With coyote hunting becoming more and more popular, we thought we’d take a look at the number one tool for the job: thermal scopes. Thermal scopes make hunting any kind of elusive prey significantly easier, especially predators like coyotes that can be quite wiley in the field.
Not to mention mostly nocturnal.
So to help make your next coyote hunt a little easier, let’s take a look at the best thermal scopes out there for dealing with these crafty critters, and then we’ll go over how to choose the best one to meet your needs.
Also Read: Best Scopes for AR 15 Coyote Hunting
- 4th generation 640×480 60hz thermal sensor
- Buttery-smooth refresh rate with 60hz
- Records video in 1280×960
ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Rifle Scope
- Very low resolution at just 160×120
- No video, WiFi or Bluetooth
- Good for hunting in heavy rain or early morning fog
- Easier to spot changes in temperature
- Longer detection range
- Greater optical magnification
- Weighing under a pound
- 384×288 core sensor
- Refresh Rate: 50hz
- 1024×768 OLED display
Trijicon REAP-IR 35mm Thermal Rifle Scope
- Designed for military use
- Four-hour runtime
- Can connect an external battery pack or video recorder
Armasight Contractor 320 3-12X
- Has best image processing in this list
- Good for Wet and Foggy Weather
8 Best Thermal Scope for Coyote Hunting
1. ATN Thor 4 640 1-10x – Best Overall
First up we have the ATN Thor 4 640 1-10x. This scope is, quite frankly, smarter than I am. It has enough features built-in that it’s almost difficult to list them all here in this space.
Everything starts with ATN’s excellent 4th generation 640×480 60hz thermal sensor. This HD sensor provides a shockingly clear picture that is then upscaled by the onboard computer to a 1280×720 display.
The refresh rate is a buttery-smooth 60hz, allowing you to track movement in real-time without any noticeable delay. It also features a smart mil-dot reticle that simulated a long-range style FFP reticle, 16 hours of battery life, and enough onboard sensors that you’ll think you’re in a sci-fi movie.
It records video in 1280×960, making it a great option for reviewing and uploading footage from your hunt, and it has a recoil-activated mode so that whenever you pull the trigger, the proceeding footage gets written permanently to an SSD card.
You can also hook this thing up to your phone, tablet, or laptop via WiFi and review the footage that way. It’s also bluetooth-enabled so you can manage the footage, change settings, and make other back-end adjustments with Apple or Android device.
Finally, it has an onboard gyroscope, ballistic calculator, accelerometer, magnetometer, and even GPS for geotagging and elevation tracking. And even though it has all that, it’s easy enough to use that you can be up and running in about 20 minutes, especially if you get the app.
All in all, this is an extremely well-thought-out scope, with a very high build quality, and a host of great features. Even the magnification range is perfect for coyote hunting, and that’s why it is our top overall pick
2. ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Rifle Scope – Best Budget Thermal
The ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x is ATN’s budget-conscious line, and it earns special praise for bringing quality, field-useable thermals to the market at about a third of the price of most other models.
It has a very low resolution at just 160×120 for the sensor, but it uses a small screen and strips away all the extra features that many of us may not have used anyway. There’s no video, WiFi, Bluetooth, or anything of that nature. This is a scope, pure and simple, and is the closest to a standard rifle scope you can get.
It even uses fairly standard 30mm ring mounts to go on your rifle, making it a pretty familiar setup for almost any hunter.
The drawbacks of such an entry-level thermal optic are that you’ll miss out on some of the scene modes and other electronic features, but you gain a 10+ hour battery life, rechargeable internal battery, and simple white and black hot palettes that will be familiar to anyone that has ever played Call of Duty.
Lastly, while the detection range isn’t the best at just around 450 yards in a low humidity environment, and the identification range is under 200 yards, this is still a very functional scope for coyote hunting, particularly if you’re calling coyotes to you as most hunters do.
