NEW TRIBE AEROHUNTER EVOLUTION SADDLE: POSSIBLY THE ULTIMATE RUN & GUN SETUP

14 Apr

By Michael DiNapoli

 

BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION: Many of Dan’s podcasts have focused on discussions of different tree stand and climbing combinations in a search for the ultimate run and gun setup. I feel that many of the listeners of the Nine Finger Chronicles podcast and readers of the Nine Finger Blog are serious hunters that have also been searching for this “perfect” setup. The problem is that trying different systems involves the expenditure of serious time and money. Dan and I plan on making this pursuit the topic of several podcasts and posts, in the hope that this information can save you some time and money, and provide new ideas. Please feel free to offer suggestions or comments on these posts, both for the authors and others to view.

For starters, I am about average size (5’9 and 175 lbs), average strength, and middle-age (50 yr old), so the techniques and setups I describe should be applicable to most people as long as you use common sense and standard safety practices. I like to be very mobile when I hunt, and as a dedicated gearhead, I am always seeking the best mobile system possible. My goals are a setup that is very lightweight and trim, easy to pack in, quick and quiet to set up and take down, quiet and comfortable while hunting, and does not leave any evidence that I’ve been in a tree before. In this pursuit, I often look at hunting equipment/tree stand vendors and search the traditional websites. However, I also look at non-traditional disciplines and forums, such as arborist work, camping, construction, farming, and equine fields, to get ideas and products to improve and modify my setup. In the past I have used a Lone Wolf climber, and then switched to a Lone Wolf Assault with climbing sticks so I could have more freedom in my tree selection. Most recently, I have begun to experiment with and have switched to a new set up altogether – tree saddles.

This podcast and post will focus primarily on my current system, a New Tribe Aero Hunter Evolution Saddle and modified Lone Wolf Sticks for climbing, and compare it to my Lone Wolf Assault and Stick setup. A future post will discuss and compare different climbing methods, including a comparison of Lone Wolf Sticks, Muddy Pro Sticks, Wild Edge Stepp Ladders, and finally professional arborist tree gaffs.

COMPARISONS OF SYSTEMS: I have taken multiple measurements on actual products (Aero Hunter Evolution, Lone Wolf Assault, Lone Wolf Climbing Sticks, and Muddy Safeguard Safety Harness), and in different combinations in an attempt to provide the most usable information in trying to compare and set up the two climbing systems. For the Lone Wolf “aider” modification, I used camo webbing attached to the bottom of each stick just above the last step. This alteration was adapted from the modifications noted on DIY Sportsman’s YouTube videos, except with a single step added to each stick instead of multiple steps. I found that this change makes climbing more stable and consistent, and likely safer (especially in the dark). These aiders extend the same distance below the stick as the distance between the Lone Wolf steps (15”), to keep climbing more consistent and safe. I also added an 8” length of ½” rubber gas-type hose on each rope to hold the step open, make it easier to find and step into, and to cushion the step on my boot. It works very well, and seems very stable. When I climb with the sticks, I grab the sticks and steps to support myself and prevent kick-out – I have not had any difficulties. This modification allows me to climb an extra 60″ (5′) with the same 4 sticks, while only adding several ounces per stick. One additional thing worth noting is that the Aero Hunter Evo is its own safety harness and lineman’s belt, whereas any other tree stand requires an additional harness and lineman’s belt, which adds additional weight and components.

 

Measurements were taken from an Aero Hunter Evo folded and in its sack, a folded LW Assault stand, stacked LW Sticks, and a Muddy Safeguard safety harness. Attainable Height was based on actual stick length (32”) with 15” between sticks to keep step spacing consistent.

 

Measurements were taken from actual products: 1) Aero Hunter Evo in sack (which can be carried, placed in backpack, or worn), and separate stacked LW Sticks. 2) LW Assault with stacked LW sticks placed on top and bound down as prepared to carry as single unit on back, and separate Muddy Safety Harness. For Attainable Height, see notes in prior table.

 

As can be seen, several things become very apparent when placed in tables for comparison. The Aero Hunter Evo weighs 6.2 pounds, which is 7.5 pounds lighter then the Lone Wolf Assault with the Muddy safety harness combined at 13.7 pounds. The modification to the Lone Wolf sticks as noted above with the single step aider at the bottom of each stick also provides additional height with no significant increase weight, which can be used to reduce the number of required sticks. This typically allows one less stick to be used to attain a similar or greater height then with the unmodified sticks. For example, three sticks with aiders will reach the same 15-foot height as four unmodified sticks, and at a weight savings of 1.75 pounds. This weight savings increases with desired height, up to a reduction of two sticks and 3.5 pounds at a height of 30 feet.

