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        How to use Thermal Binoculars for Hunting

        How to use Thermal Binoculars for Hunting

        One of the essential parts of a hunter’s toolkit besides his weapon is a good pair of thermal binoculars. Ideally used for stalking rather than stand hunting, where one will be able to spot an animal from a good distance away while remaining well out of its line of sight. 

        Now, while the human eye’s detection range is essentially infinite and limited only by terrain and the curvature of the earth, the further an object is, the more difficult it is to see, especially when the hunter is old or if the animal has good camouflage like this snow leopard camouflaged on a cliffside.

        snow leopard camouflaged on cliff

        Thermal binoculars like the Pulsar Merger help immensely, defeating all manner of camouflage since they see the IR heat signatures emitted by all objects. However, like all tools, one must learn how to use it if one wants to be effective.

        Stability and clarity of sight picture are important when glassing with a thermal, just like they are with regular daytime binoculars. Stability is easily achievable by using your binoculars with a sturdy hunting tripod like a Kopfjäger. The Merger LRF, when used with its mounting adapter, is perfectly compatible with the Kopfjäger leveling head, which allows the user to tilt and roll the binoculars without losing stability.

        Merger on Kopfjager leveling head

        Of course, for hunters without a tripod, stability is still easily achievable from a sitting position by bracing one’s elbows on the knees, or from a standing position by bracing against the side of a tree trunk as one would with a rifle.

        Slow, deliberate movements are essential for glassing. Movies and cartoons frequently depict characters rapidly moving from one area to another, but motion blur helps no one on a real hunting trip.

        When glassing, it’s a generally bad idea to scan an area at random. For more efficient glassing, experienced hunters divide the landscape into grids. This is done by laying out one’s field of view into an imaginary series of vertical and horizontal lines like a chessboard. Slowly and carefully move the binoculars from left to right across your entire field of view, careful to look for any straight horizontal lines which might be the backs of deer or any movement that doesn’t seem like it’s just the wind. Once you reach the end of your field of view, shift your view either up or down and scan the next imaginary row right to left, as if you’re reading a grid.

        While the binocular’s straps are for convenient access, there is a reason why they’re made to be slung around the neck and not stowed in a belt pouch. When a hunter is on the move and spots an object with his naked eye which he thinks might be an animal, he should not look down into his bag to take out his binoculars. He may lose his prey when he looks back up. Instead, hunters should lock their eyes onto their targets and bring up their binoculars from their chests so as to not lose their sight picture. This is similar to the concept of using magnifiers for red dots. The red dot stays on target but the magnifier does not need to adjust to magnify the same area.

        Were these tips helpful to you? How do you use your Merger LRF thermal binoculars? Tell us in the comments below.

        How Thermal Saves Lives

        How Thermal Saves Lives

        Thermal imaging cameras or “TICs” are for more than just hunting. They’re also valuable for electricians and search and rescue personnel, particularly because they’re very good at seeing through materials like smoke and fog, which would normally obscure the naked human eye.

        Here are some examples of how emergency services and first responders used thermal imaging to save lives and property:


        1. Fire department saves mobile home because of thermal camera

        Back in 2003, the all-volunteer fire brigade of Williamstown, Vermont (population 3,331) received a federal grant. One of the essential pieces of equipment they bought with the grant money was a state-of-the-art thermal camera that featured a multi-color palette, which quickly proved to be a valuable asset to the fire department.

        In 2004, the department responded to a fire in a mobile home. After the visible fires were put out, the firefighters scanned the site with their thermal camera to determine if there were other hidden fire hazards or embers which could reignite the flames.

        This particular mobile home had a wooden frame roof installed above a metal roof. To the naked eye, everything would look safe and clear, but firefighters equipped with their thermal imaging cameras were able to detect an unusual amount of heat in between the two roofs and removed that section of the roof to save the rest of the building.

        Second Assistant Chief Bill Ashe recounted, “Without a doubt, the embers eventually would have rekindled the fire and led to a total loss of the mobile home.”


        1. Terrorist found and arrested with a helicopter-mounted thermal camera

        Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat through a thermal camera.

        In April 2013, two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev bombed the Boston Marathon with a homemade pressure cooker bomb, killing three and injuring about 264 people. After the success of their attack, the two Islamic extremists had spontaneously decided to attack Times Square but were cornered by police at Watertown, five miles away from the original site of the bombing.

        A gunfight ensued, and officers from six different police departments opened fire on the two terrorists in an engagement where at least 200 rounds were fired and six explosive devices were lit up the 100 block of Laurel Street. In the confusion, the older brother Tamerlan ran out of ammo and was arrested. Dzhokar tried to stop his brother’s arrest by ramming into the officers with an SUV, but ran over his brother instead, killing him. Despite successful law enforcement actions in Watertown, Dzhokar was able to get away, and the nationwide manhunt continued.

        Hours later, Watertown resident David Henneberry noticed that the tarp covering his parked boat seemed a little loose, and also noticed there was blood on it. He called the police, who arrived at the scene ready with a tactical team and a helicopter with a thermal camera.

