As ethical hunters, we owe it to the animals we're pursuing to make the best shot possible. Using shooting sticks is a great way to do that.
Interestingly enough, as much as American hunters love gadgets, shooting sticks have never really caught on with the general hunting population over here. Don't get me wrong, a few hunters do use them, they're more popular in certain hunting circles (like predator hunting) than others (like whitetail hunters in a tree stand). That being said, though, shooting sticks are nowhere near as common in the United States as they are in Africa.
It's honestly too bad because they're a very useful and versatile tool. Here are a few reasons why you should consider hunting with shooting sticks.
When used correctly, shooting sticks provide additional stability that's absolutely essential for making a precise shot at longer range. They don't provide as much stability as a bench rest. On the other hand, they're a lot more portable and can provide a rock-solid gun rest for shots at most practical hunting ranges (50-250 yards).
Shoot Over Vegetation
There are many different kinds of shooting sticks out there, ranging from a simple monopod or bipod hastily fabricated from pieces of wood to commercially manufactured tripods with telescoping legs like a Bog Pod or Jim Shockey's trigger sticks.
Regardless of the exact type or brand, they all provide a stable shooting rest and offer the hunter some degree of control over adjusting the shooting height according to conditions on the ground as well as the personal preferences of the hunter.
This is where you really make your money with shooting sticks.
For instance, the prone shooting position is incredibly stable, particularly when used in conjunction with some other form of support under the rifle like a Harris bipod, a backpack, or a log. However, while the prone shooting position is great for taking shots in wide-open country with very little vegetation to obscure the target (like a pronghorn hunt), the standing, kneeling, and sitting positions are all much better suited for hunting situations where it's necessary to shoot over grass or brush.
By utilizing shooting sticks, a hunter can take advantage of the better visibility offered by those other shooting positions, yet still have a stable enough rest to take an ethical shot at a much longer range than would be possible without utilizing some sort of rest.
This is one of the main reasons shooting sticks are so popular on hunts in Africa. As you can see below, the vegetation in many parts of Africa is too high for shooting from the prone. However, a hunter using shooting sticks can take standing shots over the brush at animals over 200 yards away (242 yards in this case) without much trouble.
They Can Pull Double Duty
You'll likely have a tracker or professional hunter who'll help carry and set up shooting sticks for you on an African safari. That's usually not the case when hunting in the United States, though. That means you'll need to carry the sticks yourself.
The good news is shooting sticks with folding or collapsible legs are relatively easy to carry. Shooting sticks can also serve the same function as a walking stick or a trekking pole. Some of the nicer shooting sticks have interchangeable heads that allow the hunter to mount a spotting scope or camera.
They're not perfect and they'll never replace the fundamental shooting positions. Even so, you should still consider adding a set of quality shooting sticks to your hunting gear list. Even if you never plan on hunting in South Africa or Namibia, a set of shooting sticks just might help you close the deal on a mule deer or an elk hunt.