When it comes to taking game cleanly and humanely, every hunter worth his salt knows the advantages of using some sort of rest. While there are no benchrests in the bush, there are any number of objects such as trees, branches, stumps, logs, fenceposts, rocks or your daypack that can be used to calm the sighting wobbles brought on by exertion or excitement.
Alternatively there are shooting sticks, monopods, bipods and various other devices readily available - all more or less portable and designed to provide assistance on an as-required basis. None of them meet with universal approval. Everybody has their preference and what suits you might be useless to me or vice versa, the utility of any given product dictated by the how and where of individual hunting requirements.
That’s why I was a touch reticent when the editor rang to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing a new shooting rest coming to the market - the Keen Hunter Portable Support - my initial response being I’d like a look at it first. A few weeks later Mark Richards and Shaun Lynch turned up with a pre-production sample, we had a yarn about the product, how it worked and what it had to offer. I liked what I saw and in due course a production model arrived for review.
The Keen Hunter Portable Support was designed by Mark Richards to help his son David, a keen young hunter with some physical disabilities who found it hard to hold a firearm steady when hunting fallow deer. David needed a support that was portable, easy to use and stable. Mark designed and built a prototype, had it refined by an industrial designer for production and by mid-2019 the rest was on the market. The rest is certified Australian made, right down to the packaging.
Keen Hunter Portable Support
The support is designed to be used in conjunction with a natural structure such as a tree, stump or even a fencepost. It’s attached via a webbing belt that can be wrapped around the structure and cinched tight at the required height. The product has four major components - a back plate, support strut, rifle yoke and webbing belt with buckles - all parts made from weather resistant, UV-stabilised materials suitable for rough use in the field.
The back plate is a composite unit with a black, hard plastic plate for rigidity and a fitted foam grip. The foam is firm with just enough give to allow it to snug up against a tree or post for a secure fit when the belt is tightened. The front of the back plate has a moulded and raised retention slot that accepts a mating plate moulded into the back of the support strut.
The support strut is also made from hard black plastic with reinforced sides for strength, its primary function to house the rifle yoke. A strut retainer is screwed to one side of the support and this strut allows the support to be detached, turned sideways then refitted to the backing plate so it can be easily carried without snagging on anything.
The outer end of the support has a spring-loaded release button that allows the rifle yoke to be removed or refitted as required while other accessories such as a camera support can also be fitted if desired. The rifle yoke has a hard outer with softer inner grip to accept and hold the forearm of a rifle and freely rotates through 180⁰ when in place, so there’s plenty of room for lateral movement when the rest is fixed to a tree.
An adjustable webbing belt fits through slots on each edge of the back plate and secures the stand to a tree. The belt is fitted with a quick-detachable buckle for easy set-up and removal and a tri-glide buckle on the belt itself for fast length adjustment, at the same time ensuring there are no loose ends or hanging bits to catch on obstacles or create a trip hazard. Longer or shorter belts are available if required and a comprehensive, very reader-friendly user manual is provided.
A problem with most portable shooting support systems is they can be awkward or a nuisance to carry in the field - not the Keen Hunter. In carry mode, called inactive mode in the manual, the unit can be strapped around the waist like a belt with the support out of the way behind the user’s back.
I tried it in all three upright field positions - standing, kneeling and sitting - and not surprisingly found the most stable was sitting, not a problem in my book as I believe sit-and-wait hunters will be biggest buyers of the support. Around home I used it to shoot a few rabbits on burrows where sit-and-wait is the only option and can report it worked extremely well.
Given it needs something to be strapped to, the Keen Hunter doesn’t have across the board applications for all hunters, nor does any other design for that matter, so that shouldn’t be taken as criticism. That said, it’s a handy accessory for a wide range of hunting situations.
Given a suitable tree to attach it to, anyone who sits in a blind or tree stand or waits over a warren, waterhole, wallow or game trail will find it useful as will handicapped or wheelchair-bound hunters. Setting it up takes very little time and that makes it useful for some walkabout hunting opportunities too. The design is practical and well thought-out, especially in the way it can be taken down and carried with minimum fuss.
The review support has made a welcome addition to my shooting kit and I’m sure there are lots of other hunters out there who’ll find it as useful, portable and handy as I did. Best of all it’s an all-Australian made product and for that reason alone deserves the support of the hunting fraternity. With RRP of $159 it’s a product a lot of hunters will see as a good investment. More at keenhunter.com
• Footnote: As I was finishing this review, Shaun Lynch sent me a photo demonstrating how the rest can also be used for offhand shooting, an application that hadn’t even crossed my mind.