Practicing on shooting sticks

Discussion in 'Hunting Equipment, Gear & Optics' started by CBH Australia, Mar 22, 2019.

  1. CBH Australia

    CBH Australia AH Enthusiast

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    I plan to make a simple set of sticks for practice . 3 legs from 16mm plastic coated conduit garden stakes.

    I think the guide I picked use the basic tripod sticks based on you tube clip of them.

    I also found various factory made options. Versa pod fixed to rifle, bog pod, some exotic timber ones and carbon fibre or alloy.

    Some have a V, others a saddle or to flats on one 4 legged type I saw. . That can be used mono, Bi or opening fully to use the front and back rest where as most are a front rest only.

    I will practice with the .308 and progress to the .300wm

    Any thoughts, tips , opinions? Obviously practicing with similar to the guide set is logical but I like guns and gear so I’m looking at what’s around, what works and what I can make.
     

  2. BigSteve57

    BigSteve57 AH Enthusiast

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  3. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Shooting from the sticks is a time honored practice in Africa. It is a rare Professional Hunter (PH) indeed who walks the bush without his sticks, be they traditional local hard wood tied with a piece of raw hide, or modern aluminum telescopic renditions such as the Primos Gen 3 Trigger Stick. Some PH use bipod sticks, but most use tripod sticks that offer vastly superior stability.

    The value of the sticks is that they make it possible to shoot standing, from a rest, over the low bush that makes kneeling, sitting, or prone shooting often impractical in Africa.

    Few American, Canadian, or European hunters are used to shooting standing from the sticks, and a large majority of them think that there is not much to it and they will do it easily enough in Africa. They are wrong… Shooting sticks stabilize the rifle, but they do not stabilize the hunter’s body. Many first timers discover that they are swaying side to side when on the sticks, and they are shocked to discover that they are shooting 8” five shot groups at 100 yd !!!

    Shooting sticks are becoming widely available in the US with a large variety of full length tripods available. Traditionalists will prefer making their own with three x 6 foot ¾” poplar poles from the local Home Depot or Lowe’s, and a length of paracord. Drill a 3/16” hole in each pole 6” from the top and join them loosely. Wrapping the top 6” adds a nice touch.

    It actually takes a bit of trial and error and a fair amount of shooting to find the proper body stance, the proper feet position, the proper rifle position, the proper hands position when dealing with forearm and sticks, the proper sticks height, etc.

    Expect to shoot 200 to 300 rounds to develop the shooting form to punch consistently 2” groups at 100 yd from the standing position with the sticks. Once the skill is acquired, a good practice regimen is to shoot 100 rounds or so every week during the last three months before a hunt. This will pay huge dividends in one-shot kills.

    Thankfully, this does not have to be a shoulder bruising and budget busting proposition, because the best way to learn is to make your own set of shooting sticks and to do all your learning with your favorite full size .22 LR bolt action.

    IMG_2641.jpg
    A set of home-made shooting sticks and a Zeiss scoped .22 LR Winchester 52 B Sporter, proved ideal to master shooting from the sticks.

    A reactive target is best for 100 yd practice. A 6” steel plate that emulates the vital area of the smaller antelopes is ideal. Hang it with two lengths of chain from a folding saw horse. Wood is expedient but will not resist too many stray hits. Steel pipes are a little more expensive but will last a life-time.

    A 6” plate is recommended over 10” or 12” plates because it has the same size as the vital area of most small to medium size African, American or European game.

    With practice, 100% hits can be easily achieved on a 6” plate at 100 yd shooting standing from the sticks. Expect to shoot 200 to 300 rounds to develop the technique. Five successive strings of 5 shots ringing the steel at 100 yd is the passing score.

    IMG_2648.jpg
    This foldable saw horse stand was assembled of six 3 ft ½” galvanized threaded pipes, four 90° elbows, four caps, a couple eye bolts and a few lengths of chains. It supports a 6” steel plate that is perfect for practice with both .22 LR and center fire rifles up to .300 magnum.

    In truth, there is no point practicing from the sticks with a center fire hunting rifle until proficiency with the .22 LR has been achieved. It would just be a waste of expensive ammunition.

    Once near 100% hits are achieved at 100 yd on a 6” plate with the .22 LR, it then makes sense to finish every .22 LR practice session with a dozen or so shots from the center fire rifle in order to get used to its recoil on the sticks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019

  4. Adrian

    Adrian AH Fanatic

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    Find the shooting position that is comfortable for you.
    It's you that will be shooting so find the sweet spot and build muscle memory by practicing mounting the rifle to your sticks and keep at it.
    I personally prefer the sticks as far towards the fore end as possible to give the most stable platform and use the hand not on the pistol grip to make a V shape supporting the fore end with the other fingers grasping the joint of the sticks.
    Some folk want the sticks resting mid way down the rifle so they can reach around and still hold the fore end as if the sticks weren't there.
    Find what works for you.
     

