We are excited to announce that two of our WeHuntSC.com members are now Pulsar Pro-Staff members. Adam Smith and I were recently selected to the Pro-Staff team and we are excited to see what 2019 has in store. As you may have seen in our posts, our team has been doing a lot of night hunting lately and we use Pulsar scopes on our setups. We’ve been putting a lot of time into the images and videos we share from the hunts and Pulsar has recognized.
Adam and I look forward to learning more about Pulsar’s vision for the future of night hunting, thermal optics, and to learning more about Pulsar products. If you are interested in Pulsar’s products and/or want to know more about our setups feel free to reach out.
When we moved into the neighborhood everyone told us “Just wait til Halloween”. Well, they were right! Our friend up the street, Jay Ziobrowski, is super passionate about Halloween and turns his garage, driveway, and entire front yard into a magical haunted house that’s free to kids in the neighborhood. After doing this for several years, everyone in the neighborhood and surrounding area knows about this and the result is that our street gets blocked off by cops and is absolutely flooded during Halloween. It’s non-stop action from 4:30 to somewhere around 10pm and it’s a really fun time.
After running out of candy in the first 2 hours on year 1 we knew we needed to step it up in following years. So, each year I’ve tried to contribute to the energy and excitement on our street by creating some type of Particle-based IOT Halloween device. Check out the devices from previous years:
Halloween, a Great Opportunity to Get Kids Involved & Learning IOT!
Over the years I’ve had my friend’s kids help me with the setups. That is, since these devices are mobile controlled, I enlist kids to push the button on their mobile phones while I record the reactions of trick-or-treaters from my phone. One of the kids has taken an interest in wanting to know how to build these things, so this year I’ve been working with my friend’s son to both build the devices and teach him along the way. I even gave him a Particle dev kit. It has been a fun project for everyone. I’ve also been overwhelming him with text messages and videos as I make incremental progress on each device. Now he’s using Particle at his school for his science project!
Here are some pics from when we first got started…
Compressed Air, The Key to Speed & The Key to Scaring People!
After doing this for a few years I realized that HOA’s don’t like fire breathing pumpkins and that the best way to scare people is by using compressed air in some shape, form, or fashion. Geared motors just don’t move fast enough … or … if you do make them move fast enough, they are too dangerous and could potentially hurt someone. So, for the past two years I’ve been using a servo to press the button on an air hose to blow air out and move some spooky object toward trick-or-treaters. Nobody gets mad about getting hit with a gust of air!
Last year, right after Halloween, I decided to try something new. I ordered a pneumatic cylinder and solenoid kit from FrightProps. I had no idea how to really make it work, but I wanted to try and low and behold I was able to figure it out. It was way easier than I thought and FrightProps even provided very helpful videos to walk through the hookups for everything. Just a few weeks after last Halloween my mind was already spinning about next year’s Halloween. The pneumatic cylinders with solenoid kits move a lot faster, you can control the speeds, and they use less air. The only negative is that these could potentially be more dangerous. Though, I’m countering the danger by creating physical space around the implementations so that no one will get close enough to be hit or injured. So, I’m happy with the tradeoff and will take extra precaution in the initial setups.
Here's a picture of the solenoid kit from Fright Props
Quick Show of the Headless Clown & Trash Can “Slimer” in Action
The (Main) Parts
There are a lot of parts used in these devices. Of course, you must have wires, wifi, power, and all the normal things you would anticipate. However, I’m going to just list the main items below. If you have questions about other parts or want to build your own, just submit an email to me through this website and I can connect with you and help you with the smaller details. That said, here is the basis for both IOT Halloween devices:
One thing to note is that these devices are using the exact same principles, concepts, and code to make them work. At a high level the solenoids just need to be hit with a 12-volt current to make the pneumatic cylinder fire. To bring the pneumatic cylinder back in, simply turn off the power.
To do this we are using a relay that can be controlled by a Particle microcontroller, a Photon. The relay essentially breaks the circuit of the 12 volts going to the solenoid. Then, whenever we call the cloud web service endpoint in the Particle cloud, it invokes a function in the microcontroller which sends the relay a signal. The relay then completes the circuit which allows the 12 volts to flow to the solenoid which consequently causes the cylinder to fire. We let it fire for a specified period of time (say .200 of a second) then we cut power which causes the head to go back in. We control the speed going both in and out via the speed control valves on the solenoids. So, if you had to draw one negative of the solenoid it would be that you can’t programmatically control the speed.
