How to Choose the Best Shooting Sticks for Hunting
No matter what you hunt or how accurate you are when shooting, a solid rest will always help you be just that much more accurate. And in many western hunts or situations where you will be facing some long-distance shots, having shooting sticks with you is necessary. But when it comes to how to pick shooting sticks, you might be a little overwhelmed or confused. Here are some tips on choosing the best shooting sticks for hunting scenarios, including the basic types and parts and some recommendations for different species or hunts.
Types of Shooting Sticks for Hunting
Before we go too far, we should spend a little time explaining the various options or styles you will often find for shooting sticks. As we mentioned, most kinds of hunting will benefit from having a solid shooting rest because it removes some of the human error associated with aiming. Whether you’re shaking from physical exhaustion or an adrenaline rush, a shooting stick rest helps eliminate that unnecessary movement. But depending on what situation you will use it in, the best shooting sticks for hunting will probably be different.
- Monopod Shooting Stick – this type of shooting stick consists of a single pole, which you can generally extend or shorten. Monopods are usually the best shooting sticks for hunting when you need to stay mobile during a hunt and don’t have time or room to extend multiple legs before a shot. You can easily pick up a monopod, run 30 yards to move into shooting position, and prop your gun up into it again. The downside is that there is a little more wiggle room from side to side, although it does keep your steady from a purely vertical standpoint.
- Bipod Shooting Stick – a bipod is a version that comes with two legs. This is more stable than a monopod, because you have another leg to take some of the side to side flex away. However, it does introduce a minor amount of added bulk and complexity (compared to the single leg monopod), so it isn’t quite as flexible or mobile. Bipods are commonly used for prone shooting (e.g., target practice, long-range shooting, varmint hunting, etc.).
- Tripod Shooting Stick – you probably saw this coming, but the tripod has three legs. This is the most stable shooting stick, because it controls movement from front to back and side to side. But it does usually take more setup time to get it dialed in right and it isn’t as mobile due to the added weight and legs that could get tripped up in brush or grasses. Tripods are often the best shooting sticks for hunting in more controlled scenarios and when you have time to get in position.
Parts of a Shooting Stick to Look For
When you’re in the market for shooting sticks, it helps to have a good idea of their various parts because the features dictate their best use. For example, if you only plan to use them occasionally behind the house, getting all the top-of-the-line features might be overkill. But if you hunt regularly and plan to use them extensively, it could make a huge difference! Here are a few things you should look for when buying the best shooting sticks for hunting.
- Yoke – this is the part that actually holds your gun or crossbow. You’ll often see V- or U-shaped yokes, which allow you to quickly drop your weapon into them for a fast shot. Some of these yokes also feature ribs to further steady your aim. In some cases, there may be a bag-type yoke, which acts much like a shooting sandbag does to cradle the gun stock.
- Adjustments – depending on how much time you expect to be able to adjust your shooting sticks, there are all kinds of adjustment knobs, levers, and dials to help you fine-tune things before a shot. From the extension of the legs to the tilt and rotation of the head, there is almost always something to adjust. But if you don’t care to make those small tweaks, these probably won’t be a big selling point for you.
- Head Attachments – the best shooting sticks for hunting should always be multi-use to get the most bang for your buck. Some shooting sticks offer the ability to attach other things besides the weapon yoke. For example, you could use it to steady your range finder, binoculars, spotting scopes, or even cameras. Or you may also find unique heads that mount the firearm stock right to the shooting stick for additional stability.
- Range of Movement – the range of movement (in this case) refers to how adjustable the height is. Depending on how you prefer to shoot, the range of movement of your shooting sticks could be very important. For example, if you are looking for the best shooting sticks for a ground blind or for prone shooting, getting a pair of non-adjustable homemade shooting sticks or tall shooting sticks would not be useful. Conversely, if you plan to only use standing shooting sticks, getting a pair that can collapse down to 2 feet isn’t as useful.
- Rotation – once you have your weapon or optics mounted on the shooting sticks, what happens when the animal makes a run for it? Does your shooting stick model force you to pick up the whole thing and readjust, or can you simply follow the animal by swiveling it up, down, or side to side? Obviously, you’d prefer the best shooting sticks for hunting for their quick rotational flexibility.
Considerations for Buying Shooting Sticks
So now you know the different types and features of some of the best shooting sticks for hunting. Here are some other very important considerations you should keep in mind before you pull the trigger and buy some.
- Weight – the heavier your shooting sticks, generally the more stable they will be. When practicing your long-range shooting, it is clear why heavy shooting sticks would be the best option – they keep you on target better for more accurate shots. But if you are taking them on a backcountry hunting trip where every ounce makes a difference, lighter sticks will trump hefty ones every time. Aluminum shooting sticks are lightweight options that you can take with on remote hunting trips easily.