  5. Tally-Ho Hunting Safaris

    Tally-Ho Hunting Safaris SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Fanatic

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    Just a note
    Remember the ph usually throws the one leg out to the front and then spreads the other 2 legs backwards. U move in to the gap to shoot. So practice this way
    Dont put the one leg straight back towards you
     
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  6. Nick Jackson

    Nick Jackson AH Member

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    My advice, if you are hunting PG is take a set of quadsticks, most deerstalkers in the UK use them now, the difference in steadyness over a tripod is incredible. I know if I was using a set I wouldn’t have missed that impala ram at 300 yards last time I was in SA!
    I’m the UK I use 4 plastic garden canes with rubber rings but am looking for a folding aluminium pair to take to Africa next time, I think Viperflex make some.
     

  7. blacks

    blacks AH Enthusiast

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    Practice from the stocks is imperative. I bought the Vanguard T68 and they are very good.
     

  8. Jeff Schaeffer

    Jeff Schaeffer AH Veteran

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    You have gotten a lot of good advice. I agree completely with the comments you have received.

    The first time you shoot off sticks you will wonder why on earth people use them. It does take practice.
    In addition to shooting, you can practice mount and shoot drills.
    Don't just shoot single shots, but also practice follow ups.

    I do not have a huge amount of experience (one safari, and another planned for this year) but I did notice some things.

    The traditional sticks work.
    The tripod store-bought style was more stable for me. My PH had received one as a gift, and he liked them. I think they were primos.
    The four-legged sticks by Seeland are the most stable by far, but there is a critical difference with them that you MUST understand: they are not freestanding.

    In my 7 day experience, the freestanding sticks allowed my PH to set them up and immediately return to watching the animal.
    My mount and setup were independent and he and the tracker could watch what was going on.

    With freestanding models, the PH or tracker has to hold them until you get into position. Not an issue, but you have to plan for it.

    We had three situations where the better accuracy of the Seeland style would have been more than offset by the freestanding problem.
    1. Wildebeest, where I was moving the shortened tripod to the right and then slowly scooting along on my butt to get a clear shot. I had to let go of it to move and I had to scoot about 5 times.
    2. Eland, where the sticks were freestanding while the PH had to move a couple feet to the right to try and find me a keyhole, and then move the tripod in super thick cover (this misadventure was featured in "an eland story" a few months ago. I was down on my knees, and I recall he reached back to move them to the right, and then we had to do it again.
    3. Impala because we a very short window to get the sticks up and then find a ram that was barely visible in the brush. It allowed him to keep it in sight better so he could help me spot it. He never took his eyes off the ram while placing them and went right to his binocs.

    All of this might have been overcome with practice and preparation, but you need to think about it beforehand so you have a process because that is the moment of truth.

    I would want freestanders in open country, and a tripod style in the thick stuff.

    And of course, we come to the biggest issue with sticks and that is American Hunters get on them, and then fuss for for-too-long trying for the perfect shot.
    That reputation was undoubtedly promulgated by me. My PH probably ended up on anti-anxiety medication.
    Yeah, the last part of it is getting to the shot as quickly as you can before the animal bolts.

    I am convinced that had I not practiced on sticks I would have returned from the trip with empty shell casings.

    Thanks,

    Jeff
     
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  9. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    You will find with some practice off sticks it will come very natural quickly. Biggest issue IMO is adrenaline once your quarry is spotted and you need to make a clean shot. Unfortunately no amount of stick practice can cure that. Knowing and having confidence in your weapon is huge.
     

  10. Shootist43

    Shootist43 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Dittos on them not being easy to use and the need to practice shooting off them. Start off using a 22, after several hundred rounds consider increasing the caliber. Apparently there is no one best way to shoot off sticks. You need to experiment to find out what works for you. Take your time, I found it frustrating in the beginning.
     

  11. cls

    cls AH Elite

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    I had never used sticks until my first safari in 2012 now I don't hunt without them. I now have the shakes(benign essential tremor) and they are my saving grace. I can hold on target without issue. Try to freehand while waiting for the trophy of a lifetime trys to make up his mind to step out of the scrub and give you a clear broadside. Good luck, practice, practice, practice....
     

  12. blacks

    blacks AH Enthusiast

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    Here is my preferred method. I prefer to grip the top of the sticks with my left hand, and wrap my index finger around the fore end. My left hand can also be used to adjust the sticks if necessary.
    The only change I'd make from this picture is to have my left leg on the inside of the rear leg of the sticks, if that makes sense. received_10155475365696892.jpeg
     
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  13. Newboomer

    Newboomer GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Great tips, all. I like the Bogpod tripod. It sets up fast and is very stable. My PH uses a home built tripod and he plops them down and goes to his binos. After a couple times he had the right height automatically and it worked great. Put one leg out front so you don't trip over it and spread the other two out to the sides. Step in between and take your shot. I like to rest my rifle on the forend where I normally grip it, wrap my index finger over the barrel and grab around the sticks with my hand. If I'm shooting big bore I rest my hand on the scope to hold it down during recoil. That way the rifle doesn't move the sticks and I don't have to readjust them. Try different techniques and see what feels most comfortable for you and PRACTICE. It's a new sensation but very effective once you get the hang of it.
     

