially if you’ve designed your property well? Moving treestands or ladder stands around is a pain in the ass anyway. But here’s a piece of news for you. Deer, especially bucks, are constantly reacting and adjusting to you and your presence. Hunt a stand just a bit too often and deer activity can dry up fast. If you want to have regular success, and don’t have fantastic exclusive property, you must think out of the box. The answer to this is mobility. By constantly adjusting, moving, and hunting smart you can take bucks by surprise, and stay one step ahead.
In order to stay a step ahead you need the right tool that allows mobility, and this tool is a Tree Saddle or Sling (there are a couple different varieties available). A saddle or sling weighs about a pound, and coupled with enough steps or climbing sticks is lighter than any treestand could ever be. You take it with you when you go, which means you can set up as many trees as you want, and aren’t limited by the number of treestands you own. I have gone into seasons with more than a hundred trees prepared and ready to go. I may only hunt a fraction of those trees, but if need be they are ready. With so many trees ready to hunt from you have more options, and opportunity to react instantly when a spot heats up, or simply becomes ready to hunt. Beyond that you can hunt from almost any tree with a sling system, which allows you to focus on deer sign and not merely on possible trees to hunt from. Find a good area and usually there is a tree you can hunt from. Keeping this in mind, you can also adjust to changing deer movement by switching to new trees on a whim, without having to lug some heavy stand around.
The other major benefit to a saddle or sling is that you aren’t restricted to a platform. You sit facing the tree and are able to move around the entire trunk. This gives two major advantages that will undoubtedly increase your success. The first is that it allows you to shoot 360 degrees around the tree. Mature bucks almost always throw a curve and come in from some unexpected direction. And, in pressured areas you usually only get a single opportunity. Being able to make the shot when it arises is critical. While hunting from a treestand there is always a zone that remains unshootable. The second advantage is that in a sling or saddle you can use the trunk of the tree for cover. When a deer approaches you simply slowly move around the trunk, keeping it between you and the deer. Saving money is another big factor when using a sling or saddle. A saddle or sling costs about the same as a good treestand, but you only need one no matter how many trees you hunt from.
Hunting from a sling system is a departure from more traditional treestand hunting and takes a minor readjustment in thinking. You have to basically look at trees backwards, because you face the tree, and not away from the tree. Getting used to a saddle also takes some getting used to. I recommend picking one up now and working with it in your yard until you find your comfort spot, and learn how to shoot from it. Saddle hunting is also much safer than hunting from a treestand since it functions as its own safety belt. Once you learn the many benefits of saddle or sling hunting you will only rarely go back to a treestand. (There are a few instances where a treestand is the better option, so it should remain a tool in your bag of tricks.)
Mobility, and constant adjustment, is a basic tenet of the Eberhart Bowhunting System. A Tree Saddle or Sling is one of the most essential tools to regular success on big mature bucks. Learning how to hunt from a sling simply gives you more options while hunting. The more options you have the better your chances are going to be. The benefit of saddle hunting will become even more evident as I delve into more details of bowhunting pressured whitetails in the weeks to come.
– Chris Eberhart