3. Pulsar Trail 2 XQ50 – Best for Inclement Weather
Next, we have the Pulsar Trail XQ50 which is our go-to recommendation if you often find yourself hunting in heavy rain or early morning fog.
The 384×288 sensor in this is a lower resolution model than some, but it has some of the highest sensitivity, making it easier to spot changes in temperature (and therefore your prey). This makes it great for hunting in heavy brush, in hot climates, or at warmer times of the year.
I’ve been after coyotes on warm Texas nights where it’s still over 90 degrees well after the sun has gone down, and the extra sensitivity of the Trail XQ50 was a big help on that little adventure.
Magnification is also incredibly useable at 3.5-14x, making this a great one for shooting at a variety of ranges, particularly if you’re in a relatively flat area shooting things that might be a long way off.
Lastly, like a lot of the higher-end models, it features onboard video recording that can capture many hours of video on the 16GB internal storage. This is a great one for sharing your hunts, or just for spotting cool stuff in the dark from your back porch.
I personally find sitting out on the back 40 and trying to find all the deer, raccoons, and possums just as fun as putting the scope on a rifle and going out after game sometimes.
4. AGM Rattler TS25-384 – Best For Close Range
If you’re like me and do most of your hunting in close-range areas in places like the American Southeast, all dense forests and heavy brush, then the AGM Rattler is a great option for you.
There are two models that are basically identical, the TS25 and TS35, but we like the TS25 for its wider FOV and lower cost. If you’re interested, the TS35 has a longer detection range and greater optical magnification.
It is very compact, coming in at just 7.37” long and weighing under a pound, making this an absolutely phenomenal option for a lightweight rifle that you’re going to be doing a good bit of trekking with.
It has five available reticles and you can swap the color to black, white, green, or red. You can also set the zero for up to five different rifles, so you can swap the scope around and not have to re-zero anything, making this a good one-and-done purchase that can see a lot of use.
It is powered by two CR123A, 4.5 hours of continuous runtime, and has a 384×288 thermal sensor. If you’re going to be in the field for longer than that, you can plug in the optional 5v battery pack and run it much longer.
It also has two different scene modes, Recognition and Jungle. Recognition helps to sharpen the edges of thermal gradients, making the difference between hot and cold areas more distinct and thus helping you to identify exactly what you’re looking at.
You’ll always be able to tell the difference between a coyote and a deer, but with the Recognition mode, you’ll be able to count every point on that buck. Jungle mode lowers fine detail, but it filters out very small.
5. AGM Varmint LRF TM35-384 – Best w/ Rangefinder
If you find yourself hunting in unfamiliar areas a lot, chances are you may not have a great way to judge distances, especially at night. The AGM Varmint LRF has a 384×288 core sensor with a 50hz refresh rate. It also has a 1024×768 OLED display.
Magnification is 3-24x, making it a great option for longer-range shooting. This is a great one for shooting out on the open plains, so if you’re going to be out in Kansas or something, this is the one to go with. If I was shooting at long ranges in open areas, this would be my first pick.
It has the same picture-in-picture mode, scene modes, color palettes, and reticle options as the Rattler above. You can think of this as the Rattler’s long-range cousin in a lot of ways. It is also water-resistant and drop-resistant from 5 feet.
The laser rangefinder has a max range of 656 yards, with an accuracy of +/-2 yards at that range, which is more than accurate enough for any kind of serious precision shooting.
Like a lot of AGM products, it also offers video streaming, as well as recording, but it only has a battery life of about 4 hours with the included battery. With that being said, it uses the widely standard 18650 battery, so your standard flashlight battery (or vape battery) will work.
Carry a spare or two charged up in the field and you’ll be just fine.
6. Burris BTC 35 – Best Clip-On
If you’re looking for a clip-on style scope that can work with a red dot or with a daytime rifle scope, then the Burris BTC 35 is our first recommendation. It can be mounted to any Picatinny rail, making it a great choice for those using an AR-15 as well.