In an extreme comparison of maximum and minimum SYSTEM WEIGHT at average attainable heights, weight savings achievable with modifications to this or any similar systems become readily apparent and can be substantial. For example, a standard 15-foot set up with a Lone Wolf Assault, safety harness, and 4 unmodified sticks weighs 23.7 pounds. A similar 15-foot set up with the Aero Hunter Evo and 3 modified sticks weighs 14.5 pounds, for a weight savings of 9.2 pounds. For a 30-foot setup, the weight savings increases to 11 pounds.

 

IN THE FIELD:

Now for the in the field testing results, as all of the above weight savings would be for naught if the system did not work, was unsafe, or was unmanageable. I am happy to report that the Aero Hunter Evo and modified stick system does work very well indeed. I have found that the system is very light, quiet, comfortable, usable, and safe. In general, I use the system in the following way: I typically put the Aero Hunter Evo on at my house or when I get out of my truck, so I don’t need to carry it. It is comfortable and quiet to wear while walking to a tree to set up, or while scouting. The Evo is also very quick and quiet to put on at the base of the tree, so this is an option if you prefer to carry it. I strap my Gearhead T-24 bow to my Sitka Toolbox backpack, and wear the combination to the stand. I also carry 4 to 5 of the modified Lone Wolf sticks with me, which will get me from 20 to 25 feet up a tree.

In this photo, my entire system can be seen: the Aero Hunter Evo and knee pads on the right, 5 modified Lone Wolf Sticks stacked together on the back left, and my T-24 strapped to my Sitka backpack on the front left.

 

I have a small pouch that I have attached to the side of the Evo (see PHOTO 2) to hold a folding saw, pruning shears, a bow holder, and a hook for my backpack. In addition, I have placed four 8-inch loops around the sides of the Evo through which I hang the sticks so that I can carry them as I climbed the tree (see PHOTO 3). I wear my backpack and bow as I climb, so that I only need to climb up the tree once. I put my first two sticks on the tree from the ground, and then place my lineman’s belt around the tree and begin to climb. As I climb, I remove each additional stick from the loops on my saddle and attach each step above the last. Once I reach my climbing height, I place the tree strap rope around the tree as high up as I can reach. I then clip the tree strap to the rope bridge in the center of the Evo, and then detach the lineman’s belt, and coil it and clip it to the Evo. I then settle back slowly into the seat of the saddle and rest my feet on the top step of the last stick. I typically put my bow-holder on the left side of the tree, and hang my backpack from a hook in front of me and just above the tree strap. This provides good access to both.

This a photo of the Evo with two 8-inch loops attached to the right side of the belt. I loop the top “legs” of the sticks through the loops (as seen in the circled area) to carry the sticks as I climb. It is a very simple setup that is quick, quiet, and easy to use. (Two other loops are also placed on the left side of the saddle to carry a total of 4 sticks.)

 

I can be up in a tree and ready to hunt in 7 to 10 minutes – quicker and more quietly than with a climber or lock-on stand, and with more versatility in tree selection. There is no need to try to wrestle a lock-on into position and make noise getting it set. Further, the Evo can be setup in any tree over 6″ in diameter, regardless of branching, making it very flexible.

I have found that shooting from a saddle takes a little getting used to at first. Therefore, I recommend buying and practicing with the system in the off-season prior to your first hunt. However, with just a small amount of practice, I have found that accurate shots out to 50 yards and beyond are the norm. You must use your feet on the steps and your knees on the tree to adjust and steady yourself for a shot. Typically, you will be facing the tree when set up. Therefore, you should be facing the direction that you feel the deer are most likely to come from. This will give you additional coverage by the tree trunk, and provide for the easiest shot opportunities. The easiest shots will be in front of you and toward your left side out to about 180°. Shots to the right side will generally require you to reposition your feet and turn your body to clear the tree trunk. This sounds more complicated than it is, and there are many good videos on YouTube and on the Aero Hunter website which show how this works and how to accomplish shots from different angles. Further, many people bring several strap-on or screw-in steps with them that they attach to the tree and use for foot supports once they reach their desired height. I’m experimenting with several of these ideas including the Wild Edge Stepp Ladders at this time, and will report on my findings in a later post.

In general, I have found that the Aero Hunter Evo is very comfortable to hunt from, even with all day sits. I find that it does not produce any tension or pressure on the back of thighs or buttocks when adjusted correctly. In addition, it provides good back support on its own, and I do not find that I get uncomfortable with prolonged sits. There is an additional padded back-support strap which can be purchased from New Tribe, if desired. I have tried this support strap, and it makes me feel like I am sitting in a lounge chair with plenty of back support. Much of the time, I sit in the seat of the saddle with my feet on the top step and my knees bent and resting against the tree. This is a very comfortable position, however I have found that it is necessary to wear padded knee protectors to cushion your knees and protect your clothing. Periodically, I will stand on the top step and straighten my legs, hips, and back, and rest against the saddle and tree strap. This allows for a good stretch and to improve circulation. I find I do the same shifting and standing even when I am in a traditional tree stand. All in all, I find that I am at least as comfortable or more comfortable in the Evo as in a traditional tree stand during all day hunts.

