A thermal monocular offers several benefits, some of which you may not initially consider. After having used a thermal monocular
for over 2 years, I’d like to share some of the ways I use it to get an edge in the field and some ways you may
not have thought about using a thermal monocular before.
As a hunter, I am always looking for ways to gain an edge. It didn’t take me long to appreciate the benefits gained
from using a thermal monocular. I primarily hunt deer, hogs, coyotes, and turkey. Finding ways to use a thermal monocular
to gain an edge hunting each of these species was easy. Let’s get to it…
No More Spooking Deer on My Way In or Out of the Deerstand
One of the first benefits I realized a thermal monocular brought was that it provides me the ability to enter and exit
the woods without spooking any deer. That is, when I start out to my stand I scan with my monocular. When approaching
the stand if I see any deer on the corn pile I simply stop and lean on a tree or sit on the ground until they leave.
Without this ability to see into the dark I wouldn’t have a clue that deer were anywhere around, and I’d
be climbing in my stand only to hear the deer blowing and running off – that doesn’t happen to me anymore.
Likewise, when the sun sets, I always scan before exiting the stand. There have been plenty nights where I sat in the
dark for 10 or 15 minutes until a deer exited my area. Deer are no longer aware of my location simply because I was making
noise in the dark and didn’t know they were close by. This is solely because of the thermal monocular giving me
vision where I previously didn’t have it.
Track Deer More Efficiently
The thermal monocular also comes in very handy when trailing or tracking a deer. If you’ve ever shot a deer right
at dark, you know that it can sometimes be challenging to track them. If you made a good shot, then the thermal monocular
will likely save you some time. Yes, you should get on the blood trail as you normally would, but also use the thermal
monocular to scan the general direction the deer ran in and you may be surprised at how much more efficient your tracking
becomes. I’ve got friends who call me to come help them track deer simply because they know I’ve got a thermal
Locate Turkeys on the Roost More Easily
Turkey hunting is also one of my favorite things to do. There’s nothing better than watching a big gobbler strut
and there’s nothing more depressing than not being able to locate any birds. If you know the general area where
turkeys are roosting, then a thermal monocular may provide you with an edge in this scenario as well. Now days I always
take the thermal monocular with me when we go in before dark. I scan the tree tops to see if I can see any turkeys roosting.
Admittedly, turkeys are a little more difficult to pinpoint because their heads are usually the only part that shows
a sharply contrasting heat signature and during the spring the trees provide them with more cover. Though, the thermal monocular still
provides the opportunity to spot them. This again gives me an edge and as you would imagine we take it and use it as
much as possible. Locating birds is half the battle and a thermal monocular can help you locate them more easily.
Our Primary Use – Scanning for Hogs & Coyotes
The most obvious time when we use the thermal monocular is for coyote and hog hunting at night. We set our guns on tripods
and use the monocular for scanning and locating. As soon as we locate then the game we get into the scopes. If you don’t
have a scanning monocular you will quickly learn that it saves your back big time because you don’t have to constantly
be hunched over scanning in circles in the scope. Also, the monocular is safer to scan with. That is, if we are spinning
circles with our guns, we are pointing the guns in all directions which inevitably become close to other hunters and that’s
not a good thing. Since the monocular is obviously not attached to a gun it’s the safest route for detecting game.
Want to see footage from thermal monoculars & scopes?
Check out our thermal playlist on YouTube
Easily Locate Rabbits
For you rabbit hunters, I know it’s all about the dogs but if you want to easily see rabbits that are hiding in
the edge of briar patches there’s no better way than with a thermal monocular. We constantly see rabbits in the
edge of brush, in straw, and alongside fields while hog and coyote hunting. Want to get your dogs pointed in the right
direction… try a thermal monocular.
Something I noticed while looking at all kinds of things with my thermal monocular is that I can use it for surveillance
if needed. If a group of cars is parked around a house, I can easily tell which cars have been there the longest (they
are cooler) and which ones have just arrived (they are hotter). If you ever have out-of-place individuals lurking in
the shadows they are easily picked out with a thermal monocular. There’s not much hide and seek when it comes to
thermal technologies. The only area this isn’t 100% effective is in scenarios where there are windows. Thermal
detection doesn’t work through glass, other than that it’s awesome to use to see into the night and get whatever
info or recon you need.
