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The biggest sport optics manufacturers in thermal and night vision have been working hard over the recent years to provide the best thermal scopes the industry can deliver at this point in time.
While thermal is often associated with the military, deep pocket preppers, and law enforcement, there’s also a movement to allow it for use in predator hunting.
Enter here, the market for thermal scopes for coyote hunting.
So, if deer, waterfowl, and big horn season is over and you’re not ready to sit on your behind for the cold months ahead, we have good news for you…
With a thermal, hunting season isn’t over yet!
Best Thermal Scopes for Coyote Hunting In 2022
|AGM Rattler TS25-384||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Thor 4 640 1-10x||CHECK PRICE|
|AGM Varmint LRF TM35-384||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris BTC 35||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x||CHECK PRICE|
It’s Winter and you plan to keep night-owl hours throughout the season. It must be time for coyote hunting!
With the late hours that comes with the hyper-activity of the generally nocturnal creatures, you’ll need the best night vision scope or thermal on your side.
With the type of tech and price points that the thermal industry is recently seeing, it’s worth it to see what’s available and how you can make a productive coyote season out of it.
Between the standalone scopes, clip-ons, and 640 resolution sensors in this lineup, you will own the night on a moonless night and turn that hunter into the hunted.
Best Thermal Scopes for Coyote Hunting Reviews
1. AGM Rattler TS25-384 – Best for Short-Range
The AGM Rattler TS25-384 represents the best of the mid-range market. The TS25 and TS35 models are identical in features but the TS35 has a 35mm lens for longer detection and greater optical magnification but at the cost of a narrow FOV and higher price. For under $2000, the TS25 fits the budget.
- 384x288 resolution
- 1.5x optical magnification
- Large display
- Multiple features
- Made in China
The Rattler series is made in China. Though it’s covered with a limited 3-year warranty, AGM does not service the scope but will replace it under the warranty (requires registration).
Though the Rattler looks like a monocular due to its compact 7.37” and 0.91 lb size, it’s a riflescope complete with a QD Weaver/Picatinny single-lever cam mount and five reticles with interchangeable colors of black, white, green, or red. It also allows for 5 zero profiles and is recoil-rated for up to .308 calibers.
It has an uncooled, 17-micron, 50Hz core with a 0.4” 1024x768 OLED display. Eye relief is decent (for a thermal) at 45mm, it has a wide 14.9x11.2° FOV, and 1.5x optical magnification with digital 1x, 2x, 4x, and 8x zoom. Large targets can be detected to 965 yards, but its identification range is between 150-200 yards.
Powered by 2x CR123A or RCR123A (rechargeable) batteries, it runs for 4.5 hours and is compatible with an external 5V battery pack. Standard palette modes include, Black Hot, White Hot, Red Hot, and Fusion. It has two Scene Modes: Recognition and Jungle. Recognition mode enhances the outer edges of the target while Jungle mode highlights heat signatures on the smallest of targets.
A much-praised feature is the PIP mode especially useful for varmint and predator hunters. While in PIP mode, crosshairs are visible on the main screen as well as the PIP screen. Additional features include more user-adjustable settings, built-in storage for video and image capture, and WiFi compatibility.
For the money, the AGM Rattler TS25 has value as an affordable, high-performing, mid-range scope.
2. ATN Thor 4 640 1-10x - Best 640 Thermal Scope
When ATN calls an optic “smart,” it means that it’s feature-packed with probably more than you would realistically use in the field. If this is exactly what you want out of a thermal, the Thor 4 should be at the top of your shortlist.
- Gen 4 640 sensor
- White/Black/Color palettes
- Smart Mil Dot Reticle
- Smart Rangefinder
- Learning curve required
When you have something that offers so much in one product, there is undoubtedly going to be user error and a learning curve required to overcome issues. This is true of the Thor 4, but everything has been thought-out well with multiple user adjustments that cater to vision, focus, and thermal image quality.
It has the Obsidian IV Dual Core T thermal core and a 640x480 60 Hz sensor – one of the best thermal imaging sensors you can get for the money. What is especially nice is the fact that it has not only Black Hot and White Hot polarity modes, but it also offers a Color mode that some may require as a staple palette in their thermal optics.
One of the best things about the Thor thermal scope is its ultra-low consumption battery that provides 16+ hours of operation! It’s an industry-leading battery and is important since it needs to support the FFP reticles, Smart Mil Dot Reticle, Smart Rangefinder, dual video recording and streaming, and more.
Compatible with ATN’s other smart products, the Thor 4 is the no-brainer buy if you’re an ATN fan.
3. AGM Varmint LRF TS35-384 – Best with Rangefinder
In general, night-stalking hunters find themselves limited to stadiametric or bracketing rangefinder alternatives or simply without distance measurement. The AGM Varmint LRF solves this issue and integrates a laser rangefinder into the thermal scope itself.
