The Importance of an LRF

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By Mark Butler

Hunting has evolved dramatically throughout the history of mankind. For our species’ first several-thousand years, bows and spears reigned supreme. Burnt wood, sharpened stones, bamboo sticks, animal guts – these were the materials our ancestors used to craft hunting tools, and that was how they fed themselves and survived. Many people in the world continue to live like this (Check out these people). About 20,000 years ago, some creative individuals began to use dogs for hunting: Small dogs to locate and track game animals, and larger dogs to restrain or trap the animal until the human hunter arrived. In some countries, the practice of hunting with dogs remains amazingly trendy (These guys are having fun). In the past, horses were also popular hunting companions, and in many places, this has not changed (Check it out here). Gradually, firearms became the primary tool for hunting, and over the years, firearms have become more powerful, accurate and obtainable.  

For modern communities, hunting has become a high-tech adventure. High-velocity bullets, magnified optics, night vision and thermal imaging technology are no longer confined to the feverish dreams of ambitious engineers. Now, these amazing technologies are available to the average American consumer. These advancements do not replace the old ways of hunting, nor do they degrade people who stick to those ancient traditions. Instead, these technologies have enabled hunters to safely harvest more animals with ethical shots and minimal hassle. In that vein, enterprising companies like Pulsar have relentlessly pushed the limits of what is possible. Want to zero-in your rifle with a single shot? Pulsar has got you covered. Want to cull invasive species with speed and humanity? Pulsar knows the way. Want to hunt in zero-light conditions? Pulsar can help.      

A hunter in the woods

Among modern hunting technologies, thermal stands above the rest in several aspects. Most importantly, thermal imaging requires zero light. Thermal devices like the Pulsar Trail detect heat, not light, so hunters can easily locate prey on a bright afternoon or in the darkest night. Thermal also eliminates the need for flashlights, so hunters can remain hidden in the brush when they’re out on a hunt. Additionally, more applications for thermal technology continue to be unearthed: law enforcement, medical purposes, firefighting, home inspection and more. For any serious hunter, there is truly no reason to ignore a powerful, multifarious tool like thermal imaging.

The view through a Pulsar thermal device

However, thermal imaging cannot do everything. Its main weakness is users cannot determine the distance of their target if they are in unfamiliar terrain. Let me explain – depth perception is crucial in hunting, and with a thermal device, a raccoon 75 yards away might appear the same size as a giant hog 300 yards away. This distance-discrepancy dramatically changes the windage and elevation of a shot. However, if a hunter is in familiar terrain, then they will already be acquainted with landmarks and relative distances, i.e., “that giant oak tree is 200 yards from my deer blind, so I know the animal next to the oak tree is 200 yards away.” Of course, this wouldn’t help if the hunter isn’t already intimately familiar with the terrain. Also, without depth perception, a hunter only using thermal would be prone to trips and falls in total darkness. Finally, thermal devices register heat signatures, so cold-blooded creatures like fish, reptiles and amphibians register similar shades as their environment, although their outline could still be identifiable. Now, you might be thinking thermal devices suddenly aren’t so great, but with a little accessory known as a laser range finder (LRF), thermal devices again reign supreme over the hunting and shooting industry.      

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XQ50

An LRF is a device that uses a laser beam (invisible to the naked eye) to determine the distance to an object. The science here is simple – a laser beam is emitted from the LRF, it travels to the object, and then bounces back and returns to the device. The elapsed time during the laser’s journey determines the distance to the object, and a digital readout is given on the device’s display. With an LRF, you can establish if that round, warm blotch on your thermal device is a massive pig 300 yards away, or a small rodent 50 yards away. LRFs can also be used for bowhunting, and are surprisingly popular in golf, when the distance of the hole is difficult to determine. For Pulsar, each LRF is permanently affixed to the thermal device, and the optic and LRF are already zeroed to each other.

Many users, however, balk at the additional expense of an LRF. I already bought a thermal device, they think, so why should I buy a separate LRF? That is a great question, and Pulsar has the answer – you don’t have to. The Pulsar Trail 2 XQ50 and XP50 come with an LRF that can establish the distance of an object up to 1100 yards away – further than the vast majority of shots an average hunter takes. The shooter must be careful, however, that they are not laser range-finding the distance of a tree, branches, leaves or rocks that may be between them and their target.            

So how does a hunting excursion, with a thermal imaging device and a laser rangefinder, go down? The answer is…wonderfully. An astute hunter can relax from a high vantage point, like the top of a hill or in a tree-stand, extract their thermal device, and simply scan the area. Anything that emits heat will be as clear as fireworks on the 4th of July. At that point, use the LRF to determine the distance of the target, and the rest is elementary. Point, aim, shoot. Although the initial cost of these powerful technologies may seem steep, the resultant years of usage make the investment well-worth it. Now, a hunter can safely and ethically reduce the number of nuisance animals from a long distance, or simply harvest prey as they see fit. The bottom line is that Pulsar’s line of premium optics offer hunters the best chance to use the most advanced technology in the world so they can ply their trade.