Deciding On The Best Thermal Imaging For Hunting
Chasing critters — such as coyotes — at night varies from close-quarters action to scanning hundreds of acres at a time. This takes quality thermal optics. Subpar equipment won’t serve you as well. Still, it takes knowledge to understand these things, and how to discern the best thermal imaging for hunting from garbage.
Hunters need to know about their thermal optics and how to be able to compare one model from another. So, we’ll show how we should choose products accordingly. Some models are better than others for different types of hunting, and it all depends on what you intend to do, the different types of construction and materials to consider, and more.
Oftentimes, hunters know the basics of optics, including magnification, field of view, etc. After all, choosing the best in thermal optics is an important step prior to the hunt. But there’s more to thermal optics than just typical optics terms.
Additional vernacular, and aspects of thermal gear itself, are important things to know. Therefore, we’ll define hertz, refresh rate, resolution, and much more.
The Night Hunt
Those who haven’t experienced a night hunt should consider what it has to offer. Of course, for those who are mostly deer or turkey hunters, it almost seems taboo to hunt animals, such as coyotes, at night. Trust me, it isn’t easy. Fair chase is still in play. And you shouldn’t feel uneasy about removing a song dog or two between dusk and dawn.
There’s just something about a big coyote prancing into view, all lit up in the thermal view. Seeing that firsthand is a unique experience that many hunters never enjoy. But for you, the aspiring night hunter, it’s soon to become a reality. To start, let’s dig into some of the terminology to know, and considerations to remember.
Terminology to Know
Steve Lemenov, director of marketing for American Technologies Network, Corp. (ATN), acknowledges this. He says vernacular (terminology) is one of the most important things to understand before purchasing a thermal scope.
For example, “refresh rate” is the speed at which the screen you’re looking at refreshes. Higher refresh rates relay information faster. This is measured in “hertz,” which expresses the refresh rate of the screen.
“The average person sees at about 24 hertz, and some can see a little above that,” Lemenov said. “A higher number of hertz helps ensure less lag.”
When a shooter or hunter experiences lag, it limits shooting capabilities. No one wants that. Your thermal night scope should improve the experience, not take away from it. Of course, thermal optics come at different refresh rates. So, hunters should get the best gear they can afford.
Next on the list is “resolution,” which is the image quality the hunter will see through the device. According to Lemenov, there are different resolutions available. The lowest is 80×60, but for hunting, 160 x 120 is the bottom of the barrel, and you go up to 320 x 240, even 384 x 288.
Lemenov says the highest commercially available option is 640×480. This is the highest quality a hunter can purchase on the commercial market. Naturally, the higher the resolution, the better the optics, but also the more expensive these will be.
Another term to know is “microns,” which is the size of a pixel in a thermal sensor. The smaller it is, the cheaper it is to make. But larger ones produce better results in the field.
Interestingly, there are many products with high-resolution sensors that can cover a wide range of scenarios (short to long range). Still, not all thermal products will check these boxes. And, of course, there are other terms to consider, but the above ones are the most important.
Considerations to Remember
Lemenov says one of the most important things is to determine what each individual person wants and needs from thermal imaging for hunting. Because of this, it’s important to ask relevant questions. Do they want a wider field of view? Or a better magnification?
He says it all depends on the scenario and the utility of that individual. They must determine what is most important to them and choose product accordingly.
For example, when coyote hunting, song dogs commonly come out from ridgelines and other areas of cover. You want to be sure of the target you’re seeing, and sometimes it can be hard to discern what you’re looking at.
Quality thermal imaging for hunting helps you see the animal clearly, which makes it possible to see its body shape, read its body language, etc.
Studying the style and movement of the animal is a big part of determining if it is a target species or not, and Lemenov says you can tell the difference between a coyote and household dog by the way they move. Making mistakes isn’t an option. Good thermal optics help make the right decisions.
Thermals also aid in hog hunts. These are easier to identify and get close to and might not require higher-quality thermals like when hunting other animals.
Another thing to consider is the size of the lens, which dictates magnification and field of view. This allows hunters to see more area at once. This makes it easier to spot and track targets.
Aside from resolution, magnification, field of view, and other necessary aspects, another important thing in the best thermal imaging scopes is battery life. How many stands can they make?
Lemenov says if it dies within two hours, you can only do so much. If it lasts 10 or 15 hours, you can go all night or several days. Fortunately, ATN offers a 16-hour battery life, while most competitors only have 5 to 6 hours.
Furthermore, don’t overlook recording capabilities as a bonus.
“On-board recording is big when you can share that experience with family and on social media,” Lemenov said. “People want to show their hunting experience.”
Lastly, consider budget. Study yours and determine what you can and can’t afford. Remember, there is a $1,000-$1,500 difference between lesser and greater options.
Lemenov says that if budget isn’t a factor, you want to understand the lens size, optical magnification, battery life, how it mounts, etc. Whether it’s a traditional bolt action or a dovetail, you want something that will mount. It all depends on wants and needs.
“The cool thing about a lot of our products is a profile manager,” Lemenov said. “You can swap between guns, and using the quick detach mount, swap it between rifles, and use the profile for that gun. It will retain zero.”
Now that’s pretty cool.