It runs on 2x CR123A or ICR16340 rechargeables which will get you about 3 hours of battery life, which is generally enough for a single hunt in my experience, but changing batteries is a cinch and easy to do in the field if you bring spares.
The other thing to think about is that it, like many other thermal scopes, the BTC 35 has an automatic shutoff, so if you don’t move it for a while then it will go into a standby mode that saves 85% of the normal power usage so you’re not using the battery when you don’t need it.
This is also an extremely modular system and Burris sells some accessories and addons like various mounts, an external video recorder, and additional battery packs.
The BTC 35 has four different color palettes, three scene modes (enhance, highlight, and nature), and adjustable brightness and contrast, all of which are easy to adjust a tweak in the field, as well as unobtrusive enough that you won’t notice all the extra stuff if you don’t need it.
All in all, the BTC 35 is a great clip-on thermal scope and is the one that I’ve used extensively, although for hogs and random wildlife spotting, not coyotes. Still, the thermal sensor and resolution are great for varmint/predator hunting, and the range is more than adequate.
If you’re hunting coyotes beyond this scope’s 1900m detection range, then I don’t know what to tell you. Switch to mortars, maybe?
7. Trijicon REAP-IR 35mm Thermal Rifle Scope – Best High End
If money is no issue, and you want the most rugged and reliable thermal scope on the market, or if you just really, really like the game Escape from Tarkov, there’s the Trijicon REAP-IR 35mm Thermal Rifle Scope.
Make no mistake, this is a scope that was designed for use by the military, specifically US Special Forces, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t suited for sniping coyotes out on the prairie or way back in the woods. Far from it in fact: this scope can do it all.
The top-loading battery compartment makes swapping batteries in the field easy after your four-hour runtime is at an end, and you have a USB-C port where you can connect an external battery pack or video recorder, which is a great feature other optics like this should steal.
It also features a thumbstick system controller that will feel intuitive and familiar to anyone that has ever used a modern DSLR or an Xbox/Playstation/Switch controller. It has multiple crosshair reticles, as well as an MRAD reticle and BDC reticles for 5.56 NATO, .308 WIN, and .300 BLK.
The sensor is an incredibly high-quality 640×480 thermal sensor that has been proven to be one of the very best in the industry, and the best I’ve tested for seeing through the smoke fog. The sensor unit is also smaller than most, giving a scope that is much lighter and more compact than comparable models.
Lastly, the overall system is designed to take a beating, and if there’s anyone who knows exactly what kind of a beating a combat-style optic can take, it’s Trijicon.
8. Armasight Contractor 320 3-12X Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope – Best for ARs
Lastly, we have another optic with a military focus: the Armasight Contractor. This scope has some of the best image processing of any optic on this list, and it’s designed for use in difficult or even hostile situations by one of the most respected names in thermal optics.
It is MIL-STD compliant, making it a great option for those who are going to be out on the range for a long time, particularly if you don’t want a little bit (or a lot) of rain to disrupt your plans for the evening. If you’re willing to sit out in the wet to go after the coyote, so is the Contractor.
This series from Armasight also features another new addition, a very intuitive turret-based adjustment system that will feel familiar to anyone who has ever dialed in windage and distance on a target-style rifle scope.
All in all, this is a very rugged system that will outlast anything but the Trijicon model up above, and it does so in an incredibly lightweight form factor that doesn’t weigh any more than a traditional rifle scope.
Armasight Contractor 320 3-12X
The price of Armasight Contractor 320 3-12X varies, so check the latest price at
Buying Guide: Choosing the Perfect Thermal Scope for Coyote Hunting
When you’re hunting coyotes, it’s important that your scope is up to the task, especially if you’re going after these creatures in their native element: the dark. So let’s talk about the things you need to have a successful hunt, and what you need to consider before you set off.
