There is some practicality behind the idea of bringing three tall sticks into the wilderness on an extended trip. They could be used as fishing poles, walking sticks, or with a poncho draped over them and tied shut at the top, a crude teepee or tent.
Yet, the locals in South Africa and its surrounding countries quickly found out that three tall sticks put together in the shape of a tripod are great for stabilizing your rifle when you hunt. While shooting sticks are not unique to the African hunting scene, the African bush with its thorny undergrowth and open terrain is where carrying a set of shooting sticks makes the most sense.
Unlike in Europe or America, prey roaming the African grasslands cannot often take advantage of the dense forests and tall mountain sides that the deer and elk call home. Much of the prime hunting land in Africa is in fact covered in dry grassland known as savanna. This landscape is covered in tall grass and thorn bushes. Trees, while present, are spread far apart, giving hunters few opportunities to rest their rifles on a tree branch or fallen log.
Another reason why shooting sticks are popular in Africa is because they allow the shooter to take steady, accurate shots while standing. Kneeling or shooting from prone in the savanna is both uncomfortable and impractical, since the tall grass would obscure a shooter’s vision, while the same grass would make it difficult to go prone.
During a safari, the shooting sticks will frequently be carried by either the professional hunter or the tracker, with the hunter bringing up the rear with the rifle. When the game animal is spotted, the sticks can be set up in a matter of seconds.
However, engagement ranges in Africa are not the same as they are stateside. Africa’s vast expanses of open grassland give prey animals a great field of view, making close-range shots extremely difficult. It’s remarkable to think indigenous hunters had to close in on a springbok within ten yards to deliver a kill with a spear or bow and arrow. Western rifle hunters, on the other hand will frequently have to shoot at ranges of more than one hundred yards, making the stability of a good shooting rest extremely important.
However, once the shooting sticks are set up, horizontal movement of the rifle becomes difficult. If a prey animal runs too far, the hunter will be forced to pick up the sticks and set up again. Another disadvantage of the hunting sticks is if they are not built for the particular hunter’s height, the hunter will have to shoot in an uncomfortable leaning stance, which is what makes practice with these shooting sticks so important. A 6 foot tall man will not be comfortable shooting on a rest made for a much shorter individual.
However, Kopfjäger carbon fiber and aluminum tripods have all the advantages of the shooting stick without any drawbacks. Lightweight and portable, a Kopfjäger with a Reaper Grip attachment allows a hunter to rest his weapon on the tripod without him behind the trigger. It also allows hunters to swivel 360° while also providing variable adjustments for height that ordinary shooting sticks do not.
They’re also about the same price as the finest African shooting sticks as well. Coincidentally, both the K700 AMT aluminum tripod with reaper grip and a shooting stick tripod go for the same price of $399. The only true disadvantage of buying a Kopfjäger tripod is its inability to be used as a walking stick. Otherwise, it outperforms its traditional counterpart in every conceivable way.