Before you head out on coyote hunts with a thermal scope (infrared optic), you need to know a few things about your intended target and how to hunt them. Why? Because not any thermal scope will cut it for these creatures.
Coyote hunting requires a certain quality from your thermal rifle scope, and so before you go out and buy just any one, check out our list of the best ones to get so you don’t end up with one that can’t finish the job.
The last thing you want is to end up with a cheap Chinese ripoff that is going to fail when you need it most.
More on that later…
Now, why use a thermal scope for coyote hunting? Hunters chasing yotes in states across the US at night and during the day, hunting them at night with a thermal scope. With the right thermal scope, they can tag them at a long distance and they never know where the shooter is.
Let’s get into it.
Best Thermal Scope For Coyote Hunting
1 – ATN ThOR 4 4-40x75mm – Best At Everything
Coming on top we have the ATN ThOR 4 4-40x7m. It’s the best overall scope and is perfect for those looking for a more traditional look. The electronics housing in this one is more compact than many of the other scopes listed here.
The 40x zoom promises to magnify the most out of any scope in this list. However, you do lose resolution as you get tighter, so the image gets worse.
The scope has a 2,000-yard heat sensor range, and ATN states you can get recognition around 1400 yards. Essentially, recognition means you get a rough idea of what you’re looking at, so for example, telling the difference between a deer and a raccoon.
Identification range is about 800 yards for a deer or human-sized target. For yote hunters, the ID range is shorter just because the target is smaller. As the prey gets smaller, you have to get closer for a positive ID.
If you want long-range capabilities, this scope certainly achieves that. The yotes will never know where you’re coming from.
It also has a laser rangefinder as an add-on option. The refresh rate is 60 Hz. These both mean it is easy to track a moving animal and know the distance so you can accurately place the shot.
The scope is WiFI and Bluetooth enabled so connecting to other devices is easy. It also comes with cables for a more direct transfer and battery charging. You can sync to your mobile for recording and viewing. Everybody likes to watch their hunt later.
Because this is a tube scope, you need 30mm rings to mount it to your gun. You can use split rings, a one-piece mount, or a quick release.
This ATN scope comes with one-shot sighting. Take your shot, make the adjustments using the scope’s easy-to-use controls, and you are zeroed, easy.
The scope records the scene, including the bullet impact. You just need to make adjustments to line the reticle up with the screen’s projected bullet hole. This is incredibly handy if you’re switching the scope from gun to gun.
Rather than spend time on the range, take one shot as you head out. Dial in and go. Sight in your scope, choose the bullet you want, and all’s set.
The scope also has multiple caliber profiles. You can put this scope on different rifles and once sighted in, use the profiles to set the distance for the best shot.
Hear this: this ATN scope offers an auto-record feature. What basically happens is the gun’s recoil triggers the camera and it’ll cover the 30 seconds before you pulled the trigger.
So, all you need to worry about is the shot – the scope takes care of the video so you can watch your hunt over later.
The recording feature also lets you live-stream the video to a device and record using the onboard memory card, so you could virtually bring others with you on your hunts for them to experience.
The long battery life is listed at 16-18 hours, but that is in low power mode. If you start using all the scope’s features, the battery life will drain faster.
As it uses an internal battery, it has to be charged or will need an external power supply, a minor downside to this feature-packed scope but rarely becomes a problem.
What’s more, ATN offers software that merges with GPS.
Essentially, it tracks you to the point of impact. You simply start the tracking software and sync it to your mobile device, then the scope plots the target and transmits that information to your mobile on a map overlay.
If you have people hunting with you, they can also sync in and you can track their position in real time. No need to spend hours searching for the carcasses, giving you more time for well… hunting.
Yotes are not hard to kill, so tracking one after a well-placed shot means going only a few yards. Alternatively, tracking hogs can be a bit more involved, so this feature comes in handy. It won’t lead you to the animal, but it will show you where it was when you pulled the trigger.