  14. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    So, there is a bit of geometry behind the best position on the sticks:

    1) Obviously, the barrel of the rifle should not be resting on / contacting directly the sticks. We all know that it would interfere with the barrel vibrations and be damaging to consistent accuracy.

    2) Less commonly realized is the fact that to reduce the effect of the shooter's body swaying side to side on the movements of the barrel, the forearm should rest on the sticks as forward as possible. This is simple geometry, as illustrated here under.

    With the rifle resting on the sticks at the end of the forearm, the barrel movements have considerably less amplitude than the shooter's movements:

    upload_2019-3-23_15-27-21.png
    Conversely, if the rifle is rested on the sticks around its midpoint, just ahead of the action, the barrel movements have considerably more amplitude than the shooter's movements:

    upload_2019-3-23_15-41-48.png

    So, for the best results, finding a comfortable position on the sticks is indeed critical, but placing the rifle on the sticks in the right position is even more important. The nice thing is that these are not mutually exclusive. It is easy to develop a comfortable position, with the rifle in the right place :)

    3) For best consistency shooting off the sticks, the rifle should always be rested the same way on the sticks. Everyone will find their own sweet spot, but it can help to use the front sling swivel as a reference. I personally put the front swivel just ahead of the sticks V. This also prevents it from digging in my hand with high recoil rifles (.416 and up) (y)

    4) Regarding feet positions, since the sticks limit your swaying front to back, it is important to spread your feet sideways to limit your swaying side to side.

    Wrong feet position (the center of the sticks and the two feet are in line and provide no side to side stability):
    upload_2019-3-23_16-12-56.png

    Right feet position (the center of the sticks and the two feet form a triangle and provide both front to back, and side to side stability):
    upload_2019-3-23_16-13-39.png

    5) As to whether one should hold the rifle and the sticks together, this is debatable. I personally only hold the forearm, in the same place I do without the sticks. On high recoil rifles, grabbing the sticks with the rifle results in lifting the stick from the ground under recoil, and making a second quick shot very challenging :(

    I hope this helps. Enjoy burning a few bricks of .22 LR getting it right. Confirming with a few rounds of center fire, will then be easy...
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
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  15. Mike Van Horn

    Mike Van Horn AH Senior Member

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    Shooting off sticks standing takes some practice for sure. Kneeling and sitting not as much
    I started using them a few years ago and am seldom without them now
    I like the Bog-Pod tri-pod
     

  16. CBH Australia

    CBH Australia AH Enthusiast

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    The sticks above look like they belong in Africa. My home made version are cheap and ugly plastic coated conduit. for now. I need to refix the joints. I’m going to use split pins and some oldleather fingers from a glove to protect my rifle stock.
    I will start with the .22 when I get back in the bush.
    I must admit, I did not expect that it would be so difficult as what people are saying.
    I’ll practice, I like my animals to drop and I will be using the PH rifle.
    I will work up to my .300wm. Plan is to use the PH 7mm RemMag.
    No experience with the 7mm Rem but my 7mm-08 performs well compared to my .308 I’ve always used.
    Interesting and valid points raised.
    My hunt is 9 months off so I will work on this.
     

  17. BobT

    BobT AH Enthusiast

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    My preferred method is the same as Blacks above. As a handloader I was able to start out shooting light loads to get used to the rifle so I didn't bother with the rimfire. Once I got to the full power loads I tried to shoot as much as possible. I fired over 300 full power rounds in preparation for my first safari, mostly from sticks but a few off hand. The off hand practice came in handy as both the baboons I shot were quick off hand shots with no time to even think about sticks.
     
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  18. curtism1234

    curtism1234 AH Enthusiast

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    Imo find a set of collapsible sticks, practice, and take those with you. Rifles can be picky and have to be held a certain way so it's best that you get no surprises when you get there.

    Me, I will hold the back of my hand in the yoke of the sticks and grip the rifle with my hand. You are a bit at the mercy of how solid the sticks are dug into the ground but at least I know where my rifle will hit.

    If a rifle is bedded and floated correctly this is likely not an issue but imo most rifles are not; either they are older guns that didn't have those features or new guns that are not made correctly. Ymmv - you may have one which will hit the bullseye no matter what or you may have one that will struggle to hit paper unless held a certain way.
     

  19. Inline6

    Inline6 AH Veteran

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    I use a Really Right Stuff with an AIAX. It's as solid as you can get(yes 1/4 MOA). I don't think this would be very practical for Africa. My oldest son took a nice 8 point this year with the mentioned set up. 97 yards he was DRT, 6XC to the base of the neck.
     

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