Standalone vs Clip-On Scopes
First, it’s important to decide whether you want a standalone scope or a clip-on scope that works with a normal optic.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
A clip-on is going to be lighter, usually a little more expensive, and allows you to use your rifle with or without the thermal attachment. The clip-on just sits in front of your scope and is removed when you don’t need it.
This is great if you don’t have a dedicated rifle you want to use your thermal scope with, just make sure that your regular scope will play nice with your thermal and you’ll be good to go.
The downside is that these clip-ons don’t have the resolution, sensitivity, or extra electronic features of standalone scopes. A lot of this is down to the available space and the fact that the clip-on has to produce an image that can work with the regular scope.
You also don’t get quite the magnification that you do with a standalone scope, as most clip-ons are designed to work with LPVOs and other optics at around a 6x magnification.
Resolution & Magnification
Next, it’s important to look at the resolution and magnification available with your choice of scope. Resolution here works just like a tv screen or computer monitor and is listed in terms of pixels.
A higher resolution (say 1280×960) will have more pixels and therefore more detail than a lower resolution (640×480). Obviously, a higher resolution and therefore more detail is preferable, but you’ll of course pay more for a better sensor and display in order to get that higher resolution image.
The resolution will also impact magnification and how clear your image is at higher magnification. Fortunately, for coyote hunting, you don’t need a lot of magnification, so anything around 6-9x on the high end is probably more than enough.
Detection range is especially important if you’re shooting at longer ranges at night. This will come down to the quality and sensitivity of the actual thermal sensor in the scope, and it can vary widely between scopes in different price ranges.
In general, coyote hunting at night is from a fixed position, and you work by calling the coyotes to you or baiting them in somehow. This means you don’t necessarily need thousands of yards of detection range.
The other thing to keep in mind is that just because you can see something at 4,000 yards through a thermal scope, that doesn’t mean you will be able to correctly identify it or take an ethical shot.
Also Read: Best Night Vision Scopes Under $1000
Refresh rate refers to how fast your screen will update, measured in hertz(Hz). So a 60hz screen and sensor will update 60 times in one second, making for a very smooth image that makes tracking a breeze.
Some sensors and screens can do more than that, but you don’t really need them. Conversely, some only record in 45 or even 30hz, which is fine for most things, but for quick-moving games like coyote or hogs, we prefer a higher refresh rate if there is a budget for it.
Lastly, we have to look at the build quality. This will encompass things like shock and dust resistance, weather-proofing, and the overall battery life.
In general, if you’re hunting with a rifle, you’re going to beat it up a little bit. You’re going to catch it in the doorway of your stand, bump it on a branch, stuff like that. Make sure you get a scope that’s going to stand up to that, with a preference for something that has an actual drop test rating.
We also recommend getting something with an IPX waterproof rating so you can have confidence that your scope will survive an unexpected rain or dip in a puddle or stream.
Beyond that, think about what type of hunting you’re really going to be doing and how much battery life you need. Many of these scopes have more than 12 hours of battery life, so you’ll have plenty of uptime during a day or night-long hunt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Thermal scopes are definitely preferred by serious hunters because they work in more conditions and don’t require any ambient light at all.
Coyotes can see much further than humans in low light conditions, so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing your hunting spot.
Yes! Thermal scopes work just fine in any light condition, unlike night vision optics which need low light.
Also Read: 10 Best Predator Hunting Lights Reviewed
Thermal scopes can greatly increase your chances of success when going after a tricky game like coyotes. The scopes on this list have all been tested in the field, and have proven to be more than capable of putting rounds where they need to go even on the most pitch-black night.
If you’re looking for a #1 recommendation, that still goes to the ATN ThOR 1-10x19mm Thermal Smart HD rifle scope, so if you’re stuck trying to choose, that’s the one to go with.
Whichever one you pick, you’ll be in good shape for your next hunt, and will definitely have the advantage over your four-legged prey.