The link we have included goes to our certified supplier who as of March 26, 2023 had the lowest price online. Just click the link below and you’re all set:
2 – Trijicon Electro Optics IR-HUNTER – Best AR15 Thermal Scope for Coyote Hunting
Our runner up thermal scope for coyote hunting will extend your shooting range to the effective limit of your gun. If you are good enough to ring the gong at 1,000 yards, then the Trijicon Electro Optics IR-HUNTER Type 2 is the thermal scope you want on your long-range varmint hammer.
Now for the record, the IR-Hunter does slightly “beat” the ATN 4 in therms of quality and preference, but it comes with a much higher price that we don’t find is justified for most of our readers.
If money isn’t and issue, go with this one, if you’re looking for 95% of the same quality at half the price, go with the Thor 4.
Back to the review…
This scope for coyote hunts delivers a detection range of 2,500 yards, so you can ID the target at 1,000 yards.
“They’re the same size running as they are standing still.”Outdoors legend Jack O’Connor on shooting at running game.
The scope starts with a 3x magnification level and offers higher magnification power of up to 24x. If you can get a shooting solution on a yote at 800 yards, you can dial in tight enough to drop your bullet exactly where you want it.
It has 5 crosshair choices and are set for .223 Rem., 300 Blackout, and .308 Win.
A good rule of thumb is that the recognition range, even in the best thermal scopes, is about half the detection range. A human or deer-sized target is the benchmark used for both distances. With this Trijicon, you can ID a yote way out there.
This scope also packs the fastest refresh rate, 60 Hz, the highest of any thermal scope available on the civilian market. Refresh rate is how fast the image on the screen cycles, important when you’re tracking a moving target.
With a high Hz, the screen won’t freeze and your yotes won’t escape your sight.
As it utilizes 2 removable CR123 lithium batteries, you can pack extra batteries to hunt all night long, or you could also power the scope with a USB cord.
Replaceable batteries are better than an internal battery because you can swap instead of waiting for the scope to charge. Small batteries are also easier to carry than an external battery pack or external power source.
When you’re looking at shooting solutions, this scope offers reticle options of MRAD and MOA. The difference between the MRAD and MOA adjustments is a matter of preference only.
Once you get used to them, they are intuitive. It also comes with a ballistic reticle tree for the .223 REM, .308 WIN, and 300 Blackout.
It also offers the feature many hunters love: video recording, as every good scope for coyote hunting does. Being able to watch your hunt when you get home is a delight. You can even share the hunt’s recording on social media.
For more info, take a look at our review of the Trijicon IR Hunter MK3 60mm.
3 – AGM Global Vision Rattler TS35 – Cheapest Thermal for Coyote Hunting
The AGM Rattler TS 35 is another thermal scope with the ability to reach out. The 2-16x zoom is not as much as some but 16x will bring up a yote with enough detail to ruin its night.
With a battery life of about 4.5 hours, utilizing 2 CR123 batteries, you can easily carry several extras of these small batteries to extend your hunt. Or you can also recharge the batteries while in the scope with the included cords.
This scope can also be powered by an external source, so talk about options.
The Rattler records video so you’ll be able to show off your kills or study your missed shots. So when everyone else is just guessing, you’ll be making adjustments for next time.
With 16 GB of internal memory, the Rattler will record a good bit, but it may not be enough to record several hours of hunting. However, you can easily dump the recording from the scope into a mobile device between setups using the included cords.
It also has a respectable 50 Hz refresh rate, not the “fastest” on the market, but pretty darn close. This will keep the image
And although it only has a 50 Hz refresh rate, the difference during viewing is very miniscule, so it’ll still do a fine job tracking those predators and taking them down.
4 – Steiner CQT Red Dot Thermal – Top IR Scope for Handguns and Shotguns
As of this writing, only Steiner makes a red dot thermal scope. The eOptics Close Quarter Red Dot combines the rapid sight picture of a red dot scope with the night-penetrating capabilities of a thermal scope.
