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Tree Stand for Longer Ranges August 2021
Gerhard Schroeder  

Oh, so great that my 6.5 PRC shoots accurately, and that out to beyond five football fields. The Mauser M18 has by now demonstrated that several times. That is, shooting from what we typically call ‘bench (rest)’. Trouble is, when hunting there is no ‘bench’. Or is there?!?

In Germany they have (plenty of) high stands. Not exactly a bench, on stilts, but surely featuring wooden walls or rails to rest the gun or support hand on, and at least one elbow. Then it dawned. Archery hunters so often employ tree stands at locations they believe or hope game animals will show up at. That gave me the idea for a tree stand. Not in a tree, but on the ground near one.

In November 2020 my shot at a whitetail came after waiting all morning next to a juniper from where I had a fine view of the opposing slope. A few times I carefully changed my position around that tree, moving with its shade. All I had then was a Primos Tripod. Just as the archers, why not prior to the hunt stash a tree stand – OK, not a stand but a shooting table! My criteria for such a thing were: cheap to make so that if need be it could be abandoned; light enough to carry it into position without risking a heart attack; and above all sturdy enough to allow accurate aiming and therefore shooting.

Two shooting ‘aids’ I already had for comparison: the Primos Tripod, and my usual shooting table. That one, with four 1” steel pipes as legs, surely is stable, heavy and expensive to make. The Primos Tripod obviously beats offhand or kneeling unsupported. But after lots of shooting it simply does not provide the steadiness I wanted – make that needed.

In early 2021 C-19 still affected the land. Time to think, plan and build some field shooting tables. Note that lumber from, in this case Home Depot’s scrap bin, is quite suitable.

08 April 2021, little wind. Paper target 520 yds away. Here are the field shooting tables I evaluated, using the M18 in 6.5 PRC and handloads with 135 and a few 140 grain Bergers.

First up was my old and trusted shooting table, the one shown here with a longer wider top surface, steel legs and no gun on it. Shooting off that provided a benchmark (d’oh).

Data is data – my 4 shots landed just right, with 3 going into 2.5”, and the 4th flying right to make it 5.8”. Nothing breathtaking, but clearly every time a boiler room hit on even a small whitetail deer. Before shooting again, I gave my scope 4 clicks. Note that these 4 shots were taken with typical sandbags in front and a heavy rear rest. The next shots reported on below where all taken with a light field front support and light rear gun rest, filled loosely with plastic beads. That all easily fits into a back pack.

Next up, the 3-leg design. 4 shots into 6.6” (best 3 into 5.2”). It has been my experience that light weight 3-leg shooting tables tend to wiggle sideways, and it happened again here. That instability is even worse when constructing the front and side sections with boards running flat – I tried that first and dismissed such construction. But even that shaky 3-legger provided more support than just the Primos Tripod. This table also took the most effort of assembly, a minor consideration when the thing is set up prior to the hunt. Constructed from mostly 1x3 boards.

4-Leg design, thread attachment. Buddy David did the welding. We use pipe couplings, cut them in half at an angle, weld them to some type of suitable steel plate for the table mount. Legs are 2x3. The mount consists of a pipe nipple, cut in half, welded onto a section of angle iron, and then a plate welded to it, so the leg end sits inside a channel. The metal work took its time. This table ended up the heaviest, but it is sturdy! Only slight fore-aft movement. 4 shots into 3.6” (best 3 into 3.3”). Again, that’s at 520 yds. Hmm, I’d like to have a table like that available every time I fire a hunting shot.

4-Leg design, bracket attachment. I happen to have plenty of 7/32 thick and 1.125” wide steel flat stock. But since it is galvanized, welding is nasty, unhealthy, actually. Hence my idea to bend the stuff into leg brackets, to about 120 degrees. Turns out this was the easiest table to build, also the cheapest.

Homemade bracket. Since that worked well, I later improved on it by
doubling the bracket, and using 1/4” through-bolts to attach each leg.
Compared to the thread attachment, though, this table has noticeably more fore & aft movement. Attaching 4 legs via 16 screws also takes a bit longer. But so what. Three shots into 2.9”. And yes, during discharge that puppy rocked back noticeably. Still, with respect to a deer kill zone, that’s more than 100% margin. At 520 yards the rocking due to recoil did not seem to mess with accuracy.

I had saved 3 shots to try the 3-leg table again (3 into 6.9”). 3-legs are simply not as sturdy.

In total, at those 520 yds all 19 shots landed in 7.9 inches – dead deer every time.

A few days later an opportunity appeared. David brought a Bog Deathgrip to try. That morning we had more wind. Even so, target was again at 520 yards. I was testing 135 grain Berger Classic Hunter bullets, of which I had one more box, using those with several different powders. Wind and all, from the threaded legs table these grouped between 4.2 and 6.7 inches, so also ‘dead deer’ accuracy.

The Deathgrip is intriguing. From the sitting position, and using something like a stuffed backpack in my lap, just aiming and observing the crosshairs, it was in stability better than my 3-leg, not as sturdy as the 4-leg table. The Deathgrip allows smooth and controlled up and down pitching, as well as panning sideways.

One thing to practice with this tripod is ‘roll’ or canting adjustments. Meaning, getting the rifle / crosshairs to be level is only doable by adjusting leg lengths accordingly. The tripod did not get a go on paper because by then mirage no longer allowed to spot bullet holes. So I tried the Deathgrip on a 10” steel plate at 680 yds.

David watched the target and said my shots were within inches. At the end of that morning session I had two of the most accurate (N565 powder) loads left over. The wind had shifted. Back on the 4-leg table I guessed and aimed about one and a half plates left – hit! Ditto with the second shot. Sure looks like the field table idea has merit.

Back to the bracket design for a moment. With plenty of flat stock on hand, what about doubling up? And using through-bolts? Even had enough lumber on hand. So yes, another table got built. Attaching the legs with through bolts is a lot simpler and faster. Tested that table on the same target at 520 yds (fairly easy for me to get to that position), with the same light gun supports. As expected, stability increased noticeably, about the same as the thread attachment design. Five shots landed in a 2.9” group, wind and all.

                 2.9" at 520 yds             Tools on Board! There is a small coil spring and guide inside the right block.
Time to hunt with it. The single-bracket table was my test table. By the way, note how I carry them.

Up a suitable hill north of Phoenix in the faint shade of a paloverde, I set the thing up. But nothing showed up to offer a shot. I left the table behind and drove home. A few days later on a Sunday morning came attempt number two. At first light I was ‘ready’. By 8:30 AM I was back home.

Here the “Results”:

280 yds                              360 yds                                354 yds                              240 yds
When I shot at the jack at 360 yds, after coming out of recoil, all I saw was a substantial dust cloud, and a bunny briefly hobbling towards me. When he stopped, I fired again. This time there was ‘wool’ in with the dust. But when I later walked out there, two jacks lay dead, six steps apart. The coyotes and vultures had it easy that day.

Bottom line is that the field table setup works as intended.

Final comments: Aside from stability, the 4-leg designs provide noticeably more comfortable and more accurate aiming, BUT basically for every repositioning of this type of table one leg needs to be shimmed to get solid 4-leg ground contact. That is one aspect where the 3-leg design has a leg up (missing!). Furthermore, AFTER the shot, after recoil, I was able to get back to the target quickly. With the 3-legger I lost the target completely.

All we need now is again luck in the draw. For my next hunt (hopefully) the plan is to have a field table positioned at location(s) where waiting for a buck looks promising, and where ranges exceed 200 paces. That is to be done prior to the hunt, just like archery hunters mounting their tree stands. Would love to report on that.

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