Started carrying them when I got into predator hunting since I'm sitting looking for approaching animals and they do keep you darn steady for longer shots. Last year while deer hunting I took a small coyote at 300 yards with my 7mm Mag which for me was a long shot. The sticks kept me rock solid.
On that same hunt a day later after that coyote I had forgot my sticks at camp and found myself with a shot at a partially obstructed very nice buck at about 220 yards. I didn't have a very good rest and tried the ol sitting on my rump with my elbows on knees. I wasn't as steady as I'd like to be and my shot went high and that very nice buck was Gone Johnson! I firmly believe that with my sticks that buck's horns would now be gracing my wall.
I carried them this year on my muzzleloader hunt and they do double duty as a walking stick for me and help in the steep terrain with securing my footing. They are the adjustable pole cat type so can be used sitting or standing or as a walking stick.
Incidentally this year I didn't even have an opportunity to use them as my Buck was a snap shot broadside at 70 yards and my Bull was another snap shot broadside at 40 yards.
Again, I think there invaluable to have if you are presented with a longer shot and can't find a suitable rest as well as doing double duty as a walking stick.
I used to hunt with an attached bipod, but have since moved away from them due to the fact that I rarely had vegetation short enough. I am getting better with improvised rests. I really like using my binoculars (Its not like they are swarovskis) as a ground rest or a backpack in or on bushes or stumps. The way I figure it is that if you have the time for shooting sticks, you probably have the time for an even steadier rest. But this is entirely vegetation and topography dependent.
I once guided a woman who was so dependent on them that she refused to shoot from a sit or kneel at a buck that was 60 yards away sitting behind a small yucca. She opened her back pack, unfolded the sticks "click, click, click, click", then finally shot the buck in the ass! Trailed him for two miles before her husband killed him. I couldn't believe the buck just hunkered down, hoping we'd continue on our merry way, only to get a .300 WSM in the femur.
Ah, yes even my uncle gave me the business about being dependent on them and here's my thought.
Mine aren't collapsible rather just adjustable for length. So, there's no fumbling around in regard to getting them in position.
It's just widening them and setting them on the ground all of which takes a second or two. Also, in my case, I am more then capable of taking offhand shots on game out to a hundred if not a little further.
Where they become more valuable to me is if the shot is two to three hundred yards or further generally when the game isn't aware of your presence and you have the few seconds to get into position. Seated with them in front of me I can get solid where I feel comfortable taking a long range shot.
If you just have your daypack or binoculars to use and the terrain isn't right or the grass too high, I feel you have an advantage with the sticks. I do agree one shouldn't become dependent on anything and be able to adapt within their capabilities in the field.
I prefer to use some kind of rest. whether it is a tree, backpack or shooting sticks. The shooting sticks are nice but not good for a prone shot. that is where a backpack comes in. Trees can just be handy when you don't have alot of time.
I prefer to use my backpack as a rest. Sometimes I'll pull a coil of rope out and use it as a butt rest for particularly long shots.
I also use my trekking poles as a seated rest. I X them up with a Voile ski strap. I have throw bag with about 50 ft. of 6mm cord in it. I put that in there to rest my rifle on. The poles are telescopic so I can adjust their length. I need them for hiking so I'm not carrying anything extra.
I just picked up a set of shooting sticks and I'm looking forward to using them. The problem with improvised rest, for me, is that anything that I may use as a rest has thorns in it. If I have time to go prone I'll use my pack as a rest but for everything else it looks like the sticks will be the cat's meow.
If you are looking to purchase sticks I'd recommend going with the 2-leg versions (whether collapsable, fold-up, or walking stick-like). The mono-pole models can be wobbly, especially if you are winded or have to use them standing up. The 2-leg designs make a big difference with the side-to-side drift in steadying the shot and it is also much easier to "adjust" for height by moving into or away from the 2-legged sticks once you are mostly set up--you can get the rifle placed at the perfect height very quickly.
The collapseable models are smaller, lighter, and easier to carry (unless you use the longer telescoping model as a walking stick). My buddy packs his collapseable sticks in a small pouch on his belt. But the size that will fit in a pouch on your belt are small and require a seated or prone shooting position. If you're looking for sticks you can take a standing shot with, I'd probably go with the telescopic design.
It's also nice to have a mount on the top of the sticks that allows 360 degree movement. It can be handy if you're in a hurry to get set up.
Shooting sticks are a great tool and can really help when buck fever hits. Also there has been plenty of times I saw game and could not use a good prone position or no natural supports where within reach. I fully agree with COMeatHunter on getting the two leg sticks for more stability and the telescoping ones. I like to have ones I can use in any situation but a good rest while kneeing is hard to beat. Carrying them might take a little getting used to but well worth it and better than missing a shot.
I use shooting sticks extensively and have several different pairs for different situations. I have a heavier pair I carry for my kids to shoot off of when I don't have a license myself and there is no question that these made a huge difference in thier early success when 12 years old. I even have one of the 3 legged ones if I'm not going very far and will be a able to sit and watch or if planning to use a blind for the afternoon. Every extras leg adds a great deal of stability.
What do you do with those empty nylon feed bags or dog & cat food bags? Can you say recycle? I use them for target practice for the youngsters. Take your empty shopping bags, stuff them into an empty nylon feed bag. You can also use old clothing or rags, (but put them in the bottom so it doesnt get top heavy). When your bag is full, fold the top over, punch some holes into the top and zip tie the top shut. Paint, draw, paste, or have the kids decorate their new target. Set it out 10 or 20...