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Hunting & Fishing Night Hunting - Optics Preference

What is your optics setup preference for night hunting?

  • Dedicated Thermal Optic

    Votes: 10 47.6%
  • Thermal Clip-On + Daytime Optic

    Votes: 5 23.8%
  • Dedicated IR Optic

    Votes: 1 4.8%
  • IR Clip-On + Daytime Optic

    Votes: 3 14.3%
  • NVG's + NV Capable Optic

    Votes: 4 19.0%
  • Green/Red/White Light + Daytime Optic

    Votes: 1 4.8%

  • Total voters
    21

Obi-WanKannoli

Sergeant of the Hide
Full Member
Minuteman
Oct 18, 2020
465
705
USA
Curious to hear what people are running and what their rational / use case is. I've tried it all aside from NVG's and I think my preference has landed on the good old weapon mounted green light + a traditional daytime optic. I use an IR handheld for spotting. Living on the east coast, most of my predator hunting is limited to 200 yards and less.
 
My setup depends upon what I’m hunting, where I’m hunting, and in which conditions. I like to use a handheld thermal scanner in conjunction with a dedicated NV scope with an integrated LRF. I sometimes use rifle and head-mounted torches as well.
 
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For overwatching calving cattle in open pastures, thermal clipon in front of day optic on tripod.

For clearing areas around chicken coop or cattle with nearby woods i walk and stalk in woods with carbine with laser.
On head, minimal 14+coti, maximal 14+coti+thermal monocular.
 
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Handheld thermal scanner to detect. Katana NVGs with a DBAL D2 to engage, usually off a tripod in a field. Occasionally set up with a SIMRAD for longer shots on coyotes.
Have tried thermal clip ons, dedicated thermals, etc.., but always seem to be slower than using a laser, especially for multiple targets and movers.
This is primarily open fields in West Texas that I’m hunting. If I hunted in forest/vegetation I’d likely switch to thermal primarily.
 
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Curious to hear what people are running and what their rational / use case is. I've tried it all aside from NVG's and I think my preference has landed on the good old weapon mounted green light + a traditional daytime optic. I use an IR handheld for spotting. Living on the east coast, most of my predator hunting is limited to 200 yards and less.
If the majority of your hunting will be 200 and under I'd recommend finding a dedicated thermal scope.
I LOVE thermal clip on sights, but at those ranges they don't offer enough advantage to make up for the extra weight.
In my area I get shots on coyotes out to 800 yards or so, so I stick with a clip on and deal with the extra weight.

I've had some success running a Simrad, (heavy!) but I had several nights where I could see a coyote through thermal, but could not pick it up through the Simrad.

I now use a head mounted thermal for spotting after an "incident" where I nearly walked into a skunk.
Current set up is an EOTech xELR thermal. Killed this coyote back in March at right at 700 yards.
thumbnail.jpg
 
I hunt hogs over bait in a small clearing in the center of a heavily wooded area and use a dedicated thermal. the only downside I've really found is that the thermal puts off so much light my eye has a hard time recovering after a shot. It takes a few minutes to get my night sight back.
 
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... the thermal puts off so much light my eye has a hard time recovering after a shot. ...

Most people leave their thermal "brightness" setting up waaay too high. Turn it down ! Waaay down !

If you start out with it looking too dim, you probably have it right, because as your eyes gain their night vision, you don't need or want, the thermal brightness up so high. With the UTC-x I would have the thermal brightess down to around 15% to 30% depending on the night. And dont' forget to "NUKEALOT" !

Alternatively, you can adjust it down every 5 mins when you first get out there, do that for about 30m. But I've found it easier to start off with it lower, might not have to adjust it. A few thermals can be set to auto adjust themselves, IIRC the newer Trijicon reaps and hunters can be set to do that.

When I first started shooting with thermals, I had my brightness up so high when I took my eye away from the thermal I would see a big cotton ball occluding my vision - it was scary and I worried if it was hurting my eye! It wasn't it, I just needed to turn the brightness way down.
 
I've settled on a dual band spotting system (helmet mounted PVS14 on dominate eye and thermal monocular on the other). Then a dedicated thermal optic on the weapon.
How long did it take to get over the headaches? I have zero experience with that but it sounds like it would be nauseating seeing a completely different spectrum in each eye.
 
