The morning air was cold and crisp and the wind had diminished from the evening before. This would be the 8 th hunt of the season. Oh… did I mention it was November 12 th in the heart of the rut for whitetail deer in Michigan…. every hunter knows what this means. The deer were on the move the I had been making a record of all the deer I have seen in the previous three days. I was even able to get a six point buck on video tending a scrap then rolling in the grass surrounding the scrape. it would be one of the most unique observations I have been able to witness , while watching a buck in his natural settings.
The hunting location I would hunt for this 8 th hunt was a midsized oak I had moved a stand into only 2 days before. The reason for the move was to adjust to the newly formed three foot by three foot scrape at the top of a ravine. I had a good feeling that deer would be moving in the morning because of the high winds the evening before… and I was right. I walked around the scrape well before light at 5:15am in the morning. As I made it two steps beyond the top of the ravine… all heck broke lose as a large bodied deer pasted by me within ten feet. I figured I had spooked the buck off his scrape and the odds of his return was nill.
I continued to my stand to set-up. It would be the first morning hunting this location since posting the stand. I should fill you in on this… the land I was hunting was State land. When I hunt state land I remove all of my strap on steps and leave the stand in the tree with a padlock attached. I do this in hopes of deterring 2 things; first, to avoid finding other hunters in my stand when I arrive at it and reduce the risk that the stand grows legs and vanishes….both which have happened to me. Because I was there an hour before light I strapped on my steps and hustled up the tree to my stand. I positioned the stand between the new scrap and the cedars… where I knew the buck was calling home.
As I settled in, I hung my bow on the bow holder and sat until light. At first light I grabbed the bow and remained seated. Just as the first hour of light had lapsed I heard a crack, then crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. I thought to myself this thing must be on a mission or a very quick trot. The problem was it was coming from behind my tree. As the steps grew louder I knew I could not flinch, I rotated My head slightly to the Left and out of the corner of my eye I could see a wide set of horns near the forest floor. As I turned my head another 10 degrees, my biggest fear was confirmed. A wide racked 8 point was ten yards from the base of my tree walking right down the footsteps I had put down only 2 hours earlier. But I could not move. Time seemed to stop as the buck continued coming, my hope was that he would pass under the tree and offer a quartering away shot… no such luck. Within five yards the buck raised his head turned his body and now was to the right side of me. I rotated my head slowly 90 degrees to the right and out of the corner of my right eye I could still see the deer as he slowly moved behind a tree. I thought this was my opportunity, so I raised the bow and began to stand.
I thought surely, I would spoke the deer either from my movement or the loudness of my heart pounding in my chest. But to my confusion the deer was gone, vanished – gone — disappeared… where is he… I thought, I was now fully rotated and then… ah, over there…. I could see him. The buck had continued walking away from and directly behind the tree my stand was in, which blocked my vision. By the time I saw the buck again I caught a glimpse of his G-2 and ear walking a B-line 25 yards away…. his pace was brisk. The whole episode of the buck approaching, arriving and departing from behind me probably only took 3 minutes but seemed like 3 hours. From that point on I thought that versatility is what I would seek out in a new hunting stand. I searched high and low until one day by chance I was surfing the internet hunting sites and ran across a discussion posted by other serious bowhunters making mention to a mechanism called a “Tree Saddle.”
With further research, discussion with other hunters and surfing the web I discovered it, Green’s Tree Saddle, an advanced hunting accessory for serious hunters. Finally, a comfortable alternative to the limiting range of a traditional tree stand. I can remember back in the days when my Dad and I would fabricate and preassemble a wood stand, dismantle it then haul it out to the woods and fasten it to tree. And now, a hybrid tree climbing harness, specifically adapted and manufactured for the serious hunter… tree stand technology has come a long way. The limiting factor back then was finding a tree that could accommodate multiple points to fasten the platform supports. As tree stands have advanced from prefabricated steel, to aluminum and now new light weight composites….circular mobility has become an essential to the serious hunter. In fact, hundreds of styles of climbing, strap-on and ladder attached tree stands are available for the hunter…but few offer 360 degree mobility.
At first look of the Tree Saddle, the issue of safety comes to mind, Trophyline LLC, the maker of the Tree Saddle hast put that to rest by offering a safety assist belt used when climbing and a safety anchoring belt. Another nice feature is its light weight, at only 6lbs the deluxe tree saddle and 4lbs for the camo nylon model it can fit into a large back pack. The Tree Saddle is a made in the USA product.
DEER DO LOOK UP…SURPRISE
One thing I know which you can take to the bank is that deer and deer hunting have changed in the past 20 years. I use to witness meandering deer traveling casually, now it seems as though they walk around with one-eye up in the trees. In an area heavily hunted, like the areas I hunt, a hunter has one advantage…the element of surprise. The ability to surprise a deer while it being unsuspecting of danger can offer great shot opportunities and lead to seeing more game. I earmark surprise as the hunter’s biggest advantage when elevated over the game he seeks. Oddly enough, I have found the surprise factor usually only occurs on the first or second time a hunter makes use of his or her stand location. Many other important notable factors that can tilt the odds in your favor when engaged in the fair chase of deer such as things concealing scent (preserving areas of scent contamination from yourself and other hunters), knowing deer traffic and adjusting to deer signs (i.e. scrapes, rubs and licking branches). But, if the monster truck tires in your mind are turning welcome to the club.
The Tree Saddle when used in conjunction with some pre-season tree clearing can be used just about anywhere in a matter of minutes without the aggravation of humping out a tree stand on your back going to and from the woods whenever you change hunting spots. Additionally, hauling a tree stand in and out of the woods will make you sweat, sometimes profusely. If you have a favorite spot and plan on it as being your hunting honey hole, then a traditional tree stand may work to your advantage.
PLACES TO HUNT PRESERVED
But if you hunt in similar areas I do, I see subdivisions pop up at a furious rate and lands for hunting minimize, the requirement of greater mobility has been shifted upon the hunter. Getting in and out of a hunting spot with little or no detection to game is essential. I can’t tell you how many times I would be in the process of clearing a tree and pulling up a tree stand only to look down and see a pair of eyes from mother doe staring back at me. I was busted before the stand was in the tree, she would let out a hoot to alert all the other deer. Then as deer do… to all hunters, she would just pattern me. Mature deer would stay away and yearlings would be the only thing I saw. The Tree Saddle offers quiet setup and use without the creaks associated with some of the stands experience during cold weather hunting.
As I clear out trees for the fall season, I wonder….what if… I would of had this mobility on the morning of November 12 th . Practice has begun with the Tree Saddle to speed up set-up time and develop a level of comfort in use. Having the archery season just around the corner is hair raising enough and adding the Tree Saddle as another option in the my arsenal of stealth-like hunting accessories, the season cannot get here soon enough. The Tree Saddle works for me and my hunting conditions, as tested so far, however, not having a platform to stand on and using the tension of a fastening belt while shooting can take a bit of getting use too. The inconveniences are minimal compared to the 360 mobility and ease of set-up. Each hunter must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using a new type of hunting stand.
My mind returns to visions of November 12 th , I conger the thought of what might have happened the year before if I would of had this accessory…. Who knows? Repeat episodes or not, the archery season is pleasantly upon us.
Green’s Tree Saddle is available in a multiple of sizes based on each individual. According to company officials sales of the Tree Saddle have increased annually as more hunters find this style of hunting acceptable and effective in the Michigan whitetail woods. Additional information on the company and product information can be found at www.trophyline.com.
The author offers a free buck tracking flowchart and fieldnotes pocketguide to those who request it by email at firstname.lastname@example.org