The other night I was walking my dogs (with their sweet APALS lights keeping them visible to passing motorists!) when I heard a rustling in a small wooded area to my left. The area we travel every night varies from well lighted by street and house lights to pitch black under tree cover without a house in sight.
The rustling began in a particularly dark area, and I was already a bit annoyed because one of the overhanging trees produces berries, and my dogs can hardly be moved once they start vacuuming up those sweet berries. I dragged them along for a good fifteen feet when I heard the rustling.
I turned toward the sound. It stopped. My dogs, normally outstanding hunters with incredible awareness of their surroundings (half beagle, so they can smell a cookie from three states away), were completely absorbed in their berry buffet so I was left to determine the root cause of the shaking branches in a nearby bush.
I took a step or two forward before stopping. There were two reasons for my hesitancy: an especially warm winter here outside Chicago has led to a population explosion of skunks in my area. While I’m sure I could take a skunk in a fight, it would be a net loss as I’d end up as stench-laden as, well, I’ll leave the thought to you.
The other reason I hesitated is coyotes. I’ve seen a few in my area as of late, and local initiatives to discourage their presence have included sealing garbage can lids so they can’t find food. This has led to three local dog abductions. Two houses down a wonderful elderly woman lost one of her Pekinese pups to a hungry coyote. I’ve seen plenty of coyotes on my walks and they’ve never bothered with me, but a desperate and hungry animal is not something I want to handle unarmed. Add to that the impenetrable darkness and I wasn’t about to investigate further.
I started back down the street, dragging my dogs along behind me. The rustling stopped momentarily and I wished I had a good thermal unit or night vision binocular to take a quick look. Visions of childish nightmares erupting from the woods like a volcano of fear pouring forth and quickly overtaking my little walking party destroyed my peace of mind. Coyotes and skunks transformed into one another and grew in stature and fearsomeness. At one point I felt certain I was facing a monstrous were-coyote with a white stripe down its back, spewing a horrific spray that would not only smell horrible but also burn like acid through my skin and bones, leaving only my horror.
To combat this unreasonable fear I focused on what night vision unit I would like to have at a moment like this. I’m not out hunting and I don’t want to carry something heavy or bulky. On the off chance there isn’t enough ambient light for the night vision to effectively amplify I’d like my NV unit to include an IR Illuminator. While the area I wanted to view was relatively close at hand, I wouldn’t mind having a little magnification and a greater viewing distance, and as I’m not made of money (unfortunately) I’d like it to be a great value.
I’d recently seen a night vision binocular by Yukon that would be perfect, but I was having trouble remembering the exact model so I took out my smart phone and did a quick search of the OpticsPlanet mobile website. There it was: the Yukon Viking 2X24mm Night Vision Binocular. This particular model was on my mind because I’d been looking through the 2011 Brilliance Awards, and the Viking was awarded the “Best Night Vision Binocular Under $500.”
This is the perfect NV Device for me. 2X magnification will help you get a little bit better view of distant objects without being so powerful that you fail to see close-up. You can actually get a good view up to 200 yards away!
The IR Illuminator doesn’t drain too much battery life, and when you don’t have it on you’re going to get about 20 hours out of one CR-123 Battery. I don’t like worrying about batteries any more than you do, so this long battery life is huge.
As I’m more concerned with walking my dogs than hauling binoculars, I really like the 21.2 oz. that the Viking Night Vision weighs in at, and the protective carrying case and neck strap make it a lot easier to carry. I’d just sling mine around my neck to leave my hands free for leashes.
So back to the other night, I’d walked about thirty or forty feet, staring at my phone (not a brilliant idea by the way, as the brightly lit screen killed my natural night vision), and the rustling resumed. I had just cleared a particularly dense area of foliage, and there were no berries on the ground at this point, so my dogs were finally aware of the presence of something in the woods. Unfortunately, I speak very little dog (Not my fault. They have over 6,000 words that mean ‘cookie’ and the rest are some combination of ‘walk’ and ‘hold me’), so they couldn’t tell me what they were seeing or smelling.
Another twenty or so yards down the bushes and trees on my left ended, but the whole way the rustling followed. I became convinced a coyote was following us (this is not an unrealistic fear. I was once followed a quarter mile by a coyote who I assume wanted my dogs).
The bushes ended but the end shook just a bit. I walked with my head turned to keep an eye on any possible animals. Only a sliver of moon was visible, but that little amount of moonlight, when unobstructed by trees, gave me just enough light to make out my tormenter as he walked out of the bush.