PULSAR’S THERMAL SPOTTER
After a slow start to the harvest, Deano finds himself with several foxes to take care of, and finds Pulsar’s new entry-level, hand-held thermal imager is more than up to the job
In my last article, I mentioned that it was very slow at the start of harvest; after getting quite a few vixens in the spring, the cubs just weren’t around as in previous years. However, once all the crops had been cut it was a different story. We went out lamping and spotted five, although I only managed to get one of them. The other four were next to our boundary and jumpy as hell. One of them I have seen a few times – you can flash his eyes at 300 yards away and he is off like a shot. He must have trained the others! It was just one of those nights… two were right next to cover and just popped back in, and the other wasn’t safe.
Even though they were near the boundary, it’s still right in the main area of the shoot, with maize cover strips for them to hide in and wait for the partridges to be released – so it’s the last place we want any foxes. So, with the knowledge gained from the evening’s lamping, it was time to turn to technology and sit up and wait. Turning up the heat With a new thermal spotter from Thomas Jacks that I was itching to demo, it was perfect timing. The spotter I’m testing is the new, more affordable imager by Pulsar: the Quantum Lite XQ30V. My full night vision (NV) set-up is low end as far as cost is concerned, but with good fieldcraft and knowledge you can get really good results. I use a .243 with the Winchester 58gr VarmintX round – I have found these bang on for foxes.
The scope is a Photon XT 6.5x50 with a Sneakybeam Infra Red gun light on top, which extends my shooting range although it does vary according to moonlight.
But getting back to the spotter, I have used a friend’s Pulsar XD38S before so I had something to compare it with. As we all know, you do get what you pay for, but I was looking forward to giving the new budget one a whirl.
The first few evenings I went out with it were very warm, but the spotter still worked well. However, when the air temperature cooled down, it was clear how much sharper the image was. I found it very easy to immediately tell the difference between rabbit, hare, deer and, of course, the fox, although I have used a spotter before so I knew what to look for. I do recommend that when you first get one you keep checking and checking until you guess right every time, even when you are used to it. If you are in any doubt it only takes seconds to check … and you don’t want a small fox to go by you because you were sure it was a hare.
As for the Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30V’s performance, I found it spot on. Pulsar claims that the spotter can detect an animal’s body heat at up to 900m and I have certainly spotted large heat souces at really long ranges; I would then want to get closer to make a positive ID. That said, I can instantly tell what the heat source is up to about
140m – and with deer you can tell much further out. Having said that, I watched a doe come out with two kids one night, then about 10 minutes later I saw what looked like a fox appear. Here we go, I thought, but when I checked with the scope on my rifle, I realised it was a very small kid that had come out on its own.
Spotter in action
The first night I sat up after seeing those five foxes was a day later. I was next to a cover strip on the top of a valley with a stubble field and a cover strip on the other side.
I still had a good 45 minutes until dark but straight away I could see the rabbits and hares with the spotter. Now, I have been a hunter for most of my life and you get tuned in to spotting things others don’t see, but when you pan the area with your binos and then with a spotter… wow, what a difference! You spot deer, hares you wouldn’t otherwise notice – it makes me wonder how much has slipped by me over the years.
Once the dark closed in I began to get impatient. I have found that most foxes come out about 20 minutes after dark, but that said, I have waited for over two hours and then shot them.
It was not long after dark when out came the shape I wanted to see. I could tell straight away it was a fox at about 130 yards, but that’s because of the practice I have had; you just get better at it the more you use it (as with most things in life). For me, it’s not just about its size but more about the way the shape moves along.
That was the first one of the four I had seen and down it went. It was a young vixen. I had shot a roe buck three days before that and had brought the butchered carcass with me to lay out as bait, so I picked up my fox and put the deer out in the field. I left it quiet for an evening and returned the following day.
I arrived about the same time and soon it was pitch black (time just flies when you’re watching nature). It had been dark for about 20 minutes, and I was panning all over the field, when I spotted a shape in the distance worth checking. Sure enough it was a fox making his way across the field, but at a fair distance.
I turned on the scope and IR and got it in my sights. I let out a little squeak… it looked round towards me and shot off the other way. Damn! I kept it in my sights and just as it was getting hard to see and at the limit of my scope it stopped and offered me a broadside shot, which I took. The bullet flew through the air until I heard the pleasing ‘thud’. But in the excitement I had lost the mark of where he was when I shot him. I had been able to see the others lying dead when I checked with the spotter, but not this one, at least not from where I was. I drove across the field a good way then looked again with the spotter. This time I found him and went and picked him up. He was a cracker, a big dog fox. I reckoned he must be the one that never stands – even in the dark one little squeak and he was off. I have sat up a few times for him, but never seen him so I was so pleased to finally get him. Returning to the spotter, I know some people are against them and I can respect their opinion if they are shooting deer and foxes purely for sport, with no shoot or livestock to protect. In those instances, yes, I see why, after all stalking is a sport: spotting your quarry then using your fieldcraft to place yourself into a position to take a shot. But for me it’s more than sport – I have a job to do and I have to get them shot, and I’m happy to use whatever technology is available to help me. So I will definitely be treating myself to a Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30V, which has brought this technology into the realms of affordability without compromising on performance.
‘With a spotter, you see creatures you wouldn’t otherwise notice. It makes me wonder how much has slipped by me over the years’
As dusk brings the foxes out from cover, you may need to change from binos to a thermal spotter
After picking up a heat source with the spotter, Deano confirms the ID through his scope