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
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. Trijicon IR-Hunter MK3 60mm
If you have the budget to consider Trijicon, then you must check out the IR-Hunter. If you’re going with a big brand, you may as well go big in lenses and thermal.
- 60mm lens
- Stadiametric rangefinder
- Turret interface
- Made in USA
The IR-Hunter may seem overkill for the sole purpose of dropping coyotes. But like all Trijicon’s IR thermals, it has the best thermal imaging quality you can get in a dedicated scope without the fuss and muss of unnecessary add-ons.
It’s an excellent predator hunting thermal with its huge lens, BAE Systems MicroIR thermal core with 12-micron 640x480 sensor, and turret-style interface system. With two polarity modes with three levels each, Edge Detect, and ETR features, high visibility is the name of the game and is exactly why you need it for coyote hunting.
Its turret interface is interesting because it’s a design feature unique to the IR-Hunter. They’re not actually side focus/elevation/windage turrets but they look like it. Its familiar aesthetic to a daytime scope is an attractive feature. Even though it weighs approximately 2 lbs, it’s a standalone thermal, so if it’s on a lightweight rifle, you’re good to go with a super-light setup.
It’s expensive, yes, but it’s also a Trijicon. You’re paying for military-grade construction, state-of-the-art thermal tech, high-precision accuracy, and professional performance. Although thermal imaging is different to optics, the motif of “you get what you pay for” remains true.
2. Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50
Thermal and digital tech goes hand in hand and the new Trail 2 LRF is the epitome of this married relationship between the technologies. If you want it all, this is the type of thermal that delivers it.
- 640 resolution
- Built-in laser rangefinder
- PiP mode
- Video & live-stream
- Save 50 zeros
Rarely is the high-tech stuff cheap, and thermals have never been cheap even without all the extra perks. But when we say the new Trail 2 is feature-packed to the max, we mean it, and this includes the 384-resolution version, the XQ50, that has a better price tag.
To get right into it, the XP50 has an extremely long detection range of 1800 meters, a fully-functional, built-in laser rangefinder, WiFi compatibility, Picture-in-Picture Mode, 4 operating modes, multiple color palettes, and more.
You also have Pulsar’s One Shot and Freeze feature that allows you to get zeroed in quick and easy. This thermal also weighs less than 2 lbs, but it’s pretty long and bulky. Can you blame it though? It has so much to offer including video recording, live streaming, the ability to save up to 50 zeros, and a long-lasting battery life of 8 hours (approx.).
If you’re willing to learn all the perks of the Trail 2 LRF because you want the most of everything for the money, the Pulsar thermal scope is one of the fattest thermal packages (figuratively speaking) in the current market.
3. ATN TICO LT 320 35mm Clip-On
If you’re a big fan of lightweight optics, you must see what ATN has conceived – the TICO LT. With the 320x240 resolution and 12-micron sensor, the 35mm lens model will completely change the way you hunt down coyotes from here on out.
- Ease of use
- Battery life
- No zero
- No standalone use
The TICO LT is a crazy, little contraption made by ATN. It’s a thermal clip-on that brings a new level of clip-on quality to the game. First off, it has a very good sensor with a 35 mm lens that is absolutely appropriate for hunting and is complete with its 60 Hz refresh rate – awesome thermal quality for the money, hands down.
It offers 8+ hours of battery life, and right in line with ATN products, it has an internal lithium-ion battery that is recharged with a supplied USB-C cable. You can hunt all night long with the TICO LT. With 19mm of eye relief, it’s obviously not your standalone thermal on a weapon. Keep it as it’s designed to be – a clip-on.
It’s super-lightweight and short at 1.2 lbs and 5.9” long. It comes with an adapter that actually fits the clip-on right to the objective bell of the daytime scope. This design has brought a new level of dismount speed and ease to the industry that will be extremely difficult to beat – if it can be beat. No need to zero since you collimate the thermal reticle with the daytime scope reticle.
If you want a seamless transition to thermal imaging while retaining use of your daytime scope, the TICO LT is about the best you can get for the money – no question about it.
4. AGM Anaconda TC50-640
AGM has proven themselves as quality competition for the big brands in the electro-optics field, thermal and night vision respectively. The Anaconda is a thermal clip-on with a big 50 mm lens and user-adjustability at its foundation. Getting the quality image you need is at your fingertips all of the time.
- FLIR Tau 2 core
- Multiple image technologies
- Integrated rail
- Wireless remote control
- No built-in video recorder
The Anaconda TC50 has a FLIR Tau 2 thermal core with 640x512 resolution 17-micron sensor with a 30 Hz refresh rate.
It has more than good thermal quality and comes with a ton of user-adjustable image technologies to fine-tune the picture for the conditions and your vision with features such as Smart Scene Optimization, Active Contrast Enhancement, Automatic Gain Control, and more. You have 13 color palettes to play around with, 4 reticles, and around 5 hours of battery life from two CR123 batteries.
If your daytime scope setup is within 3mm of the optical axis of the Anaconda set by the height of the single-lever quick detach mount, it’ll fit. All you need to do is collimate the clip-on with the scope’s reticle and you’re on point.
Since the AGM thermal clip-on does not have a built-in video recorder, you will need to purchase a separate recording device. If you seek out AGM’s accessories, you’ll find that they’re compatible with the integrated Picatinny rail on the side of the scope, and you can easily hook up to the universal connection for video out.
If you’d prefer the dedicated thermal scope version of this clip-on with all the same features but with a dual-lever quick detach mount, consider the Python TS50-640.
5. ATN Thor 4 640 1-10x
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.
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.