A hunter who is planning to purchase a Leupold LTO thermal tracker to use for finding downed game–Save your money. If you are thinking of using this unit for security, then it might be worth it. The LTO works for seeing intruders outside in cleared areas around buildings if there is nothing in the way. In other words, it can function as a limited night vision scope.
In July Cabelas gave me a special price, $499 plus free shipping. I’d been reading the professional/celebrity hunter reviews regarding this tracker. Heck, sounded like the solution to those difficult tracking problems particularly during the early season bow hunts when the Wisconsin vegetation makes seeing a downed deer or bear nearly impossible until you bump into it.
For many years I’ve been a big fan of Leupold optics, so I expected this tracker to work as advertised. Sadly, it does not live up to the hype. Here the selling points:
- Operating Temperature: -4F to 140F – The temps I used it ranged from 65F – 90F. If anything was between the target and the tracker heat interference was so intense the target could not be discerned.
- Detection Distance: 600 Yards- No way this thing can help you see anything at 600 yards distance. In the dark, looking for some horses and cows standing 200 yards distance. Nope, could not identify them, they were just “heat lumps” mixed in with the heat rising from the pasture and fence posts. If a deer had been down somewhere in that field, the hunter would have had to walk around checking out thousands of heat signatures. My flashlight did a better job of locating the animals.
- Six optional thermal palettes and adjustable reticle – Yes has these but they were not helpful dealing with any background or foreground heat signatures. Heat from everything; trees, grass, brush and the gravel road showed up on the screen as blurry colored heat spots.
- Find game using thermal imaging – The prime reason I purchased. Wanted this LTO to work and I tried to find ways to make it work for finding downed game. I killed a rabbit for some fresh animal blood to experiment with, not to worry we ate the rabbit meat. I could not see the blood spots using the LTO during the day or in the dark. The rabbit lying dead in the lawn was obscured by background heat on the screen even though I could plainly see it. It seemed like the rabbit’s fur blocked its body heat. The only heat was on its nose and the openings of the ears.
Fur blocks body heat!?
Yes, it does.
My Siberian husky has a lot dense fur (as do deer), and only her nose and eyes showed up on the Leupold LTO. My Vizsla has short hair; his body heat signature showed. However, when he entered long wispy grass, he disappeared from the LTO screen. It is puzzling that anyone who has sorted through a challenging trail would find this unit helpful. I suspect those reviewers who claim that the Leupold LTO is going to make hunters “lazy trackers” because it is so easy to find downed game have not used this product in the field or bothered to test it under any semblance of conditions on the ground.
I concluded, after using the Leupold thermal tracker under conditions commonly encountered while hunting that it will be more of a hindrance than a help. There are no technological shortcuts to finding game animals. Hunters must train themselves and continue to practice good woodsmanship. Thankfully, I purchased it from Cabelas and was able to return it for a full refund.