June 30, 2017
By Keith Wood
Trijicon's IR-HUNTER is a compact, capable, and competitively-priced thermal optic that uses technology that many of us would have not believed possible until recently. Instead of traditional night vision devices that amplify ambient light to allow users to "see in the dark," thermal optics, like the IR-HUNTER, detect minute heat differences to more readily identify warm-blooded animals, not unlike the villain in the 1987 movie "Predator," which used his thermal vision to stalk Arnold Schwarzenegger and his team of commandos through the thick jungle.
Thermal optics don't require moonlight or artificial infrared illumination for effective use. The IR-HUNTER is the most affordable of a range of thermal devices being produced by Trijicon, a company well-known for producing extremely high quality optics for military, law enforcement and civilian use. The IR-HUNTER represents the latest in military-grade thermal technology in a simple package designed for outdoorsmen. These products are made in America and, if this company puts their name on it, you can be sure that it's going to be a quality product.
Compact With a Long Battery Life
When I first put my hands on the IR-HUNTER, I was shocked by its size expected a massive optic but these units are just over six inches long and three inches wide. The weights of the various IR-HUNTER models are comparable to any of today's traditional long-range riflescopes, ranging from 29.1 to 37 ounces depending on the configuration. Each of the units includes an integral Larue throw-lever mount so that they can be easily attached to any firearm with a Picatinny rail. Battery life ranges from 3.5 to 5 hours of constant use and an optional video cable serves as an output for captured still and video images.
The base model IR-HUNTER Mk 2 has a wide 22-degree field of view, ideal for scanning large areas. It uses a 1.5x optical zoom and up to 8x digital zoom, which works much like a digital video camera. The other 3 Hunter models (MK2 35mm, MK3 35mm, and MK3 60mm) feature 2.5x-4.5x optical zooms and can also digital zoom up to 8x. Magnification and field of view requirements are up to the individual user's preference as well as what type of terrain they'll be hunting in. Hog hunters tend to favor less magnification since it is easy to close distances with hogs at night while hunters who are after predators such as coyotes often desire more magnification.
Easy to Operate
In addition to being the most affordable of Trijcon's thermal optics, the IR-HUNTER is also the easiest to operate. All of the various menus and features can be operated using just two dials on the optic and it doesn't take a computer genius to use it effectively. Because these are electronic optics, the user is not bound to a single reticle choice 3 different reticles are available in the MK2 variants with 5 available in the MK3 variants and can be alternated in seconds without changing the rifle's zero. Reticle choices range from a simple crosshair-style to advanced MIL-DOT and Subtension reticles optimized for bullet drop at night hunting distances. Users can also toggle between various features that match the terrain or lighting conditions available. For example, one can choose a dark background where hot objects show up white or a white background where hot objects show up black, whatever works best in the moment. The system also uses Enhanced Target Recognition technology to enhance the image to provide greater detail. You will be amazed at the image quality of these optics.
Special Edge Detect Mode
One of the most impressive features of the IR-HUNTER is the Edge Detect mode. Designed to highlight targets without washing out the user's night vision, the Edge Detect Mode automatically draws an outline around whatever living creature it finds. A hog hunter can scan a thick treeline using the Edge Detect Mode and the system will identify and outline every feral hog instantly. MK3 models include an internal stadiameteric rangefinder which allows the shooter to instantly determine the range to the target.
Perfect for Hogs
So why would a hunter want to use a thermal optic? The primary use is for controlling unwanted populations of feral and predatory animals think hogs and coyotes. Feral hog populations have exploded nearly nationwide and are devastating pristine wildlife habitat as well as agricultural lands. Since these animals are largely nocturnal, they are very difficult to control using traditional methods. With the use of a thermal riflescope, hunters and farmers can easily locate and ethically remove these animals. You will be amazed at how close you can approach hogs at night with the use of such a device, so long as the wind is in your favor. Combining the IR-HUNTER with a suppressed semi-auto would be the ultimate in hog population control.
Death on Coyotes
Coyotes have spread throughout the country in recent years as well, in some cases preying heavily on game animals including whitetail deer, turkey and quail: we saw more coyotes than deer on our farm this past Fall. Coyotes are incredibly smart and notoriously difficult to hunt and the ability to use thermal technology tips the odds to the hunter's favor. Finally, thermal optics such as the IR-HUNTER can be used as a handheld monocular to locate and recover wounded or fallen game animals: these optics are so sensitive that they can be used to follow a blood trail and sometimes even an animal's tracks.
Thermal optics, particularly high quality examples such as the Trijicon, are never going to be cheap but, at $5,999, the MK2 IR-HUNTER represents a reasonable point of entry when compared to the products available in the marketplace. For landowners and serious hog and predator hunters who are looking for even greater performance and features, the MK3 models are available at higher price points.
The Future is Here
The future is here. Trijicon's thermal optics, which include the IR-HUNTER, allow consumers to harness the latest in battlefield technology. These products are so advanced that they cannot be sold or exported overseas without permission from the Department of State. Darkness is no longer the advantage of the unwanted species that destroy habitats and wildlife, we hunters can own the night. The IR-HUNTER represents the most effective and capable thermal hunting optic in its class, providing user-friendly operation and high-quality imagery at a highly competitive price.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.