Ruger Predator rifle with Pulsar Trail riflescope and a dead coyote

Night Hunting With the Pulsar Trail XQ50

There are a couple of things they don’t tell you when you open your own upland hunting preserve.  First, there are no sick days. Second, every animal eating your birds is taking dollars from your pocket.

Two years ago, I made the decision to leave corporate life to open a wing shooting preserve in southern New Hampshire called New England Upland. My goal was to build a classic New England hunting and wing shooting retreat dedicated to the sporting lifestyle. I’ve hunted birds and big game since I was a teen and wanted to turn my passion into a business.  After 30 years working in the tech industry, I was ready to trade the barn for the boardroom and international red-eyes for early morning rooster flushes.

Hunter flushes a rooster in a field.
Flushing a rooster on the New England Upland Shooting Preserve in New Hampshire. Photo by Scott Rouleau. 

I never looked back.

In addition to game birds, our property has a strong deer, bear and turkey population which prompted me to get my N.H. registered hunting guide’s license to complement the preserve business. This allows me to guide for big game and predators in addition to releasing game birds for our guests.

I received the support needed from New England sportsmen and women to get the preserve up and running and the business became successful very quickly. One measure of success is the number of game birds we release. We release thousands of them from September 1 to April 30 for our guests and members.

Lots of birds keep customers happy. It’s also made the preserve a hotspot for coyotes and bobcats.

Caring for Unwelcome Guests

Trapping isn’t a viable option for me. There isn’t a bobcat hunting season in N.H. and releasing tom from a trap is not something you want to do more than once in your lifetime if you can avoid it. Coyotes, though, are another story. There is year-round coyote hunting in N.H. and night hunting runs from January 1 to March 31.

This is where I was able to turn a predator problem into a hunting solution—and if my wing shooting guests want to take a shot at a song dog, it’s a service I’m happy to provide.

Year-round hunting, both day and night, in the extremes of New England’s climate dictates the tools of the trade. I hunt year round so the set-up must be good for calling coyotes as well as hunting them at night over bait. Anyone who has hunted the coyote will tell you, having options and backup plans are crucial to putting the dogs down.

The Rifle

Green, synthetic stock Ruger Predator bolt-action rifle
The Ruger Predator Rifle

I chose the Ruger American Predator rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s rugged, very accurate and a fine piece of engineering. Besides, they’re locally made. The Ruger plant is just up the road a piece from our farm and some of the same people making the rifles are guests here. There’s a ton of information available explaining why the 6.5 Creedmoor is the choice round.  It’s fast, accurate and delivers energy on the target. It’s the round that gives me the ability to use the rig on larger game on the preserve.

The Optic

Pulsar Trail thermal imaging riflescope.
The Pulsar Trail is the scope you need when hunting predators at night.

Still, you’ve got to see what you intend to shoot.  The next step was getting the right optics. I looked at a lot of scopes for getting the job done at night—starlight scopes, night vision and thermals. During this exploratory period, I was lucky enough to get the chance to evaluate the Pulsar Trail XQ50 thermal riflescope which outperformed everything else I looked at.

Mounting the Pulsar Trail XQ50 on my Ruger 6.5 Creedmoor was a snap. It’s designed to attach to a Weaver or Picatinny rail, so it meets most shooters needs right out of the box.

The next step was sighting in. The Trail has two zeroing methods: one-shot and freeze. I used the freeze system at 100 yards, which is almost as easy as mounting the scope. No need to boresight or go through lots of ammo with a Pulsar product to get it dialed in.

Step One: Set up a target at known distance.  

Step Two: Take a well-aimed shot.

Step Three: If your shot is off target, move the auxiliary cross to the point of impact and save the setting.

That’s it. Pretty straightforward.

You can save up to three rifle/ammunition profiles at each of five distances which is a great feature for hunting in varied terrain like our farm.  We can get 50-yard shots in the meadows or stretch it out to 250 yards in some of the larger fields.

Built for Rugged Fun

iphone and Stream Vision app demonstration watching live hunting
Live stream your hunt using the free Stream Vision mobile app.

