Kit guide - hunting in the dark
PUBLISHED: 11:05 28 December 2020
Eddie Jones reveals exactly what kit he favours for hunting in the dark, and covers what else if available on the market for night hunting
This month has been pretty busy on the pest control front. I have had to clear rabbits, feral pigeons, corvids and other species, but rather than write about what I have been shooting, I’m going to run through some of the kit. I’ve been asked numerous times over the last few months about the kit available to the average shooter, and asked what clothing I have been wearing to keep warm at night. I am not one for spending thousands of pounds on the dearest equipment when I can get the same results with lesser value kit, so I’m going to go through the gear I’ve used over the last few months.
My main night-time set-ups are the best I have ever used, without doubt, and the Ultimate Sporter is one of the most balanced, lightweight, sporter-style rifles. It has features on the stock that will mould to the face of anybody who sets one up, and the cheek piece moves in any direction you desire to line up perfectly with whichever scope you are using.
The silent cocking lever is definitely the best on the market, and that opinion is shared by people who have rifles with a sidelever, from other manufacturers. I won’t claim to have used every rifle that has one, but other opinions count more than mine.
I use the .177 for a lot of my squirrel shooting because I like the flatter trajectory to get me through branches, also for rabbits when I know I will need that little bit more distance at night when I have not ranged right. The .22 Regulated version is my usual ratting and paddock rabbit rifle, so the two rifles serve me well for any situation and have never let me down, yet.
One of the biggest purchases that I think any serious hunter/pest controller should buy is a thermal monocular. There has been a lot of debate on how far we go using technology for hunting. In the past, I would not entertain such kit because I thought it gave an unfair advantage to the quarry. Now, though, I think it is the best bit of kit you could own to do the best job possible for the landowner. If results are what are needed, then get one! Thermal has made massive gains in recent years and we now have many more manufacturers supplying us with this great kit. More trade competition has driven prices down and you can get a monocular that would more than do for ratting and rabbit control for less than £500. Hikvision is the chosen company for my monocular. They have a standard 6mm version that will cover most airgunners’ requirements, but I have gone for the 15mm version because I use it for other shooting that needs more distance in the field. This unit is still less than £1,000 and is as good as units that are nearly double the price.
So, let’s get on to the night-vision for use when it’s dark. For years, I have used the latest Pulsar dedicated units on a rifle, and they are fantastic pieces of kit, but they all have one disadvantage over a rear add-on. The dedicated unit takes over one of your rifles, and you can use Pulsar units in the daytime, but they are prone to glare from the sun. A great unit that my mate, Alan, uses is the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro, and this unit will work great in the daytime as well because it is full colour HD. The unit gives a great picture and I was very tempted to get one, but I would have to mess around swapping it over to my foxing rifle, and I couldn’t be bothered to do that.
If you are after a dedicated night-vision scope, you won’t beat the Sightmark Wraith for value. This also has colour for daytime shooting, and the one I looked through and used was fantastic. The Wraith is the cheaper of the dedicated units at around £600, and you would not go wrong with one. If this kit is still out of your price range you can still shop around for second-hand units for half the price of a Wraith that will do the job, but light source will play a massive part in getting a good picture.
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I decided to go with a rear add-on and that means I can use it on any rifle I choose, with a normal side-focus scope. You can use these add-on units with a front parallax, but they are cumbersome. The one I use is a Ward 800l – it’s a fantastic addition to all of my Hawke scopes and so suits me to a tee.
Another great add-on is the PARD 007. I have used one of these in the past and they’re a great price at around £400-450. The last one that you could try is a Nitesite unit.This is a front screen that you look into, and they are my least favourite because they light up your face, but they can be used very effectively. You can pick the older units up quite cheap second-hand – the newer units are better, but the price is a lot higher.
All the units mentioned are digital, so you will need an additional infrared source to get the best out of them. I have used a few IR torches in the past, and the Deben F900 has served me very well, but now I use a PBIR l. These PBIR torches are without doubt the best on the market, and Paul Baker makes different strength torches for many night-vision devices, and this is because one with less power, or a different wavelength IR pill, will work better on the chosen unit. If you do fancy ordering a torch on the supplied link below, make sure you let him know which unit you use, to get the best-balanced IR for it.
When it comes to clothing, there is only one manufacturer I use. Jack Pyke clothing has served me well over the years, and the quality and price of the gear speaks for itself. The Countryman, Ashcombe and Weardale trousers are by far my favourites. They suit me for most conditions I come across, and they are comfortable and light, which helps on the long walks I sometimes do here in Wales.
The Fieldman Fleece Hoodie is definitely a favourite of mine, too. It’s okay for the warmer evenings when lying in wait for rabbits, or walking through woods in the cooler months. Different patterns are available to suit any time of year, or fauna, that you will shoot in. I recommend that you take a look on the Jack Pyke website for all the footwear, clothing and accessories – you might be surprised by what you will find!
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