One of my friends is a home inspector. Sometimes he’s looking for locations where hot or cool air may be escaping
a house. A thermal monocular is a great tool for this type of scenario.
Imagine an HVAC system that wasn’t installed correctly or if a pipe was leaking. A thermal monocular is a great tool
in these scenarios. Also, one can easily spot the hottest or coldest parts of any machine that could be “running
hot”. Wherever temperature matters a thermal monocular could potentially be useful.
Wondering which device you should use is a common question. After all, these devices are not cheap and as such these are
decisions that shouldn’t be made lightly. Since the purpose of this blog is to provide insight into ways one can
use a thermal monocular, I’m not going to compare all the options out there. A simple Google search will show you
the brand leaders and products on the market.
I’ll simply say that I am on the Pulsar Pro-Staff and I use Pulsar products. I’m a fan of the
Pulsar Helion XP-50 and it’s what we use on all our hunts. Pulsar recently announced the “Axion” line of monoculars as well. I encourage you to do research and go with the device and manufacturer that
is the best tool for your job.
Picture referenced from GunTrader.uk
We’ve hunted in the WeHuntSC.com Predator Challenge for 7 years. We’ve hunted hard and have yielded minimal results other than being frustrated. Lately we’ve heard a lot of people telling us how effective they have been with hunting coyotes with night vision. This year we aimed to reduce frustration and get more coyotes on the ground by upgrading to a night vision setup. This journey would lead to many lessons learned, which I’ll share in the below blog entry.
After doing some research it seems most hunters are using AR’s for their choice of weapon when coyote hunting. The AR model frees hunters from having to manually chamber another shell as this is done by the gun. This allows more rapid fire at targets which is beneficial when hoping to shoot multiple coyotes … if you can get multiple to come in.
I’d recently heard about Anderson Arms having a unique AR setup. Anderson uses a nanotechnology called RF-85 on their guns that makes it to where you never have to oil the gun. It’s pretty sweet technology. I went with the Anderson Arms AM15 optic ready. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over to https://www.andersonrifles.com.
With the gun selection done it was time to move on to the scope. This meant I had to learn about night vision. It seems in the night vision world there are 2 routes one can go – infrared or thermal. I’m sure you can get into religious debates about the advantages & disadvantages of each, but in the end I chose thermal. Once I decided on thermal I needed to pick out a brand. I had previously purchased a FLIR monocular for spotting scope which I use for tracking wounded animals and ensuring I’m not spooking deer on my way in or out of the woods. It’s very handy, but not very clear. I wanted to try a different brand to see if it was any different. PULSAR seemed to be a popular brand based on the research I had done. I ended up going with the PULSAR Apex XD38.
I worked with the crew at Reel Determined Outdoors to get this rig set up. If you haven’t checked out Reel Determined or the team up there you should give them a shout.
One initial note about night-vision gear. I was surprised at how expensive these technologies are so if you’re looking for a cheap night vision solution get ready to be surprised. However, I can tell you that once you use a night vision setup for coyotes you will never go back.
Sighting In a Thermal Scope
With the gun in hand and scope mounted on it we were ready to venture into the world of thermal night vision. Before we got to shoot at any coyotes however, we needed to sight it in. This is where we really started learning some stuff.
When you take a thermal scope out and look at a target you don’t see the lines on the target. This is because the scope is responding to heat signatures and, as you would imagine, the lines on the target aren’t putting out any heat. Yes, this would seem obvious, but to some rookies we didn’t think ahead about this too much. On our first attempts at sighting this thing in we ended up cutting the center of the target out and putting up some tin foil as the tin foil maintained different temperatures and we could *vaguely see the contrast in the scope. It was all we needed to get excited and get started though.
Once inside the scope I realized that we’d have to learn the menu systems inside of the PULSAR scope. At first sight it was a little overwhelming because I had no idea what all the icons represented. Yes there is a book that comes with it explaining it and yes we didn’t really read it before getting started! In retrospect the best thing I did was watch some YouTube videos of people talking through the menu items.
The menus are not difficult to understand I was just in initial shock of trying to understand them all. The icons make sense and there are 2 menus inside of the software. Yes, software… the thermal scope is essentially a computer system on your gun that’s giving you a screen with information on it and view into the dark. As such, it does require some time to boot up when you press the on button.
