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 Post Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:33 pm 
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I wrote this article I hope that it may help shed some light on the subject. Sorry, it is kind of long.


Tracking Wounded Game
Lighting Update
Can Light Emitting Diodes Do The Job?
Gabriel Navar
2012

As long as hunters hunt, we will always have a need for tracking wounded game. Success depends on many factors like the type of weapon or caliber, shot placement, weather, and many others. Most hunters track wounded game themselves or with other hunters. Some track wounded game with the aid of a dog, the success is partially determined by the skill level and experience of the dog and handler. Tracking wounded game with a quality dog that has been trained will greatly increase the success of finding wounded game. In the quest to find wounded game, we are faced with many decisions and one decision is whether or not to track at night. This topic is discussed in John Jeanneney Book. Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer. Many times we are faced with the overwhelming facts that it is in the best interest to search at night. There are many reasons for coming to such a conclusion and some of the most common are temperature, predators and time constraint to name a few. The bottom line is that if you hunt, there is a high probability that at some point you will be tracking at night. This leads us to the unavoidable fact that hunters and trackers need light. The quantity, lumens, and quality, type and tint, of the light used for your search can be the difference between finding your game or going home empty handed. In John Jeanneney’s book from 2006, he describes requirements for lights quite nicely in Chapter 14. He also notes that as of 2006 LED lighting has not materialized to the point of replacing long standing coon hunting lights or traditional lanterns. These have been the gold standards for locating wounded game sign, but have several serious drawbacks which will be discussed later. This Lighting update comes at a time in which LED lighting has made advancements to the point in which LED lighting is acceptable to replace some of the long standing lighting options used to search for wounded game at a fraction of the size and cost.
After a year in 2010 with several deer not being recovered, I decided it was about time to step up my tracking and search for wounded game by adding a dog. In July of 2011, we purchased a Red Lacy Named General Jackson. Jackson was just a puppy throughout 2011 starting the archery season at less than 3 months. We finished the season with him training well and assisting in about 7 recoveries even as a puppy. After the conclusion of the season, I got to thinking about some of the challenges of this past season and many of the tracking challenges centered around lighting. We ran out of lights in one track, many times the lights just didn’t seem bright enough. Then the lights were great for seeing spots at a distance but we are looking for wounded game sign right in front of us. So we needed more of a flood type light, and some lights seemed to bleach everything out. Several times we couldn’t find enough sign or any sign so we were forced to return the next day only to find our animal consumed by predators. I came to the conclusion that I needed to look at all of the advancements in current lighting and find the most optimized solution for tracking wounded game.
Ok, fifteen minutes on the web, and I should have this figured out. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy or simple, with all of the advancements that have been made in the last few years. Portable lighting has come a long way since the best option was a Coleman lantern. The traditional lantern has been considered by many one of the gold standards for tracking wounded game for years. And why not, some of them today produce up to 1500 lumens of light with pretty good working time. Lanterns provide great light for searching for wounded game but not without drawbacks. Besides the obvious size issue and fuel source many of us know that the burning lanterns can cause issues with a dog’s sense of smell. These issues lead us to the lantern being a less than desirable option when using a tracking dog. For many hunters that track without the aid of dog, the size and inconvenience are enough to look for a suitable alternative. With everything else we are carrying into the woods dragging around a lantern just doesn’t seem like the most optimized solution. I started some research into the basics. What optical properties out of a light do we really require in the task of tracking wounded game at night? We are looking for sign to lead us to the game and the wounded game sign is a mix of blood, hair, guts, tracks and others. One must be somewhat skilled at identifying sign to make difficult recoveries. This leads me to briefly mention the art of tracking. Lucky for me, I have an Uncle James. My Uncle James is one of the best hunters and trackers that I have ever been around. I have been fortunate enough for him to have passed many hunting and tracking skills down to me over my life span, and I continue to learn from him each hunting season. I have been trained enough at this point in my life to be fortunate enough to pass down some of the skills to my own sons. I do this in an attempt to maintain the art of tracking wounded game over generations. If you have not been exposed to seasoned trackers, I recommend that you look for a mentor to provide you with the necessary basics. I realize that everyone does things different but you must be skilled in tracking wounded game or you will make many mistakes. Many of the mistakes may be minor but some of them may ultimately lead to an unsuccessful recovery. The art of tracking is beyond the scope of this article, but I do find the importance significant enough to mention, as with poor tracking technique many of the other variables are insignificant.
