NIGHT VISION – How useful is it?

FOXBUSTERS have recently had the opportunity to evaluate some night vision scopes.

  1. “DALI” Wolfe Cub Thermal Monocular
  2. ATN 2-5x Mars HD Thermal rifle scope
  3. ATN 5-12x X Sight Day/Night Infrared Rifle Scope
  4. Pulsar Trail 2 XQ50 LRF Thermal rifle scope

Night vision scopes have the advantage for stalking or ambush in dark or near dark conditions.

They appear to be less useful in spotlighting mode.

The Thermal Monocular

Thermal Monocular

Is useful for tracking an animal’s movement if it can’t be seen in the spotlight.  Useful for scanning for animals when stalking or ambush (decoy calling).  Be sure to have rocks or fallen timber that has residual heat as a background, because foxes seem to be able to detect infrared also.  Also useful for finding fallen game in grass or bush.

It is important to have a steady rest when aiming.

1.5 metre bipod

1.5 metre bipod head with high density foam rest and a MP3 speaker for playing decoy sounds.

Because you are receiving your image via a camera, there is a slight time lag between what you see and where the aiming point really is. Offhand shooting may be disappointing with many more misses than with an optical scope.

1.5 metre bipod rifle rest

Accurate long range shooting is not a viable option either.  The reticule size in the X Sight is about 2 M.O.A. and is about 5-6 M.O.A. in the Thermal Scope.

Zooming doesn’t seem to improve the situation because the image becomes more pixelated the higher the zoom.

The X Sight I.R. gives a clearer picture and you get eye shine from animals when they look at you, but you get strong reflection from foliage etc.

ATN IR X Sight

The constant need to focus for varying distances can be a hassle.
The firearm becomes quite cumbersome with a suitably strong Infrared Lamp attached. With a strong Infrared Lamp you will get eye shine, but the body of the animal needs to be quite close to see it properly.

ATN IR X Sight with IR lamp attached

ATN Mars HD Thermal scope

The thermal scope can detect the thermal signature of say a fox size animal out to 200m-300m, however identification of species requires the animal to be much closer particularly in bush where only part of the animal or bird is visible.  The thermal can see the thermal signature of animals behind light foliage or grass.

Sighting in requires a thermal contrast target.  A cardboard carton with a 50mm hole placed in the sun with a damp rag hung behind the hole works.  Marking where the bullet has struck requires a stick with damp rag wrapped around it pushed into the bullet hole to allow reticule adjustment to the point of impact.  A small plastic bottle or disposable cup filled with hot water stood in front of a backstop to show an off target bullet strike is another thermal contrast target.

Thermal Target

Thermal target

Batteries  Auxiliary batteries are essential for extended use and to operate video functions in the scopes as the inserted batteries don’t quite keep up.  Keeping batteries charged ready for use is recommended.

Nocturnal animals have better night vision than ours.  The best we can do is to disguise our human form.  A simple portable hide made from PVC pipe and dark shade cloth works to conceal  yourself if ambushing ferals at a food source like a rubbish dump.

There is another way to sight in your thermal scope.  Tape aluminum foil to a carton, then stick black gaffer tape to the foil as an aiming point.  Pick a nice sunny spot where the sun warms the black tape but doesn’t warm the foil that reflects heat.  Photos below show it looks optically, then how it looks thermally.  Put black tape on the bullet strike for zeroing adjustments to be made.

Foil thermal target

Night vision scopes give an advantage for hunting some small, medium to large game at short ranges in low light conditions.  The firearm needs to have reasonable recoil to activate the Recoil Activated Video.

Be aware these scopes have short eye relief so heavy recoiling calibres could be a problem.

They mount on a Weaver Rail, so specialized mounts may be required.

I favor the thermal technology.  First sighting the animal with the thermal monocular then raising the rifle with a thermal rifle scope means there is a similar sight picture.  Most times there is a strong contrast between the animal and its surroundings so it is easier to keep track of your quarry.  I have taken many foxes and feral cats with thermal technology.

My new addition to thermal hunting is this Pulsar Trail 2 XQ50 LRF.  It has improved image, finer reticle, range finding and useful zoom giving it an edge over the ATN.  Aiming with a steady rest is essential.

Check out a Youtube video of a Pulsar Thermal in use.

ATN thermal scope in use

Feral cat and .17 HMR

Feral cat in a tree

Thermal – Calling foxes

WARNING  Walking around in the dark or low light conditions can be hazardous.  A possible solution is a low powered LED head lamp with a red cellophane filter.  It needs to be just bright enough to see where you are going safely.  This lamp could also act as a “Light Shield”.  Foxes appear to be less fearful of a light than the human form.  A small light can render what is behind the light, difficult to see.