The Slimer in the Trashcan implementation is such that the cylinder needs to be stabilized yet, due to the Slimer mask and body we couldn’t have any support mechanisms coming from the sides to stabilize the cylinder. Since the Slimer ghost must move up and down vertically we need to allow it room to do so. What this means is that the cylinder needed to be stabilized from the bottom. The cylinders I ordered are threaded at the bottom with 3/8 of an inch thread. This happened to match to some steel plumbing pipes that you can find at your local Lowes or Home Depot. So, I bought a few pieces to connect and make it stand up on its own. After that I added in weighted sandbags to keep the cylinder from wobbling whenever it fires. I attached velcro to the solenoid and breadboard and have the parts sticking to the inside of the trashcan walls. You will see these in the build pics below.
The Headless Clown implementation uses actobotics for its internal structure. Actobotics are awesome and are basically like metal legos that you can easily configure however you would like and mount anything you want to them. I’ve mounted the cylinder, hoses, and breadboard setup to it. I stuck the actobotics down into 2 bales of hay for stabilization.
Here are some pics from the build out(s):
The code to make this work is very simple. I have identical code running on both devices to make these things work. The only thing that is different is the device id!
In Particle – I’ve written a simple program that creates a cloud function which invokes a function on the Photon and all that function does is write a pin from low to high… that’s it! What we’ve done is inject a relay into the circuit of the solenoid which allows us to use some logic to complete or short the circuit.
Here’s the firmware (code) that I’m using for the Particle Photons:
On the Web – I’ve written a basic jQuery AJAX function to call these web API (services) when buttons are clicked. Maybe jQuery is not cool anymore, but it’s pretty simple to implement so it works for me!
Here’s the code I’m using to make an HTTP Post request when a button is clicked. And if you’re worried about me showing you my access token below, no worries… I’ve already recycled it!
Structural & Electrical Video Walkthrough
In this section I aim to give you a structural overview of the devices. Both devices use pneumatic cylinders but are being stabilized in different ways.
Code Video Walkthrough
In this section I walk you through the setup of the devices and the code that I’m using to make them work. The whole point here is… if I can do this, then you can too!
The Halloween Reactions
In my area we currently have an 80% chance of rain on Halloween night so I'm not sure if we'll have any trick-or-treaters at all. I guess we'll see. If the weather cooperates, I will update this page after Halloween with a video showing reactions we get from trick-or-treaters and their parents. Stay tuned for the hopeful post-Halloween-video update!
Have you ever seen a small pixel in your Pulsar Thermal optic’s screen that you wish wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb? If you fire your gun a lot these pixels-that-need-repair occasionally occur, but fear not, Pulsar has anticipated this and provided a way to resolve it. I had one on my screen for a few months before I investigated it and the good news is that it’s simple to correct!
A “defective pixel” is a pixel within your viewfinder or screen that is “degraded”, sticks out, and won’t go away even after your scope calibrates. I’ve owned a Pulsar Trail XP-50 for over 2 years and in this time, I’ve only had 2 defective pixels. Though, when it does happen, over time it will bother you enough to want to know how to fix it.
Here’s a screenshot of one of my defective pixels while in “White-Hot” mode
In this screenshot, the defective pixel may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re hunting and looking through the viewfinder it can become distracting to your eye over time, especially if it’s near the crosshairs. While hunting with the defective pixel shown in the screenshot above there were several times I panned the horizon and mistook the small white dot for being an animal that was a great distance out.
The first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel or something that doesn’t look correct in your viewfinder is to calibrate the optic. If you haven’t changed any settings on your scope then your Pulsar thermal optic will automatically calibrate every so often to ensure what you’re seeing is accurate, clear, and crisp. Calibrating the optic makes the clicking sound that you may have grown accustomed to hearing by now if you own a thermal optic.
These calibrations can be forced by pressing the power button in the Trail models. If my screen ever gets hazy or I notice something not sharp in the viewfinder I simply calibrate the scope. With all that said, the first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel is to force a calibration because generally that will fix it.
If calibrating the optic doesn’t resolve the issue then repair the defective pixel by going to one of the last menu options in the menu system, the “Defective Pixel Repair” option.
Once you choose this option it’s simple. The system presents you with a pixel selector and provides you with the ability to move the X & Y coordinates. This task feels very similar to sighting in the scope.
Just move the X & Y coordinates until you are right on top of the defective pixel. As you update the values for the X & Y coordinates the pixel selector will move across the screen as shown below. The pixel selector surrounded by the box is like the Picture-In-Picture feature and is a magnified (zoomed in) version of the pixel selector.
The goal is to move the defective pixel selector on top of (or as close as possible to being on top of) the defective pixel.
Once you have the defective pixel lined up you then need to hit the record button, yes, the record button. The system will repair the pixel and respond with an “OK” message.