If the majority of your hunting will be 200 and under I'd recommend finding a dedicated thermal scope.
I LOVE thermal clip on sights, but at those ranges they don't offer enough advantage to make up for the extra weight.
In my area I get shots on coyotes out to 800 yards or so, so I stick with a clip on and deal with the extra weight.

I've had some success running a Simrad, (heavy!) but I had several nights where I could see a coyote through thermal, but could not pick it up through the Simrad.

I now use a head mounted thermal for spotting after an "incident" where I nearly walked into a skunk.
Current set up is an EOTech xELR thermal. Killed this coyote back in March at right at 700 yards.
View attachment 8228584
Wow, five figures, $$$. I need to stay away from night shooting. I spend too much on shooting already!
 
Wow, five figures, $$$. I need to stay away from night shooting. I spend too much on shooting already!

From my experience budgeting for night shooting looks something like this…

Step 1: I’ve got $1k, what kind of NV gear can I get?

Step 2: What I bought was complete junk, I need at least $3k for a decent rifle mounted thermal.

Step 3: that thermal is great but scanning is a pain, I’ll need $3k for a scanner.

Step 4: I keep tripping over crap, I need a pvs14 + a helmet and gear ($4k)

Step 5: that scanner is nice but helmet mounted seems superior ($4k)

Step 6: all this stuff is great but I’ll bet having everything in 640 is even better!

Total cost of final setup $15k

Your wallet:
IMG_9894.gif
 
From my experience budgeting for night shooting looks something like this…

Step 1: I’ve got $1k, what kind of NV gear can I get?

Step 2: What I bought was complete junk, I need at least $3k for a decent rifle mounted thermal.

Step 3: that thermal is great but scanning is a pain, I’ll need $3k for a scanner.

Step 4: I keep tripping over crap, I need a pvs14 + a helmet and gear ($4k)

Step 5: that scanner is nice but helmet mounted seems superior ($4k)

Step 6: all this stuff is great but I’ll bet having everything in 640 is even better!

Total cost of final setup $15k

Your wallet:
View attachment 8267925

$15K total setup? That’s amateur/poors shit.
 
From my experience budgeting for night shooting looks something like this…

Step 1: I’ve got $1k, what kind of NV gear can I get?

Step 2: What I bought was complete junk, I need at least $3k for a decent rifle mounted thermal.

Step 3: that thermal is great but scanning is a pain, I’ll need $3k for a scanner.

Step 4: I keep tripping over crap, I need a pvs14 + a helmet and gear ($4k)

Step 5: that scanner is nice but helmet mounted seems superior ($4k)

Step 6: all this stuff is great but I’ll bet having everything in 640 is even better!
This is absolutely spot on.

I’d say the vast majority of the population need to focus on skipping 1. and going straight to 2. Don’t waste your money buying any variety of NV for the first night time optic. That goes for the NV scopes and NODS + laser. You can be absolutely deadly (hunting animals) with a $3k WMT. You can’t be anywhere near that deadly with $3k worth of NV.

Luckily I took my own advice here… I’m on a limited budget and went straight for a $3k WMT. I’ve killed hundreds of hogs with it. Should I ever have another $3k to spare I’ll get another helmet-mounted thermal unit. But that would be a luxury item. For hunting, I consider anything NV 3rd on the list.
 
Last edited:
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This is absolutely spot on.

I’d say the vast majority of the population need to focus on skipping 1. and going straight to 2. Don’t waste your money buying any variety of NV for the first night time optic. That goes for the NV scopes and NODS + laser. You can be absolutely deadly (hunting animals) with a $3k WMT. You can’t be anywhere near that deadly with $3k worth of NV.

Luckily I took my own advice here… I’m on a limited budget and went straight for a $3k WMT. I’ve killed hundreds of hogs with it. Should I ever have another $3k to spare I’ll get another helmet-mounted thermal unit. But that would be a luxury item. For hunting, I consider anything NV 3rd on the list.
WMT?
 
How long did it take to get over the headaches? I have zero experience with that but it sounds like it would be nauseating seeing a completely different spectrum in each eye.
Never got headaches from it. For me it's about 80% dominate eye (N/V) and 20% non dom eye (thermal). I really don't see the square screen at all it just picks up the highlights. I have the thermal on white hot, so all I pretty much see is the heat signatures overlaid on the N/V. Most call it "poor mans thermal fusion".
 
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I went dedicated thermal with 4K daytime in the optic. It showed up yesterday and we have not had good weather yet to fully checkout the thermal side. Pulsar Thermion DUO 50

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