The thing that is important to understand about the menu is that you zero the sights in in the menu, that it can hold “sight-ins” for 3 different weapons, and there is a reset button. Sometimes I got lost in the menus and didn’t know what I was clicking and changed the weapon number and even clicked reset. This did indeed make for a frustrating time sighting in the weapon. Once I learned what buttons not to click things got easier.
Gavin and I ended up sighting this gun in about 3 or 4 times as we learned more, messed things up, saw that our scope wasn’t tight on the gun, and figured out the menu items. Once you understand how it works sighting it in is fairly easy. Another trick that made sense was to use hot-hands hands on the middle of your target. If you want to go the extra mile, soak a pizza pan in ice-water and then put it behind the hot-hands on the target. This creates a cool circle encompassing a hot center, which in the scope creates a good contrast for you to aim at.
After several times out with the gun and sighting it in we finally started hitting the target where we wanted to… in the bullseye.
Videoing with a Pulsar Recorder
One neat thing about digital night vision is the ability to record the footage from inside your scope. Since it’s a computer, why not right? PULSAR has different models and with the more recent models the video recording capabilities are getting even better and more user friendly. Our experience with the video recorder left some to be desired and required some learning on our behalf.
The video recorder for the model scope I have is the CVR 640 and it mounts on the weaver/picatinny rail… that is it can be attached to anywhere you see the grooved sections on the gun. In my scenario this meant I could attach the recorder on the side of the scope or on the front of the gun. I initially attached it on the front of the gun because this made ergonomic sense. The recorder holds an SD card and you simply pop the SD card out to download the footage. The recorder plugs into the base of the scope and screws in tightly. The odd thing about this is that your gun literally has cables running down & around it (however you handle your cable management that is).
I was very excited to video all the coyotes we would be busting in the near future! Sure enough it wasn’t long before we had coyotes in the scope and started pulling triggers. The first time I was sure that I was recording when I shot. I looked at the video box and noticed the blue light wasn’t on anymore. How terrible luck was it for the batteries to die right before the shot! So I got new batteries.
A few hunts later the same thing happened. Did I have a bad batch of batteries or what? After 8 live-action shots that were recording, but yet failed to record I had had enough. I’d put in numerous new batteries and nothing worked… I was going to get to the bottom of this. We had some hunts coming up and I left the gun with Gavin during one of our re-sight-in attempts. Gavin and I were both doing research on this issue. Gavin noticed that even though the recorder has a weaver rail and mounts to the gun it was NOT rated for recoil. I told Gavin to remove the video recorder from the gun, put it in his pocket and record himself sighting the gun in and see if the video stopped recording. BINGO! We’d found the culprit. Gavin said the video recorder continued to record during the shots when not attached to the gun. This let us know that the video recorder will record if it wasn’t attached to the gun when shooting.
The First Coyote on The Ground With Night Vision
With multiple times to the range figuring out the sighting in process and now with the video issue out of the way we were ready to rock and actually get some footage. We had been bummed about previous footage attempts because we had some great encounters. We were about to change that.
Gavin and I were requested to help a local farmer out who has a hog problem. We had indeed gotten hogs on camera at the location and were headed in to assist. When we arrived to the location we went in to the field scanning with the monocular as we walked toward our stand. Gavin saw that hogs were already in the field. So we dropped down to a knee and just watched. Right then a coyote started howling very close to us. To our surprise the coyote howl startled the hogs and they exited the field that they had just entered. I was surprised that hogs would be intimidated by coyotes, but thinking back on it the hogs has some young ones with them and maybe their leaving the field was to protect the young ones.
I told Gavin we should go to the area on the other side of the field where there is a deer stand and just be patient. I was sure the hogs would return. We agreed and slowly retreated to the other area of the field. We were just sitting there talking letting time pass when coyotes started howling very loudly again. This time there were more than one howling. We were hog hunting, but we did have the coyote call in the truck. Frustrated at the situation Gavin said “I’m going to the truck to get the call”.
After returning back from the truck Gavin set the call up and said “Get in the gun because when I hit this call they are going to come in”. So I did as Gavin instructed and turned the scope on.