- 656-yard LRF range
- 3-24x magnification
- Live video streaming
- Battery life
The Varmint LRF takes a rechargeable 18650 battery for a runtime of 4.5 hours with the WiFi off. With all the features that you can take advantage of, you will need to use an external battery pack to maximize its use while out in the field. With more capabilities, a thermal requires more power.
Specs conform with mid-range quality with a 384x288, uncooled VOx, 12-micron core with a 50Hz refresh rate and a 0.4”, 50Hz, 1024x768 OLED display. The TS35-384 is the cheapest of the Varmint LRF series and has a max detection range of 1913 yards. It has magnification of 3-24x, eye relief of 45mm, and FOV of 7.53x5.65°.
The built-in laser rangefinder has a max range of 656 yards with -/+2-yard accuracy. Thanks to the thermal, you can see what you need to range and get an immediate distance on your target – night or day. The Varmint also has Trajectory Correction mode to set multiple distances for expected drop. Hunters will have a high opinion of having picture-in-picture mode complete with 5 on-board reticles seen on both the main screen and PIP screen.
The AGM thermal riflescope has 4 color palettes, Jungle and Recognition scene modes, and Hot Tracking. Not only does it have 16gb of internal storage for video and image capture, but you can now live stream through the app on your phone.
For a fully featured thermal, it’s compact at 7.8” in length. It has an IP67 water-resistant rating and is drop-resistant from 4.9 ft. For combined LRF technology in a mid-range thermal sensor scope, the Varmint LRF will quickly be a varmint hunting must-have for nighttime excursions.
4. Burris BTC 35 – Best Clip-On
Thermal clip-on scopes are usually more expensive than thermal riflescopes. The Burris BTC 35 is a viable option in what is a very slim market. It has mid-range performance due to its 400x300, 17-micron, 50 Hz sensor. Specs include a 35mm lens, 1x magnification (2x/4x digital), and 10.6x8° FOV.
- Hot Track
- Basic functions
- Adapters sold separately
The primary complaint about the BTC was the late release of the clip-on adapters needed to turn it from a monocular to a weapon-mounted clip-on with daytime scopes. Furthermore, it’s incredibly disappointing that it costs significantly more than the handheld and yet the adapters are sold separately. Knowing this beforehand is critical as it remains one of the few clip-ons available in the market.
It can be mounted to a Picatinny rail suitable for use with red dots or attached to the objective bell of a daytime riflescope. A pic rail for it and Bluetooth remote are sold separately. It takes 2x CR123 or ICR16340 rechargeable batteries for 3+ hours of operation. Burris includes a battery charger in the box.
While the BTC is accused of being simple in function and features, it’s not unlike thermal scope alternatives in regard to its offerings. It’s true that it lacks internal video, but it does have video output for an external recorder.
It has White, Black, Red, and Green Hot palettes, Hot Tracking, and three scene modes: Enhance, Highlight, and Nature. Other features include adjustable brightness/contrast, shutter/scene/automatic calibrations, auto standby/power-off, and manual focus.
Though it’s a Burris optic, it’s not covered under the Forever Warranty but instead a Thermal 3-Year Warranty that requires registration and receipt that starts from the day of purchase. This can be another criticism, but it’s competitive with all thermal warranties from other manufacturers.
The BTC is an expensive clip-on considering adapters and accessories are an additional cost. In and of itself, besides video recording, the BTC offers nothing less than alternative clip-ons.
5. ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x – Best Budget Option
Overall, the ATN Thor LT is the cheapest thermal riflescope available. The LT 160 is the economical line with low resolution of 160x120 and a 17-micron 60 Hz sensor. In any case, it’s thermal imaging for under $1000, and it deserves recognition for its affordability for cost-conscious spenders.
- Long eye relief
- Ultra-long battery life
- Ring mounting
- Screen freezing
Budget ATN scopes have been known to have issues where the screen freezes and requires a hard reset. For many, it solves the issue, but it will screw you over if you need a follow-up shot. These types of complaints were rampant in the early years of the Thor LT release, and recently this type of specific issue is less frequent.
The first thing you should know is that the Thor LT 160 is a low-resolution thermal! Even so, it’s affordable thermal imaging that can be suitable for beginners and short-range use. The Thor LT has a 465-yard human detection range with an ID range at 160 yards. These distances depend on multiple factors, but optimal performance is likely around 70-200 yards.
Though the LT has an operating temp. from -20 to 120° F, it does not like cold weather. Due to thermal technology, it does not like high humidity. You will lose resolution in high humidity climates forcing a closer ID range and is a good example of how you will learn its capabilities and limitations.
Many will like that ATN stripped away all the gadgetry features such as video, WiFi, etc. Its simplicity remains in its White and Black Hot palettes, reticle options, and incredible 10+ hour battery life from its internal, rechargeable battery. Its form factor mimics that of a daytime scope that takes 30mm ring mounts to mount it - not included.
Though the Thor LT 160 is as entry-level as it gets, it meets the budget requirements that beginners may have for a first-time thermal.
