Immediately, George set the tripod shooting sticks, which were adjusted to my height earlier in the day. I stepped behind the sticks and rested my rifle. Corne Kruger, my PH (professional hunter), readied to watch exactly where my shot would go in case a follow up shot was needed.
The elephant was less than 25 yards away. Yes, I could have hit a side-brain shot shooting off hand, but with the aid of the shooting sticks, there wouldn’t be any doubt my shot would be true.
The shooting-sticks rest would take any wobble out of my adrenalin-rush excitement, after nearly a lifetime of wanting to take an elephant. My Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye African rifle, chambered in .416 Ruger, was rock solid. My Zeiss scope’s crosshairs settled between the eye and ear opening, about two-thirds back due to the angle of the old bull’s head.
I let out all my breath as I had been taught at FTW/SAAM, then started putting pressure on the trigger. My Hornady 400-grain DGS (Dangerous Game Solid) struck exactly where I aimed.
In less than a heart beat I bolted in another round and quickly, and precisely, shot a second time. The bull pitched forward. Without taking an eye off my elephant, I reached down to my cartridge belt and pulled two rounds. I loaded one in the magazine and the other into the chamber.
“Come quickly … right between the ears!” instructed my PH as we rapidly moved to the dorsal side of the downed elephant. I shot the bull where instructed from a kneeling position to be at the same level as the elephant, having left my sticks where I had taken the first two shots.
Moments later I was receiving hearty congratulations from Corne, George and two other trackers. A myriad of feelings ran rampant through my mind. Above all, I was finally an elephant hunter, and a successful elephant hunter at that.
Could I have made the same shot without the aid of shooting sticks? Yes, as mentioned before. But shooting from a shooting-sticks rest, I had greater confidence of precise bullet placement.
A few years earlier, hunting with Corne Kruger’s Omujeve Safaris in the Caprivi, now known as the Zambezi Strip, this time for Cape buffalo. After days of hunting the tall grass next to the Chobe River, we finally found one ready for harvesting. He was laying down in the grass where all we could see of him was essentially an outline of the top part of his horns. I knew when he got up, he was going to be moving fast, possibly straight toward us, but hopefully in another direction.
With my rifle on a shooting-sticks rest, the barrel was pointed where I hoped the bull’s shoulder would appear when he finally stood up. I waited and waited, and waited even longer. The wait between spotting the bedded bull until he finally got up took about six minutes and 30 seconds.
Frankly, had it not been for my shooting sticks, there would have been no way I could have held my rifle in an at-ready shooting position for that length of time. I could have dropped the rifle to my side, without my shooting sticks, and likely still have made a deadly shot. When the bull finally stood up, I hit him exactly where it was needed. I followed up with a second shot as the bull bolted to the right after the first shot.
I love shooting from a solid rest, regardless of what rifle or handgun I’m using at the time.
Shooting rests come in all shapes and sizes, from crossed shooting sticks, whether hand made or commercially, with one leg, two legs, three legs and even no legs to numerous others.
Whenever I’m hunting, I’m continuously looking for a good, solid rest. This can include trees, fence posts, backpacks, stalking shields as in the Nature Blind Shield, rocks, my western hat (I’ve often used my hat as a rest on the ground, on a rock, limb or log), and even mechanical bipods, such as Harris bipods and similar products that attach to a rifle stock. I look for anything which will allow me to properly rest my rifle or handgun for an accurate shot.
One of the things shooting instructors at FTW Ranch’s Sportsman All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship (S.A.A.M.) suggest is when possible shoot from a prone position using a bipod or other good solid rest such as a backpack.
When you cannot shoot from prone, get the best possible natural rest. If a natural rest isn’t available, shoot using either a bipod or tripod shooting stick.
After getting a solid rest, take a deep breath, let it all out and then squeeze the trigger with steadily increasing pressure.
Shoot, follow through, then methodically bolt out the spent case, chamber a live round and get back on target as quickly as possible, then shoot a second time if the animal is still standing.
They encourage making the first shot the killing shot, and the second or more follow up shots for putting the animal down as quickly as possible.
Tim Fallon, one of the innovators of S.A.A.M., training, attaches a bipod to his hunting rifles. Then when shooting from a tripod shooting-stick rest, he grabs hold of one of the bipods legs attached to the rifle stock and the shooting sticks.
Occasionally, he and I work together as a team. The shooter rests his rifle in the crux of the shooting-sticks rest and the non-shooter places another set of shooting sticks under the trigger finger arm or underarm. This truly helps steady the shooter. There have been times where the non-shooter supports the shooter’s elbow with his hands.
Anything I can do to get as solid a rest as possible before taking a shot at any animal is of extreme importance to me. I learned many years ago I ALWAYS shoot more accurately from a solid rest.
My Ruger rifles and handguns, shooting appropriate Hornady ammunition based on what I am hunting are extremely accurate at distances near and far. Since my goal is always to put the animals I hunt down as quickly and humanely as possible, I always shoot from a solid rest