If you’re wondering why my scope would even be off… night vision and thermal optics flat eat batteries. If you’re going thermal do yourself a favor and order the extended battery pack so that you are not like me and have to carry around packs of batteries in your pockets and constantly replace them.
Back to the story... Gavin told me to get in the scope and I did just that. Gavin played some coyote whimpers and a coyote duet, new sounds we’d just downloaded to the FoxPro before leaving. I was scanning left and Gavin was scanning right. We stopped the calls and it was quiet, crisp, and clear out. Nothing responded… no howl backs, no barks, nothing. Then all of a sudden Gavin whispered “There he is” and at that I turned to the right and saw a coyote crossing my face from right to left. I followed this coyote waiting on it to pause so that I could squeeze the trigger. Gavin said “What are you doing turn right turn right”. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that Gavin didn’t see the coyote I saw. He had seen another one, a bigger one, to our right. I told Gavin “Shut up” and he said “There’s a big one here on the right”. I said “Make him stop, say something, bark” and he responded “A big one on the right”. It was not easy to pull the scope off the one I was following and turn right, but I did. What I saw was indeed a larger coyote on our right. I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off. I could tell from the video that I hit him! I then swiveled back left and got back on the coyote that I had seen earlier. It paused just enough and I dropped it on the spot.
It all happened so fast. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was racing, but one thing was for sure. We definitely had the scope sighted in correctly this time. And when I pulled the video recorder out of my pocket it was still recording! We had footage to review!
We looked and looked for the first coyote, but could not find it. We think it ran off and died somewhere, but we did recover the second coyote and got some pics. Man it was a fun hunt.
And now you can re-live the hunt with us in the below video:
Tips For Hunting With Thermal Night Vision
Throughout this process we’ve learned a good deal about AR-15’s, night vision scopes, PULSAR, and recording video. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned and hopefully they are helpful to you in some way:
Have you ever seen a small pixel in your Pulsar Thermal optic’s screen that you wish wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb? If you fire your gun a lot these pixels-that-need-repair occasionally occur, but fear not, Pulsar has anticipated this and provided a way to resolve it. I had one on my screen for a few months before I investigated it and the good news is that it’s simple to correct!
A “defective pixel” is a pixel within your viewfinder or screen that is “degraded”, sticks out, and won’t go away even after your scope calibrates. I’ve owned a Pulsar Trail XP-50 for over 2 years and in this time, I’ve only had 2 defective pixels. Though, when it does happen, over time it will bother you enough to want to know how to fix it.
Here’s a screenshot of one of my defective pixels while in “White-Hot” mode
In this screenshot, the defective pixel may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re hunting and looking through the viewfinder it can become distracting to your eye over time, especially if it’s near the crosshairs. While hunting with the defective pixel shown in the screenshot above there were several times I panned the horizon and mistook the small white dot for being an animal that was a great distance out.
The first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel or something that doesn’t look correct in your viewfinder is to calibrate the optic. If you haven’t changed any settings on your scope then your Pulsar thermal optic will automatically calibrate every so often to ensure what you’re seeing is accurate, clear, and crisp. Calibrating the optic makes the clicking sound that you may have grown accustomed to hearing by now if you own a thermal optic.
These calibrations can be forced by pressing the power button in the Trail models. If my screen ever gets hazy or I notice something not sharp in the viewfinder I simply calibrate the scope. With all that said, the first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel is to force a calibration because generally that will fix it.
If calibrating the optic doesn’t resolve the issue then repair the defective pixel by going to one of the last menu options in the menu system, the “Defective Pixel Repair” option.
Once you choose this option it’s simple. The system presents you with a pixel selector and provides you with the ability to move the X & Y coordinates. This task feels very similar to sighting in the scope.
Just move the X & Y coordinates until you are right on top of the defective pixel. As you update the values for the X & Y coordinates the pixel selector will move across the screen as shown below. The pixel selector surrounded by the box is like the Picture-In-Picture feature and is a magnified (zoomed in) version of the pixel selector.
The goal is to move the defective pixel selector on top of (or as close as possible to being on top of) the defective pixel.
Once you have the defective pixel lined up you then need to hit the record button, yes, the record button. The system will repair the pixel and respond with an “OK” message.
Note: You can also use the remote control to do this as shown in this video by Michael Bennett
And that’s all there is to it! Note that depending on your unique situation, it may take repairing multiple pixels to get the screen back to the desired state. In one of the previous defective pixel scenarios, I had to repair 2 pixels before it was back clear, and the pixel was no longer bothering me.
