You just purchased a thermal scope or other device for hunting. Likely you’re a serious varmint or hog hunter who was looking for an edge, or you may have wanted an advantage when scanning your property to defend it against whatever may be hassling you. Whatever its primary purpose, many folks end up using that thermal imaging device only for hunting or defense, but turns out there are other tasks you can use it for besides hunting and shooting.

Thermal devices come in many forms, but the most popular for hunters and shooters is a gun sight or rifle scope. These can be great for night hunting applications like hog hunts, but it can make some secondary uses a bit cumbersome if your thermal device is still mounted to your rifle. In many cases you can take it off for the below applications, but make sure you don’t have any upcoming hunts planned as you wouldn’t want to jeopardize a dialed-in setup. Aside from sights and rifle scopes, handheld thermal scopes and binoculars are the other common devices, and while these won’t help you take a shot, they’re great tools to have on hand as you prepare for a hunt. Naturally these devices will be easier to apply to the below suggestions and they will generally be easier to use for these secondary purposes.

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SIG Sauer is the latest company to release an affordable thermal reflex sight like this Echo1.

Finally, thermal cameras and accessories for smartphones are changing the market as we know it by adding very inexpensive thermal options for those who can’t afford the substantial investment that comes with thermal scopes or monoculars. These phone or small handheld devices might just be the device you need to take on the tasks listed below. Now that we’ve discussed the different thermal device options, let’s take a look at some of the popular “secondary” purposes of thermal devices.

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FLIR is one of the companies leading the charge in smartphone thermal devices like this FLIR ONE add-on camera.

Scouting

Although most already have this purpose in mind when they invest in a thermal device, it’s worth mentioning in a list of non-shooting purposes. The best scouting example comes with deer. Deer, like many animals, are most active at night, and determining their patterns and frequented areas can be a real trick once the sun goes down. However now you can carefully travel to the edge of a field or stay in your stand or blind to see how the deer are moving once the sun sets. A thermal device will pick out larger animals like deer from a substantial distance away, and you’re less likely to spook them using this scouting method. Armed with this information, you can adjust stand placements and hunting techniques to increase your chances of success. This same approach can apply to hogs, predators and more as well.

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You can catch creatures of all sizes after dark with a thermal device.

Birders

Thermal devices aren’t just useful in night scouting applications, they can be key to picking out well-camouflaged birds and other wildlife during the day. Say the rare bird or other animal you’re out to observe is hiding in the trees above. You could spend hours with your head tilted back and a pair of binoculars to your eyes trying to make out what may be the bird in question. Or you could start with the thermal device, find some heat signatures from some likely candidates, and then focus in with your binoculars afterward. Wildlife documentary filmmakers have been relying on thermal devices to set up their shots and bring that eye-popping wildlife footage to your home for years, and now you can improve your chances at capturing the real thing live with thermal imaging.

Gardeners

Wait, gardeners can make use of a thermal scope or device? They sure can, and anyone who has tended a garden knows that their produce can come under attack from a variety of undesirable creatures. Do you want to know what has been sneaking in and eating your tomatoes? Are you curious what has been digging up your seeds when the sun goes down? Well now you can sit on your porch after the sun goes down and figure out exactly what you are dealing with. Who knows, it might end up being a larger animal like a raccoon or skunk, but at least you know where to focus your efforts. A word of caution, if you live in a residential neighborhood, you may want to take the thermal gun sight off your rifle as to not alarm your neighbors or worse, be tempted to take care of the problem then and there…

Home Improvement

This use may be the best way to get your spouse on board with a thermal imaging purchase – energy savings! More and more contractors are turning to thermal imaging to diagnose a variety of home and building problems. Are you worried you’re not getting a proper seal on your doors and windows from the winter cold? You can check this out in a flash with a thermal device. Problems with roofing, electrical wiring and foundations can also be diagnosed with a thermal device. In certain circumstances, you can even tell if your basement or room has a mold problem. Even if you want to just stand outside your home and get a picture of any faults that the naked eye might have missed, thermal vision may be the best tool for the job.

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You can get a fresh view of your house’s strengths and weaknesses with thermal vision.

Search And Rescue

Ok, well you probably won’t be mounting a real search and rescue operation, but thermal imaging can help you find lost pets or even lost children or friends in extreme circumstances. This can be especially handy on camping trips or hikes where members of your party may get separated from the rest of the group. You could pick them out through brush or other obstacles quickly without the panic of running around. Now if you’d like to volunteer with a search and rescue group, your thermal device will come in handy for that purpose too.

Images three and four and thumb courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.