Note: You can also use the remote control to do this as shown in this video by Michael Bennett
And that’s all there is to it! Note that depending on your unique situation, it may take repairing multiple pixels to get the screen back to the desired state. In one of the previous defective pixel scenarios, I had to repair 2 pixels before it was back clear, and the pixel was no longer bothering me.
I also made a quick video walking through this process. You can see the video below:
I hope you found this content helpful. If so, leave me a comment below.
DNN is an open source .NET CMS and application development framework that is a member project in the .NET Foundation. As the DNN Ecosystem Manager I am well aware of the benefits that our community reaps from the .NET Foundation. Last year I articulated several of these benefits in a blog titled “5 Reasons Why We’re Glad to be a Part of the .NET Foundation”.
Promoting Open Source & the .NET Foundation at Microsoft Conferences
Not too long after I posted that blog, I got an email that included a call for volunteers to help staff the .NET Open Source booth at Microsoft’s Build Conference. I responded to this call for assistance as I felt it was a great way to give back to the .NET Foundation since we receive so many benefits from it. A few weeks later I found myself at the conference and I was telling the story of DNN’s journey in open source. I spoke with attendees and articulated how the .NET Foundation plays a big role in the DNN Community’s ability to sustain and thrive.
The call for volunteers came again this year and I returned and it was apparent that developers in the .NET ecosystem are more aware that the .NET Foundation exists, but they may or may not know exactly what the foundation does or why they should be a part of it. Now that the .NET Foundation has a board in place it is a great opportunity to continue the messaging of the value the foundation provides.
DNN: A Great Case Study Example for the .NET Foundation
As I engaged with attendees over the past 2 years it became clear that DNN is a great case study example of why the .NET Foundation exists. It’s one thing for someone from Microsoft to explain what the .NET Foundation does and it’s a completely different thing for someone who is a member project of the foundation that represents the “living and breathing” example to be there on-site to convey the value and benefits the .NET Foundation provides. Telling the DNN story to attendees helps them understand a “real life” example of an open source project that’s reaping benefits from the foundation.
I think it’s somewhat of a poetic justice that DNN is the prime example of an open source project in the .NET Foundation given DNN’s history of being one of the earliest, if not the first, open source project in the .NET space.
Developers Love Open Source!
Another trend I noticed was the increased energy, appreciation of, and momentum around the open source movement at Microsoft. We had several people come up and show appreciation for how Microsoft is embracing the open source movement and for the role the .NET Foundation plays in that movement. It’s great to see this energy and it’s neat to help turn the lightbulb on for those who weren’t completely aware of what the .NET foundation is doing to help continue the OSS movement at Microsoft and in the Microsoft ecosystem.
.NET Foundation Panel on MSDN Channel 9 Live-Stream from MS Build 2019
If you’ve never been to Microsoft’s Build conference it is pretty big-time production. That is, everything is live-streamed and you commonly see video crews following people around, interviewing speakers/attendees/thought-leaders, and setup all around the stages for the keynotes. There is also a big stage where the cameras are permanently set-up and interviews and panel discussions take place. This year the stage was set up in a corner of the convention center not too far from our .NET Open Source booth.Sometimes you just end up at the right place at the right time and that is exactly what happened to me on the last day of the conference. There was a session scheduled to discuss the .NET Foundation which was slotted for the last day of the conference in the late afternoon. As things turned out, Jon Galloway, Executive Director of the .NET Foundation, had to leave early which left an open seat on the panel. Beth Massi felt bad for me and so I got to be the Jon Galloway stunt double on the panel. You never know where you’ll end up! The panel was more about the .NET Foundation in a broader sense rather than DNN specific, but it was still fun to represent the DNN Community on the panel.
You can find info from the session on the Channel 9 site and you can check out the replay below:
A thermal monocular offers several benefits, some of which you may not initially consider. After having used a thermal monocular
for over 2 years, I’d like to share some of the ways I use it to get an edge in the field and some ways you may
not have thought about using a thermal monocular before.
A thermal monocular offers several benefits some of which may not initially obvious. After having used a thermal monocular
for over 2 years, I’d like to share some of the ways I use this recent technology to get an edge in the field and
beyond and some ways you may not have thought about using a thermal monocular before.
As a hunter, I am always looking for ways to gain an edge. It didn’t take me long to appreciate the benefits gained
from using a thermal monocular. I primarily hunt deer, hogs, coyotes, and turkey. Finding ways to use a thermal monocular
to gain an edge hunting each of these species was easy. Let’s get to it…
No More Spooking Deer on My Way In or Out of the Deerstand
One of the first benefits I realized a thermal monocular brought was that it provides me the ability to enter and exit
the woods without spooking any deer. That is, when I start out to my stand I scan with my monocular. When approaching
the stand if I see any deer on the corn pile I simply stop and lean on a tree or sit on the ground until they leave.