I also made a quick video walking through this process. You can see the video below:
I hope you found this content helpful. If so, leave me a comment below.
Yellow Cape Communications is a communications firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yellow Cape specializes in television production, multi-media for web, still photography, communications consulting, marketing communications services and all things web. You've seen Yellow Cape?s work before when you first come to the site and see the girls in camo introducing our site. You may also have seen the 2010 Central Eagles State Championship Documentary or the Chesterfield County Career and Technology Education video. I also had Jason produce a DotNetNuke SuperFan Video for me and it turned out really good!
Jason Fararooei and his team at Yellow Cape Communications create top notch multi-media communications - so if you work for an organization that may need multi-media creation, photography or communications consulting services, check Jason out www.YellowCapeCommunications.com
Yellow Cape Communications has partnered with WeHuntSC.com on 5 quick-tip video segments to promote the basics in hunting and outdoor safety. Over the course of this deer hunting season we will be releasing the videos in this blog series. The below video, Buddy Stand Benefits is the 2nd video of the series.
We were recently approached for assistance by a South Carolina farmer with hog problems. He’d heard we had a night vision setup and that we could potentially help him with hog control. It took us a while to get a hog on the ground and this blog is the lead up to accomplishing the goal.
Hunting Coyotes Leads to Hunting Hogs
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog here then you’ll know that we recently upgraded to a night vision setup to better hunt coyotes. One of the locations where we hunt coyotes is near a farm and recently the farmer told us that hogs were really giving him problems. They were rooting up his land so much that he’s also hired a guy to trap the hogs. Nobody on our team is a hog expert but we wanted to do our best to help and we were up for learning!
The trapper was regularly catching hogs in the pen and we figured we’d put out a game camera to get a feel for what was going on. In 3 days we had 600 pictures and there was a large pack of hogs that were coming in all throughout the night starting shortly after sundown. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but we guessed 10-15. We got a pattern for when they were coming and we threw out a little corn and planned a date to try out first hog hunt.
The First Hunt
Gavin and I were excited to try and get a hog. Neither of us had shot a hog before because we don’t have them around our hunting leases. It would be a first for us and that helped make it a good challenge. I guess I should also add here that our first hog hunt also occurred during the same time frame where we were having issues sighting in the thermal scope!
On our way to the farm we talked about waiting until the whole group got there so we could have better chances for multiple hogs and we could pick out the biggest one. They were coming out in groups, per the recon from the game camera. We had a plan and were ready to rock.
We arrived to the farm around 9 and got setup. We’d been there about 35 minutes when we started to see some heat signatures coming through the woods. At first it was one big hog, walking solo and I was whispering to Gavin “Shoot that big rascal!” but Gavin held off. I was all excited and Gavin was actually doing what we’d discussed on the way over there… and I was glad he did. Just a few minutes later the woods lit up. It was a sight to see. 12 hogs all came from the same direction and headed out to the corn. Having never seen a hog before I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was how quickly they moved around. I figured they’d be slow, sluggish, and hold still for long periods of time, but that was not the case. They can move pretty quickly. Once the whole group got out there Gavin picked one out and shot. The whole group scattered and he shot again. We went down and walked and looked for blood… nothing anywhere to be found. We’d missed. Another trip to the shooting range was to come.
More Trips to the Farm
After missing the hog we were again frustrated. We re-sighted the gun in and waited until the next weekend. All the while we’re putting out corn and the farmer is filling us in on when the hogs are back. On the next weekend that we could line things up we headed back. This time as we approached the field we saw the hogs entering the field from a different location. It was about to be the quickest hunt ever. Just when we started looking in the scope we heard coyotes howling very close to us. We stood there trying to figure out what to do. As we watched the hogs in the monocular the coyotes continued to howl and to our amazement the hogs turned around and exited the field. Looking back on it we think the hogs left to protect their young ones. They had 3 little hogs with them and leaving was probably the best bet for them with the coyotes howling like crazy on the edge of the field. After this happened we stayed there for a while and waited. We felt sure the hogs would return. They didn’t. So, we broke out the coyote call and stared calling coyotes. That’s the night I shot 2 coyotes on video as seen in this video.