        The police helicopter trained its thermal imaging device on the boat and confirmed that a person with a heat signature was inside. The figure began poking at the tarp, which prompted police to open fire on the boat.

        After a brief firefight, the badly wounded Dzhokar Tsarnaev was arrested and taken to hospital in critical condition. He is currently awaiting the death penalty.

        Without interagency cooperation, the cooperation of local residents, and modern technology like the thermal camera, which allowed officers to verify their target and engage from a safe distance, Tsarnaev’s arrest would not have been possible.


        1. Wandering septuagenarian found with thermal drone

        In Grant County, east of Seattle, the Hartline and Amira Volunteer Fire Department received a call from dispatch about a missing person. 

        Apparently, a 70-year-old man with dementia had wandered off into the woods in the middle of the night. The 911 call went out at 1:30 am, and the surrounding woods were pitch black, frustrating rescue personnel who conducted a search on the ground.

        The search went on for two and a half hours and exterior temperatures dropped to 32° Fahrenheit. Rescuers knew they were racing against the clock – prolonged exposure to a man who was likely not dressed in winter clothing would most likely lead to him falling victim to hypothermia. To expedite the operation, rescue personnel released a drone equipped with a thermal camera to survey the search area.

        The thermal drone found the man within just eight minutes. He was lying still in tall sagebrush, making it impossible for the ground search clue to locate him. With its white hot palette, the cold ground was displayed as dark gray on the thermal camera’s sensor, while the man showed up in bright white, contrasting sharply with the area around him

        Rescuers were able to reunite the man safely with his family, and Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones says the rescue would’ve been impossible without the assistance of thermal technology.

        Understanding Thermal Image Palettes

        Understanding Thermal Image Palettes

        Pulsar’s wide array of thermal products take pride in their image palette versatility. With 8 different image palettes which go beyond simple white hot and black hot, users might feel overwhelmed.  

        More than just differentiating between what objects are hot and cold, the various color palettes can each be used for different purposes. While a user’s choice of palette is ultimately based on personal preferences, this article offers to explain the subtle differences of the many color palette choices Pulsar offers. 

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar white hot image palette

        White Hot is the default palette available on nearly every thermal device on the market. In this mode, objects giving off the most infrared energy appear white through the display, while cooler objects giving off less heat are depicted as black.

        Used for everything from hunting to surveillance as well as search and rescue, this view provides simple contrast between hot and cold objects and on a Pulsar product, produces very sharp images with clear details.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar black hot image palette

        Black Hot is the polar opposite of white hot. In this mode, objects which appear black emit more heat and thermal energy than the gray and white objects around them. Although this might seem like a palette created for a purely aesthetic reason to oppose white hot, users who opt for black hot instead of white hot will find it much easier to track objects in very hot environments where the very ground is emitting massive amounts of infrared energy.

        Scanning the Nevada Desert in white hot, for example, would make the entire environment appear white. It would also contribute to eye strain because of the massive amount of light. By contrast, a person using a black hot palette in a hot environment would be able to focus on the minute details of an object without feeling like he’s looking directly into a flashlight.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar rainbow image palette

        Rainbow is a palette which captures several layers of heat. On this palette, the objects which emit the most infrared energy appear as red, going on a scale from yellow to dark blue as objects get colder.

        In the non-sporting world, this color palette is most often used to detect minute temperature changes in objects, and it’s most often used when conducting building surveys and checking mechanical equipment. In the outdoors, it’s used to provide sharp contrast between animals and environmental objects.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar red hot image palette

        Red Hot displays the hottest infrared signatures as red and yellow on a display that otherwise resembles white hot. For example, when viewing an animal, only its hottest body parts such as its snout and underbelly would appear red while the rest of the image would be flushed out in shades of gray.

        This is used to provide contrast for defeating animal camouflage or looking for the hottest objects in areas which are otherwise cool, such as looking for a small white bird sitting on a snowy tree during winter.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar sepia image palette

        Sepia gives the display a brownish/yellowish filter. Dark brown indicates cool objects which emit low levels of infrared energy, while bright yellow indicates heat. Less intense than red and more muted than rainbow, the sepia color palette is best used for long hours of observation when the softness of this color palette is less strenuous on the eyes.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar violet image palette

        Violet floods the display in a deep, rich purple hue. Much like the sepia palette, areas of the image with intense infrared energy are lit up in yellowish tones, but instead of brown, cold areas are displayed in violet. Thanks to the better contrast between hot yellow and cold purple, this color palette is best used while scanning in rough terrain and hot weather, since it provides slightly more detail than black or white hot in these conditions.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar ultramarine image palette

        Ultramarine is deceptively similar to rainbow. This multi-color palette enhances the temperature differences of various objects just like its darker counterpart while using a light blue instead of deep indigo to display cool colors. This is especially useful for nighttime observers who want more light in their backgrounds as well as a clearer idea of what is happening around their subject.