Without this ability to see into the dark I wouldn’t have a clue that deer were anywhere around, and I’d
be climbing in my stand only to hear the deer blowing and running off – that doesn’t happen to me anymore.
Likewise, when the sun sets, I always scan before exiting the stand. There have been plenty nights where I sat in the
dark for 10 or 15 minutes until a deer exited my area. Deer are no longer aware of my location simply because I was making
noise in the dark and didn’t know they were close by. This is solely because of the thermal monocular giving me
vision where I previously didn’t have it.
Track Deer More Efficiently
The thermal monocular also comes in very handy when trailing or tracking a deer. If you’ve ever shot a deer right
at dark, you know that it can sometimes be challenging to track them. If you made a good shot, then the thermal monocular
will likely save you some time. Yes, you should get on the blood trail as you normally would, but also use the thermal
monocular to scan the general direction the deer ran in and you may be surprised at how much more efficient your tracking
becomes. I’ve got friends who call me to come help them track deer simply because they know I’ve got a thermal
Locate Turkeys on the Roost More Easily
Turkey hunting is also one of my favorite things to do. There’s nothing better than watching a big gobbler strut
and there’s nothing more depressing than not being able to locate any birds. If you know the general area where
turkeys are roosting, then a thermal monocular may provide you with an edge in this scenario as well. Now days I always
take the thermal monocular with me when we go in before dark. I scan the tree tops to see if I can see any turkeys roosting.
Admittedly, turkeys are a little more difficult to pinpoint because their heads are usually the only part that shows
a sharply contrasting heat signature and during the spring the trees provide them with more cover. Though, the thermal monocular still
provides the opportunity to spot them. This again gives me an edge and as you would imagine we take it and use it as
much as possible. Locating birds is half the battle and a thermal monocular can help you locate them more easily.
Our Primary Use – Scanning for Hogs & Coyotes
The most obvious time when we use the thermal monocular is for coyote and hog hunting at night. We set our guns on tripods
and use the monocular for scanning and locating. As soon as we locate then the game we get into the scopes. If you don’t
have a scanning monocular you will quickly learn that it saves your back big time because you don’t have to constantly
be hunched over scanning in circles in the scope. Also, the monocular is safer to scan with. That is, if we are spinning
circles with our guns, we are pointing the guns in all directions which inevitably become close to other hunters and that’s
not a good thing. Since the monocular is obviously not attached to a gun it’s the safest route for detecting game.
Want to see footage from thermal monoculars & scopes?
Check out our thermal playlist on YouTube
Easily Locate Rabbits
For you rabbit hunters, I know it’s all about the dogs but if you want to easily see rabbits that are hiding in
the edge of briar patches there’s no better way than with a thermal monocular. We constantly see rabbits in the
edge of brush, in straw, and alongside fields while hog and coyote hunting. Want to get your dogs pointed in the right
direction… try a thermal monocular.
Something I noticed while looking at all kinds of things with my thermal monocular is that I can use it for surveillance
if needed. If a group of cars is parked around a house, I can easily tell which cars have been there the longest (they
are cooler) and which ones have just arrived (they are hotter). If you ever have out-of-place individuals lurking in
the shadows they are easily picked out with a thermal monocular. There’s not much hide and seek when it comes to
thermal technologies. The only area this isn’t 100% effective is in scenarios where there are windows. Thermal
detection doesn’t work through glass, other than that it’s awesome to use to see into the night and get whatever
info or recon you need.
One of my friends is a home inspector. Sometimes he’s looking for locations where hot or cool air may be escaping
a house. A thermal monocular is a great tool for this type of scenario.
Imagine an HVAC system that wasn’t installed correctly or if a pipe was leaking. A thermal monocular is a great tool
in these scenarios. Also, one can easily spot the hottest or coldest parts of any machine that could be “running
hot”. Wherever temperature matters a thermal monocular could potentially be useful.
Wondering which device you should use is a common question. After all, these devices are not cheap and as such these are
decisions that shouldn’t be made lightly. Since the purpose of this blog is to provide insight into ways one can
use a thermal monocular, I’m not going to compare all the options out there. A simple Google search will show you
the brand leaders and products on the market.
I’ll simply say that I am on the Pulsar Pro-Staff and I use
Pulsar products. I’m a fan of the
Pulsar Helion XP-50 and it’s what we use on all our hunts. Pulsar recently announced the “Axion” line of monoculars as well. I encourage you to do research and go with the device and manufacturer that
is the best tool for your job.
Picture referenced from GunTrader.uk
We’ve hunted in the WeHuntSC.com Predator Challenge for 7 years. We’ve hunted hard and have yielded minimal results other than being frustrated. Lately we’ve heard a lot of people telling us how effective they have been with hunting coyotes with night vision. This year we aimed to reduce frustration and get more coyotes on the ground by upgrading to a night vision setup. This journey would lead to many lessons learned, which I’ll share in the below blog entry.