Shooting the coyotes proved that the scope was indeed zero’d in and we had more confidence. The next weekend came around and we returned yet again. This time the hogs were there when we arrived! We got into position and it was Gavin’s turn on the gun again. He put the dot on the hog and let the hammer drop. We both could see in the monocular and scope that when he shot the hog he was aiming at jumped up in the air. We knew he’d hit it! We went down and found blood. We trailed blood for 2 hours through some very thick briars and ultimately the blood trail stopped and we never found the hog. Frustrating again, but we were inching closer.
Going From 223 to 300 Black Out
We reviewed the footage and it was evident that Gavin made a good shot. With this we discussed and researched and decided to make some changes. We worked with the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to change out the upper on the Anderson Rifles AR=15 from a 223 to a 300 black out. This is a unique capability of the AR that gives hunters flexibility. In this scenario, it allowed us to shoot a bigger bullet, one that most hog hunters use.
The next weekend we went back and stayed out there for 3 hours and never saw a hog, but did hear a bunch of coyotes and I missed a coyote! This time we knew the scope was dialed in, I’d just made a bad shot.
Interested in our setup?
We shoot an Anderson Arms AR-15 with RF-85 technology. (You never have to oil the gun). On top of the gun we have a Pulsar Thermal Scope + video recorder. Any Anderson gun and any Pulsar Thermal Scope will be great setup for you too!
We upgraded! Since the blog entry we've upgraded to the Anderson Arms AM-10 308 ( a bigger bullet). You can read about the new setup here.
The Hunt We Finally Got It Done
You may be reading and wondering “How many weekends is it going to take for things to line up for these guys?” … and that’s exactly what we were wondering too. Our luck would be changing soon though.
The farmer reached out to us about mid-week and said “The hogs are back big time”. He’d seen more and more evidence of the hogs rooting and they had wiped out all the corn that we had out. (Side note: trying to keep a pack of hogs fed with corn gets expensive quickly!) So we planned our hunt.
Again this time the hogs were out in the field as soon as we got to the field. Gavin and I quietly got into position. The whole time we could hear the hogs grunting and snorting down near the pen. From the look of the monocular it seemed like one hog was actually trapped in the pen, but we’d later see that it wasn’t.
It was Gavin’s “redemption hog” turn on the gun. I’ve got him trained not to be shooting anything until I’ve got video rolling too 😉 Anyways, we were in position, gun was sighted in very nicely, video was rolling and I gave Gavin the greenlight. We were whispering to each other about which one he was going to shoot. I was watching in the monocular while Gavin was in the scope. Gavin asked me if I was ready and I said yes… then there was a long pause. Gavin giggled… he said “I didn’t take the safety off!” Yes it sounds crazy, but we were so worked up and ready to get it done that our hearts were beating and we were both breathing heavy! Then he said “Aight, I’m shooting the big one” and moments later the first shot rang out. As they ran off Gavin continued to unload on the big boy, which we’d also discussed on the way to the farm. At the shot there was no sign of hitting the hog. It did not jump, flinch, or move awkwardly. With the 223 we tried for head shots, but with the 300 black out we put it on the shoulder. Gavin and I talked as we tried to calm down. He said he felt he made a good shot.
Minutes later we went down to the area where the hogs were. No blood. What! He made a good shoot, the gun was sighted in, we’d upgraded to a bigger bullet… why did it not work out! We were already making plans to go back, yet again, to the shooting range. We decided to walk over in the direction where the hogs ran. There was no blood anywhere to be found. We scanned in the thermal looking for heat signatures in the field and didn’t see anything. The only thing we saw were a few wet spots that looked like slobber or something in the dirt, but it definitely wasn’t blood. We were growing frustrated as you can imagine.