        Feral hog or wild boar seen through Pulsar red monochrome image palette

        Red Monochrome is a very dark filter which only highlights the hottest objects in an image with a bright yellow tinge. This color palette is useful for scanning, since everything but the hottest objects is drowned out in dark red.


        As previously mentioned, the choice of palette depends entirely on the user, and these are merely suggestions on how they are to be used. Frequently, thermal hunters switch to white hot for its clarity and never change to another palette ever again. Others want to pretend they’re the Predator and keep their sights on rainbow mode forever. Just as your eyes are your own, no one can dictate which palette you should use your thermal. The best palette is whatever helps you do your job best.

        What is AMOLED?

        Newer Pulsar products often boast of high quality AMOLED displays, but many consumers don’t truly know what they are. A discerning thermal hunter might not know, for example, that a device with an AMOLED display is a far more efficient tool than an equivalent with an LCD monitor. This technology is normally used to make sharp display images in smartphones, TVs, and digital cameras. Pulsar has coopted it for use in its thermal devices. 

        The acronym AMOLED stands for “Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode.” These displays consist of tiny red, green and blue (RGB) pixels in four layers. Each individual pixel operates with its own light source, instead of one large backlight like an LCD would use. This results in very sharp image quality. 

        AMOLED displays also have a much faster refresh rate compared to LCD displays, with refresh times within the 1 millisecond mark (one second is 1000 milliseconds). This is especially important for real-time recording, since a device with an AMOLED display like a Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF is capable of displaying the most minute sways of a leaf or the fluttering of the wings of a nearby bird in spectacular detail. 

        In practical terms, AMOLED displays offer more vibrant images than their LCD counterparts. This is best illustrated by an AMOLED camera’s response to being pointed in a completely dark room. While an LCD would attempt to show the lack of light by displaying a series of black pixels, a camera with an AMOLED display would simply turn all the “black” pixels off, resulting in deeper blacks and less power consumption. This same technology also means that every colored pixel on an AMOLED display promises to be vivid and crisp, with a high contrast ratio, perfect for distinguishing light from dark, especially in thermal technology. 

        Pulsar has utilized this new technology to the fullest of its extent in its latest products, and promises to deliver the hunter or nighttime wilderness explorer the clearest and most vibrant thermal imaging available on the market. 

        How to zero your thermal

        How to zero your thermal

        First time users of thermal optics may find themselves discouraged at the range when they discover the traditional red-and-white paper targets they’re used to for zeroing appear instead as plain black or white squares through their scope. Since a thermal scope works through infrared light, they can’t read the ink printed on paper and standard targets cannot be used for zeroing. Instead, heat-based targets are used in place, but otherwise the same rules of zeroing apply. Here are some of the different techniques you can try in your backyard or at the range:

        High Contrast Targets

        The color black absorbs heat. Therefore, making a high contrast target with a white backing and target zones made of black duct tape is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to set up a target for thermal. However, it may not be the most efficient way, since any shots that land in the white zones of your target won’t be seen clearly through your thermal optic.

        Hot Foil Tape

        If your shots aren’t hitting paper, it may be prudent to purchase a large, completely black target board made of foam or cardstock and stick self-adhesive foil tape on it for aiming points. Since metal foil absorbs sunlight much better than plain black paper, the foil tape, once left under the heat of the sun, should appear either very bright or very dark through your optic, depending on your palette choice. Any shots fired through the warm tape or board should leave a distinctive hole which can be used for zeroing.

        Frozen Screws

        While this method may be tedious and time consuming, it leaves clear and distinct marks on your target which are perfect for zeroing, rather than barely visible bullet holes. Under the heat of the sun, cold objects will appear as very dark or very bright depending on your palette settings. You will need several short screws (approximately the same diameter as your ammo if you can get them) on ice in a cooler and a paper target with stiff backing made of cardstock or museum board, strong enough to support the weight of a small screw without folding. Fire a group of two or three shots in your board and fill the holes with those frozen screws. Looking through thermal, you should have a good view of your shot placement. After this, it’s simply a matter of adjusting your windage and elevation towards the distinct dots on your target.

        Hand Warmers

        Lining up an array of hand warmers on a board to act as a target is both relatively cheap and hassle-free. Perfect for cold weather or zeroing at night, hand warmers light up the night in infrared just like cold objects darken during the day. Simply tape some hand warmers to cover a flat surface and fire away. The disadvantage of this setup is the hand warmers will leak once shot, and bullet holes may prove to be difficult to find.

        Pulsar Thermal targets

        For the scrupulous shooter who doesn’t want a DIY solution, Pulsar offers thermal zeroing targets for sale, purpose-made for zeroing thermal optics. Consisting of paper targets and pads which heat up when exposed to oxygen, this high-tech thermal target set is guaranteed to be the most reliable option for zeroing your thermal scope. Best for low temperatures, Pulsar’s thermal zeroing targets glow hot for anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes, so they should not be opened until they are ready for use.


        What about you? What is your favorite way to zero your thermal device? Tell us in the comments below.



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