Seek and thee shall find
Technology for gamekeeping is rapidly improving. Matt Kidd joined our resident gamekeeper to put his latest gadget to the test.
Most aspects of country sports are in no need of modernisation. Personally, I wouldn't dream of getting rid of ties, tweeds, long socks and garters we wear when game shooting. And the same goes for the attire we don for hunting, salmon fishing or stalking. There is something very special about everyone getting dressed up for a day in the field. Aesthetics aren't the be all and end all, though; these garments serve a practical purpose, too.
And it is the same when it comes to shotguns. Whether it is a Beretta or Browning, Perazzi or Purdey, the design and materials our gunmakers use are largely the same today as they were half a century ago. And their effectiveness has not waned one bit.
But what about when it comes to gamekeeping? In this profession, time is everything. Indeed as the number of keepers employed on our sporting estates has fallen over the years, the gamekeeper's day-to-day responsibilities have increased tenfold. Hence the adoption of modern technology – that which can help increase efficiency and productivity greatly. So far we have seen some brilliant examples including night vision, ultra-beam lamps, scopes and even vehicles.
The latest piece of kit our resident keeper has purchased, however, which has been developed in the last few years, is the Seek Thermal Reveal – a pocket-sized device which uses thermal imaging technology to aid with spotting animals in otherwise near-impossible conditions.
Like all boys with new toys, we excitedly spent a number of days and nights thoroughly testing the product in the field. Firstly, it is very ergonomically designed and user friendly. It fits easily into the palm of the hand and the buttons are well placed and sized making it a doddle to use at night when you can't see a thing. Secondly, there are a number of different colour displays that, to our surprise, suit different terrains and cover (we feel the most versatile is the black and white filter as it shows more detail than others in most situations). The screen doesn't emit too much light when in use, either, allowing you to remain discrete in the dark. This also means your night vision is not affected in the same way as when staring at a mobile phone screen or torchlight. It also features a good-quality torch which proved very useful on a number of occasions when navigating ditches and rough terrain to pick-up shot vermin.
Our initial aim was to use the device to tackle lamp-shy foxes. The plan was to sit in the high seat, spot the fox from range without being detected with the Seek Thermal, then swap to the rifle with night vision to take the shot. To an extent we managed to do this. We were able to tell if something had entered the field, but it was difficult to identify what it was we were looking at due to the size of the subject on the low-magnification display. An animal's thermal print also appears very different to how one expects it to. For example, a fox's brush does not hold enough heat to show up on the display of this particular gadget unless very close, so a fox might be confused with a number of different animals.
We found the Seek Thermal's best use was for finding shot animals – and saving masses of time doing so. A shot fox or rabbit in stubble or overgrowth can sometimes be very difficult to find, even in the day, but the Seek Thermal device makes it a much easier task. And you would be silly to only use it in low light situations as thermal displays aren't affected by light – so whether bright sunshine or complete darkness, the display remains relatively the same – and it will also show heat signatures through bushes and bramble cover. We found it very useful before the season, rounding up poults that had escaped pens and were otherwise near-impossible to find (not only saving time but probably the life of the young birds, too). Once could easily, for example, apply the use to making sure all birds were picked at the end of a drive. We are still to try using the product when deer stalking, but it will be accompanying us at the next available opportunity.
So far, the device's list for useful situations is practically endless and therefore receives a very big thumbs up from us. Plus, a new long-range version is now available which we will certainly be playing with in the new year.
So, if Santa doesn't bring you a Seek Thermal this Christmas, make sure you order one for 2017... You won't regret it!
For more about the Reveal click HERE.