After doing some research it seems most hunters are using AR’s for their choice of weapon when coyote hunting. The AR model frees hunters from having to manually chamber another shell as this is done by the gun. This allows more rapid fire at targets which is beneficial when hoping to shoot multiple coyotes … if you can get multiple to come in.
I’d recently heard about Anderson Arms having a unique AR setup. Anderson uses a nanotechnology called RF-85 on their guns that makes it to where you never have to oil the gun. It’s pretty sweet technology. I went with the Anderson Arms AM15 optic ready. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over to https://www.andersonrifles.com.
With the gun selection done it was time to move on to the scope. This meant I had to learn about night vision. It seems in the night vision world there are 2 routes one can go – infrared or thermal. I’m sure you can get into religious debates about the advantages & disadvantages of each, but in the end I chose thermal. Once I decided on thermal I needed to pick out a brand. I had previously purchased a FLIR monocular for spotting scope which I use for tracking wounded animals and ensuring I’m not spooking deer on my way in or out of the woods. It’s very handy, but not very clear. I wanted to try a different brand to see if it was any different. PULSAR seemed to be a popular brand based on the research I had done. I ended up going with the PULSAR Apex XD38.
I worked with the crew at Reel Determined Outdoors to get this rig set up. If you haven’t checked out Reel Determined or the team up there you should give them a shout.
One initial note about night-vision gear. I was surprised at how expensive these technologies are so if you’re looking for a cheap night vision solution get ready to be surprised. However, I can tell you that once you use a night vision setup for coyotes you will never go back.
Sighting In a Thermal Scope
With the gun in hand and scope mounted on it we were ready to venture into the world of thermal night vision. Before we got to shoot at any coyotes however, we needed to sight it in. This is where we really started learning some stuff.
When you take a thermal scope out and look at a target you don’t see the lines on the target. This is because the scope is responding to heat signatures and, as you would imagine, the lines on the target aren’t putting out any heat. Yes, this would seem obvious, but to some rookies we didn’t think ahead about this too much. On our first attempts at sighting this thing in we ended up cutting the center of the target out and putting up some tin foil as the tin foil maintained different temperatures and we could *vaguely see the contrast in the scope. It was all we needed to get excited and get started though.
Once inside the scope I realized that we’d have to learn the menu systems inside of the PULSAR scope. At first sight it was a little overwhelming because I had no idea what all the icons represented. Yes there is a book that comes with it explaining it and yes we didn’t really read it before getting started! In retrospect the best thing I did was watch some YouTube videos of people talking through the menu items.
The menus are not difficult to understand I was just in initial shock of trying to understand them all. The icons make sense and there are 2 menus inside of the software. Yes, software… the thermal scope is essentially a computer system on your gun that’s giving you a screen with information on it and view into the dark. As such, it does require some time to boot up when you press the on button.
The thing that is important to understand about the menu is that you zero the sights in in the menu, that it can hold “sight-ins” for 3 different weapons, and there is a reset button. Sometimes I got lost in the menus and didn’t know what I was clicking and changed the weapon number and even clicked reset. This did indeed make for a frustrating time sighting in the weapon. Once I learned what buttons not to click things got easier.
Gavin and I ended up sighting this gun in about 3 or 4 times as we learned more, messed things up, saw that our scope wasn’t tight on the gun, and figured out the menu items. Once you understand how it works sighting it in is fairly easy. Another trick that made sense was to use hot-hands hands on the middle of your target. If you want to go the extra mile, soak a pizza pan in ice-water and then put it behind the hot-hands on the target. This creates a cool circle encompassing a hot center, which in the scope creates a good contrast for you to aim at.
After several times out with the gun and sighting it in we finally started hitting the target where we wanted to… in the bullseye.
Videoing with a Pulsar Recorder
One neat thing about digital night vision is the ability to record the footage from inside your scope. Since it’s a computer, why not right? PULSAR has different models and with the more recent models the video recording capabilities are getting even better and more user friendly. Our experience with the video recorder left some to be desired and required some learning on our behalf.
The video recorder for the model scope I have is the CVR 640 and it mounts on the weaver/picatinny rail… that is it can be attached to anywhere you see the grooved sections on the gun. In my scenario this meant I could attach the recorder on the side of the scope or on the front of the gun. I initially attached it on the front of the gun because this made ergonomic sense. The recorder holds an SD card and you simply pop the SD card out to download the footage. The recorder plugs into the base of the scope and screws in tightly. The odd thing about this is that your gun literally has cables running down & around it (however you handle your cable management that is).
