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kwilson16 05-01-2007 09:33 AM

Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review

I apologize for the long post and the delay in posting this info - I meant to write it up after the season. I purchased the Ambush Saddle last summer and used it extensively for the 2006-2007 hunting season. Cost is less than $200. Overall quality is excellent and the directions are clear/simple. You do not need the extra long attaching strap. I have no affiliation with any manufacturer.

For those who have not seen this device, it's a harness-style system that allows you to climb a tree with screw-in tree steps. At the top, the hunter stands on 4-8 tree steps circled around the tree and straps into the trunk at eye level. It allows for 360 degree shooting and set-up is quiet and quick. I bow-killed two deer from the sling that I could not have gotten without it. I shot one buck from the sling with a muzzleloader but the sling was not a direct, contributing factor in this kill.

The Bad News:
1. This system will not be comfortable for heavy hunters. I am 5'10" and 205 lbs and I can spend all day in the sling but a short break sometime during the day is really nice.
2. To be effective, you will need a collection of spiked trees throughout your properties. Tree steps are not free steps!It takes 17-20 tree steps to set-up a tree - depending on the height you desire. It has taken me about 12 months and 200+ spikes to scout/clear/spike enough trees to provide the basic array of stands I wanted.
3. Most climbers/lock-ons/ladders have a rail around the stand that makes for handy rifle rest. The only substitute is to rest the rifle against the tree when using the saddle.
4. Most climbers are a lot more comfortable than the ambush saddle.
5. You will have to practice with your bow and the saddle to become accustomed to shooting from it (should do this anyway).

The Good News:
1. You can shoot 360 degrees around the tree by silently pushing yourself around the trunk with your feet. This flexibility is very potent. I bow-killed a forkhorn that appeared at 30 yards from a completely unexpected direction. I just leaned backward and shot him in a direction 180 degrees from my initial facing direction. I could never have shot at this deer from a climber, ladderor lock-on.
2. You can easily and silently carry the entire set-up (including spikes) in your pack and scout with it on your back. Although it takes a few minutes to install the steps, you can set-up and hunt 'on-the-fly'. This is very handy when hunting on new properties. Or, you can spike the trees any other time of the year and be ready to hunt when you show up.
3. If you are hunting a tree that is already spiked, arrival and set-up are very quiet and quick.
4. As you hang in the stand, the trunk acts as natural cover/concealment (especially if you select a forked tree with some background cover). Keep the trunk between you and the deer's most likely arrival direction.
5. You can hunt from any tree that will support your weight. We maintain a designated ladder stand overlooking a feeder for my father-in-law (he's 63 - hope I am still bowhunting at this age). A climber would not even have come close to working on any of the trees in this area but I set-up in a small, forked tree to overlook the feeder when my father in law was not hunting it. The deer had become accustomed to checking the ladder stand for hunter presence before eating at the feeder. However, because I was in a different tree and I was able to shoot a nice doe that snuck into the feeder.
6. You can safely sleep in the saddle after early morning arrivals.
7. It is pretty much impossible to fall from this thing. The sling includes a safety strap that is used while climbing up the trunk. I leave this strap connected and loosen it while on the stand. This adds an extra layer of redundancy on an already secure and safe system.
8. No one can steal your stand. If you're worried about some one stealing your steps, you can remove the bottom 4-6 steps and install them upon your arrival. I have not had anyone steal my steps. I don't think any of the 'competition' has even identified my spiked trees - unless I showed them.
9. The deer in my area are hard hunted and they look in trees constantly. However, because the appearance/presentation of the hunter-in-tree is so much different than with a ladder/climber/lock-on, the deer are notsuspicious.
10. Thesaddle has a designated connector to allow it to be used as a traditional safety harness when hutning from a regular tree stand.

I have not discarded my climber or lock-on! They still provide superior comfort and are vital tools despite limiting my fields of fire.

A lot of my hunts are limited to half days (because work keeps interfering with my hobby...). The saddle allows me to set-up and hunt efficiently and quietly on the shorter days. I had a chance to hunt out-of-state in Tennessee and the saddle allowed me to scout the property and set-up trees simultaneously. I also believe that being able to hide behind the trunk of the tree (instead of perching in front) is a significant advantage. Lastly, the ability to hunt from almost any tree is great because you can pick your spot then make a tree work. The small, funky shaped trees provide excellent cover and are easy to climb.

Overall, I am really keen on the saddle and would highly recommend it with the noted limitations.

brucelanthier 05-01-2007 09:39 AM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
Good review. I got the ambush saddle to use this year. I also got Lone Wolf climbing sticks to use instead of the screw in steps. I will still be taking about 5 steps to use at the top of the tree.

