All good hunters want their shots to count and the animal to go down humanely and quickly. If you hunt long enough, you will be presented with a challenging shot leaving you with a decision to make. Smart hunters know that having the right tool for the job can turn a challenging shot into a humanely made harvest.
That tool is either a bipod or a set of shooting sticks. Until I began mentoring youth on hunts, I never made use of shooting sticks or a bipod. My opinion of these products changed instantly when I saw how new hunters were able to greatly increase the odds of a direct hit.
When walking or stalking your heartrate goes up and shooting is a bit more difficult offhand in that situation. The crosshairs start swaying until your breathing calms and the heartrate goes back to normal. This is where a good set of shooting sticks or a bipod is a perfect tool to reduce any movement of the sights—especially crucial at longer ranges. To follow are some tips, and my product recommendations.
I encourage you to keep an open mind to other products. When purchasing shooting sticks and a bipod, there were several things that set good ones apart from the rest. First, look for shooting sticks or a bipod that flex, allowing you to swing on game that moves. Second, purchase a quality product that is going to hold up and not bend or break. That may mean a bit more cash upfront, but the gear you pay a bit more for won’t give out at the most important time on you. Third, choose a rest that is easy for you to use and quick to deploy. Game animals do not hang around waiting to be shot. Being able to deploy your sticks or bipod quickly and effectively without a lot of fumbling means the difference between meat and no meat!
Bipods are usually used in a location where a hunter has a known stand location and does not plan on stalking or moving around much. Bipods often come with a shorter range of height, so it does help to know what type of terrain you will be shooting over. For instance, some shooters are hunting open or rocky ground and will likely be shooting prone—which means the bipod must be useable near the ground.
Most shooters using bipods for hunting are using them from a sitting or kneeling position though, so a bipod with a longer set of legs will most likely fit the bill for hunters doing their hunting in terrain with any sort of vegetation on the ground. Using a bipod with adjustable heights is a game changer.
There are a few bipods out there that extend so that hunters can shoot from a standing position and adjust downward enough to use sitting or kneeling too. This is incredibly useful over standing crops or other vegetation.
Using a bipod allows for a very solid shooting position that will greatly increase the odds of an accurate shot. Making a shot on a platform with two forward contact points on the ground plus having the stock anchored in your shoulder cannot be beat, particularly the further you are from the ground when pulling the trigger, e.g., standing shots.
Another benefit of a bipod that will allow hunters to make more accurate and humane shots is that when hunters are tucked into a good hide, the bipod can allow the hunter to take breaks and still have the firearm in a semi-ready position so they can quickly retrieve the firearm and be well rested to hold up the gun and make the best shot.
I now use Swagger products after trying a variety of other brands. I have to say that Swagger makes a product that leaves me believing the founders were serious hunters and left nothing to chance. The QD72 model I have is perfect for stalking and shooting over high grass or vegetation. It weighs approximately a pound and a half, is very usable from 24” (sitting) to 72” (standing). There are two incredibly important features that make this product stand out. First, the bipod head and legs flex just enough to allow the user to twist and track game if it starts to move and yet provides a nice consistent platform to shoot from. Second, the unit attaches to the sling swivel on your rifle, crossbow or the cap on your shotgun, such as my 870 slug gun with a quick detachment button if you need to pull up stakes and want to remove the bipod in a hurry.
Some hunters prefer shooting sticks. There are some advantages to shooting sticks. Shooting sticks offer a shooting platform that’s almost as stable as a bipod, and thus allows for an improvement in accuracy and a much better opportunity for a humane kill. In general, shooting sticks are more compact and lightweight than bipods, and usually can be rapidly put into use. I put mine in a back pocket or my vest while stalking. When a hunter is stalking, shooting sticks are usually the tool of choice for shots that offer themselves without much notice.
Shooting sticks can be adjusted by simply sliding your hand up or down the sticks. That said, the kneeling and standing positions are the most employed positions with shooting sticks, but some shooting sticks can be used in a sitting position too.
I have a set of Swagger Stalker Lite sticks that I have been using in overgrown areas where the deer bed down until something spooks them to stand and look around. I enjoy how lightweight these sticks are, and how quickly I can put them into action. I do not have to push buttons or touch anything to adjust them, and they flex and move to any position I need when following or tracking game to get my gun on target. I find it quite easy to turn and twist to get my crosshair where it needs to be in any cover. The sticks require little effort to slide the shooting platform up or down from 45” to 65”.
One last piece of advice: Keep the shooting sticks and/or bipod in your hunting vehicle during hunting season so you don’t forget them at home. Why run the risk of missing on the shot of a lifetime because your improvised rest failed you?