Now that this past Missouri whitetail hunting season is behind us, there is some extra time on our hands that could be put to good use in preparation for next year. It is never too early to begin planning for next season, such as by taking the lessons you learned from this past season and applying them to future ones. This could mean additional target practice or even sighting in a new rifle, both of which are essential to successful future hunts.
If you have property on which you can legally shoot, it may be tempting use your pickup truck to aid you in target practice. By backing it into position and placing a matt in the bed, you can shoot in a prone position from inside the bed in order to sight in your rifle or simply to spend some time getting better acquainted with it. While this setup is ideal for many shooters, others have trouble with it. For one thing, even with a matt, the bed of a pickup truck can be unforgiving on bones and joints, becoming uncomfortable quite quickly. Additionally, those of us who are on the tall side simply may not have the space needed to stretch out and find a relaxed enough position that you are not distracted by discomfort and able to fully concentrate on shooting, especially in the case of short bed trucks.
In order to find a truly satisfactory shooting position, using a shooting bench could be the answer. These can be purchased at many retailers who specialize in hunting gear. Should you buy a shooting bench from such a place, you can expect to invest a minimum of a couple hundred dollars or so. For that price, you can acquire something that is durable and portable that will aid you in honing your shooting skills in the off season. Alternately, however, it is also possible to build your own shooting bench at a fraction of the cost, although in doing so you may be sacrificing some of the portability of a pre-fab model. Though a homemade shooting bench can still be mobile, it may be heavier based on material selection, thus possibly requiring help to move it, which is often worth the savings incurred when you build it yourself.
A popular trend these days is to take use pallets and breathe new life into them by repurposing them into new projects. A shooting bench is exactly the type of project that could be completed with pallets, but it is important to remember that pallets are typically made from coarse wood. If you wish to use pallets, it will be necessary to sand them to prevent splinters and clothing snags. Should you wish you skip the steps of pulling pallets apart and sanding the pieces, you could cut right to the chase and buy finished lumber, although the expense will go up accordingly. It is also possible to repurpose old tables and other similar items but applying strategic cuts to allow the close access a shooter needs.
Once you decide on the type of materials you wish to use, it is necessary to select a shooting bench style and find some plans. It is possible to build shooting benches for either left or right handed shooters, or even one bench that accommodates both. Benches should have a large enough top to allow enough space for rifles and anything else you might wish to keep within reach as you sit down to shoot as well as ample bench space for shooters to sit comfortably. You may find that you prefer to keep the seating area separate from the rest of the bench instead of attached. If you are uncertain as to the dimensions that are best for you, take a look at pre-fab models for guidance.
Having settled on the type of bench you wish to have, all that is left is to choose a plan and begin construction. There are a plethora of free plans available, such as the several plans available here. Other useful plan resources can be found here and here. Before you begin the process, however, it is imperative that you don the appropriate safety gear so that you will be alive and well with all of your extremities and eyes still in working order so you can fully enjoy your shooting bench upon completion.
Since a shooting bench is a great way to stay sharp in the off season, will you be adding one to your setup? Do you already have one? If so, tell us about it in the comments!