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Field testing the Pulsar Krypton on an early morning stalk

During an early morning stalk, Graham Downing proves the lethal efficiency of the Pulsar Krypton thermal add-on, killing two muntjac

Setting his rifle on sticks, Graham Downing picks up the muntjac through the scope and squeezes the trigger

It has been three and a half years since the world changed for me and I switched to spotting full-time with my Pulsar Accolade thermal binoculars. The thermal revolution has spread across the stalking world to such an extent that I now barely need explain to Shooting Times readers what a difference thermal imaging makes to the task of locating and identifying deer in all habitats and environments, and at all times of the day or night. As anyone who has raised a thermal imager to their eyes knows, the difference between painstakingly searching deer out along a woodland edge or in a weedy field margin with conventional binoculars and having it presented to you on a plate with thermals is like chalk and cheese. And if you can spot more, and spot them earlier before they spot you, then as sure as night follows day, you’re going to shoot more. Enter the Pulsar Krypton thermal add-on.


Kitted up to the hilt

For many years now, I have run several group culls each winter, bringing together half a dozen or more stalkers to hit the deer hard over a period of two or three days. Shooting mostly from high seats, we’ll operate across successive mornings and evenings, targeting everything that is in season. The primary objective is to kill deer and thereby to protect forestry, but the venison we generate is a valuable by-product.

I normally expect us to shoot something in the region of 20 deer over the course of one of these concentrated culls, but last March, all bar one of my Rifles turned up either with thermal spotters, infrared (IR) attachments or both. One keen individual even carried a dedicated thermal scope for use first thing in the morning and last thing at night, swapping it with his daylight scope by way of detachable mounts as the need arose.

Thanks to our ruthless use of technology, we almost doubled our expected bag, shooting 25 muntjac, seven Chinese water deer, six roe and a fallow over three days. The one person who turned up with nothing but a pair of conventional binoculars and a daylight scope was so impressed that he immediately bought himself a pair of Accolades like mine.

Pulsar Krypton

Graham’s Pulsar Accolade thermal binoculars are now his must-have piece of kit when stalking


The power of technology

My own experience that weekend said it all. Of the eight muntjac I shot, six had been spotted with the thermal and one was shot in almost total darkness with a Pard IR attachment. Had I relied on traditional optics and the Mark One eyeball, my personal haul would probably have been no more than two deer. 

That experience convinced me, if I was not already sufficiently convinced, of the power of technology in deer management. However, I was never entirely comfortable with IR. The Pard is good, it is affordable and, if suitably adjusted, it can illuminate those beasties that stray across your path during either those critical first 20 minutes of morning shooting or the last 20 minutes before the legal evening cut-off. However, it does have its downsides. 

First, the fuzzy IR image needs a good deal of tweaking if you are to illuminate the beastie effectively, rather than the vegetation around it. Secondly, the fact that it sits over the eyepiece of your scope completely changes the familiar eye relief of your scoped rifle. Yes, I’ve shot deer with IR, but I was never truly happy with it.

So I pushed the boat out once more and bought the Pulsar Krypton XG50 thermal add-on. This amazing device fits on to the objective end of your ordinary daylight scope and turns it into a thermal one. With this set-up, you can spot deer with your thermal device, then look through your scope to see exactly the same picture. The Pulsar Krypton alters the zero of my Zeiss scope not one iota, eye relief is unchanged and any animal whose thermal image is bisected by my familiar reticle quickly becomes a dead deer.

Pulsar Krypton

The Pulsar Krypton XG50 thermal add-on is easy to detach when it’s no longer needed


Selecting wisely

Such was the case the other morning when I crept into the wood long before first light. Heading down the main ride, I could clearly see a muntjac buck with the Accolades, but it was standing back behind a screen of vegetation. This is a critical matter if you want to shoot deer with a thermal sight — as everyone who has used thermal technology knows, you can see deer perfectly well through a thin screen of twigs and leaves.

Shooting through those twigs, however, risks deflecting the bullet and you can thus end up with a badly shot carcass — or worse, a wounded beast. So the use of thermal sights calls for a good deal of discretion in shot selection. I passed on that chance and headed on towards my high seat.

About 20 minutes later, I clocked another muntjac moving slowly through the wood, some 80 yards away behind a fringe of trees. It was still far too dark for me to see it unaided, but with the Pulsar Krypton it showed absolutely clearly, and there was no mistaking the pedicles of what was obviously a buck. For maybe a couple of minutes it was partially obscured by trees, but at last it stepped forward into a spot that was sufficiently clear for me to get a bead on the chest. My .243 bullet put it down immediately, the Pulsar Krypton’s screen confirming a heat signature slumped on the ground, motionless. 

Pulsar Krypton

Graham watches a muntjac through the Krypton, downing it easily as soon as it presents a clear shot


Dead simple to use

Being principally an early morning muntjac stalker, I fit the Pulsar Krypton to my rifle the evening before I am going out, so all I have to do when I get the rifle out of its slip is press the power button. I tend to leave it on the rifle until around sunrise, when there is sufficient light, even in the darkest depths of the wood, to make full use of my daylight scope. Then I detach the Pulsar Krypton and put it in my pocket. 

There’s nothing complicated about it; it’s dead simple to use, and by heavens it’s lethal, allowing me to make full use of legal shooting hours without having to pass up chances because the light is too low to enable me to get a good enough picture through my optical scope.

Pulsar Krypton

The Krypton XG50 fits on to the objective end of an ordinary daylight scope, turning it into a thermal device — though it does add a fair bit of weight to the top of the rifle

Downsides? Yes, there are a couple. First, with the chunky Pulsar battery and the adaptor, there’s an extra 810g of weight on top of my rifle. That’s quite a lot, especially when I am stalking on foot and need to pop my gun deftly on to my shooting sticks in short measure. Secondly, in order to see most of the display, I need to use fairly low magnification settings, certainly no more than about x6. But that’s quite sufficient when, like me, you are generally shooting in woodland, where most shots are taken inside 70 yards and often a good deal closer than that. 

The other obvious downside is the cost of thermal-imaging equipment. While this has certainly come down dramatically over the past decade or so, for the average deerstalker it is still a big investment.

And the question must be asked: is the use of thermal, IR or night-vision sights a necessity for the average deer stalker? In Scotland the answer is simple, for such devices are illegal, at least for the time being. But if the hunter’s objective is to be at one with the woods, to sniff the air, to hear the birdsong as darkness gives way to dawn, to challenge his own ability to hunt a wild animal and then to kill it cleanly and take it home in a fit state to turn into magnificent food, then excess technology might indeed get in the way. For the stalker who hunts for the enjoyment of hunting itself, there is a strong argument for simplicity.

But for those whose objective is to kill deer, whether to protect forestry or agriculture, or to produce a reliable and bountiful harvest of wild venison, then I have absolutely no doubt that thermal technology is the way forward. 


Another chance

With one dead deer on the ground, I sat and waited until the light came up in the hope that another deer might show itself. None did, and I climbed down to collect my muntjac. Scanning with the Accolades, I located the carcass, but also spotted something else — another muntjac buck alongside it, very much alive and inspecting the prostrate corpse of his buddy. Quietly, I raised the rifle on to my sticks, picked up the second beast with the Pulsar Krypton and squeezed the trigger on that one too. 

I observed the appropriate two-minute wait, during which I tried to spot the deer with my conventional binoculars, without success. They were clear enough in the Accolades, though, and when I reached them I could see the result was two bucks lying within 3ft of each other, both down to perfect heart shots.