There’s no denying that we rely more and more on technology these days, and this technology is gradually finding its way in to shooting. Thermal spotters and night vision were once only available to the Police, military and Special Forces units, but as time went by early Gen 1, night scopes started to appear on the market at ridiculously expensive prices, with some scopes costing the better part of £10,000 – one hell of a chunk of change!
Over the last ten years or so things have moved on at an incredible pace and whilst still expensive, prices are slowly coming down. NV (Night Vision) is really designed with fox shooters specifically in mind as far as the UK market is concerned, but thermal spotters are now becoming increasingly common place in the deer stalkers arsenal. In fact, thermal spotters and scopes will make NV a thing of the past as DVD did to VHS.
There are definitely two camps when it comes to this new technology, with the staunch traditionalists that say its cheating and has no place within the sport and is something akin to black magic or witchcraft.
The other school of thought is that new technology should be fully embraced and utilised. Personally, I think that a thermal spotter is a great tool and they have a place in modern day deer stalking. If we didn’t adapt to new technology, we would still be using rocks, spears and flintlocks wouldn’t we?
Like all technical advances sadly there are those that chose to abuse them for nefarious purposes, and yes this technology can and is being used for illegal activities by the poaching community and of course that is completely unacceptable. Sadly you cannot legislate for the greed and stupidity of a small minority of people that are lacking any sense of morality and decency.
LEUPOLD LTO TRACKER 2 HD
Recently I was given the opportunity to try some of this new-fangled technology for myself courtesy of Viking Arms who kindly sent me a Leupold LTO (Leupold thermal optic) – thermal spotter.
Now this piece of kit has been around for a few years and was really the first thermal spotter available to the masses at a realistic price point. Since its introduction things have moved on at a stellar pace and thermal spotters and scopes are common place. Prices are coming down steadily but to most, myself included £2,500 – sky’s the limit is just too high a price to justify. The gen one LTO sat in the lower end of the thermal optic spectrum and was arguably in direct competition with the FLIR TK Scout in terms of price and functionality but I would argue the LTO is the better unit to go for as I feel it’s better built generally.
The LTO is not a weapon mountable unit. Thankfully it doesn’t have an option to put up a cross hair on screen like the gen one did, this to me was useless and not at all necessary, I’m not exactly sure why Leupold did this? So I am glad they have addressed this issue. Nor will you be able to identify a buck from a doe at 150m+ with the LTO although it does boast a heat detection range of up to 600m.
I would say however that for woodland stalkers where scanning the immediate vegetation or looking down a ride at say 100m you can identify what you are looking at i.e. a fox from a deer, as opposed to just a glowing blob on screen so don’t be too quick or judgmental when it comes to the LTO without giving it a fair crack of the whip as it were. Up to 100m I found was the LTO’s maximum optimal range, after this identification was subjective if I’m being honest.
Spotting is not what it was originally intended for and those that dismiss it are missing the point of why it was designed in the first place. Since its introduction the LTO is now in its second generation, the LTO Tracker 2 HD.
The LTO is a tracker is a hand held unit i.e. to be used for the purposes of following up blood trails and heat signatures of lost game. The clue is in the name “TRACKER” it’s not a spotter as such although yes it can be used as one.
Very often when shooting at dawn or dusk it is all too easy to lose track of where a deer has fallen or you can lose sight of it following a short dash in to thick cover, especially Muntjac that are small to start with! I’ve walked past Muntjac that made it to cover before expiring, and could have been on them within seconds if I’d had access to an LTO tracker or something similar.
This article isn’t an in depth technical review as much has already been written and there are many videos on YouTube. I am as the title suggests a low tech man in a high tech world.” I don’t care” why a piece of kit works however I do care that it does what it’s supposed to do when needed and you don’t need a PhD in order to use it!
Thermal technology is it cheating? No of course it isn’t! it’s a tool to add to your armoury to be utilised when required. Once a deer is down its classed as food to enter into the human food chain so every second counts to get the very best venison from your quarry, or if a humane follow up is required you owe it to the animal to find and dispatch it with the upmost care and respect as quickly as possible.
The LTO allows you to scan an area quickly without trampling the undergrowth that will kill any chance of a clean follow up if you have access to a dog. It also allows you to find the downed animal without having to call in a friend with a dog saving time and the inconvenience of having to annoy people unnecessarily.
The unit is small enough to keep in your pocket, or keep on a lanyard around your neck, has a continuous battery life of 10 hours and if inactive after 15 minutes has an auto switch off function, a handy feature that helps with battery drain. It also comes with a set of scope caps to protect the lenses and a neoprene cover. To be honest whilst a nice touch the cover is a little awkward in actual use so I personally wouldn’t use it.
I was recently out after Fallow Deer and was wandering down the ride pre-dawn making my way to a tower and bumped a group of 20+ deer much to my annoyance! If I’d had the LTO I would have had the drop on them and could have set the rifle up on my sticks and awaited an opportunity when light levels legally allowed me to take a shot but that’s hindsight for you.
Unfortunately we are all facing a worrying time due to Coronavirus and are all in self isolation, but it won’t last forever. I’d rather live to fight another day so I can be back out doing what I love the most as quickly as possible – deer stalking! Then I will give the LTO tracker 2 HD a thorough testing and give my honest in the field thoughts in a follow up article, if Viking Arms allow me to hang on to the LTO tracker 2 HD until this nightmare is over..
Until then stay safe be well and stay in to help save lives.
- Small and compact.
- Well-built solid construction.
- LTO Tracker full rrp £1,400
- Ease of use / functionality.
- Long battery life.
- Limited identification range.
- No video recording or still image capture options.
- There are other options out there now such as the Pulsar Axion XM30 & XM22 that are an extremely attractive alternative to the LTO.