If you want to hunt with a shotgun or a handgun, this is the thermal scope you want. It is longer than a traditional red dot, but it must be to house the thermal’s electronics.
Still, if you want a compact thermal imaging scope, this is it.
The thermal overlays through the red dot window, this gives you a unique mix of accuracy and identification that only a specialty scope like this can provide.
The dot is 2 MOA or about 2 inches across at 100 yards. You have 8 reticle options and a blank window letting you modify to your shooting style.
It is compatible with magnifiers, however, you will need a long rail. Many traditional handguns won’t support the magnifier, but shotguns, rifles, and AR or AK-style handguns with a long rail will be supported.
Although it doesn’t record video and is certainly not among the best thermal scopes, it is good for what it does.
Refresh Does Not Matter
Here is where this gets interesting. The refresh rate is 60 Hz, but it doesn’t matter the same way it matters on a full thermal scope. Why? The thermal imaging is an overlay on the sight window.
This means you get a real-time view of the target because you’re looking through a pane of glass. You’re not looking at an image screen.
If you’re tracking a yote doing a Wile E. Coyote away from you, as long as you can see the animal moving, you can stay on target.
Because the red dot is projected onto the glass, it does not need a refresh rate. It’s just a dot. No thermal imaging in that part.
At the same time, getting used to a thermal imaging overlay on a real-time image will be a bit odd at first, but it’s easy to adjust to it.
5 – Trijicon SNIPE-IR – The Clip-On Thermal for Coyote Hunting
For hunters who want an add-on to their existing daytime scope, the Trijicon Electro Optics SNIPE-IR leads the pack.
What sets this apart from the rest is the integral picatinny rail mount. Rather than screw into the front of your scope, this one sits on the gun in front. This does mean you need a long enough pic rail to mount the Trijicon.
Be aware that other thermal scopes that clip on cannot handle heavy recoil, so if you’re using big rounds you want to consider a non clip-on.
With this one, you can set the refresh rate to 30 or 60 Hz. Remember, a higher refresh rate means the screen won’t freeze as much when you move the gun, but it also takes more power, shortening your battery life.
It has a 20x digital zoom giving you the ability to add on a lot of magnification in a few seconds without the need to switch out or buy another scope.
No Sighting In
Because this scope sits in front of your existing optic, you don’t have to sight anything in. Simply clip it on and go hunting.
This is ideal for multi-gun hunts. For example, you shoot and take the thermal off. Your hunting buddy attaches it to his gun and he shoots, and you swap back and forth until you’re done with the hunt.
The battery life is 3.5 hours, putting it at the bottom. However, the CR123 batteries are common and small, so you can carry several to extend your hunting time. They are also rechargeable, so you can leave some at the truck in a charger while you go hunt.
You may need to get an extended pic rail for your gun. This is easiest to do on the AR platform as you can get handguards with rail slots that go all the way to the end of the barrel.
Extended rails for shotguns are harder to find. These may require a trip to your local gunsmith to install.
6 – Pulsar Thermion XM50 – Best Pulsar Thermal Scope for Coyote Hunting
As noted, if you have a rifle capable of reading out and touching a yote from a long way off, you need a scope that can do the same. The Pulsar Thermion XM50 is the one to get.
At a 5.5 to 22x zoom range, this scope actually exceeds the needs of most yote hunters. If you are the kind of shooter who does 3-inch groups at 500 yards, then this scope will match your performance.
It has 5 profile settings so you can dial in the distance and know you are on target. The integrated rangefinder makes sure you know the distance before you pull the trigger.
The recoil-activated recording features means you worry about the shot, not the video. Days to years later you can relive the hunt with the video. You can also live stream the vid to nearby devices so your hunting partner can watch the shot in real time. No spotting scope needed, which means less gear to haul around.
The 50 Hz refresh is good enough to track a yote creeping into your set. If the critter is a long way off, it will track one loping in without the screen freezing.
