Who uses them and why? I'm relatively young guy (27) and I'm contemplating getting a set for those steep hikes but it just seems like that much more weight to carry and keep track of. What's your thoughts??
I'm 28 and use them. They double as my tent pole, rifle rest, and sometimes spotter rest so it actually saves me some weight at times. Plus they fold down small to be stowed away if you don't need them.
You don't necessarily need a set of "trekking poles", but I HIGHLY recommend using something for a third point of contact when sheep hunting. Before trekking poles, guys used walking sticks, staffs, or walking ice axes to good effect. I still use (and prefer) a good spruce stick over trekking poles, but anything that gives you another point of contact will pay dividends at the end of the day with a heavy pack. The advantages (as I see them) are:
1. My legs are less tired when climbing because they don't have to do as much work "balancing" when I take each step.
2. Great as a brace when crossing fast mountain streams
3. Easier on your knees when descending, especially with heavy a pack.
Worth the weight to me and I'm about your age. In fact, my main piece of advise would be to consider sturdiness before weight when picking something out. My preference is to just use one pole (I like the free hand), but using two has it's advantages also.
I don't believe I've met many sheep hunters here in Alaska that don't use some sort of walking support. Try it. You will like it.
As the others have pointed out there are a number of good reasons to have a pair of trekking poles. My first pair were twist lock Komperdell and my current pair are flip lock Black Diamonds. Well worth the money IMO. You don't need to buy the top of the line ones, but I certainly wouldn't buy the cheapest either.
I have a pair of Leki's for my goat and sheep hunts. I used them on hikes in NY carrying my pack so next month I will put them to use in the BC mountains for goat and let you know what I think of them on the mountain. JJ