Thermal image showing a doorway and how air is escaping through the frame.

3 Ways Thermal Imaging Can Ruin Your Day

Much to the boon of hunters, thermal imaging has ruined many a day in the short, unruly lives of feral hogs, coyotes and other predators. Even bowhunters reap the benefits of thermals when it comes to walking in and out of hunting setups, blood tracking and game recovery, day or night. Even better, while such technology was once reserved nearly exclusively for military use or grand pursuits of the rich and sometimes famous, most hardworking folks willing to pinch some pennies cannot get their hands on these devices. In doing so, they’re in for wildly different adventures and pursuits, but all that glitters may not be gold. Here are three ways thermal imaging can ruin your day!

Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

Thermal imaging helps keep officers safe, as well as find and apprehend bad guys who try to run and hide
Thermal imaging helps law enforcement capture the bad guys.

Use of thermal imagers by law enforcement has become somewhat routine—great for officers, not so much for criminals. Not long ago, a law enforcement officer (LEO) in Waco, Texas used a Pulsar Helion XP50 Thermal Monocular to locate two suspects who fled a fatal vehicle accident and decided to try their luck at hiding for officers on the ground. Armed with the Helion thermal monocular, the LEO scanned the wooded area from a helicopter hovering roughly 800 yards above. He found the suspects in short order and guided LEOs on the ground to apprehend them. Even better, he recorded the activity on the device’s internal storage as evidence.

So, where’s the rub? If you’re the bad guy, you can run but you can’t hide. I don’t know who coined the phrase, “play stupid games, when stupid prizes” but if you’re one of “them” your thuggery is more exposed than ever, even under the cloak of night. Don’t be one of them—thermal imaging most certainly will ruin your night. As a side note, if you are bent on doing something stupid, do it on a Sunday night. Who wants to spend an entire weekend in the pokey?

The Honey-Dos of Thermal Technology

The first time I brought home a thermal imager, a Helion XP38 Thermal Monocular, I thought I was a big shot. I blew through the front door, thermal box under my arm and proudly boasted about how thermal was going to change my game—boy did it! I took it out of the box, installed the batteries, powered it on, made some brightness/contrast/focus adjustments and then scanned throughout the house, marveling at the endless array of heat signatures in every direction. Of course, my son looked through the device and reveled in the heat-detecting technology, too! Unfortunately, after listening to my son and me drone on about how cool heat detection was, my wife decided to take a look. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe I’m looking at heat signatures—they’re everywhere!”

Thermal image of a ceiling light in an office building
A thermal imager will detect where heat is escaping.

I immediately replied, “And cold, too. The device picks up differences +/- one degree!”

“That’s amazing!” she exclaimed again. “I can see the studs in our walls… even the nails!” Seconds later, my thermal balloon of happiness popped and the remnants flew chaotically in every direction, so to speak. “Oh, no. We have to weather-strip around the back door. The chimney is letting too much hot air in, can we do anything to reduce that? This switch plate is hotter on one side. We need to fix that; it’ll start a fire! I can see every place we are missing insulation in the walls. I’m glad you brought this home. We can use it to fix these things.” In a matter of minutes, I was deflated and completely dejected at the thought of what “game-changing” came to mean in a matter of minutes. The way I had imagined thermal imaging would be beneficial looked nothing like my rapidly growing honey-do list. It ruined more than my day—this list is going to take a while to work through. I’ve since locked the thermal optic up in my gun safe.

The Good Friend Giveth… and Taketh Away

Black and white thermal image of two men hunting hogs using Pulsar Helion XQ28 monocular
Thermal imaging is an essential piece of hunting gear.

One of the many blessings of a solid friendship is sharing. “Hey man! You wanna’ hunt this weekend? You can use one of my thermal riflescopes.” Before hunting with thermal became routine for me, I depended on friends with deep pockets for the high-tech hook-ups. My first thermal hunt was mind-blowing. Since then, I consistently have a heat-signature itch to scratch—some might suggest I’m a good candidate for some obscure 12-step night hunting program; I can’t seem to get enough. Unfortunately, when the hunt is over, those “good friends” have the audacity to ask for their gear back. They offer zero concessions—absolutely no compromise… when the hunt is over, they take it, often without the courtesy of dialogue. Not only does it ruin my post-hunt night, I feel a bit victimized by the experience. Don’t tease me with thermal. I just want some quality, relationship building time. Talk about a party foul! SMH—the struggle is real, folks.

Has thermal made your night or ruined your day? Tell us how in the comments below.

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