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MYOG: Bipod shooting sticks for hunting using trekking poles

Do-it-yourself bipod shooting sticks using trekking poles, next to a Tikka T3 rifle (42.5-in length)

Background

I never go on a serious hike without trekking poles. With them, my arms can help propel me forward and upward, and brake on descents, rather than my legs bearing all of the load. Also, poles give me extra stability on rocky, rooty, sandy, muddy, icy, and snowy ground.

Needless to say, my backpack hunt gear list for big game in Colorado includes a pair: they are immensely useful when hiking through dense timber, over high passes, and up, down, and across steep slopes — especially while off-trail and/or while carrying a pack loaded with meat.

Shooting sticks are of similar importance on a hunt — technically, not essential, but hugely beneficial. In the field, it may be difficult to improvise a stable shooting position if there are no natural features nearby (e.g. trees, boulders) and if the most stable shooting positions (e.g. prone, sitting with pack assist) are infeasible. With the enhanced stability from shooting sticks, I can at least double my effective range when shooting offhand, to 200-250 yards from 100-125. YMMV.

My gear list does not include shooting sticks, however. My three simple explanations are the additional weight, bulk, and cost. For example, the full-length Cabelas Shooting Bipod weighs 18 oz and costs $40; a higher quality model, the BOGgear BOG-POD Shooting Bipod, weighs 23 oz and costs $85. When collapsed fully, these bipods measure over 30 inches in length, which means they’d stick about 10 inches above my Kifaru Bikini Platform Frame and Highcamp Bag, snagging on every low-hanging branch and blowdown.

The primary reason I don’t carry shooting sticks, however, is because with a few simple parts I can make a shooting bipod using my trekking poles. Here are the details:

Supplies

Trekking poles

For straight-up backpacking trips, I recommend the REI Carbon Power Lock Poles, though heavier and more abusive users should consider the burlier Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles. But with a maximum height of just 140 cm, these models will only work as full-length shooting bipods for shorter hunters. I’m 6 feet tall and must awkwardly squat in order to hold level my rifle when shooting offhand.

For poles with longer maximum lengths — around 155 cm, or 61 inches — look in the backcountry snow sports department. At my local shop, Neptune Mountaineering, I bought the Komperdell Backcountry Trail Ski Poles, but I was really looking for the Black Diamond Expedition 2 Ski Poles instead, the extended grip on which is a nice feature in uneven terrain.

Shooting rest

Commercial shooting sticks feature a universal shooting rest (USR) for a rifle; on higher-end models, it may swivel. To make a rest with my trekking poles, I cross them and wrap the intersection with a 15-inch Voile Ski Strap. Secure it tightly — any “give” at this intersection will compromise the bipod’s stability.

V-shaped, foam-lined shooting rest secured solidly with a 15-inch Voile Strap, wrapped twice

V-shaped, foam-lined shooting rest secured solidly with a 15-inch Voile Strap, wrapped twice

Leg support

The bipod will have good purchase on soft ground, especially when the pole tips are new. But for additional stability, install between the poles a support strap so that downward pressure on the bipod does not cause a leg to kick out. I used two lengths of small-diameter accessory cord (9 inches and 18 inches) and tied a small overhand loop in each end. I girth-hitched a cord to each pole and secured them in place using electrical tape. On one pole, only the overhand loop shows; on the other pole, the cord extends about 9 inches from the pole to the end of the loop.

I connect the loops with a mini accessory carabiner. To prevent the carabiner from swinging around and making noise when it hits the pole, I secured it in place using a hook-and-loop bundling strap.

Leg support straps using thin accessory cord, a mini carabiner, and a Velcro bundling strap

Leg support straps using thin accessory cord, a mini carabiner, and a Velcro bundling strap

When not in use, I secure the mini carabiner to the pole with a Velcro bundling strap to prevent it from swinging around and making noise.

When not in use, I secure the mini carabiner to the pole with a Velcro bundling strap to prevent it from swinging around and making noise.

