All Hunters know we have to make the shot when it counts and know the value of a good rest when that time comes. Across many places we hunt are a wealth of natural rests from boulders to branches to fence posts. That’s not the case in Open Country. Either way, the trick is to have a rest where and when you need it without having to move and spook animals. Sometimes even a foot’s movement or even less can mean changing your sight picture and shooting lane to the point that you can’t take the shot. Any move we make has the potential to spook animals. Even if they only shift position just one body length, it can be enough to obscure our one clear shot.
Just imagine the occasions when that’s happened to you and the difference it would have made to have a solid rest right there immediately when you needed it. That’s when you’ll learn there’s no substitute for shooting sticks. It’s not a question of if we need shooting sticks but rather how to choose the best shooting sticks for our hunting strategy.
From the NRA American Hunter magazine, “Stick It- A Guide to Shooting Sticks” 5/26/2016:
“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.”
In shooting the rule is to always shoot from the steadiest position from which you can see the target. Whether monopod tripod or tripod the closer we get to the ground the more steady the rest. Also as a general statement the more legs touching the ground the more stable the rest. However with a monopod or a bipod shooting prone or occasionally sitting, with practice, the rest can be almost as steady as a tripod over reasonable distances. This is because you can triangulate your body and actually become another leg or two. Recognize that compromises can be made and it comes down to your shooting ability, the shooting distance, sight limiting terrain and vegetation, and the weight you want to carry in the field.
Remember you can choose short or tall shooting sticks in every configuration, just focus on your likely shooting positions. Coyote hunting may mean a dedicated short bipod is the ticket. If you may be shooting sitting to standing by necessity and the distance may vary from 100 to over 400 yards you must choose accordingly. You may need a variable height shooting stick be it bipod, monopod or tripod.
Also look for a shooting stick that converts between these styles for complete freedom and stability in any situation. Elk and deer hunting may mean be broken timber with openings in the morning and steep more open mountain slopes in the afternoon where a tripod is ideal.The more specialized the strategy the more specialized can be your rest, but most hunts present many different challenges. Be prepared.
Where I hunt in Colorado there’s a mix of timber and open country. The timber has a lot of lodgepole pine and much of it has been killed by the pine beetle. The mix of live trees, dead standing timber and downed trees make a great shelter for deer and elk during the day. I love to still hunt, or as some call it timber sneek, and hopefully spot deer or elk before they see me. I’ve watched groups of elk and deer bedded in the timber for hours waiting for a shot.
It takes stealth and patience and they always have the advantage. It’s more difficult than waiting at the edge of a meadow or glassing a distant hillside, but I rarely don’t see game and have had a lot of successful timber hunts. I always hunt with a standing shooting stick because though I may get some quick snap shots, I often I have 100 to 200 yard shots through narrow shooting lanes and need the rest ready now! My choice for timber is a monopod. It’s stable because I use a wide body stance and the monopod is lightweight and easy to carry through timber. Plus mine doubles as a trekking pole in the tough terrain climbing over logs. When I’ve forgotten it back in the truck I’ve often paid the price.
Later in the day or early in the morning I like to set up and glass with a tripod or maybe a bipod. The varied Colorado terrain means my choice is a lightweight, versatile shooting stick that quickly converts from monopod to tripod and from standing to sitting and even prone. Mounting optics on my shooting tripod means I don’t need to carry a second dedicated glassing tripod.
High mountains and steep slopes present a whole bunch of new challenges for the rifle hunter. Shots are often long, the terrain is difficult and uneven with treacherous footing, and a lot of times we’re out of breath and a little shaky from exertion and altitude. We may be shooting at a deep downhill or uphill angle or even cross slope with no natural rest available. This is shooting stick country.
My choice is my lightweight bipod that doubles as carbide or rubber tipped trekking poles and converts to a tripod for glassing. It’s just as important a piece of gear to me as my rifle and backpack. The confidence and peace of mind to make a really tough shot means I can concentrate my mind and body on hunting in the moment.
Always the more specialized the strategy the more specialized your rest can be, but most hunts present many different challenges. Always anticipate and always be prepared. Have the confidence to succeed.