LebeauHunter 05-01-2007 11:17 AM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
Thanks for the info. This makes me curious about them, when before I wasn't about to use one of those things.

il coyote 05-01-2007 11:23 AM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
Nice post.

I'd been thinking of getting one and doing more hunting on the fly. I hate using screw in steps, so I'll probably go with strap ons.

Good to see some info on the saddle that isn't just advertising.

statjunk 05-01-2007 01:21 PM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
You said that the saddle is less comfortable. Please explain the areas of most of your discomfort?

I've been wanting to check on those out for some time.

Thanks for the good review.


kwilson16 05-01-2007 02:31 PM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
The saddle and the sling are the same product. I think one company bought the other one out. There are a couple of different models but they all offer the same moderate comfort level.

Overall, the saddle/sling is comfortable. However, there are really only three positions you can be in:

1. Feet on tree steps; slouched against the tree.
2. Standing on tree steps and leaning straight back against the sling - my favorite.
3. Standing on tree steps with knees against the tree (more comfortable than it sounds, but might be better with cheap set of knee pads)

After 5-6 hours, these three postions get old and you begin to daydream about relaxing in a cushy climbing tree stand seat. You can usually remain absolutely motionless in a tree stand for an hour or two but the saddle requires occasional position shifts. I try to compensate for this by hunting higher and selecting gnarly trees with lots of background cover.

statjunk 05-01-2007 03:12 PM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review

Could you just remove your feet from the Tree all together and just lay against the tree supported completely by the harness? How long would your comfort last in this position?

Also does the harness or anything else make stress noises when you are moving?

I'm envisioning a deer creeping along the other side of your tree. Then you would put your feet on the tree and swing around to the other side. Would a move like this make stressing noise on the harness? Is it enough for deer to hear down on the ground?

Where you ever busted while in this rig? (That you know of!)

On average how high did you climb? What is the highest you climbed?



kwilson16 05-01-2007 09:16 PM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review

Yes. You could use the sling in the position described. It would be very similar to position (1) above. Comfort is a very subjective thing but I can say that this is the postion I sleep in - if that gives you an indication of comfort level. I would say it would good for at least 40 mintues depending on personal tolerances. Your readiness to shoot will be somewhat less then (2) or (3) but it requires less movement than standing in a regular stand.

No. There are no stress/creaking noises associated with the harness itself. It's kind of hard to explain but the movement occurs between two loops of strap withoutthetorsional (big word) effect that makes creaks. But.... If there are loose pieces of bark on the trunk they can be scraped off as you move. This will definitely make noise and it will compounded as the flakes hit the ground. Some tree barks are much less prone to this kind of noise. If I cannot select a quiet-barked tree, then I remove any loose bark - preferably before season.

I was never busted by a deer within my field of view. I imagine that I was probably busted by a deer that saw me before I saw it. The saddle requires occasional position shifts and this movement is a vulnerability. There is just no getting around it unless you're some kind of Karate Monk Gymnast that can remain motionless for long periods. My reading tells me that the primary mitigation for this vulnerbaility is to hunt higher. I moved most of my foot-supporting spikes from 20 ft (+/-) to around 25 ft during this offseason. Higher would be better but an honest 25 feet is pretty far up (in my book).

I have one stand that is 30 ft to the foot supporting spikes. It is located in a small, relatively open staging area with no large trees. Height was my only option for concealment. Your nerves and ability to compensate for downhill trajectory are your only height limiting factors. Most people would probably hunt higher than me.

I am kind of surprised that this post has not attracted more members who love or hate this thing. It's at least as interesting as the whisker bisquit/drop away/scentlok/mechanical/fixed debates!

johnnydialtone 05-01-2007 10:18 PM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
You got me thinking about this type of stand. I am all about moving around and hunting new areas and lately have been using my Summit climber over my API Aluma Lock magnum stands. The Summit is much quicker and more comfortable but it is a climber and only works on certain trees and since it is metal it makes noise when moving through the brush.

This style of stand sounds perfect for someone that moves around a lot. I still don't like screwing in all those steps, or carrying around climbing sticks. Sounds like it might work well in evergreen trees.

What made you go with the tree sling over the tree suit and Guido's web?

Greg / MO 05-01-2007 10:26 PM

RE: Tree Saddle or Ambush Sling - a season in review
Thanks for taking the time to contribute here; these are the kinds of posts that are really appreciated by a lot of folks.

I haven't had the time to read through everything yet... I want this to get the play it deserves in this more frequented forum and then after a couple days or so I'll try to remember to move it over to the gear review forum so people looking for equipment reviews can find it in there... and I'll leave a link to it here as well. Like I said, I won't do that for a couple days...

Thanks for posting and being willing to help out with all the follow-up questions!

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