With a lack of foxes on his ground, Robert Bucknell finds time to try out a new thermal imager.
An interesting package arrived at my door the other day, containing the latest hand-held thermal spotter, the Pulsar Axion Key XM30. I’ve written many times before about how thermal technology has changed the game for fox shooters, not to mention its many other uses.
I heard recently that Darryl Pace of Pace Brothers fame has been using a thermal camera mounted on a drone to locate wader nests on keepered moorland, as part of a research project with the German game conservancy.
It’s remarkable how people find ingenious uses for technology once it gets into the hands of shooters, who as we all know are the real conservationists, not some charities whose main aim seems to be to obliterate shooting in their quest for money and power.
Rant over! This new Pulsar spotter is billed as a replacement for the hugely popular Quantum Lite series of thermal imagers, and comes in at a similar price of around £1,270 for the basic model. It follows the trend that we’ve seen in all kinds of night vision and thermal gear, in that as time goes by you get more performance in a smaller package for the same money.
Judging by the technical specifications, the XM30’s performance is a step up from the old XQ equivalent, with higher resolution, greater magnification with variable power picture-in-picture, and a nominal detection range of 1,300 metres.
The numbers give a clue to how it will perform, but the real test will be to get out and use it in the field – and I’m looking forward to giving this one an extended test drive as soon as possible.
The XM30 is around half the bulk of the XQ equivalent, and considerably lighter too. It’s genuinely pocket sized, which means you’re much more likely to carry it around and therefore have it with you when you need it.
With my current thermal spotter, I need to make a conscious decision to hang it around my neck, but I suspect I’ll just leave the XM30 in my coat pocket and forget it’s there until I want to whip it out for a peep at something.
A first impression is that the dedicated battery I do not like as it is not cheap or easy to obtain a spare or replacement. But that is a small niggle. Because of its small size the screen seams minute, but with a better resolution and higher magnification it is easier to identify your quarry.
It’s like the old adage that the best camera is the one you have with you – and that goes for guns too! I haven’t yet got in the habit of carrying a Colt revolver on my belt as in the old cowboy movies, but I do slip a gun in the truck at every opportunity when I’m out doing a variety of chores on the farm. You never know when it will come in useful.
Take the other day for example. I was up early, driving round checking the gas guns to scare the pigeons off the fields of spring sown soya beans (blasted vegans don’t know how many die so they can feel superior to meat eaters!) By 6am I had done my first circuit and shooed the birds off, and decided to stop by one of the feed hoppers where I suspected we had a couple of grey squirrels.
Fortunately as I said I’d had the good sense to slip my .17 HMR Sako Quad and a part box of shells onto the back seat before I set off, and was able to grab the opportunity.
Most keepers don’t feed through the spring and summer, but I like to keep my hoppers topped up with grain year-round. It helps the wildlife and wild game birds on the farm, particularly during the nesting season.
A brooding pheasant or partridge can quickly fill up on grain and get back on the nest so giving the best chance against predation or her eggs getting chilled. It also keeps the hens in good condition so they’re better able to cope if we get heavy storms while they’re incubating the eggs.
In these dry conditions Colin the Keeper also has a pan of water out by each feeder for the same reasons. He reported his first turtle dove today (1 June) so we hope these goodies help their comeback as the RSPB is trying to stop those nice Europeans killing over one and a half million before they reach our shores.
Naturally enough the hoppers attract some less desirable creatures as well, and it’s an opportunity to cull the odd rat or squirrel. This particular hopper is set back in the cover of a spinney, so that birds using it are less vulnerable to winged predators.
I drew up in the truck with the driver’s window nicely aligned with the hopper, so I could rest the rifle on the pipe lagging I have fixed permanently to the wing mirror housing.
I didn’t have to wait long. The first squirrel was already heading down the nearest tree, and didn’t give me a second glance as it hopped up to feed. At a range of around 40 yards with a good firm rest, there was no mistake, and over it went.
I was in for a busy spell. In no time two more squirrels had appeared, one on the tree and another that jumped up onto the hopper. I took the one on the tree first.
The .17 HMR hits a squirrel hard; it may be a tiny 17gn bullet, but it’s travelling at around 2,500 feet per second, which is enough to not just kill the squirrel outright but throw it some way from the tree in the process.
The one on the hopper flicked its tail and craned his neck to see what was going on, and caught the next bullet, which threw him on the ground behind the hopper.
No sooner was his space vacated than another squirrel jumped up to take his place – it was fast and furious for a second, like one of those fairground shoots where targets pop up one after another, and the little .17 HMR was proving to be the ideal tool for the job.
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