So what are the ideal optical properties needed in a light for searching for wounded game? We know we need light but what kind of light and how much? Do you want to hold the light or do you want a headlamp? Well most of us know that the sun is the best. But, we can’t always search in the daylight. So what is the next best option? We know lanterns work well but have some limitations as was discussed previously. I started thinking how much light is really needed for the job? Light is measured in Lumens. Lumens and candles are measures of the total "amount" of visible light emitted by a source. Most current lights use lumens as a measure of the total output. So, find the light with the highest lumens, right? Well, not exactly, other variables come into play. This is where things can get tricky. We want bright light with high lumens but they draw lots of power, and we need sufficient time for our search so having a super bright light that last for a short period of time only to leave you stranded is not acceptable. So our lights need to have sufficient time or they need to be able to have batteries easily replaceable. Ideally, we want both! We also don’t want a light that has a chance of a bulb to blow in the middle of a track without a replacement. LED’s solve this issue completely. With the right design, LED lights can have a lifetime of 50,000 hours and more in continuous operation. Depending on how many hours-a-day they are operating, that can be from 6 to 7 years to as many as 20 to 30. There are many forms of light out there, lanterns, halogen bulbs, xenon bulbs, and LEDs. But the question is can LED lights produce enough light output? Can they last long enough for a serious tracking job? Can they have the correct tint? Are the portable? In the end, can they do the job? Not all lighting renders color the same. Some lights render color better. The ability to make colors look true – that is to have a tomato look like a tomato – is called color rendering. The color rendering index (CRI) characterizes light sources in view of their ability to produce “natural light” and can be between 0 and 100. The closer an LED light comes to 100 on the color rendering index (CRI), the more naturally colors are rendered, and the light is perceived as more pleasant. But what is the best to distinguish color in our application, searching for wounded game? LEDs come in a few forms, cool white has a CRI of 65 and neutral white has a CRI of 75 so a 10% increase, but what does that mean? The neutral white can help to distinguish color better. We want bright light but, we don’t want everything bleached out, we need to be able to contrast and clarify small amounts of wounded game signs that may help us continue the track and thus ultimately find the animal. Some lights today produce very high output but are designed to shine a spot at distance. We don’t need lights to shine a spot the size of a soccer ball at 100 yards. We need a floody type light, that lights up everything directly in front of us. We are looking right around us as we search for sign, if you want to search fields or look at a distance at the same time, I suggest an alternate throwing type light for a beam, as a second light. Many manufactures make either flood or spot type light and for close up work such as looking for wounded game sign flood is ideal. Another consideration especially if we are using a tracking dog is the availability of hands. Well I can tell you, I never have enough, so hands free light is ideal. I have one hand on a leash and one hand with a machete. We have to mark the trail and many other tasks so hands free light is what you want. So to sum it all up, the ideal properties needed for tracking wounded game at night. We need a high output light, the brighter the better. We need a light with good color rendering clarifying small amounts of wounded game sign. A flood type light with the ability to last for the duration of the search and/or have the ability to change out batteries with ease. In addition, we could use a second longer spot light for searching deer at longer distance or viewing fields, there are many options for that application.
Cree is a market-leading innovator of lighting-class LEDs. They created the XLamp XML LED. At the time of writing this, it is the industry’s highest performance, single-die white lighting-class LED. The XLamp XML is 20% more efficient than the XLamp XP-G at the same current. The XLamp XML LED offers Cree’s industry-leading features: wide viewing angle, symmetrical package, unlimited floor life and electrically neutral thermal path. XLamp XML LEDs can enable LED light into new applications that require tens of thousands of lumens. The XM-L is also the ideal choice for lighting applications where high light output and maximum efficacy are required. This LED is now being used in Headlamps and flashlights to produce high lumen output and be able to deliver it for an acceptable amount of time for tracking wounded game. There are several tint options for the XML LED cool, neutral and warm. These LEDs vary in intensity and color rendering. The various tints are subjective and the cool white tint is always going to be the brightest. However, brightest isn’t always better in the outdoors. The cool white tint makes much of the significantly important wounded game sign dull. Neutral tint is generally preferred for OUTDOOR/RURAL use as the green/brown colors of foliage, wildlife etc appear in a more natural color - you see more detail, contrast, better depth perception, and color rendition.
There are many lights that are now available with the Cree XML LED and they are capable of providing significant advantages of the lights of old. It is important to understand some of the different variations of these to make informed buying decisions. There are many manufactures now making flashlights and headlamps with the latest in technology. I have chosen to use Spark Technology to provide some examples of the current availability of headlamps and flashlights that I feel are optimized for tracking wounded game at night.