The only difficulty that I have found is when using the Aero Hunter Evo with a heavy parka or bibs. I have found that if you try to put the saddle over a heavy parka, it tends to want to slide down and off your waist while climbing. I have gotten around this problem by attaching a small set of over-the-shoulder suspenders to hold it in place. This works very well. The other method is to wear the Evo under your parka. However, your parka will need to ride up over the front of the saddle and the rope bridge in order to close and buckle in the front. This tends to leave some cold spots and gaps in the clothing. Either of these methods works well, and the user just needs to experiment to find which method works best for his clothing and purposes.

 

 

VIDEO: It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and I suppose a video is worth a thousand pictures. Therefore, for expediency and to better demonstrate the system, I recorded and posted a video on YouTube of how I use this entire system, including an explanation showing the modifications to the Lone Wolf climbing sticks. (Click on this link or cut and paste: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=K_9JoIoyvJg into your browser, or you can search YouTube for Michael DiNapoli Aero Hunter R&G Setup.) This video shows me climbing a tree, setting up at height, moving around the tree, shooting at a target from the tree, and finally descending from the tree. It took me approximately 6-½ minutes from the time I arrived at the base of the tree to the time I was set up and ready to shoot—including moving slowly and explaining the process for the video.

PROS:

  1. Lightweight and compact
  2. Easier to pack-in to a stand location than lock-on
  3. Quicker, quieter, and easier to setup than a traditional lock-on stand
  4. Allows a single climb up to hunting height with all gear, instead of 2+ climbs for sticks, stand, bow, and backpack
  5. As comfortable or more comfortable then a lock-on type stand
  6. Allows hunter to move behind the tree for concealment from approaching game
  7. Allows the use of nearly any tree size or configuration, therefore increasing flexibility in stand placement

CONS:

  1. Does not provide typical ground-type footing and stance for shooting, as from a traditional stand. This takes some practice prior to hunting season, however does not present a significant hindrance to accuracy.
  2. Shots on game approaching from the right side require some movement and repositioning to enable good shot placement.
  3. I have found some mild difficulty using saddles with heavy clothing, especially a heavy parka, as noted above. This requires some experimentation to see what works best for the user.

SUMMARY: In summary, the New Tribe Aero Hunter Evolution and modified Lone Wolf sticks just may be the “Ultimate Run & Gun Setup.” I have found that the Evo has really changed my setup and possibilities. It lightens my load significantly compared to a lock-on, and is quicker and quieter to set up. It enables me to climb a tree and get completely set with a single climb. Once in the tree, I have found the Evo to be very comfortable and quiet, and to allow very good concealment, as well as good shot opportunities and placement. This setup, including the modified Lone Wolf sticks, has become my primary Run & Gun setup for the majority of my hunting.

Will I continue to use my Lone Wolf lock-on stands? – Absolutely! The Lone Wolf stands and sticks are some of the best products on the market. They are well-built, stable, reliable, quiet, and fit together in a very compact and efficient manner for transport. For a lock-on tree stand and system, they are also among the lightest. I will still continue to use my Lone Wolfs, incorporating them into my entire hunting strategy, but primarily for more permanent placement of stands in known travel corridors, or to set up in trees that I anticipate using 2 to 3 days in a row.

Part of the fun of experimenting is to try to envision and test all of the different combinations available to see what works best for you and your style. As such, this system and process will always be in “evolution,” and I will report any significant findings along the way. I also encourage all of you to chime in with any comments or suggestions. A future post will discuss and compare different climbing methods, including a comparison of Lone Wolf Sticks, Muddy Pro Sticks, Wild Edge Stepp Ladders, and finally professional arborist tree gaffs.

Further information on the above products can found at:
Aero Hunter Evolution:   aerohunter.us
Lone Wolf:                          lonewolfhuntingproducts.com
Muddy Outdoors:              gomuddy.com

Best wishes,
Michael DiNapoli

2 Responses to “NEW TRIBE AEROHUNTER EVOLUTION SADDLE: POSSIBLY THE ULTIMATE RUN & GUN SETUP”

  1. Brandon M April 14, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

    I have been an Aero Hunter for the past two seasons. Camo knee pads are availalable online. Knee pads are a must. Single step Strap on tree steps work well to hold gear and can be combined to make a foot rest that can allow you to rotate around the tree for more shot opportunities. I appreciate the adjustability of the tree saddle and bridge. With as little as 1″ adjustment to the bridge can change the comfort level. Glad to see the review.

  2. chris wilson April 15, 2017 at 12:13 am #

    Dan,

    Nice review-very comprehensive. I especially enjoyed your charts of weight and height attained per system.

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