I was very excited to video all the coyotes we would be busting in the near future! Sure enough it wasn’t long before we had coyotes in the scope and started pulling triggers. The first time I was sure that I was recording when I shot. I looked at the video box and noticed the blue light wasn’t on anymore. How terrible luck was it for the batteries to die right before the shot! So I got new batteries.
A few hunts later the same thing happened. Did I have a bad batch of batteries or what? After 8 live-action shots that were recording, but yet failed to record I had had enough. I’d put in numerous new batteries and nothing worked… I was going to get to the bottom of this. We had some hunts coming up and I left the gun with Gavin during one of our re-sight-in attempts. Gavin and I were both doing research on this issue. Gavin noticed that even though the recorder has a weaver rail and mounts to the gun it was NOT rated for recoil. I told Gavin to remove the video recorder from the gun, put it in his pocket and record himself sighting the gun in and see if the video stopped recording. BINGO! We’d found the culprit. Gavin said the video recorder continued to record during the shots when not attached to the gun. This let us know that the video recorder will record if it wasn’t attached to the gun when shooting.
The First Coyote on The Ground With Night Vision
With multiple times to the range figuring out the sighting in process and now with the video issue out of the way we were ready to rock and actually get some footage. We had been bummed about previous footage attempts because we had some great encounters. We were about to change that.
Gavin and I were requested to help a local farmer out who has a hog problem. We had indeed gotten hogs on camera at the location and were headed in to assist. When we arrived to the location we went in to the field scanning with the monocular as we walked toward our stand. Gavin saw that hogs were already in the field. So we dropped down to a knee and just watched. Right then a coyote started howling very close to us. To our surprise the coyote howl startled the hogs and they exited the field that they had just entered. I was surprised that hogs would be intimidated by coyotes, but thinking back on it the hogs has some young ones with them and maybe their leaving the field was to protect the young ones.
I told Gavin we should go to the area on the other side of the field where there is a deer stand and just be patient. I was sure the hogs would return. We agreed and slowly retreated to the other area of the field. We were just sitting there talking letting time pass when coyotes started howling very loudly again. This time there were more than one howling. We were hog hunting, but we did have the coyote call in the truck. Frustrated at the situation Gavin said “I’m going to the truck to get the call”.
After returning back from the truck Gavin set the call up and said “Get in the gun because when I hit this call they are going to come in”. So I did as Gavin instructed and turned the scope on.
If you’re wondering why my scope would even be off… night vision and thermal optics flat eat batteries. If you’re going thermal do yourself a favor and order the extended battery pack so that you are not like me and have to carry around packs of batteries in your pockets and constantly replace them.
Back to the story... Gavin told me to get in the scope and I did just that. Gavin played some coyote whimpers and a coyote duet, new sounds we’d just downloaded to the FoxPro before leaving. I was scanning left and Gavin was scanning right. We stopped the calls and it was quiet, crisp, and clear out. Nothing responded… no howl backs, no barks, nothing. Then all of a sudden Gavin whispered “There he is” and at that I turned to the right and saw a coyote crossing my face from right to left. I followed this coyote waiting on it to pause so that I could squeeze the trigger. Gavin said “What are you doing turn right turn right”. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that Gavin didn’t see the coyote I saw. He had seen another one, a bigger one, to our right. I told Gavin “Shut up” and he said “There’s a big one here on the right”. I said “Make him stop, say something, bark” and he responded “A big one on the right”. It was not easy to pull the scope off the one I was following and turn right, but I did. What I saw was indeed a larger coyote on our right. I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off. I could tell from the video that I hit him! I then swiveled back left and got back on the coyote that I had seen earlier. It paused just enough and I dropped it on the spot.
It all happened so fast. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was racing, but one thing was for sure. We definitely had the scope sighted in correctly this time. And when I pulled the video recorder out of my pocket it was still recording! We had footage to review!
We looked and looked for the first coyote, but could not find it. We think it ran off and died somewhere, but we did recover the second coyote and got some pics. Man it was a fun hunt.
And now you can re-live the hunt with us in the below video:
Tips For Hunting With Thermal Night Vision
Throughout this process we’ve learned a good deal about AR-15’s, night vision scopes, PULSAR, and recording video. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned and hopefully they are helpful to you in some way:
As a sales engineer, I do a lot of online presentations for clients, prospects, colleagues and partners. When conducted well, online presentations and demos can be very effective sales tools. We strive to make our demos interactive.
The sales rep and sales engineer work together like a well-oiled machine throughout the demo. We encourage interaction and strive to be most efficient and effective as possible within the given timeframe.
Each presentation follows the same schedule. There are things to do before the demo, during the demo, then after the demo. In this post, I’ll share 32 tips to help you rock your online presentations.
