I’m not an expert tracker. Truth be told, I’m actually pretty terrible at tracking. While I’ve yet to stalk and hunt, I have had to track wounded game and I can tell you tracking is difficult and hard work. The worst part of tracking a wounded animal is dealing with the anguish and guilt that come from knowing the animal is suffering while one tracks it. Having been there, I decided to pick up a tool to assist with tracking and speed up the process of putting a wounded animal out of its misery.
The tool I picked up is the Leupold LTO Tracker 2 HD Thermal Viewer. To be honest, I didn’t really do much research on thermal viewers before picking this up. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware that these types of tools existed until a few minutes before ordering one. Trust me, looking back on this purchasing decision makes me often wonder what I was thinking as it was what I consider to be a relatively expensive impulse buy, which rarely yields a good outcome and often results in buyer’s remorse. However, the build up to the impulse buy did happen over time. I’ll tell the story.
A while back, my hunting buddy and I went to our local Cabela’s and were shopping for a few different things for an upcoming deer hunting trip. While we were there, we got to talking about how we both pretty much sucked at tracking and disliked the feelings endured when tracking wounded game animals. At some point during the discussion, my buddy mentioned that he had been looking into getting a thermal viewer to help with the process of finding the blood trail and helping spot the wounded animal that usually ends up pretty well hidden in thick brush (given the terrain we typically hunt). Now at this point I was pretty skeptical on such a tool for a couple of reasons. First, I knew thermal optic devices are expensive and my buddy has a tendency to be frugal. Next, my experience with low cost optics has been one filled with a lot of disappointment. As such, I disregarded the idea and figured I should just continue on improving my tracking skills.
Several months later, my hunting buddy calls me up all excited about his new thermal viewer and a few days later brings it with him to my house for a father’s day get together celebration at my house. He remembered he brought it with him while we were relaxing in the living room with full bellies and talking about planning another hunting trip. Of course, he gets it out and shows it to me. I knew I had to get one the moment I got my hands on the Leupold LTO Tracker 2 HD Thermal Viewer.
The viewer was small, lightweight and worked really well. I was extremely impressed with the resolution, the color palettes, and the digital zoom. I excitedly showed it to my wife who, most likely in an effort to shut me up, suggested I buy one. Not wanting to provide an opportunity for her to change her mind, I picked up my phone, hopped on Amazon, and placed an order for one.
I’ve only had the chance to take this thermal viewer on a hunting trip one time and it didn’t yield a harvest. However, I did end up using it in a few ways I hadn’t expected to. First, I used it to help me locate and identify wildlife. I was able to identify some smaller animals hidden in the brush that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise with the naked eye or perhaps even with binoculars. The other cool thing was being able to see tracks the animals were leaving on the ground (which leads me to believe this viewer will come in handy for tracking).
This thermal viewer is not bigger than a small handheld flashlight and weighs 7 ounces. It includes six different color palettes and up to a 7x digital zoom. This HD version of this tracker has a 390×390 display resolution and has a detection distance of 750 yards. Along with the viewer, the package included flip up lens caps and a protective sleeve (that I opted to use instead of the lens caps).
Unfortunately, according to Leupold this thermal viewer is no longer available for purchase. I’m not sure if they are currently working on a new version or decided to get out of the thermal viewer market all together (given they have zero available products listed as of writing this in the thermal products area of their website). However, it can still be found at some online and physical retailers.
While I think the Leupold TLO Tracker 2 HD Thermal Viewer is an awesome piece of gear, it’s not a replacement for solid tracking skills. If one already has great tracking skills, then I’m pretty confident this thermal viewer will be a great compliment to those skills. If you are like me and lack tracking skills, then you’ll find this tool will likely be a good crutch to lean on while working on improving those skills.