Tree Saddle Safety - Living to Tell About a Tree Saddle Fall

May 21, 2020


Immediately after fall              Two days after fall

By: Justin Hunold

I had just seen the biggest buck of my life. This is what going to the midwest was about. He had caught something he didn’t like and wouldn’t commit. Now it was dark and my legs were still shaking from the adrenaline dump. As I slid down out of the tree it happened.

Let’s take a look at what you need to get into a tree with your Trophyline Tree Saddle safe and sound. We all have our chosen climbing method and beyond that we vary in our set up, I’m going to tell you why we shouldn’t. When you get your Trophyline Ambush Lite or Ambush Pro kit you received the very best Tree Saddle you could have for your hard earned dollar. Along with the saddle you got two ropes, one being your tether rope and one being your lineman's rope. These life lines are essential. You cannot saddle hunt without a tether. That rope is the link between you and your tree. You should never climb into a tree with a static climbing method (steps, sticks, bolts..) without a lineman’s rope. We’re on the same page here, nod your head, yes, good…

In the dark with my headlamp on the “Red” light setting I was beginning to slip down the tree. This was a hardwood with a lot of branches to pick my way through. On my way up the tree I had used two lineman's ropes to bypass those branches. On my way down, stupidly I decided not to. As I unclipped to bypass the first branch at about twenty-two feet in the air, in submarine style crimson light, my footing became non-existent. When I stretched back out to grab the other side of the lineman's rope to reclip under the branch, my life started flashing before my eyes. 

So, now that we are having the same conversation about the use of the ropes let’s take a look at them. Trophyline Tree Saddle has mountaineering-grade ropes with Black Diamond Carabiners for hardware. The connecting points for the loops on the ends of the red and black ropes are stitched and sealed. The moveable carabiners are held onto the rope with a prusik knot. Trophyline Tree Saddle even does you a favor and color codes the carabiners for easy identification. So, in low light there is no question which rope goes around the tree to ascend or descend.

I tried to grab the first branch I hit, the second tried to grab me. I cannot tell you how many limbs I hit on the way down but it was somewhere between all of them and infinity. I really had the thought, “You idiot, you’re going to die falling out of the tree the one time you didn’t do it right.”

The linemans rope clips into the two big loops on your saddle at about hip height. To start from scratch, essentially walk up like you’re going to hug the tree and instead wrap the lineman's rope around it and adjust it with the slidable prusik knot until you have a one-to-two foot gap between you and the tree. Lean out and put your weight against the saddle and the rope will take the load. Now, you can use your climbing method to move up the tree readjusting as you go. Do not remove the lineman's rope until you are clipped into the tether at hunting height. To get down, reverse the process.

Upon coming to an abrupt and painful stop on the forest bed, below my still hanging sticks and platform, I checked myself for obvious damage. My arm was numb and tingling, there was no bleeding from my head, my legs worked and my ribs were sore but not painful enough to be broken. As the tingling began to turn into a bit of pain I double checked to make sure my arm didn’t seem broken. Just then my phone rang. It was my fiance, with my 5 month old son on the other side. I was so shaken and happy at the same time my voice was audibly shaking and I was tearing up while I spoke to them. My arm was okay for the most part and my ego was the most bruised, but I know I am one of the lucky ones. The most prevalent accident in the whitetail woods every single year is falling out of a tree, and many of us are seriously injured or even die.  

What could I have done to prevent this? Simple, use two lineman’s ropes like I did on the way up. I keep my ropes in particular pockets on my saddle so that they are easy to access. This keeps me from being lazy. I have even taken to using two lineman’s ropes to navigate over my platform or ring of steps. I think it goes without saying do not ever unclip one without the second already clutching you to the tree. A second Lineman’s rope is available through Trophyline. I would suggest this as an essential purchase for all hunters.

In my scattered brained, adrenaline washed, haist I could have ended up not only not hunting the next morning but not ever going home to my family from Ohio. There is no excuse for not being attached to the tree with a high quality climbing rated rope, at all times. Ever.

I was not successful in taking a deer on that trip. I climbed up the tree and got my stuff down after that phone call. Please take my word, learn from my stupidity. Use as many ways to attach yourself to a tree as you need to to make sure you always have that point of contact. I won’t use the cliche of there are things more important than deer hunting because falling out of a tree for lack of climbing in the safest manner possible isn’t about deer hunting. This my friends is about being smart, not being lazy and having the systems and gear in place to make it home safe.

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