Op-Ed: Battery Basics For Predator Gear

Don't overlook the batteries in your calls, lights and gear. When you need these things the most, you don't want them to fail.

Op-Ed: Battery Basics For Predator Gear

Make sure your batteries are fresh or fully charged before heading out to hunt. Having a call, remote, light or other gear die due to dead batteries is a bummer and can ruin a hunt.

The two coyotes popped over the distant ridge 500 yards out on the far side of the sagebrush flat and stopped momentarily to pinpoint the exact source of the “free lunch,” prey distress sounds that had obviously caught their attention behind the low ridge.

However, before they could get lined out on the source, the alluring sounds ceased emanating from the electronic caller. I watched in frustration as the two canines wandered around the ridge top and even laid down for 10 minutes waiting for another summonsing sound. It was painfully apparent that once again battery failure had doomed my success.

The fact there were three mouth calls in the camo case stashed a few yards from the caller 50 yards in front of me, mouth calls that I had forgotten to hang around my neck for just such an occurrence, only added to my aggravation. I watched the two coyotes disappear back over the ridge.   

I bet there are darn few predator callers utilizing electronic callers, night lights and a host of rechargeable battery-operated devices on their predator ventures who haven’t had this same situation ruin a hunt. The above happened to me a long time back and, by luck while on the internet, I stumbled onto a solution to the damnable dead or dying battery problem that has virtually eliminated my battery failure problems. Still working on a solution to my human screw-ups.

Rechargeable batteries utilize nickel cadmium (NiCad) crystals to hold the electric charge and with use, those crystals tend to clump and compact reducing their capacitance for holding an electric charge. Over time and use, they can become unusable. Overcharging is the NiCad battery's worst enemy, so charge for minimum time only. Charging your batteries immediately before use is your best bet. For long periods of non-use, store your batteries and battery-containing devices on low charge, as storing them fully charged encourages crystal growth.

“Voltage surging” is a simple process where you utilize a battery of higher voltage to send current through the lower voltage battery. That action shatters and breaks up the clumped nickel cadmium crystals, providing more surface area and greater capacitance for storing energy.

I have been using this technique for years. I have NiCad batteries that are 20 years old and still as good as new. In fact, I don’t remember having thrown out a NiCad that I couldn’t bring back to life.

I recently bought a like-new cordless drill with two dead batteries for $5 at a garage sale. The disgusted owner said the batteries wouldn’t hold a charge and he wasn’t gonna pay $20 for new batteries. A short stint of voltage surging, and I had the drill and both batteries working like new.

The only equipment needed for voltage surging is a battery tester to determine polarity and charge, and 12- to 24-inch lengths of insulated electrical wire — red for positive and black for negative. Positive terminals are gold colored and negative terminals are silver colored. I have one set of wires with alligator clips attached on both ends for larger batteries and another set with alligator clips only on one end to attach the wires solidly to the high voltage battery terminals and bared wires at the other to contact the terminals on single cell batteries such as A-, B-, C- or D-cell batteries to be surged.

For batteries up to 9.6 volts you can use a single 12-volt battery for surging, although I have used up to 18-volt rechargeable cordless drill batteries with excellent results. Attach the wires to positive and negative terminals on the higher voltage battery and on single cell batteries, simply hold the negative wire in place against the negative contact and rapidly tap the bared end of the positive wire against the positive terminal. I usually do this for five to 10 quick taps and then quit and let the battery cool for 15 minutes.

Surging can cause the surged battery to heat a bit. Do not leave both higher voltage wires in constant contact with both poles on the surged battery! That will damn sure heat up the battery and could cause it to melt or explode. I have never had a problem of any kind like that, but I do wear gloves and protective glasses.

Check the surged battery with the tester and generally you will see the battery jump from a zero or low charge to maximum in one or two surges. I have had old batteries that I have had to surge up to 10 times to get them to full charge. Once surged, I charge the batteries to maximum on a charger and, if they hold charge, they are ready to use. If they don’t hold a charge, surge until they do.

It’s safe to hook two DC batteries in series to increase voltage, such as two 12-volt batteries to get a total of 24 volts. Run a short jumper wire from the positive terminal on one battery to the negative terminal on the other and then surge positive to positive and negative to negative on the battery to be revived.

If the surge process fails, you may bring really stubborn NiCads back to use by freezing them for one hour and then tap the negative end with a knife or screwdriver handle, insert them in the electronic device and turn on to load the cells and aid breakup of the crystals. A through D cells often respond to freezing and a sharp tap on negative end with hammer. Once they are completely dead, try surging them back to full capacity.  


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