- Adjustability – we touched on this one above, but how adjustable your shooting sticks are is a matter of preference. Some hunters are content with simply repositioning for a better shot, while others prefer to sit in one place and adjust via dials or levers right on the sticks. That being said, being able to make small adjustments with your offhand while preparing for the shot is a nice option to keep movement down.
- Durability – the material your shooting sticks are constructed from will directly influence how durable they are. Hunting trips can be rough on equipment, especially in the heat of the moment when preparing for a shot. Cheap shooting sticks (made of wood or plastic) are liable to break, while Vanguard shooting sticks are constructed of sturdy (yet lightweight) aluminum.
- Shooting – depending on the kind of shooting you will be doing, the best shooting sticks for hunting might include very different features. For example, if you plan on shooting long range at predators, hogs, varmints, or even elk or sheep, you could use a version without as many easy adjustments because you will be a long distance away and can get away with some extra shuffling. But if you are shooting a shotgun or crossbow at close distances where movement might spook game animals, having easily adjustable shooting stick options might be what you need.
Best Shooting Sticks for Hunting by Situation and Species
Now we’re at the real meat and potatoes of this article, which is how the best shooting sticks for hunting changes due to the situation you’re in or species you are targeting. Below, we’ll discuss several common kinds of hunting and the best shooting sticks for each one. Take these suggestions as general guidelines though because each person has different shooting styles and preferences.
Predator or Hog Hunting
When you’re hunting predators (primarily coyotes) or feral hogs, you should take a few things into consideration. First, you will generally face some long sits in the field (a lot of the time, at night) and will need to stay pretty still and silent to avoid being detected by these perceptive animals. In most cases, you will also only have to tote your shooting sticks a short distance to your hunting spot, so you can afford to have some heavier (i.e., sturdier) versions. As a result, the best shooting sticks for coyote hunting or hog hunting would be heavier, multi-use, bipods or tripods for the most stability. You could mount a separate thermal camera on one to scan the field for animals, while your other shooting stick holds your weapon. The Vanguard Equalizer 2QS is an interesting bipod option because it features a picatinny rail system to allow you to attach your firearm to it. That way, you can relax with your gun attached and in position while you focus on scanning the fields for your target.
The best shooting sticks for hunting turkeys might be similar to your predator/hog scenario, but there are some nuanced differences. Many turkey hunters prefer to hunt out of a blind because it allows them a little more movement. But you will inevitably have to make some last minute adjustments when a wise old tom does something you don’t expect him to. At the same time, you will benefit from the added stability of a tripod to make an accurate shot. At the beginning of your hunt, set your tripod up so that your gun will be facing roughly at your decoys. When you see a tom working his way into range, slip the shotgun into the open U-shaped yoke of your shooting sticks. As he gets close, you can stealthily swivel the gun any direction (360 degrees) to get the bead on him without making much movement at all. The Vanguard Quest T62U is a very versatile shooting stick that converts from a tripod to a bipod to a monopod, all in one. This honestly could cover most of the species/types of hunting mentioned in this section.
Big Game Animals (Eastern U.S.)
When you’re hunting in the Midwest or out to the East Coast, it might seem like you don’t even need shooting sticks for whitetails or black bears. After all, most of the area consists of thick forest cover or tall crops, to the point where many shots are within 50 yards. But even at that distance, using a shooting rest will help you make the best shot you can possibly make. Since many people hunt these species from tree stands, tower stands, or blinds, you shouldn’t have to worry about staying mobile. So the best shooting sticks for hunting in these scenarios are often geared more towards general stability than mobility. Like the turkey shooting sticks, having a model of shooting sticks for deer hunting that is adjustable at close range can help you avoid detection. Vanguard’s Quest B38 bipod set is perfect for such a situation.
Big Game Animals (Western U.S.)
Hunting out west for mountain sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope, or mule deer, is a very different story from eastern hunts. You will often face long hikes of many miles, in punishing conditions or at elevation. And shots at animals are usually long-distance, so you need a good rest. But backcountry hunts mean you need to pack everything with you, so heavy or bulky shooting sticks are usually more of a hindrance than a help. This is where mono shooting sticks really shine. You can often use monopods as makeshift walking sticks due to their durability, foam grip handles near the head, and non-slip rubber feet, which comes in handy when hiking over rugged terrain. Or if you choose to pack them, you can quickly extend them and get ready for a shot too. What’s really nice is that you can shift positions easily and rapidly if your target animal moves at the last second. Lightweight monopods like the Vanguard Quest M62 are the best shooting sticks for hunting out west.
Hopefully that clears up any confusion or questions you had about picking the best shooting sticks for hunting. Most of it comes down to looking at what kind of hunting you will be doing most and in what situations/environments. The answers to those questions will tell you which shooting sticks will help you most.