By Jade Moldae
Just like almost every facet of daily life, technology has changed the way hunters approach their time in the field. Today, hunters can employ any number of Bluetooth- and cellular-equipped game cameras to scout their preferred land from the comfort of their living room or office. GPS units, hunting apps and ballistic calculators are other tools hunters now have at their disposal. When it comes to thermal imaging products, nighttime hog or predator hunters can use this innovative technology to great effect. In an SI online exclusive we sat down for a Q&A with Tom Frane, the director of global sales for FLIR Outdoor and Tactical Systems, to see how thermal imaging technology has impacted the hunting market.
SI: Why has thermal imaging become increasingly popular with hunters? What segment of the hunting market tends to use this technology the most?
TF: Thermal technology is becoming the “must-have accessory” for predator hunters (hogs, coyotes, other predators or varmints). While regulations governing nighttime hunting for predators like coyotes and nuisance animals like hogs vary from state-to-state, many states allow nighttime hunting for these species.
Big-game hunters have also realized the benefits of thermal while in the field. Thermal technology is replacing the use of flashlights, allowing the user to stay covert and easily scan their surroundings and instantly see virtually every warm-blooded animal in their proximity — regardless of lighting conditions, bad weather or even in dust, fog or smoke.
SI: What benefits does thermal imaging technology have for hunters out in the field?
TF: Thermal imaging works by detecting minute differences in the temperatures of both live and inert objects, amplifying these differences and projecting it onto a small screen inside a handheld device or weapon sight. It is often incorrectly lumped into the category of “Night Vision Devices” (NVD), but the difference in the two distinct technologies is significant.
While highly effective when used in the proper applications, NVDs simply amplify visible light. They don’t work in extremely dark conditions and are useless in daylight. And if a target is stationary, camouflaged or hidden to any degree, an NVD simply becomes an expensive spotting scope. Thermal imaging equipment, on the other hand, works in these cases, because the heat differences between animals and their surroundings causes them to glow like a neon sign at midnight.
If your store has a healthy hog-hunting customer base, you might want to
consider adding thermal imaging products to your inventory. FLIR’s Tom
Frane says in-store demos are “invaluable” in increasing consumer awareness.
Thermal imaging products have opened up a whole new world for hunters.
Besides giving hunters the ability to see in total darkness, thermal
imaging optics can be employed in broad daylight — aiding in game
Thermal technology also has greater capabilities for range, field of view and allows the user to see beyond the shadows. But thermal also works in daylight.
SI: What are the some of the most popular motivators for hunters buying thermal imaging equipment?
TF: There are four primary reasons for buying thermal:
1. See At Night: Thermal handhelds, scopes and clip-ons work in any lighting conditions, including total darkness.
2. Scouting: The use of thermal technology allows hunters to scout for game in any lighting conditions — day or night.
3. Game Recovery: Thermal is an exceptional conservation tool and adept for recovering downed game. As mentioned above, thermal works in daylight. Retrieving downed game can be very difficult especially in early seasons when vegetation is still green and abundant. A simple scan of the area with thermal can often immediately reveal the heat signature of a downed animal that might otherwise not be found.
4. Situational Awareness: Thermal technology allows hunters to see their way without the need of white light or flashlights. This enables them to move undetected while reducing the chances of spooking or bumping game. It’s also helpful for avoiding run-ins with large or dangerous predators in the dark.
SI: How can storefront dealers effectively increase sales in thermal imaging products to hunters?
TF: Because thermal is still a new technology, the majority of hunters haven’t seen it in-person. Dealers have the advantage to demo the units and allow the consumers to test the cameras. Live demos are invaluable and the greatest tool. No point-of-purchase display or printed material can be a substitute for getting the cameras in the hands of potential buyers.
Dealers need to consider stocking a variety of thermal assets, close, medium and long-range units to give hunters the ability to check out the individual capabilities. On top of that, customer catalogs are a great resource for outlining the breadth of systems available.
Editor’s Note: Laws governing the possession and use of thermal devices by hunters vary by state, so Frane advises the hunting public to check their local laws governing the use of thermal technology and devices for hunting or hunting-related activities.