What to Look for in a Thermal Scope for Coyote Hunting
What should you know about buying a thermal and using it for hunting coyotes?
Here it is.
Thermal technology is not affordable for most budgets, but it doesn’t mean it’s not out of reach. There are quality thermal scopes that are offered at multiple price points even under $2000 these days.
Sensors with 640x480 resolution, 12-micron, and 60 Hz refresh rates will be the most expensive and they may start at $3000-$4000 on the low end, but don’t be surprised if you reach prices close to $10,000.
Halve the resolution and you have a thermal that’s more affordable, but then you only get half the resolution. Halve it again to say, 160 resolution, and the trend with thermal quality and cost remains true.
Scope VS Clip-on
The differences are obvious – a standalone thermal is used alone on a weapon system. A clip-on may or may not support standalone use, but it’s designed to be used in front of your daytime scope to provide thermal imaging.
The downside with buying a standalone thermal rifle scope is that it needs its own weapon, or the daytime scope must be dismounted.
A clip-on is perfect for moving between weapon systems and working in tandem with the daytime scope, but often the image quality may suffer as it must travel through several glass lenses before it reaches your eye. But the latest offerings prove to be worthwhile without image degradation.
If you’re only occasionally hunting coyotes, a clip-on may be a better option to reduce dismount and remounting of day scopes. If Winter has come and you plan to be out and about quite often, a dedicated thermal scope could be a justified investment.
Coyote Hunting Environments
You’re either in the open plains, hill country, or more recently in wooded habitats. It goes without saying that you need the right thermal for the job.
While coyote hunting typically means you’ll be on the move regardless of where you are, you must keep the wind in your face, stay away from skylines, and have the right gear so as not to be seen.
This equates to buying a thermal scope that is lightweight, has a recognition range at least to that of your shooting distances, and imaging features that can be adjusted for the conditions you’re in.
The flat field and open country coyote hunters will want a long-range thermal scope. Those in thick timbers where coyotes have been moving into over the last years will need a thermal system that’s lightweight as covering ground is the best strategy for this environment. With hard scouting and calls not going as far, thermal goggles may be a good idea too. If you’re using a shotgun, make sure the thermal is recoil-rated for it.
Lightweight & Strong
Keep your setup lightweight and easy to move with. Most varmint and scout guns are popular choices for coyote hunting and the same should go with your choice of thermal. You should be on foot, on the move often, and your gear needs to be effective and appropriate for the hunt - not weighing you down.
Until recently, thermal scopes have weighed in like a tank. The electrical components combined with glass and lenses makes for a bulky device, and it didn’t mean that it was any more durable or recoil-proof than what is now being made today with lightweight and strong aluminum alloy materials.
Manufacturers are streamlining a thermal scope’s aesthetic appearance with that of a daytime scope and they’re also coming in with weights of less than 2 lbs. Thermal clip-ons can weigh as light as 18 oz with dedicated scopes weighing in at around 24 oz.
Yes! Thermal scopes are active devices and can be used 24/7 in both day and night conditions unlike night vision scopes (comparison here). Thermal scopes read temperatures and converts that data into an image for the user to interpret. As such, it can be used in daylight.
The only thing to be aware of is how heat and daylight affects the temperature signatures of targets, animals, and the surrounding environment. When a combination of these types of targets reach similar heat signatures, the image can “wash out.” You must be conscious about time of day you’re using thermal, recognizing and identifying your target before you shoot, and use thermal scope features to better enhance the image and identify the target.
Yes and no. Within the USA, each state has their own laws regarding the use of thermal imaging and night vision devices for hunting. The onus is on you to follow up and remain compliant with the hunting laws in the state you are hunting in.
This is directly tied to the current regulations and laws of the state. Some states allow thermal and night vision devices for hunting coyotes, hogs, and other predators while other states do not.
Furthermore, thermal monoculars and goggles may be allowed to observe for visibility, but thermal scopes may be prohibited from use. Educate yourself with state laws to be compliant as wildlife and game officials certainly use thermal to identify poachers and illegal hunting practices.
The detection range of a thermal scope is far different to what you can actually shoot with a thermal scope. Pay close attention to the identification range that allows you to positively identify what that target is. The ID range is significantly shorter than the detection range.
For most hunters, the ID and shooting range is usually within 250 yards and is what most feel comfortable with. Some thermal scopes offer better ID detection at 400 yards plus some. So, the shooting range is then dependent on the conditions, what’s downrange, what the target is doing, if the thermal can keep up with moving targets without lag, if your weapon system is equipped to make that shot, and if you’re any good of a shot.
Even though there is a plethora of practical and effective benefits that thermal brings to a hunt, we must admit that it’s just straight-up fun.
To have visibility in pitch darkness to take down the unaware predator is a primal experience.
However, it’s also an expensive experience.
Justify it by getting into hog hunting, tracking downed game, and surveilling the ranch at night. There may be more than just chickens looking to stow away into the coop once the cover of darkness rolls in.
You won’t know if you don’t have thermal.