Do thermals sterilise stalking and remove the magic?


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Using a thermal properly for the first time this weekend, I found myself (whilst stalking on a friends ground) using the thermal to “clear” the area we were in and move on to the next bit. Walking through woods where spotting would have been hard at this time of year the thermal was brilliant at finding even the smallest heat sources, the most surprising being a small wasp nest in a hole in a tree, but this also gave confidence that had there been deer in the vicinity we would know, so we moved on.
I guess without the thermal we would have stuck around longer perhaps…called with the squeaker a bit longer in anticipation of something running, building up the suspense even if ultimately it would prove to be fruitless….
I think as a tool it is great, but I can’t help but feel it stole some of the mystery and suspense which has been one of the best bits of stalking over the years.
I assume I’m not alone in thinking this. Perhaps it should have stayed at home only to be used when I’ve got a job to do and not simply enjoy some pleasant stalking with a mate, but hey, it’s all a learning curve,


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I don't use one for the exact reasons the OP states. Yep, I miss seeing a lot of deer (as recent events have proven) but I really don't mind this as we all know it takes a split second for deer to appear from anywhere. If you're stealthy, and patient it'll pay off.

As a tool they're fantastic! And if anyone really needs one it's an invaluable aid to getting the job done. I'm a recreational stalker though, and I'm happy just to use the Mk1 eyeball and bins.

Having said that, I find it fascinating to use a mates one at night to see just what appears when the sun goes down :thumb:


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As above you don't have to use it or even pull the trigger...know where is my Dettol .243 as 99.9% of foxes..... :tiphat:


Site Staff
I tend to agree with the OP.
I have had a lot of clients over the years. This coming season from 1st November to end of February I have 202 outings booked. That's not counting nearly 4 weeks in Scotland in October on Red and Sika, in the rut. Plus a few days away on Driven Boar later in the year, so I get around a fair bit on all the species.

The vast majority of clients seem to have a thermal these days. What I cant stand is those that walk behind me with a thermal strapped to their eye moving their head from side to side looking for a heat source, and not carrying binos with them. The amount of times people have walked into the back of me, or I have spotted a deer, only to look around to see them 30yds away looking in the opposite direction at a heat source that turns out to be a hot rock or tree stump :rolleyes:. Your not learning ANYTHING. Plus if you have a good dog by your side, that will indicate a deer in thick cover way before a bloody thermal does.

Whilst thermals have their uses, I am finding that people are using them, rather than their binoculars. And thermals do not work in falling snow, heavy rain, thick cover and fog. If people want to become proficient at being a deer stalker, they need to use their senses, not a thermal all the time. Frankly they will never make a good stalker in my opinion. Its all very well saying "its a game changer" "You dont know what your missing" Funny how I hear most of these comments coming from a great many people who have been stalking 5 minutes in my book. In some instances some of them shot their first deer with me, or at least their first species of a deer.

Thermals have their place, but will not take the place of using your senses and knowing your ground, the deers movements, what and where they might be according to the weather. Using good binoculars, your eye sight, hearing, sixth sense, all comes into play to make a real stalker. Relying on new technology is fine, but its never going to replace your own skills and judgement.

Heym SR20

Well-Known Member
I rather agree with @sikamalc on this. I have used them, been out with others using them and don’t like them. You need to train yourself to spot deer. It takes time, but its a skill once learned that never leaves you. Same skill opens a whole raft of other wonders to you - you spot a flycatcher 200m away coming of its nest, or that brown trout in the river.

Thermal / night vision - just another route to instant gratification that soon results in your area being emptied of deer. Net result - no more stalking.


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In answer…yes it does a bit.

But….there’s a lot more to it. Thermals certainly don’t shoot beasts for you or make you a better stalker, you still have to make an approach to a sensible distance. I frequently use mine to locate beasts on the hill before first light often from a kilometre away, it’s then down to me to plan a stalk-in that situation it’s buying time and efficiency of movement, certainly not a result. In the woods it certainly tips the balance in your favour, catching a bit of heat behind a bush prompting you to stop and wait whereas without you’d of bumped it.

For me there is 2 golden rules. I would never advocate their use for a novice, it wastes a huge amount of time (aforementioned stumps/rocks) and detracts from a great deal of learning how to spot deer-handy when you forget to charge the TI. Thermals need a tenured stalkers experience to give context to the image. Secondly, I don’t use it on my private stalking, where there is little pressure to take beasts. This way I guess I’m retaining the sporting element, and attempting to retain a skill set. I do use it on other ground where there is an expectation to vastly reduce browsing and promote regeneration.


Well-Known Member
I've only acquired a thermal spotter relatively recently, so speak from less than 12 months experience.

Like you, I feel uncomfortable with how "clinical" it can make stalking feel.

With cull numbers to be achieved I wouldn't be without it, however I've also come to realise that it is just another tool in the toolbox and is in no ways infallible. This time of year in particular I find it can struggle to acquire a thermal image in heavy cover. It will often just show up a trace as an animal moves through the undergrowth, and it isn't necessarily proving to be the game changer that it was in winter.

To give an example, I was out twice last week and shot a muntjac on Thursday and a roe on Saturday. In both cases they were initially spotted courtesy of the Mk 1 eyeball picking up movement. Certainly with the roe I had scanned the area with the thermal before and not picked up anything, but it was the buck taking a step into an area of less dense undergrowth that eventually gave it away. With just the thermal I could have assumed there was nothing there and moved on. As it was, the buck is now hanging in the chiller.

I have also found that using the thermal tends to encourage a bad habit of "tunnel vision", where if you're not careful you spend more time focusing on the 11 degree field of view through the thermal than on the 135 degrees of human vision.

To give another example from Saturday, in one wood I positioned myself on the intersection of two rides, with my back against a tree and the rifle up on the sticks. With the thermal I could easily scan down one ride or the other at first light, where I have found it usefully gives a few more moments of advance notice of a deer about to cross a ride than I get with the binos. Becoming over-reliant on the thermal, however, risks losing the benefits of peripheral vision, so as the daylight improved I used the thermal less and kept still more. Sure enough, I had a roe doe approach me from behind to my right - a movemement caught with the naked eye but for which a thermal would have been useless.


Well-Known Member
“I think as a tool it is great, but I can’t help but feel it stole some of the mystery and suspense which has been one of the best bits of stalking over the years.”

Apparently the modern-day, cutting edge equipped SD Deer Manager or Pro’ Stalker has no time for in-the-woods enjoyment born of the mystery and suspense that the lesser non thermal equipped SD member clings to.



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I don't own one, and suspect I never will, partly for cost reasons, partly for the same reasons I hate seeing someone check the wind direction on their phone, or check email while in a high seat. I hunt partly to escape from screens and machines.

Everyone I have stalked with uses them and they seem incredibly effective, they also seem to be something people very quickly start to rely on.

My biggest issue with thermal is that it doesn't offer the quarry fair chase.

Additionally, my hope is to become the most skilled stalker I can, not personally reliant on ever more gear. I wouldn't judge others for using thermal gear, I just feel a greater sense of satisfaction when I spot a deer without one.



Well-Known Member
It’s another tool just like binoculars aid vision, telescopic sights aid shooting accurately, centrefire rifles aid distance over muzzle loaders (or a flung rock)

It’s an entirely personal choice to use them and how you use them.
To be honest, I think somewhere a line has to be drawn between sporting and not sporting..shooting deer with a drone from your 4x4 would also be ok?