The following is some information on Spark Technology a flashlight maker offering the latest in technology with the Cree XML LED. Most of the lights retail for around $100 a huge amount of difference from the prices per lumen a few years back.

Spark Technology headlamps

These headlamps use the highly efficient Cree XML LED which produces up to 155 lumens/watt. Many headlamps on the market use older LEDs from Cree that only produce 90-120 lumens/watt or even less. Some headlamp companies even use the ancient 5mm LED from Nichia which produce at most 10-15 lumens max. They have various shapes and configurations. In my opinion, the one optimized for tracking wounded game is the SD series. I went with the SD6-460NW. This is a 460 lumen full flood neutral light headlamp. It is fairly large for a headlamp but it has great straps so it is actually quite comfortable. They also have a model 52 runs that runs on 2xAA batteries, model 6 runs on the 18650 battery. The SD headlamps are full flood no hotspot. The SD is a better flood light than the other models with the reflector and a diffuser but if you want to go that way the model ST is a good choice. Most of our tracking work is done at 10-20-30 feet at most the SD headlamps are designed for this type of work. With the SD6 and SD52, everything within that 30 foot range is lit up very well. It's like you're walking around with a wall of light. The adapter ring that sits in front of the LED is removable and can be replaced with a reflector adapter so you can switch out quickly between full flood and far distance lighting. I purchased the reflector but like the light better without it. I do think it is worth having for only $10. This lets you have 2 types of light in one. It will be tough to switch out in the middle of searches so you still will need some sort of throwing flashlight for searching fields and looking way ahead for whatever reason. So in the end this is an example of the type of headlamp that will provide lots of light and lots of flexibility for searching for wounded game sign.

SD6-460NW Full Flood Headlamp
Runs on One 18650 rechargeable Li battery or 2*CR123, working range from 1.6V to 7.6V
Reflector is available to switch from full flood to throwing headlamp.
SD6-460NW Modes
Super mode: 460lumens/1.8 hours
Max mode: 200lumens/3.5 hours
Med2 mode: 70lumens/12 hours
Med1 mode: 12lumens/120 hours
Low mode: 0.5lumens/90 days


If you prefer a light that runs on AA batteries you can opt for the SD52 but with significant less run time.

SD52-NW Full Flood Headlamp
Super mode: 280lumens/1.5 hours
Max mode: 200lumens/1.9 hours
Med2 mode: 70lumens/7 hours
Med1 mode: 12lumens/43 hours
Low mode: 0.5lumens/50 days

I anticipate running most of the time in the 200 lumens setting.