It needs 30mm rings to mount to your rifle. You can get 2-piece or one solid piece.
7 – Steiner Nighthunter S35 – Top All Around Optic
The Steiner Nighthunter S35 2-14x 35mm is bulky and looks a lot like a brick with a pipe on each end. If you’re looking for a sleek, pretty scope, then thermal imaging is not for you.
The scope picks up heat sources at 1,800 yards and allows target ID at 500 yards. Practical experience says the ID range is actually a bit more in open spaces and less if you’re looking through brush or fog. Regardless, this scope will let you reach the limit of your rifle.
It slides lower on our list because of the lower ID range and the 50 Hz refresh rate on the screen. The Trijicon above is just better in both areas, but this does come at a lower price.
You can record up to 5 bullet or rifle profiles in the memory. So all you need to do is dial it in on the range, get into the woods, and with a quick adjustment, you’re on target.
It has 2 removable 18650 Li-ion batteries so you can pack extras when you head out. Since the battery life is around 5.5 hours in viewing mode only, having backup batteries is a good idea.
The scope also connects to devices with a USB cord and can connect to an external power supply for convenient charging.
Plus, this one offers several color palette choices for the screen for the best contrast in any scenario:
- White Hot
- Black Hot
- Iron Red
- Adjustable Red Hot
It packs 16 GB of internal storage, which is enough to record your hunts if all you get is minutes around the shot. However, if you spend a lot of time scanning the field of view and recording that, 16 GB may not be enough.
As it retains WiFi connection ability, you can sync your mobile devices to transfer recordings. But be aware the light from a mobile device screen may be enough to spook a wary yote.
With a 60 Hz refresh rate, the fastest you can get with civilian thermal imaging optics these days, tracking fast-moving yotes won’t be a problem for this scope.
X-Vision XVT – The One To Avoid
The X-Vision XVT 1-4x13mm is a reflex sight you need to avoid. The miserable 25 Hz refresh rate means the screen will freeze regularly. You are looking at a screen and not through a window as with the eOptics.
It is also new to the market and some of the production bugs are likely not worked out. Don’t be a guinea pig. Let someone else test drive this one and report the flaws to the company.
No to mention it’s made in China and the quality is quite poor. Just go with another one.
About Hunting Coyotes
Coyotes are sometimes called yotes or song dogs. They get the song dog name for their penchant for howling in groups. The howls are either a warning to other packs to stay away, to summon the pack, or just a howl because they feel like it.
Regardless, the animal’s signature howl works to your advantage because you can generally tell if any are in the neighborhood with one howl. Any of the canines in the area will almost always howl back.
Yotes are smart. In places with heavy hunting pressure, they will “hang up” or not come into bait to predator calls. Word of warning: Before you buy an electronic caller, make sure it is legal where you hunt.
Yotes “hang up” or stay at the edge of the woods, behind brush, or a long way off because they may have been shot at or have seen pack members get shot before. They quickly learn to be cautious. This is why you need a thermal scope for coyote hunting that can reach past 200 yards and a gun suitable for shots at that distance.
They will come in closer at night, believing the night hides them. Well-educated song dogs will see the light of a spotlight and disappear. A good thermal imaging scope for coyote hunting lets you get the drop on the varmint well before it suspects anything is not right.
Some states don’t allow the use of a thermal scope for coyote hunting, while some do. Check your state’s regs at the wildlife agency to stay on the right side of the law with thermal scopes.
If you can use a thermal scope for coyote night hunting, you will likely come to see thermal scopes as your favorite way to get them.
Yotes are often a nuisance animal. Landowners, especially those with livestock, are glad to get rid of them. They are not native to the Southern US, having shown up there in the past 40 years or so.
How they got into the South is a matter of debate. But the fact is, they are there and they are a menace, especially to people with small dogs and cats as pets. Yotes consider these animals a tasty and easy-to-catch meal.
Many states have no bag limit and no season for hunting coyotes. Shoot as many as you like and as often as you want.