Preparation is an obvious step. I mention it as a reminder that attendees are giving you their time, and their time is valuable. Be respectful of their time by thoroughly preparing and providing value to them. Ultimately a demo is like anything else in life: if you put your time and energy into it, then it will turn out well!
Agreeing on the agenda beforehand helps set expectations, reduces wasted time on the demo, and ensures that we only review functionality in which demo attendees are most interested. Since there is generally an hour or so for the demo, we need to make sure we hit the mark given the allotted time. By agreeing on the agenda beforehand, we drastically increase the productivity of the demo.
I learned this one the hard way. I had a webinar to present with a few hundred people waiting on me and as soon as I was made the “Presenter” my machine’s memory overloaded and I got the blue screen of death as my computer crashed. I had been working in numerous programs before the demo and apparently had nearly maxed out my memory and making the presenter passed the tipping point resulting in a few hundred people waiting awkwardly on me to reconnect. Now I restart my computer before demos so that my memory is not used up.
At some point, the presenter role will be passed to you. When his happens, the software (GoToMeeting, Join.me, or whatever you use) will ask you which screen you want to share. If you have a multi-monitor setup, this can become challenging if the monitors aren’t numbered or have similar names. Knowing your monitors names beforehand can reduce missteps. You don’t want to accidentally share to the wrong screen!
Be sure to reduce the number of potential distractions. Ever been on a demo and as soon as the leader shares their screen, you see their desktop icons and you start looking at all their files to see what they’re interested in? You are not alone, as everyone does it (admit it!).
In order to remove this distraction, be sure to hide your desktop icons or demo from a monitor that doesn’t have any application or document icons on the background. With fewer things to look at, your attendees will be more focused on what you show them.
Along the lines of removing distractions, you should turn off all pop-ups that occur on the screen from which you are presenting. The last thing you want is a sales person to send you a Skype message cracking a joke and have it show up during the demo. If you do leave Skype (or any messaging application) on, be sure you know the monitor on which the pop-ups occur.
Everyone knows it, but I’m still listing it here. Mute cell phones so that while you’re presenting there is not a constant vibration happening anytime someone emails or calls you.
If you use the same environment over and over, your browser’s cache can become corrupted. Browsers often try to remember passwords, cache content, cache URL paths, etc. and these cached items can sometimes trip you up. I usually clear my cache before each demo to ensure everything is fresh.
Just when you think you’re getting in the groove you will get a “tickle in your throat” and get choked up. You’re going to be talking a lot and a glass of water can save you in long-winded demos and in the moments that you may need to wet the whistle.
I always have a backup environment prepared should something go wrong with the primary environment. This takes more time up front, but it’s worth it. Having that backup environment can be worth its weight in gold.
Have a back-up plan for getting online. Yes, it only happens once in a blue moon, but what if you are scheduled to give a demo on that particular blue moon? Having a My-Fi or hotspot is well worth the investment.
Before the demo, try to find out who will be attending, so that you can speak the right language to them. You don’t want to talk about server architecture if you are demoing to the marketing team; you don’t want to talk to the server guys about lead generation. Tailor your story based on our audience.
This won’t apply to all of you, but I demo websites and online communities.
I make sure I have my site up and loaded in memory by the time they make me the presenter. I don’t want any time wasted on something to load up. So I keep my site “warm” just minutes before the demo so that the site is up and ready to rock by the time I get controls.
Some sites load URL’s from third party services, such as Google Fonts, Facebook, and Twitter. In my demo sites, I try to remove these external calls, so that if Facebook is having a bad day, it won’t affect my load time on the demo. There are scenarios where you have to rely on these external calls, but reduce them as much as you can.
During the introduction, attendees will tell you new information. In some cases the information shared during the intro can drastically alter what you present.
Listening and waiting to talk are two entirely different things. By listening, you can pick up things that may alter your demo. You can also pick up on personality traits, the mood in the room, and social queues that may help you better connect with the demo attendees. Listening carefully can help you establish better rapport with demo attendees throughout the demo.
We like to do a roll call during the intro of a demo as well. It never fails that there is someone in the room that we didn’t anticipate being there. It may be some manager, marketer, or developer who just happened to have another meeting cancel and was able to attend, but usually there is somebody either there or not there that we didn’t expect.
This again helps us to more accurately hone in the demo. If all of a sudden the CEO shows up on the demo, then we’ll be sure to add in the value proposition and benefits of each feature as executives don’t necessarily like to know the nuts and bolts, but ask the “why’s” and the “what results can we get” or “what does this help us do” type questions. Taking roll call will help you be on point with your delivery.
