Are Thermal Scopes Legal? 

 July 24, 2019

By  Randy Angwin

Last updated on July 12, 2021

Thermal scopes might seem too futuristic for some but very soon it might become completely mainstream. The advanced technology being used with thermal imaging has benefited many industries and completely transformed the way we see.

Thermal scopes were initially used exclusively by the military and the elite who could afford the splurge. Fortunately, it has become more accessible to the masses. It’s still a steep buy but worth every penny if you want to get the most out of your hunting.

But are they legal to use? In some states yes. In others it's still a work in progress to overturn the prohibition of using thermal scopes for hunting purposes.

State Laws Regarding Hunting

hunting laws

If you’re a hunting enthusiast you have to make sure you know your state laws regarding thermal and night vision devises. There are a lot of regulations around using night vision devices for hunting wildlife.

Nearly 40% of all states ban using night vision devices during hunts. But there are petitions in circulation to overturn the bans in these states. It’s very important to stay informed regarding the continuous changes regarding hunting laws in your state if you want to stay compliant.

Why Are Thermal Scopes Gaining Popularity?

What do you get when you combine the thrill of hunting with a picture-perfect vision at night? Adrenalin overload, right? Thermal scopes can afford you that thrilling experience. Thermal scopes are getting a lot of attention from the hunting society for other reasons as well, such as:

- Affordability: 

Where thermal imaging devices used to be too expensive for the average hunter, technology has forged a way to make it more affordable. Now a good quality thermal scope won't set you back a fortune. With prices dropping year on year, we predict that soon it will become a standard tool for all hunters.

- Predator Prevention: 

Even though civilization has caused us to see less and less wildlife in our everyday lives, we still live in a world where predators exist. Becoming easy prey is possible so preventative measures should be taken. Thermal scopes make it easier to identify and get rid of these predators that could become threats.

- Versatility: 

The application of thermal imaging is boundless as you can pick what’s relevant to your needs. Normal night vision scopes merely intensify the ambient light to see clearer. Thermal imaging allows you to see any target whether it’s day or night. It uses radiation to identify targets and needs no light to function effectively. Night vision devices can’t work in the daytime.

Getting Permission

hunting permission

As we’ve mentioned before not all states allow you to hunt using thermal or night vision devices. The onus is on the hunter to know if night hunting is allowed in his or her state. It’s also important to get the necessary permission from your state game official where applicable.

Many states such as Colorado, Hawaii and New Mexico ban night hunting altogether. Other states allow night hunting only under certain conditions and during specific hunting seasons. What’s more, the laws keep changing daily regarding night hunting and using thermal & night vision devices so it’s wise to do research every few months.

In most states, you need a hunting license to hunt. In some instances, you also need a specific license to hunt on private property.

The safest way to stay within the law is to contact your state game official to verify what is allowed in your state.

Why Petitions Are Important

Due to the bans on night hunting and using thermal & night devices to hunt wildlife in certain states, petitions have become necessary. Laws are important to regulate and set boundaries in place to protect & serve people.

Yet laws can also be imposing and need revision when encroaching on the rights of society. Many people feel the restrictions on night hunting and using thermal & night devices are outdated. Here are some more reasons why petitions are circulating in some states:

  • Coyotes are overpopulating some states preying on vulnerable animals
  • Thermal devices assist in identifying the correct wildlife, eliminating the possibility of taking out endangered species
  • It assists with controlling the increasing predator presence
  • To eradicate destructive feral hogs

Real-Life Scenario

In Texas, the unruly upsurge in feral hogs has become problematic. It’s been established approximately 2.5 million feral hogs inhabit the state. This is terrible news for farmers as these hogs can destroy an entire field in hours. They also pose a threat to wildlife and other livestock because hogs eat anything.

The threat isn’t limited to farmers and rural areas only. Feral hogs’ invasion of urban areas has soared, destroying public places such as parks, golf courses and other open spaces. The cost of damages caused by these hogs run into the millions.

Luckily, Texas is one of the states where night hunting is allowed (read more about regulations here). They also allow hunting with thermal scopes and night devices. The prudence of being flexible with the hunting restrictions assist in combating the threat feral hogs pose. The benefits of using thermal scopes are:

  • It assists with identifying hogs rapidly through fog and scrubs
  • It helps identify wounded game
  • It protects the hog hunters from predators as they can notice them before an attack
  • It reduces the time spent looking for hogs in the dark or daylight
  • It increases the accuracy of hitting the target first time

Hunting allows the general public to participate in purging the state from unwanted animals. It gives people the freedom to advance their skills in hunting using the latest technology. More importantly, the right to hunt fosters unity among civil society. Not to mention the pride in serving their country in this small yet noteworthy way.

Closing Thoughts

While everyone hunts for different reasons the use of thermal scopes improves everyone’s chances of hitting the target. Some hunt as a hobby simply for fun. Others do it to remain skillful and contribute to keeping unwanted predators at bay.

Whatever your reason for hunting is, it should be clear thermal and night devices should be allowed for hunting. Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree.

About the author 

Randy Angwin

Randy Angwin holds a master of science degree from University of Florida. He is an expert in infrared and night vision technology. His knowledge helps us staying on top of the latest trends in the thermal industry. When not working, Randy likes to hunt and spend time with his two German shepherds.

  • Colorado allows night hunting of raccoons, coyotes and a couple others. Public ground with a permit, private ground with permission.

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