This farm is in an area with lots of hills. As you can see in the video the hogs were just behind a small hill when we shot. As we talked and walked the edge of the field you could just tell there was a vibe of frustration, an energy of we-didn’t-get-it-done-yet-again going on. Then Gavin said “What is that?” And I said “What?” He pulled out the thermal scope and said “That’s the freaking hog right there!” and I looked and man it was huge laying right there on the edge of the field. What happened was the hog did not bleed at all and ran about 60 yards around a corner and laid down on the edge of the woods just behind a hill of dirt. This is why we could not see it in the thermal. Instantly we got all excited and the vibe changed from one of dejection and frustration to one of celebration and excitement! We’d finally accomplished the goal and got a hog on the ground. And yes the 300 blackout really put it on the hog. We high-fived and drug the hog out to take some pics. When we grabbed the hog to drag it and take pics we had to re-grip the legs because it was so big. I’ve drug a lot of deer in my life and this thing was heavier than any deer I’ve ever drug. I’m guessing it went around 220 lbs. It was a healthy female hog and yes it stunk!
After multiple attempts at getting a hog we finally succeeded and it felt good to get in the end zone for once! We finally had proof to the farmer that we could help him out. We’ve finally got things dialed in and set up and guess what… the farmer has already let us know that the hogs are back again so we will be heading back out sooner than later.
Do you have problems with hogs or know a farmer who does?
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There are several facets of Game Management. The first one we're going to investigate is the notion of food plots. Food plots are great resources for managing game on your land and are commonly found as a staple in any game management strategy. The core definition of a food plot is "A planted area set aside to act as a food source for wildlife" (Wikipedia). Given that definition a farmer's large field of crops such as soybeans, corn, and peas sometimes serves the same purpose that a food plot does even though that is not the intention of the farmer! Though, farmers will eventually harvest their crops whereas when hunters install food plots they are usually not as big, are of more variety, are located in different areas, and wildlife are the intended consumers of these crops.
It's important to begin by saying that food plots are not a solution to a problem, but rather a supplement that can be beneficial for the game on your land. If you do not have deer on your land, planting a food plot will not make them magically appear. Planting food plots will also not instantly create "monster bucks" on your land or instantly increase the number of deer in your herd. If you expect these kinds of miracles to occur as a result of planting food plots then you're going to be disappointed. Managing your own expectations is important when installing and maintaining food plots. After putting in a lot of work and time with food plots it's easy to feel like "I've worked hard so I should reap the benefits of my work", but this is not immediately accurate. The benefits and effects of having food plots on your land become more prevalent over the course of time. As you might imagine from this blog series, food plots are just one tenant of game management and they are probably one of the most well known in the game management matrix.
Hunters often install food plots in areas that farmers wouldn't, in areas that are deep in the woods or out in some remote location. Creating food plots in these remote locations gives deer easy access to food sources that they need and also provides hunters with ideal hunting locations. Thus, food plots offer both nutritional benefits to the deer as well as benefits to the hunter. Let's look at the nutritional benefit of creating food plots first.
Having food plots on your land during the spring, summer, and fall months ensures that the deer in your area have protein which is important during this time of the year when bucks are growing antlers and does are pregnant and lactating. Adequate nutrition helps the reproduction process, increases the birth weight of fawns, foments larger body size, & raises the likelihood of the doe having multiple fawns. The healthier the doe is the more she can lactate. A healthy adult doe directly helps the fawns out as they mature. Also, during the rut, bucks expend a lot of energy & valuable resources. The availability of nutritional resources helps reduce post-rut mortality rates of these bucks when they run themselves ragged during the rut.
During the winter months a deer's food sources are not as plentiful as Mother Nature naturally reduces the available supply of forage. During this time of year deer don't need as much protein for growing antlers or nursing, but rather they use the nutrients they consume for pure energy. Having food plots available helps deer not have to use fat they've stored up for their internal energy demands. When they can find forage to browse on during winter months it aids in keeping them healthy and decreases the amount of time spent recovering from the rut period. The sooner they can recover from the rut and winter the healthier the bucks will be when the time comes to re-grow their antlers and the more fit the does will be to carry and nurse the fawns. Keep in mind that these benefits won't be noticeable initially as it takes time for these cycles to occur.
Keeping food plots going year round is the best case scenario, but sometimes, for various reasons, we may not be able to manage food plots throughout the full year. If I had to pick one season to install food plots, I would definitely install a food plot during the winter months when the deer's food sources are minimized. Providing deer with ample food sources during this time is more critical for them and will also help you locate deer during winter months.