Thermal scopes are also useful during the day because varmints can’t hide. As you’re looking at thermal images and not patterns based on visible light, the natural camo of a yote’s pelt will not conceal the critter.
If you like hunting pigs, then check out our article on the best thermal scope for hog hunting. Though yes you can get away just fine using any of the scopes mentioned on the article for hog hunting, there are some specific considerations you should take into account if that’s your prey of choice.
Should I Use Thermal or Night Vision Scope for Coyote Hunting?
If you’re deciding between night vision or thermal for coyote hunting, keep in mind that the chief advantage of thermal scope is no ambient light is needed. Night vision scopes need some light, which is why many come with an infrared illuminator. Daylight scopes need a spotlight and yotes quickly learn what that light means.
Thermal scopes use a thermal sensor to see through dense fog – to some degree – and light brush to detect heat signatures, picking up the heat given off by a target, like a coyote.
A night vision scope cannot see through either.
Just make sure you get a high-quality thermal scope no matter what you order. Thermal imaging is also highly regulated by the US Government with very tight export controls. Make sure you get American-made sensors if at all possible because quality control here is better than in China (2).
Match The Scope To The Gun
Picking a thermal scope for coyote hunting has to start with your chosen gun. You must match the scope to the gun’s performance before picking your scope for coyote hunting.
Here are things to consider:
- Recoil Resistance
Thermal scope features come after this list. After all, the best thermal rifle scopes have to hold up to your hunting style.
Predator hunting means knowing the range of your gun as well as the thermal rifle scope range.
A .22 LR is good to about 75 yards and the rifle has no recoil worth talking about. A simple scope, even a clip-on, will work.
Plenty of varmints have met their end courtesy of the .22 LR or the other rimfires like the .17 HRM, the .17 WSM, and the .22 Mag.
At mid-range distances, your best thermal choices are still plentiful. Realistically seeing something at 2,000 yards does not mean you can shoot it.
If you plan to shoot less than 500 yards, the .223 Remington is the most popular round today. It has a bit more punch on the shoulder than the rimfires, but it’s still very mild.
Going past the 500-yard mark moves you into the high-velocity rounds like the .22-250, the .204 Ruger, or the .22-250. All three deliver terminal performance on yotes past the .223’s reach and all have light recoil. For these, mid-range scopes are ideal.
You can step up to big game calibers like the .30-06, .300 WinMag, and others for long-range thermal scope shooting. Target recognition distances at 1,000 yards or more are reserved for elite long-range shooters.
However, getting a long-range thermal scope that delivers an image good enough to take a shot at 1,000 yards seriously limits your scope choices. The electronics in cheap scopes are simply not up to the task.
Some scopes come with a ballistic calculator, which is awesome. Plot the path of your bullet on its trajectory so you know where the bullet will hit.
When discussing range, digital magnification matters to image quality. A true zoom functions like the zoom on your regular scope. Digital zoom enlarges the image, which means as you get tighter and tighter, the image quality drops.
Digital zoom is also less reliable. As you zoom in, the image quality degrades and creates a blocky or fuzzy look. Most thermal scopes come with digital zoom.
Thermal imaging scopes are much more recoil sensitive than their standard cousins. High-caliber rifles should be used with caution. In many thermals, the thermal sensor simply cannot stand up to the punishment and will break.
Every centerfire-rated daylight scope on the market today will stand up to a .30-06’s recoil. Many, but not all, thermal scopes will. Only the best thermal scopes will.
Clip-on scopes will not take the pounding of deer-rated hunting rifles. Do not get a clip-on for any rifle bigger than a .223 – the scope will not last.
Getting a thermal scope rated for heavier recoil also means spending more money. The maker has to reinforce all the internals, which is an added expense passed along to the consumer.
An affordable thermal scope may not stand up to the punch of your gun.