I would like to give a special thanks to Jason Wong at SBFlashlights Customer Service for assisting me on some of the technical aspects of this. They can be reached at the following:
1-855-SBFLASH (723-5274)
www.sbflashlights.com

In Summary, high output LED headlamps have arrived. The advancements are now substantial enough to be used in the very demanding application of tracking wounded game. They can be found at a fraction of the price and size of the lights of old. They run brighter and longer and now are available with appropriate tint and rendering to be suitable for searching for wounded game. The lights have plenty of output for the job while satisfying the requirements necessary for searching for wounded game. From my trial, I think that for most situations I will be running on Max not Super 200 lumen setting. The SD6 should run for 3 to 4 hours. I will have backup batteries if we need to go for a longer track but for the majority of our work we should be towards the end at that time frame. For the price of a little over $100 you can get the light and then you need batteries a reflector if you would like your light to be a throwing light as well. Total cost for my headlamp setup was $141 to my door. That included SD6 460 lumen Neutral Light flood headlamp, Reflector to make a throwing light as well, 2 18650 solarforce protected batteries and the solarforce charger. I hope that this update helps sort out some of the details and gives you the information you need if you want to look at some of the new lighting technology. I have no interest in any products, services or companies mentioned in this article. I did this in an attempt to help out fellow hunters and trackers.

Thanks

Gabriel Navar


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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:10 pm 
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Gabe,

Thanks for the scoop. I'm always looking for good gear.

I will check these lights out.

Currently I use some surefire lights. My headlamp is the Surefire Saint.
I need gear that heavy duty and waterproof.

I cover a lot of ground and like having compact Items in my pack.


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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:49 pm 
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It depends on what you are using it for. Just for comparison those Surefire Saints are around 100 lumens max for about 1.5 hours. The big difference is do you want a Cool White tint or a Neutral White tint. The cool white will always at the same lumens seem much brighter. However the price to pay is that the color rendering is not near as good. So one must decide! I think that the NW lights are plenty bright and I want the good color rendering.
Compare the Max output of 460 lumens for 1.8 hours. But the real test is at what power I will be using for most situations and how long will it run. The 200 lumen setting is very bright for working around such as we would be searching for wounded game sign, and it should have a run time of 3 to 4 hours. For just moving around hiking or walking the 70 lumen setting should work, if you are not tracking a blood trail and that run time is 12 hours. So you can see there are some real advancements in this technology. There is alot of good stuff out there these days, you just want to have as much knowledge about what is available to make a good informed decision. Do you use your current headlamp for tracking? Let us know if you got any updates or info for us!


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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:16 pm 
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Good stuff Gabe thanks !! I will have to check into that head lamp .

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 Post Posted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:23 am 
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These Are the Lights I currently use for blood trailing at night. I find this combination to be useful.

1. Surefire Saint Headlamp 100
2. Surefire P2X Fury 500
3. Gander Mtn. GSX 235 with blue led

Lately I have been using my headlamp to pull ticks off my dog. I can’t believe their out already. Looks like another bad tick year.

If I recall correctly form last year’s deer season notes, about 9 of the recoveries I did were at night. They were in high moisture conditions and within 2 to 4 hours of the shot. Coyotes are bad here so I recommend we get on the blood trail right away.

I like starting out with a low level light. The moon and stars usually emit enough light to see the contour of the land. I keep the lead and light in my left hand. This serves a dual purpose.

1. Doesn’t blind your dog if it looks back
2. Gives you a free hand to take pictures or scan the horizon with a high power light for a reflection of a deer’s eyes.

I take a lot of pictures because I figure Sadie is a puppy only once, so why not record it…

The Gander Mtn. light I use has a blue led, it works well in many areas here. The soil and food sources which the deer consume have high concentrations of iron. The blue led makes the blood stand out in night time blood trailing. (Iron in the hemoglobin makes blood glow)

I haven’t tried any of the blood trailing lights.


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 Post Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:44 am 
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Now that it is getting close to hunting season, I put this at the top if anyone is looking for new lights.


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 Post Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:25 pm 
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Location: I've been everwhere, man....
thanks!

now that is in depth!

bookmarked for later loo reading! B-)

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 Post Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:25 pm 
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Yea, I kind of got caught in a tangent on that one. It was worth it. I learned a ton about light.


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