I ask the question early on as to whether or not the attendees have a “hard stop.”. This helps me know whether or not we can get long-winded with explanations or if we need to be very mindful of the time. Attendees may have an extra 10 to 15 minutes at the end and when that happens we know that we have more time for questions. Finding out the exact ending time of the demo early on can help you better manage time.
One thing I strive for is smooth transitions throughout the demo. Whether it’s transitioning from one subject to the next, transitioning from me talking to the attendees talking, or the transition of the “passing of the presenter role,” we want everything to flow as smooth as silk.
I ensure that our sales reps know how to pass the presenter in the meeting software we use.
I also tell them to pass the presenter as they are finishing up their last few points. This gives me time to get the presenter role and share the correct monitor. Otherwise, there is an awkward pause where everyone waits on me to get the presenter controls.
People present in different ways and that’s a good thing. Some like questions and interactivity and some don’t. Whatever your style is, set the tone early so that demo attendees know how to act and what to expect. I encourage questions, interruptions, and interactivity, so I put that fact out there very early on in the demo. Setting the tone will eliminate any guessing on the part of your attendees.
I encourage questions during the “Setting the Tone” stage because I want attendees to feel comfortable asking questions. At the same time, each question equals an interruption. The more questions there are and the more disruptions there are, the less smooth the demo goes.
Over time, you will begin to see where similar questions get asked. After you denote a trend in the same question being asked then just go ahead and answer the question before it gets asked. This will help things flow more smoothly. So, again, while I encourage questions, I hope to give such a thorough presentation that I remove questions just before they get asked!
On some occasions, there will be an attendee who is determined to get you hung up on some very minor technical detail. In these situations, it is your job to control the demo and not let the train de-rail. When these scenarios happen, it’s good to schedule these topics as “follow up” topics so that you can get your demo back on track.
Ever listen to a very dry presenter and wanted to be somewhere else? Don’t be that presenter! When appropriate, I like to inject humor. I crack jokes on the sales guys or on my own Southern accent. Your attendees will relax and build a stronger rapport and maybe even remember you more as a result.
Oh the echo, ooo… ooo… ooo… You know the echo that I’m talking about! We’ve all been on meetings where one person is using their speakers and their microphone picks up on the sound from the speakers which creates an echo effect. The person usually denies that it’s them, it makes things awkward, and then you have to recover and make things un-awkward again.
So what can you do about this? One option is to mute your participants. You can see which participant is making the noise and then mute them. In some meeting software, you can mute all attendees.
You may have heard of the “Power of the Pause” before. If we are presenting a demo and the attendees are not very lively, then I will show a feature and then ask them what they thought about that feature. Sometimes these pauses seem like an eternity and I just let the awkwardness hang until someone responds.
While it seems like a long time on my end, I know that attendees may be in a meeting room with the phone on mute and they may be talking to each other or going around the room seeing if anyone has a question.
When I first started giving demos I was scared to death of not knowing something. Though, not knowing something is perfectly fine. If someone asks you a very technical question there is nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I don’t know that answer, let me check with our engineers and then we’ll get back to you.” Admitting that you don’t know something lets the attendees know that you are human, builds credibility, and it also gives you something to follow up on. Following up continues the conversation and gives you another touch point with the lead.
Just as I’m doing here in this blog post, tell a linear story. Build on top of things you’ve already covered. Telling a sequential or linear story makes it easy for attendees to follow you and better consume the information you are presenting to them.
There will come a time when you have to present or demo something that is complex in nature. When this happens it’s best to try to describe these via multiple concepts. Sometimes people refer to concepts differently so using multiple descriptions can help ensure clarity and that everyone understands and is on the same page.
As you get close to the end of the demo, be sure to check on the clock. If you have a hard stop, you may have to cut a feature set short so that you can leave time for questions. Q&A is critical to the demo because there are some people who will remain quiet until everything is over and then they speak up. We want to ensure that we give those people ample time to voice their thoughts because they can provide great insight.
This is a chance for you to get vital information about the demo. Attendees’ comments can be key indicators as to the demo’s effectiveness and whether or not the lead is ready to move forward.
After the demo is over, we work hard to solidify next steps so we can keep the process moving forward. Identify any “deliverables” that you need to follow up on. Often times these deliverables are PDF documents, blog links, or videos. Summarize the set of deliverables and let attendees know when they can expect them.
Once you’ve established those deliverables be sure to follow up in a timely manner. This will help you keep the process moving forward while things are fresh on the demo attendee’s minds.
The reason we conduct demos is to progress a sale forward. If the demo is effective then the lead will want to continue the conversation. Ultimately the demo is a reflection of the presenter and the organization they represent. By fine tuning the process of a demo you can better move your deals forward! I hope these tips have given you some insight into things you can do to have your demos and presentations at their best.