…and a look at some new Helion XQ28 eye candy.
Sure, I’ve killed deer and a score of other huntable species over the past [nearly] 30 years but for the past 20 or so, feral hogs have had a special place in my hunting heart. To some, such a favored endeavor may seem odd but my experiences are much more obscure than what folks think of when it comes to hunting mid-sized or big game of any type; after all, in their vanilla minds, my flavor of hunting is exotic to say the least—most of my prey have been taken at nighttime.
Yes, for the past 15-plus years, my mosaic of hunting experience has been crafted from tile-like pieces of post-sunset hunting endeavors—epic in both successes and failures—that, together, reveal quite a priceless image of my hunting life and ultimately, my story… my legacy in the making. Of course, more recently, technology certainly has played a part in drumming up increased success day and night although I’m still drawn to the thrill of those witching-hour pursuits. As an example, thermal optics have become the perfect tool for me and countless others to help load up on post-hunt smiles…and mouthwatering table fare.
While I’ve carried a number of different thermal monoculars in my pack, including a couple higher priced Helion XP models with 640 core sensors, I’m excited to try out a new Helion on the block, the XQ28. The Helion XQ28 is sure to be a workhorse like the higher-priced Helions, and is expected to pack essentially the same features, but comes in at about the $2,200 – $2,500 range, a far cry from the top-shelf Helions at price points nearly doubled. Of course, the XQ28 won’t have some of those mind-blowing flagship features either, like 2,000-yard detection range and 640×480 microbolometer resolution. Still, the new XQ28 does boast a heat signature detection range of 875 yards, an 8-color imaging palette, onboard video recording, Wi-Fi, stadiametric rangefinding, high-resolution 640×480 AMOLED display, a rechargeable 8-hour battery, IP67 waterproof and dustproof construction and the same premium germanium glass.
So how does a thermal monocular help on the hunt? When it comes to hunting and employing thermal, most people tend to assume such technology is restricted to hog hunting with AR-platform rifles. While I do enjoy putting corn thieves on the ground with ARs and rifle-mounted thermal optics, monoculars are perfect in much more diverse hunting applications. Whether I am hunting crop fields with one of my scary black rifles or bowhunting, a Helion thermal monocular like the XQ28 is a perfect, increasingly essential part of my gear.
While rifle hunting crop fields, I often use a thermal monocular to spot feral pigs in the woods as well as on cropland. Once I’ve located them, parked and started my stalk, I use the thermal constantly to carefully and safely navigate the terrain and close the distance, stopping every 20 yards or so to check a boar or sounder’s status. Optimally, I’ll get within 100 yards, 50 is even better, then prepare to unleash Hell.
While bowhunting, I use the thermal monocular all year long to walk in and out of my hunting setups without spooking deer, hogs or any other critter that might sound an alarm—more than once, a thermal monocular has helped me navigate around a skunk I might otherwise have haled right up to in the dark—been there, done that, never again! While still hunting I use a thermal to glass for wildlife regardless of the time of day; after all, I am only looking for heat signatures. If I see a huntable species nearby, I secure the monocular and prepare for a shot opportunity. I also use a thermal monocular for spot-and-stalk pursuits, day or night.
While hunting with a thermal monocular is pretty cool, the most beneficial use for heat-detecting technology in a monocular platform comes after the shot; after all, a primary concern for hunters is loading up on sustenance—we need to get our hands on the animals we kill. If you haven’t experienced blood tracking with thermal technology yet, you’re in for quite an experience. In the same way you would pick up a handprint on a wall after a brief touch, blood definitely glows through thermal, at least until it cools to the same temperature as its surrounding environment. To be honest, in many instances, blood tracking with thermal isn’t necessary. The carcass of your prey glows for hours after it falls.
From blood tracking to identifying a carcass, game recovery has never been easier when you’re employing a thermal monocular. My first experience using a thermal monocular while bowhunting was truly a game-changing experience; I haven’t gone without a thermal since, first a Pulsar Quantum and now a Pulsar Helion.
A couple years ago, on my first bow hunt using a thermal monocular, I used the device to navigate to my treestand undetected. I had secured it in my pack and began the hunt. Several hours later, a sounder of feral pigs flooded out in front of me. I quickly sent an arrow through the largest sow and then nocked another arrow, shot and anchored a second sow. I watched the second sow run away to my front and fall some 40 yards away; she stopped moving within a few seconds. Unfortunately, the first hog I shot had spun around and ran behind me.
Moments after the woods quieted again, I replayed the shots in my mind. I knew the shot had taken the upper lobes of her lungs and that she was most assuredly dead within seconds. Still, I had guessed wrong once years before, tracked quickly and was subsequently charged. It was not an enjoyable experience at all and looking back it reminds of a fellow Marine’s words—Retired General now Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, once quipped, “I like getting shot and missed, it’s really neat.” He wasn’t saying he liked being shot at, he was saying he liked being missed. I didn’t like being charged but I did like that it failed—my buddy sank five shots from a .45 ACP into the boar within just a couple seconds. It was enough to drop the boar within just a few feet of me. Since then, even when I’m sure of my shot, I’ve followed a strict routine of waiting at least 30 minutes.
Not more than five minutes into the wait, however, I recalled I had that Pulsar thermal monocular in my pack. I pulled it out, powered it up, stood up in my stand and began to scan the woods as a swung slowly to my rear. Within what was likely less than 15 seconds, my scan fixed on the large white glow of the first sow not more than 30 yards away. I’ve been sold on the many hunting uses of thermal ever since and can’t wait to spend some quality time with Pulsar’s newest XQ28—it’s going to be hard to beat.
What is your favorite hunting accessory? Share it with us in the comment section.