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How Thermal Cameras Can Aid in Hunting

Tuesday Jul 12th, 2022

two men in dense trees smiling; wearing camoflauge while hunting

Hunters have long enjoyed the benefits of using cameras to locate and track game. High-quality trail cameras and thermal imaging devices offer better scouting abilities, improved safety, and can aid in finding downed or wounded game.

To fully realize the potential cameras can offer game hunters, it’s important to understand how different types of cameras operate and their associated benefits. In this post, TherCam explains how thermal imaging cameras (TICs) work, how they compare to night vision, and the benefits of using thermal imaging in wild hunting.

*Keep in mind: Some states restrict or prohibit the use of cameras in hunting wildlife. Be sure to check with your local gaming authority to ensure you’re abiding by the laws in your area.

How Do Thermal Imaging Cameras Work?

A thermal camera is a contactless device that detects an object’s infrared energy, also known as its heat signature. The camera then converts the infrared radiation (IR) into an image. All objects, regardless of temperature, have a heat signature. Different temperatures appear as different colors in a thermal image, with colder objects typically showing blue tones while warm objects appear as yellow, orange, and red.

Because they capture heat signatures, thermal imaging cameras are often more helpful in detecting hidden objects than other cameras. However, night vision cameras are still widely used in hunting, though they have various limitations that make them less effective than thermal cameras.

Thermal Imaging vs. Night Vision

While TICs use infrared energy to convert radiation into an image, night vision cameras absorb all light present in an image and magnify it, creating green-hued images with refracted light. Night vision works similarly to standard cameras, but they intensify any available light. For this reason, they’re commonly known as “image intensifiers.”

If you’re looking to use a camera to aid in your hunting practice, it’s essential to understand the key differences between thermal imaging and night vision options.

Night vision requires visible light to produce the refractions necessary to create a discernable image. TICs, however, can work properly in total darkness. Moreover, some night vision cameras are rendered useless in the daytime, whereas TICs are not hindered by any light conditions.

As a general rule, camouflage remains effective with night vision cameras, making it difficult for hunters to spot animals hidden in bushes, trees, or otherwise concealed. Conversely, infrared cameras register an animal’s heat signature (body temperature) relative to its environment. Therefore, they can easily detect game that is concealed within its surroundings regardless of any natural camouflage. Similarly, night vision cameras cannot function properly in the presence of dust, smoke, fog, or other conditions that limit visibility, but a TIC is not affected in these circumstances.

Of course, your own preference will ultimately determine what kind of camera you use as an aid in hunting, but TICs come with a range of benefits that can seriously improve your game.

man walking on a steep mountain; wearing camoflauge against a grassy meadow background

Thermal Imaging in Wild Hunting

Thermal imaging cameras have a wide range of uses in various industries and sectors. Their use in hunting and wildlife detection can significantly improve a hunter’s success through better scouting, improved safety, and helping to find wounded and downed animals.

1. Better Scouting

Thermal imaging can improve a hunter’s success and knowledge about the sport. They give detailed observations of animal behavior, population counts, and active times, all of which can help hunters better understand how to succeed in the field.

Trail cameras—cameras left in a wilderness area to stalk wild game—help hunters understand behavioral patterns and show what kind of animals are active in a given area. Motion-sensing thermal cameras will turn on and record thermal footage when an animal is nearby.

2. Improved Hunter Safety

If you set up a thermal camera near a tree stand or other hunting post, it’s beneficial to know what kind of animals populate the area. For hunters who spend a significant amount of time alone in the wilderness, knowing whether large predators are nearby can keep you alert to your surroundings and help you prepare for any possible dangers.

In addition, a handheld TIC can help you scan the land around you to see if other hunters are also set up nearby. Doing so can drastically reduce the chances of a missed shot aimed at an animal harming another person.

3. Finding Wounded or Downed Game

Unless you land a shot that takes an animal out instantly, the wounded game will likely run off into the woods. And if the blood trail dries up or cannot be easily followed, it’s possible to completely lose the animal you’ve just hit. A thermal camera, however, can detect the wounded animal's heat signature and help you find the game. Additionally, if the animal falls in an area of thick brush and overgrowth, a thermal camera can help you locate it regardless of environmental conditions.

drone thermal imaging camera parked in grass waiting for take off

Improve Your Hunt with TherCam

TICs can significantly improve your hunting practices. From better scouting and safety to locating a downed animal, thermal cameras are helpful for heightened knowledge and success. If you’d like to learn more about the best camera options for hunting, contact TherCam today. You can also browse our library of resources to learn more about the other practical uses of thermal imaging cameras in everyday life.