In Africa, you are almost never alone. There are some tricks you can practice on your range with a buddy and demonstrate them on range day.
- The buddy system. If the shot is a bit too far or if you’re shaky from nerves or exertion, a buddy, your PH, or a tracker can bend down and grasp the two rear legs of the tripod—right side for right-handed shooters or left side for left-handed shooters. This adds stability to the sticks, but the real secret is that you can then rest your shooting elbow on his or her shoulder. The increased stability from supporting that shooting elbow is simply amazing. With practice, this enables most shooters to nearly double their effective range off sticks!
- Do the “chicken wing.” A second trick is to carry a second set of shooting sticks in the party. This is very practical in Africa because there’s always a PH and at least one tracker, more often two. The height has to be right, so this is an evolution to be practiced on your home range. The first set is used normally as a fore-end rest. The second set—legs spread farther so the sticks are lower—is tucked into the armpit on your shooting side (left for left-handers or right for right-handers). Although it takes a few seconds longer—and more practice—the “chicken wing” is actually steadier than the “buddy system” and, again, can double your effective range off sticks.
- Make a standing rest. A second set of sticks that are set a bit lower can also be used under the butt of the rifle, just ahead of the recoil pad. This takes even more time, so will be used for only longer shots where time is not an issue but stability is everything. With practice, it creates stability almost on par with a bench rest, so range limitations fall to the rifle, cartridge, and your abilities—not to stability.
- Low tripods. Most shooting sticks can be spread low enough so the shooter can sit or kneel behind them, and many commercial brands are adjustable or have sectioned legs for lower positions. When the terrain allows, a lower position is always steadier. The closer you can get to the ground, the steadier you are! Again, these are positions to be practiced on the range. Some plains game hunting is done by waiting over waterholes—whether from a formal blind or an impromptu brush blind. Using sticks in a sitting position, including from a chair, is a great enhancement and can be practiced on your range.