Optically Speaking July 2024

Handheld thermal imagers now allowed on DOC managed land

The Government has announced that handheld thermal imagers are now legal for use in DOC managed land. This is very welcome news for improving hunting success, animal recovery, and above all, target identification and background safety.

It must be noted that thermal imaging devices that attach to a rifle and night vision optics are still prohibited, as is shooting in darkness. Therefore, only handheld monoculars and binoculars are allowed.

The ability to use a thermal imager has the following advantages:


Though accidental shooting incidents are low, they still happen. Most accidental shootings occur at close distance in wooded terrain, when a hunter has limited vision and responds to movement. Not identifying a target is a fundamental breach of the safe handling of firearms. However, humans have a fatal flaw, because the brain can falsely add information. For instance, someone who believes in the existence of UFO’s or ghosts, are more likely to see one. Imagination is one of the most human attributes of our brains, driving our evolution to where we are today. However, it is a massive disadvantage for some whilst hunting.

Using a hand-held thermal imager does not negate the need for positive target identification, but is another aid for doing so. Humans are upright critters, while the game we shoot are horizontal, a thermal imager at the distance where most accidents occur will reveal this.

Animal recovery

A thermal imager is very good for tracking blood trails and finding dead or wounded animals is both humane and convenient.

This is the same scene of a person obscured by native bush at a distance of 50
metres. As seen with the naked eye


Spotting game in the evening before a morning hunt provides a great heads-up as to their location without causing any disturbance. Improved hunting success leads to more meat in the freezer and less need for culling and poisoning.

This is the same scene of a person obscured by native bush at a distance of
50 metres. As seen with a Pulsar thermal imager. Would you mistake this
for a deer?

Take advantage of the opportunities and benefits that a handheld thermal imager offers. Visit our website to see the finest range of European made thermals, chosen by professionals throughout New Zealand. Visit: www.advancedoptics.nz

Hon Todd McClay
Minister for Hunting and Fishing

31 May 2024

Handheld thermal tech now allowed on public conservation land

Technology making it easier for hunters to find animals will be allowed on public conservation land from 1 June, Hunting and Fishing Minister Todd McClay has announced.

“The use hand-held thermal technology to search for animals during daylight hours will increase hunters’ chances of coming home with an animal for the freezer,” Minister McClay says.

Thermal technology which can be attached to a firearm is still prohibited, and discharging a firearm when it’s dark or using night vision optics is not allowed on the DOC estate.

“Hand-held thermal technology, which finds heat sources within vegetation cover, has become widely available and is increasingly used by hunters for both safety and to improve the chances of detecting an animal.

“Hunters will then still need to identify their target beyond all doubt before taking their shot.

”Minister McClay says visitor safety was carefully considered when making these changes, which have been discussed with the Land Safety Forum.

“I encourage hunters to understand and follow the conditions of their hunting permits and the Firearms Safety Code to make sure everyone enjoying New Zealand’s stunning wilderness returns home safely.”

DOC prohibited the use of thermal technology on public conservation land in 2010. At the time, the technology was not readily available and not well understood.

“This is just one of the ways we’re working to make life easier for hunters. Work is also underway to make getting a hunting permit quicker and easier – we’ll have more to say about this as the work rolls out,” Minister McClay says.

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