Stick It: A Guide to Shooting Sticks

by
posted on May 26, 2016
stick_it_f.jpg

On a recent trip to South Africa, I was still-hunting deep wooded valleys for nyala, the secretive spiral-horned antelope considered one of the continent’s most beautiful animals. From an open ridge top, I caught slight movement in the thick cover across the deep gorge below. My binoculars quickly revealed a fine bull, staring with as much focus on me as I was on him; it was clear I had precious little time before he’d disappear into the dense cover.

My professional hunter quickly set up his ever-present shooting sticks. I settled my forestock into them, found the bull’s chest, gently squeezed the trigger and secured my trophy. It all happened within seconds, but without the benefit of those shooting sticks, I’d never have attempted the 225-yard shot, much less made it.

All hunters know the value of a good rest when the time comes to take, and make, the shot. Across much of North America there’s a wealth of natural rests, from boulders to branches. Not so in open country. Whether hunting the prairies for antelope, the farmland for coyotes, the river valleys for mulies, the muskegs for moose, the mountain slopes for sheep or elk or the tundra for caribou, shots can often arise quickly and natural rests can be few and far between. That’s when you’ll learn there’s no substitute for shooting sticks.

The shooting sticks commonly used by Africa’s professional hunters are simply three poles, each five to six feet long, strapped together at one end to form a tripod. Here in North America, most shooting supports are commercially made. The most common is the Harris bipod, a unique folding rest that affixes to your rifle’s front sling swivel stud. When not in use, the telescoping legs simply fold back along the rifle stock. Some Harris bipods are designed for shooting prone; others can extend for shooting while kneeling or sitting.

The Harris and other bipods that attach to your rifle are ideal in wide-open country, such as the prairies or tundra, especially when you’re likely to have to shoot while lying down. I’ve come to believe the added weight is a reasonable trade-off for an ever-present stable shooting platform. Be forewarned, however, that rifle-mounted bipods have a tendency to hang up whenever you’re walking through the brush.

When I lived on the prairies, I always had a Harris bipod attached to my rifle. Without it, I’d have enjoyed considerably fewer successful mule deer, antelope and coyote hunts. At the time it was one of the few commercial shooting rests available. Fortunately, North American hunters having borrowed best practices from Africa, and today’s hunter has considerably more choices when it comes to shooting sticks. These range from rifle-mounted bipods to freestanding monopods, bipods and tripods for use while sitting or standing There are several design options to consider when selecting the best option for where and how you’ll be hunting. Some have leg sections that screw together, for example, while others feature one-piece telescoping legs that are operated by a trigger mechanism in the handle. Still others sport sections of aluminum tubing held together with an internal bungee cord, much like a folding tent pole. There are even a few shooting sticks made from solid wood, mimicking the handcrafted originals of Africa.

Each style has both advantages and disadvantages, and it’s really a case of personal preference. As a general rule, the more legs, the steadier your rest. With additional legs, however, comes more weight and a longer set-up time, although in my experience the time needed to set up rests with multiple legs has seldom been a hindrance.

Full-length shooting sticks for standing shots can perform double-duty as hiking staffs, making them especially valuable in terrain with lots of relief. You just have to get used to having one hand continually tied up when you’re walking; for this reason some hunters find them somewhat inconvenient. Full-length sticks can also be used to help steady spotting scopes or binoculars; many have interchangeable heads with standard mounting screws for scopes and cameras.

Of course, if you’re wearing a pack, you can easily stow a collapsible model. Although this means a longer set-up time, most shooting situations allow for those extra few seconds. Alternatively, you can carry your sticks in your pack until you get to the heart of your hunting territory, then pull them out and carry them by hand from there.

Whichever type of shooting stick you choose, just remember that a stable shooting platform equals a more accurate, responsible shot and, ultimately, a more successful hunt.

When it comes to shooting sticks, there’s plenty to choose from in today’s market, with several manufacturers offering a wide variety of options. Survey what’s out there to find the set-up that best suits your needs and preferences. Following is a list of some of the more popular manufacturers of shooting sticks and bipods:

BOGgear
Caldwell Shooting Supplies
Harris Bipods
Hunter’s Specialties
Primos Hunting Calls
Ram-Line
Shooters Ridge
Sporting Wood Creations
Stoney Point
Versa-Pod

Latest

SG Rossi Gallery Lead
SG Rossi Gallery Lead

#SundayGunday: Rossi Gallery

Get a closer look at the Rossi Gallery, the latest addition to our #SundayGunday series.

Recipe: Honey Ginger Crane

Sandhill crane has earned its reputation as one of the best-eating migratory waterfowl, and can be enjoyed in any dish where tender, delicious protein is desired. This recipe is a great way to enjoy this tasty bird, where the flavor of the meat stands up to the rest of the dish.

Leupold Announces RX-FullDraw 5 Laser Rangefinder

Leupold has announced the launch of the RX-FullDraw 5, the latest and most advanced addition to the company’s FullDraw family of laser rangefinders designed for bowhunters.

New for 2022: Federal Force X2 Shorty Shotshell

Federal has combined the power of two of its newest technologies to create a shotshell option that changes the nature of self-defense. The new Force X2 Shorty shells measure just 1¾ inches but hold a payload of six 00 segmenting buckshot engineered to split into two equal pieces on impact.

New for 2022: Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey

The new 940 Pro Turkey features a choice of a 24- or 18.5-inch barrel, a HiViz fiber-optic sight for quick target acquisition, Mossberg’s X-Factor ported choke tube for improved pattern density and is covered in Mossy Oak Greenleaf camo.

New for 2022: Survival Filter Active All Terrain Filtration Bottle

Through a partnership with Nalgene, Survival Filter has produced the new Active All Terrain, a lightweight, portable squeeze filtration bottle built for performance and convenience.

Interests



Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.