Comparative analysis

There are several advantages in configuring trekking poles to be used as a shooting bipod, versus buying dedicated shooting sticks. Notably, I saved weight and money, and the system is more compact.

But there are drawbacks, too. The setup takes longer, though I’m not sure this matters — if I wanted to take a split-second shot, dedicated shooting sticks probably won’t be of much help either. The bigger disadvantage is that my system is not as optimized. Specifically, the mini carabiner and Velcro strap are difficult to operate with gloved hands; the Voile strap must be facing the right way or it can’t be secured (like a pants belt); and my rifle stock does not sit as cleanly in the V-shaped shooting rest as it would in a U-shaped one.

Apologies for the indoor photo -- when in my backyard, I can't point my rifle in any direction that's not towards a neighbor. When the 155-cm poles are fully extended, the bipod is just tall enough for a 6-foot tall hunter to shoot offhand comfortably, no squatting.

Apologies for the indoor photo — when in my backyard, I can’t point my rifle in any direction that’s not towards a neighbor. When the 155-cm poles are fully extended, the bipod is just tall enough for a 6-foot tall hunter to shoot offhand comfortably, no squatting.

Can anyone offer suggestions on how to improve this setup?

13 Responses to MYOG: Bipod shooting sticks for hunting using trekking poles

  1. Stephen October 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Thanks Andrew, This solves the strap problem for connecting a light monopod to my hiking poles to make a tripod. Previously, I used an elastic arm strap used for drawing blood, took too long to get right. This ski strap will work fine.

  2. Bill October 28, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    This is a good start, but needs some more refinement. Ideally, you could assemble your bipod in a few seconds without fiddling around with straps and carabiners. To do this would require some sort of snap together hinge, a ball and socket would be ideal. Gorillapod legs come to mind. There is snap together tubing that is used for machining lubricants and there may be fittings that would allow these fittings to be attached to trekking poles. Another thought is that, if the trekking poles had a 1/4″ -20 thread at the top for a camera attachment, this could be used. I have a V-rest that mounts on my camera tripod or monopod. What I’m thinking of at this moment is a short piece of bent aluminum bar with the V-rest mounted in the middle and two holes that would attach to the top of the trekking poles. A pin or snap ball on the top of each trekking pole would attach to the bar. The important thing is that it lock together so that the whole affair doesn’t fall apart while you are trying to take the shot.

    • Andrew Skurka October 28, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      Ideally, yes, shooting sticks can be assembled in just a few seconds. But for this to happen, you essentially need to be holding them in your hand as you are hiking. That seems unrealistic, no? I see myself using the bipod when I’m set up over a favorable area in the morning or evening hours, e.g. a meadow, in which case some additional setup time is okay.

      I know how to make your design idea a reality. First, you need a shooting rest that is compatible with a camera mount, like this one; there are some DIY online instructions, too. Second, get a Trail-Pix adapter, in which you insert your trekking pole tips, with grips on the ground. You’ll still need a leg support system, especially since the pole grips will not have good purchase even on soft ground.

      • Bill October 28, 2014 at 10:23 am #

        That is almost exactly what I was thinking of. I have the V-mount, so all that I would need is the Trail-Pix adapter, which I might want for photography anyway. The inverted trekking poles might not be that bad. When hunting, I try to avoid taking shots while standing. My favorite shooting position is sitting. I normally rest my left elbow on my left knee to steady my rifle, but a short bipod might do the trick.

  3. Dave October 29, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Look into shooting slings. I forgot which, but someone once convinced me that using a sling is more accurate than using sticks. He was right.

    I think one of several recommended were: Brownell’s Latigo sling. Can’t remember which one I bought for my rifle though.

    Might be a good MYOG project for you

    Image: http://gunsmagazine.com/guns/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SE-0214-SB-E.jpg

  4. Mario October 29, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I’m not a hunter but I do use my hiking poles (Black Diamond Carbon Alpine Cork) to support my Pyramid shelter (MYOG similar to Golite Shangri-La 3). I normally remove the lower section of one of the poles (pole a) and feed the tip of the other pole (Pole b) where the removed section of first pole (pole a) was. The Fliplock mechanism fits just right and locks perfectly the tip of the pole. This gives me a pretty long, adjustable and strong pole with the handles on each end….. Back to your application, I would think that you can thread and rest your rifle on the top strap of the extended pole. I wish I could upload some pictures for clarity.