Food plots also offer hunters some benefits.From a hunting perspective food plots normally increase the number of deer you see during the hunting season, that is as long as you don't disturb them too much. I have friends who want to go and "check on' their food plots all the time & go switch game camera cards out at their food plots way too often. Going out to food plots repeatedly only counters the desired goal and the reason you put them in! I've put in a lot of hard work on our food plots and I still have to remind myself not to overdo it when hunting and checking game cams. Mature deer pick up on these disturbances really easily. I try to be mindful of the pressure I put on our food plots and I don't shoot at every deer I see in our food plots.
On a side note, if you're a turkey hunter, food plots also benefit turkeys. Turkeys will come out and pick at the crops (depending on what you've planted) and also get bugs from around them. I got video just this past weekend of a turkey browsing a food plot. In this respect food plots can serve a dual purpose for hunters if you hunt both deer & turkeys.
From what I've read (and heard) it seems that general ratio is to have 5 - 10% of forested land as food plots. There are tons of different crops you can plant and there is a whole industry ready to sell you any kind of food plot seed and gimmick imaginable. I try to keep in mind the end reason of why I'm creating and maintaining food plots because it's easy to get overwhelmed with options. I try to remember that legumes such as clover, peas, & soybeans are all rich in protein and are great for deer.
We've chosen to work with Tecomate Seed for our food plots because they make quality seed that grows well in our area. Tecomate Seed is coated with a coating called "Yellow Jacket" that helps absorb a large amount of water so the seed can germinate. Tecomate Seed has a trusted brand that's built on years of research and testing. If you've ever seen the TV show "Bucks of Tecomate" then you know what I'm talking about. Hopefully in time we'll have some good deer like that around the areas we hunt, but the same rule applies patience is the key.
We are installing food plots on some areas of our land this year and I'm going to be posting some brief blog entries with videos and pictures of our food plots to keep you posted on our successes & failures with regards to our 2011 food plots. We're planting Tecomate's Max Attract in all locations.
It?s evident that managing game on one's land can have long-term benefits for hunting. In this blog series we're looking at the concept of Game Management. So far in the journey we've discussed Food Plots, Selective Harvest, & Herd Balance and with this entry we're going to look into the concept of deer surveying.
Deer surveying is exactly what is sounds like, surveying the deer on your land. Recent technology has made surveying deer (and any species of game) a whole lot easier, mainly via the creation of the game camera. The invention of the game camera has undeniably changed the way we hunt. Game cameras give hunters an advantage by providing valuable information about the deer in our area. Obviously game camera pics don't give an outdoorsman a 100% accurate read on the deer in a given area, but they do give way more insight about the deer herd than if we didn't have game cameras.
Game cameras are the most common (and affordable) way to survey one's deer herd. Though, there are more scientific and expensive methods of surveying deer. I heard one speaker at a conference say that in some locations they were flying airplanes over tracks of land taking thermal imagery to survey the game on the land. I imagine thermal imagery is more accurate and way more expensive too! I also know that DNR uses some more advanced, scientific techniques for surveying deer population & growth. These are all neat methods that provide more accurate data, but any method besides a game camera falls out of my financial range. Nevertheless the importance of having a feel for the game on your land is the main point to be noted.
Why is having knowledge of the deer in an area important for game management? If you are herd balance conscientious then surveying deer can give you a feel for the ratio of bucks to does on your property. Sure it's not accurate down to a finite percentage, but it does allow more informed decisions to be made about the herd in a given area. From this insight a hunter can help determine which deer he or she should or shouldn't harvest based on numbers. Essentially a hunter can get a feel for the herd balance in the area they are hunting through surveying the game on their land. You'll find that die-hard hunters survey deer year round and move their game cameras around a few times a year. Surveying deer, like game management, is a year round process.
Surveying the game in a hunter's allotted hunting area also helps one determine the age class of deer in the region. Viewing the size of deer in a game camera's pictures can help hunters determine the age of bucks based on body size, rack size, and other traits of mature bucks. Along with viewing the different age class of bucks any recent fawns, yearlings, and does can be observed as well. Viewing the deer in your area helps you get a feel for the health of deer as well.
Knowledge of the game in a track of land is a must in any effective game management strategy. Whether you survey deer through more expensive techniques or simply through a game camera, surveying deer pays dividends and helps hunters make informed decisions. Surveying deer allows hunters to watch deer mature over time and gives insight toward the herd balance ratios. If you haven't already, start learning about the deer in your area and you'll be a better hunter because of it.