Here’s where it gets fun. Everyone likes to share the hunt and Pulsar knows this. The highlight of the Trail is the ability to link the digital optic via Wi-Fi with Android or iOS-based devices (smartphone or tablet) using the free mobile application Stream Vision. The Stream Vision app allows you to receive footage in real-time, distantly operate the device with your smartphone, and stream the video captured by the device to YouTube.

That’s instant bragging rights.

All that tech sounds great, but here in New England, it’s not just the coffee that gets cold and bitter after being out too long. Mother Nature takes a toll on man and beast in the winter, but Pulsar endures.

The Trail’s weatherproofing exceeds what New England winters have to offer. It performs perfectly in wet weather, even during intense rain, snowfall and submersion in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. (IEC 60529).

Power is provided by a removable and rechargeable 5.2A-h B-pack battery which gives up to 8 hours of continuous use. I used it for 8 hours over 3 evenings, so it lived up to the manufacturer claim. As with other Pulsar thermals, the Trail has a power down, display off system that saves the battery and gives a quick start-up, even in cold conditions which is essential in a climate like New England when winter temps at night can be in the single digits or lower.

Putting it to the Test

Coyote through a thermal imaging scope
Thermal imaging making it easy to distinguish between bobcat, coyote and other predators/scavengers that feed at night.

We process a lot of game birds for successful hunters. The remnants make great coyote bait. It also attracts bobcats, ravens and anything else not denned up this time of year looking for a free meal on a cold night.

I spent the last week of the coyote night hunting season using the Trail to spot animals coming to the bait pile. The coyotes are active and vocal this time of year. Mating is just wrapping up so you can often hear them in the vicinity of the bait before they get to it. They can also come in completely silent which is why I put wireless driveway alarms at the bait to alert me of animals coming into the pile. The receiver is in the shooting house and the transmitters are on a trail leading to the bait pile and several more surrounding it. When an animal walks past the transmitter, the receiver lights up indicating we have action on the pile.

Clarity Counts

Image definition is extremely important when you have bobcats, coyotes and the remote chance of having a lynx or wandering dog come to the bait. Shoot the wrong one and you’ve got a date with the local game warden or some serious explaining to do to the neighbors.

Ruger Predator rifle with Pulsar Trail riflescope and a dead coyote
Scott’s Ruger with the Pulsar Trail XQ50 thermal imaging riflescope. Photo by Scott Rouleau. 

The Trail has a heat sink located on the device’s body to help make the images as clear and crisp as possible. This is how it works—it prevents heat build-up from the sensor and other components while also significantly reducing temperature and noise sensitivity.  This delivers where it counts, making it easy to distinguish between bobcat, coyote and other predators/scavengers that feed at night. Not to mention a dog off leash and running your property.

As a test, I went to an adjacent alpaca farm and used the Trail as a spotting scope at 500 yards. It was a starless 20-degree night and the images of the alpacas at the far end of the field popped against the line of evergreens at the edge of their fenced-in enclosure.

In an actual hunting scenario, Pulsar continued to impress. The shooting house I use is only 100 yards away from the bait pile. I have no issue determining the coyotes from the occasional bobcat when watching through the Trail. There is no chance of making a mistake and pulling the trigger on a cat.

Year-Round Farm Use

Night hunting is closed now for coyotes in N.H. until next January but that doesn’t mean I won’t get use out of the Trail. They are great for scanning the woods and fields on your way to your tree stand in the dark. It helps avoid bumping deer on your way in. They also really help during dusk and dawn where it is legal to hunt during those times, as well as detecting downed game at night.

If you’re a guide or farmer with a predator problem or want to get into night hunting coyotes, it’s worth speaking with your local dealer about the Pulsar Trail line of optics. They give you all the features and versatility you need to make night hunting fun, safe, productive and profitable.

Click here to learn more about the Trail series of thermal scopes.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Caller.

Scott is a life-long big game and upland bird hunter, New Hampshire licensed hunting guide and owner of the New England Upland Shooting Preserve in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.

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