Some states do not allow suppressors, also called cans, for coyote hunting, so check your state’s laws before heading out. If you plan to shoot a rifle with a suppressor, you have two options:
- Subsonic ammo for the quietest shooting possible.
- Supersonic ammo and a can to reduce the noise.
In either case, the information on distance and recoil still applies, but slightly differently.
Subsonic ammo is limited to about 100 yards. If you shoot centerfire ammo like the .300 Blackout, it still has enough recoil to shred the innards of a cheap thermal scope.
The 9mm does shoot subsonic with heavy bullets, but the range is even more limited. A 147-grain pill has a maximum effective range on a yote of around 50 yards. The bullet will go farther, but the trajectory is a rainbow, and shots to 100 yards are best left to sharpshooters.
Stepping down the powder loads in the .308 Win to subsonic levels still runs into the recoil problem.
If you shoot supersonic ammo and a suppressor, everything mentioned above regarding recoil applies (1).
Can you hunt coyotes at night with a shotgun? Yes. You can mount a thermal scope for a coyote hunt on a shotgun, but make sure the device is rated to handle the recoil.
You do not need a long-distance scope since a shotgun’s range for hunting coyotes is about 50 yards max with buckshot. Hunting ethically means knowing the responsible shooting distance and over 50 yards with buckshot or coyote shot is pushing it.
If you shoot slugs, then 100 yards is your shooting distance.
What is The Right Power of Scope To Use Coyote Hunting?
That’s a tricky one to answer, in short, you need to match the scope to the gun and its intended use. We’d highly suggest you check our our article on what power scope for coyote hunting where we cover everything you need to take into account.
More on The Best Thermal Scopes
If you’re looking for more, also take a look at our thermal rifle scope reviews article. We take it a step further and take into consideration all of top optics out there as opposed to the ones focused for predator hunting.
Is coyote hunting at night legal?
Yes, coyote hunting at night is legal. Some states put restrictions on coyote hunting, such as California, which heavily restrictions both night vision devices and thermal devices. Some states, like Texas, have an open season, no bag limits, no possession limits, and can shoot whatever you brought.
In all cases, check the regulations. On private land, you need the landowner’s permission. Public land may have restrictions specific to that wildlife management area. Night hunting may be allowed, but thermal imaging may not.
Do you need a thermal scope to hunt coyotes?
No you do not need a thermal scope to hunt coyotes. It just makes seeing them at night, through fog, much easier. You can also spot them through thin brush. Their fur cannot hide them from a thermal.
What can I do with a coyote?
There are many things you can do with a coyote, you can leave it where it died, for instance. Responsible hunters who do not want the critter will at least haul a dead yote into bushes or out of sight where it will be naturally returned to the environment.
You can skin it and sell the hide. If you plan to do this, you need to use a bullet that does not leave a big exit wound. This is why so many fur hunters use high-velocity small rounds like the .223 and .204 Ruger.
Mounting one for a trophy wall is always an option.
You can even eat them.
Are Coyotes Really A Nuisance?
Yes, coyotes really are a nuisance. They attack and kill newborn livestock and household pets. In urban areas, they will even jump or climb fences to get to cats and small dogs in backyards, having adapted well to suburban life.
They also eat game animals like fawns and poults, raiding turkey nests on the ground too.
While they’re native to the United States, they’re not native to the Southeast. Many believe the song dog was brought here by hunters who wanted something to chase with hounds in the off-season.
Get the best thermal scope for coyote hunting and do some damage control.
- Michael Pendley, Tips for Nighttime Predator Hunters, Retrieved From: https://www.realtree.com/predator-hunting/articles/tips-for-nighttime-predator-hunters
- Dan T, The Basics of Thermal Scopes, Retrieved From: https://www.opticsplanet.com/howto/how-to-how-to-buy-a-thermal-scope.html
ATN ThOR 4 4-40x75mm – Our Top Pick
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material of over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world including Russia and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American west and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Big Horn mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design, and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems.TM. You can find more info on Barrett Rifles here.
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