Hunting is an age-old tradition in the United States, offering individuals a unique connection with nature and the thrill of getting in touch with our primal “hunter-gatherer” instincts. With advances in technology, hunting techniques have evolved, and night vision has become a game-changer for nocturnal hunts. Whether targeting feral hogs that cause havoc or coyotes that threaten livestock, night vision optics provide hunters with the advantage of enhanced visibility and stealth.

In this article, we will explore the world of hunting at night hunting in the United States with Thermal vs Night Vision optics. We’ll discuss the practical differences between night vision and thermal scopes, and the species commonly targeted using this state of the art equipment.

Understanding the difference between night vision and thermal scopes allows hunters to choose the appropriate technology for specific hunting situations. Whether opting for night vision’s amplification of existing light or thermal scopes’ detection of heat signatures, both offer unique advantages in the pursuit of game under cover of darkness.

Night Vision Optics vs. Thermal Scopes:

While both night vision and thermal scopes enhance visibility in low-light conditions, they utilize different technologies and have distinct advantages. Thermal is much more popular but usually thousands of dollars more expensive, a factor which needs to be considered when choosing the right night hunting equipment. 

1. Night Vision

Night vision technology works by amplifying existing light, including moonlight and 
starlight, to create a visible image. These devices typically use image intensifier tubes to gather ambient light and produce a green-hued image. Night vision scopes are ideal for detecting and identifying objects, providing a detailed view of the environment. They are effective for observing and hunting animals that reflect light, such as deer or rabbits.

Overall, the ATN X-Sight-4k Pro 5-20×70 Smart Day/Night Riflescope delivers a lot of value for the price point.

Rated 5-Stars (31 Reviews)

Ramiro says: “Got this scope for hunting hogs and it surpassed all of my expectations. I wasn’t expecting the quality to be as good as in their videos. The battery lasts a long time. Unit was easy to set up and the controls are very easy to understand and set up. The picture quality is great. Being able to record audio/video makes for great playbacks of a hunt. I highly recommend this product and for $$$ it is well worth the purchase!” 

Shop Now at Scheels >> ATN X-Sight-4k Pro 5-20×70 Smart Day/Night Riflescope

2. Thermal Scopes

Thermal scopes, on the other hand, detect heat signatures emitted by living organisms. They operate by capturing infrared radiation emitted by objects and translating it into a visible image based on temperature variations. Thermal scopes are particularly useful for detecting animals in complete darkness or dense foliage, as they do not rely on ambient light. They excel at tracking animals based on their heat signatures, making them suitable for hunting animals that blend well with their surroundings.

If you’re just getting started, our team’s top recommendation for a budget-friendly thermal is the ATN Thor LT 160 Thermal Rifle Scope.  

Rated 4.5 Stars 
Bill says: “Perfect scope. I bought this scope mainly for hog hunting. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the Thor 4 models. But I don’t need all these streaming and bluetooth and I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for it. The scope works perfectly. The setting up was without any problem. It only takes some time to read the manuals. You can pick up your targets very easily. I use white hot mode and the hog glows in the day or night with it. I highly recommend one if you are doing any type of night hunting.”

Shop now at Scheels >> ATN Thor LT 160 4-8×25 Thermal Riflescope

Species Commonly Hunted


Night hunting with the aid of night vision devices has opened up new opportunities for hunters to pursue elusive game species that are active during the dark hours. Some of the commonly hunted species using night vision in the United States include:

  1. Feral Hogs: Feral hog populations have exploded across various states, causing significant ecological and agricultural damage. Feral hogs have been documented to change their behaviors from daytime to night time when there is hunting pressure, hunting with night vision enables hunters to locate and eliminate these invasive pests more effectively. For farmers and property owners, hunting at night reduces the chance of interference from farm workers doing their jobs or other animals.

2. Coyotes: Coyotes are known for their nocturnal activities, making them prime targets for night hunting. The stealth and clarity offered by night vision devices provide hunters with an advantage in tracking and ambushing these cunning predators.

3. Raccoons: Raccoons are notorious for damaging crops and property. Night vision devices aid in tracking raccoons, allowing hunters to mitigate the harm caused by these grain thieves. While many racoon hunters in the past have employed a high lumen flashlight, night vision allows hunters to maintain more of their night sight and reduce the hazards that can come with holding a light and operating a firearm.

4. Predatory Animals: Night vision also helps in controlling predatory animals, such as bobcats and foxes, that pose a threat to livestock and local wildlife populations. The use of night vision optics grants farmers a better view of what their livestock is doing when they are vulnerable like during the calving season when baby cows and exhausted heifers are more susceptible to predation.

As technology continues to advance, night hunting in the United States will undoubtedly evolve further, providing hunters with even more effective tools to explore the secrets of the night. 

Looking to be the thing that goes “bump” in the night? Search our guides that specialize in varmint management on