Outdoor Journal: New lasers throw light long distance

I recently received a letter from Steve Lamboy of Laser Genetics Communications informing me that I
PHOTOGRAPHER:

I recently received a letter from Steve Lamboy of Laser Genetics Communications informing me that I had been selected to test their new ND-3 and ND-5 Long Distance Laser Designators.

The letter explained that this was the first time this patented high-powered, hand-held lighting technology has been offered to civilians. I’ve had some experience with laser

lights, sights, rangefinders and other high-powered and specially designed lights, but nothing that comes close to these.

Laser locators offer an entirely new dimension of illumination called coherent light. What makes this technology unique is that it isn’t subject to “flooding” characteristics like all incandescent lighting. It does not lose its power on the way to the target, which allows it to extend out hundreds of yards. In fact, when collimated to a narrow beam, the ND-5 laser light is visible for up to five miles, adding a whole new dimension to signaling in search-and-rescue situations on the water and on land.

What this means is that the light rays are nearly parallel as they spread out. Imagine being lost and/or hurt and disabled deep in the woods and having that type of signaling light with you. And how about finding those late-night predators, like coyotes making their way across the back side of a field or sneaking toward your distress rabbit calls?

Now, before I explain some of the features and technical spec­ifications of this new generation of laser designators, let me tell you that the first thing I thought of was whether they are legal for hunting in New York state. Shortly after receiving the letter I e-mailed the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Wildlife, explaining these two laser products and asking if they could be used to hunt predators and/or small game. I received a quick response that the ND-3 and ND-5 are considered to be artificial light, so they are legal for hunting furbearers (coyote, fox, bobcat and racoon), but not small-game species.

For complete regulations on hunting furbearers at night, refer to the New York Hunting & Trapping 2009-10 Official Guide To Laws

& Regulations, page 51.

When the two Laser Designators arrived a few weeks after Steve’s letter, it was like receiving an early Christmas present, and I couldn’t wait for dark to try them out.

Stepping out on my deck in the backyard that evening, I was amazed at the power of the light, especially on the snow-covered Tamarack Pines. I could actually see between the branches. But to get the full effect of the ND-5 and ND-3, I knew I needed a more open rural setting, and decided to light up several large cut corn fields above Saratoga Lake where I hunted Canada geese earlier this year.

So one week ago today, just after sundown, on what had to be one of the coldest days of the year, I overdressed, or so I thought, and headed out. This was the perfect setting, with the back side of the field bordering up to a mixture of hardwoods and pines woodlot, and with the 15-mph winds dropping the temperatures even more, I knew the coyotes had to be on the move.

This working farm property has always supported a number of coyotes attracted to smaller livestock animals like chickens, sheep and even calves. I know the farmer has actually caught coyotes in his hen house and barn after dark. And he also said his barn cat population has also been reduced by these intruders.

I knew that from the edge of the road to the back of this field was just over 350 yards from the road, so when I got there, I parked my truck out of sight and walked in about 150 yards to the highest spot in the field.

And did I tell you it was freezing cold?

Fortunately, there was a small

island of about a dozen scrub pines, brush and a few hardwood trees that I was able to set up my chair blind in and be somewhat protected from the wind. Once inside

the blind and out of the wind, it was warmer, but I knew that the dur­ation of this hunt would not be much more that a few hours.

Loading the rifle, I laid it across my lap and turned on the ND-5 locator and pointed it toward the woods. Wow! It lit up the wood lot edge about 200 yards away, and act­ually well beyond that if I angled it down the field. And when I moved the laser collimator switch back and forth, I could focus the light to the finest intensity and make out even more. I also tried the ND-3 laser designator, and immediately realized it belonged on top of my BSA Catseye 3-12x44mm rifle scope, not in my hand. And when I pointed it toward the woodline, it had no problem going the distance and would easily light up a coyote’s eyes and its outline.

Time to make a few calls.

I used the Hunter Specialties Crit’r Distress call, and shortly after my second rendition of wounded rabbit calls, as I was scanning the wood edge with the ND-5, I picked out first the eyes, then the body of a coyote making its way toward me. And if you’ve ever hunted coyotes, especially at night, you know this is when the adrenaline rush begins.

The green light never bothered him, and lit up his eyes as he continued coming in, head down and cautious. Holding the ND-5 locator and the fore end of the rifle in my left hand and shouldering the .308, I watched the coyote through the scope. He never stopped coming until I shot. Definitely beginner’s luck — one shot, one coyote. Time to go warm up. When I stopped by the farm house to show and tell my story, the farmer was quite pleased, and told me there were plenty more out there.

Other than the fact that I lost my call, which I think I’ll replace with an electronic model, it was a great first try with these new laser gen­etic toys. And that evening, when I got home, I attached the ND-3 to my scope.

ND-5

What I like about this locator light is that it can be operated with one hand, using a thumb control that adjusts the laser beam’s diameter and illumination intensity.

I was able to do this on the coyote. I was actually holding the light beneath the forearm of my rifle as I sighted in on him. Adjusting the collimator to a more open position increases the diameter of the beam to fully illuminate objects out to 400 yards. Not a bad feature to have when coming out of the woods at night.

Without getting too technical, the ND-5 laser locator light produces a coherent light which loses the least amount of its illumination power as it travels to the target, enabling objects to be illuminated at greater distances than light from ordinary flashlights. Machined from high-tech aluminum, it weighs just 1.2 pounds, is nitrogen-charged for anti-fog, powered by two CR123V batteries (included) that have a life of eight hours of continuous use. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $349.95.

ND-3

The beauty of this Designator is that it’s just 6.25 inches long and weighs 5.34 ounces, making it easy to mount above your optics and making a scoped rifle perfect for hunting predators at night. It will cast a bright beam of green laser light to fully illuminate those predators up to 250 yards out without taking your eye off the target.

The beam is activated with a push-button on the rear of the unit and also comes with a momentary pressure switch for on-demand use. What I found on my coyote hunt was that its eyes were intensely

illuminated by the green laser light and easy to see through my scope. The larger 44 mm objective lens of the Catseye scope added maximum light transmission and made centering the crosshair more accurate, compared to the “close” picture you can get with other predator lights.

Like its ND-5 partner, the ND-3

is also constructed of high-tech machined aluminum and sealed against dust and water, has fully multicoated optical lens, is nitrogen-filled for anti-fog and has a visibility range of three miles. It includes and is powered by one CR123V battery with a life of seven

hours of continuous use. Also included are three-eighths- and five-eighths-inch weaver mounts, adjustable scope mount and binocular/spotting scope mount. Man­ufacturer’s suggested retail price is $329.95.

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