  5. James L November 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    Andy,
    I was wondering just before you went on your hunt what you’d rig up with those trekking poles for s rifle rest. You did just about what I figured you would do to get double (triple?)use out of those trekking poles. Well done! You nailed the downside of purpose built rifle rests for a guy who already carries a perfectly good pair of trekking poles.
    As a long time NRA match rifle competitor about the only suggestion I would have is your.shooting form in terms of how you are holding the rifle and interacting with the iPod.
    First. It seems you are really scrunched down over on that buttstock. I realise you don’t have your hunting clothing on, but is the stock length of pull too short for you? I have built and fitted quite a few stocks in my life and it just looks a bit short.
    One suggestion I do have that will make the rifle mount more fluidly and track more responsive in the rest AND raise the gun up a bit is for you to lay the back of your for end hand in the V section of the rest between it and the rifle. In effect, it becomes more of a wrist-hand rest. for your natural offhand stance. Its quicker to get into play and allows more nimble tracking of the animal in the scope before you touch the rifle off. It also u prevents the rifle from have weird ventricle POI shifts from bouncing off a harder test than the sandbags you probably sighted it in with. Also. Interacting with the rest in that way allows you to further develope confidence in your natural offhand hold. Think of it more as.set of” training wheels” for your offhand hold when standing. .
    In my mind. a bipod setup like that only becomes a bench solid setup when it’s used with a solid sitting or prone position .That is usually when the animal is at least 300 yards out and totally unaware of your presense..The standing bipod setup to me is more of a slightly steadier version of a offhand sling..Still darn use full though, out past 100 yards!

  6. tom November 13, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    The Alaskan Guide Hiking Staff from Cabela’s has a hunting yoke which attaches to the tripod screw for a unipod – or make a simple angled bar to connect two poles with threaded two 1/4″ holes to connect them.

    It is a good trekking pole anyway – comes with sling, compass, match safe, tungsten small sharp circle tip, rubber tip, and is 62″ high. They’ve made it for years and it regularly goes on sale for half price.

    I and my son each have two of them. The longer poles 60″+ are more versatile, stronger when shorter, and much nicer to your back when used for taking pictures.

  7. Joe Cameron December 8, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    I hunt in Oklahoma, but have been using a trekking pole as a monopod for several years. If you prefer a bipod style over monopod, then this probably won’t work. Anyway, I just bought an off the shelf shooting stick with a swivel rest that I liked. It was screwed into the pole. so it took it off and took it to a machine shop where they made a 3/8 inch diameter aluminum rod with a female hole and threading to accept the rest in one end and a male threaded end to fit into the top of my trekking pole. The aluminum rod is 12 inches tall to fit the exact height between my trekking poles and the ideal rest position. The trekking pole was modified using the guidance from the suluk46 website. Although, you could use the A-pod they make now to avoid this. It works really well and saves time as I just keep it attached when I’m hunting, it doesn’t interfere with use of the trekking pole. http://www.suluk46.com/RandD%20-%20RD9%20TP%20Camera%20Mount.html

  8. John December 10, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Take a look at the Easton Outfitters Connex.

  9. Daren February 2, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Easton makes a slick connector to convert trekking poles into shooting sticks. Works a little better than my much loved Voile straps.

    https://eastonoutfitters.com/product/connex/

  10. Roger Nuffer May 6, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    This could be used for a long telephoto lens.

  11. David Brown October 15, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I use basically the same set up but without the Voile strap. If you use the two hand straps that come with the pole instead you can achieve the same thing, with gloved hands and arguably a little faster. I simply loop the two straps over the opposite pole grip and when I split the poles that forms a strap and a fairly solid place to put my rifle in. Combine that with my shooting sling and it’s pretty rock solid.

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