Can You Hunt Deer with a Thermal Scope? 

 April 1, 2020

By  Daniel Gray

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Last updated on September 1, 2022

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty regarding whether or not it’s permitted to hunt deer with a thermal scope. We’re here to shed some light on the matter.

Hunting laws vary from one state to the next. Part of being a responsible hunter includes knowing the hunting laws before setting out on your adventure.

So, can you hunt deer with a thermal scope? The short answer is that it depends on the state that you’re in! Some states allow it, while others strictly prohibit it. It’s in your best interest to find out the exact hunting laws in your area to ensure you comply with them.

When Can’t You Hunt Deer Using a Thermal Scope?

In certain states, you’re not permitted to hunt deer from one hour before the sun sets to one hour before the sun rises. This is because it’s illegal to shine an illumination device at night onto the deer.

Here’s why.

It’s believed that shooting deer at night causes them great stress. Deer typically come out in abundance during the day, especially if they don’t feel like their safety is threatened. But lately, deer are being shot at during the day so often that they no longer feel safe and may stop coming out to feed, negatively affecting their health.

If this shooting persists, the deer population will decrease, potentially causing them to become an endangered species in certain areas.

When is it Okay to Use a Thermal Scope to Hunt Deer?

It follows that in some states, it’s allowed to hunt deer with a thermal scope during the daytime. Also, using a thermal scope to count deer at night is perfectly legal.

In the past, deer counting was typically done in the morning. But because thermal scopes allow for better target identification, you can do so at night and obtain accurate results on the population numbers in your area.

Circumstances Where Hunting Deer is Allowed in Certain States

In certain areas, it’s permitted to hunt deer at night only if the following situations prevail:

  • Suppose deer are causing extensive damage to crops during nighttime. And only if you can’t shoot them during the day. In such cases, deer should be attacked while they’re in the act of damaging crops and not anywhere else. Otherwise, the others won’t learn to avoid the crops.
  • If deer are causing severe damage to shrubs and trees, which is often a nightmare for gardeners and farmers.
  • If there’s a problem with “Deer-Vehicle Collisions.” In this case, fatalities or injuries are caused as a result of collisions between deer and vehicles.

Why a Thermal Scope?

thermal riffle scope

There are many devices you can use for hunting deer. These include anything from shotguns, rifles, and, in some cases, large caliber pistols. Many accessories, such as riflescopes, can help you during your hunt.

Thermal scopes are loved by many hunting enthusiasts the world over for their high performance. Below we list a few advantages associated with using thermal scopes for deer hunting.


Thermal scopes are known for their affordability compared to other devices, especially for the functionality they offer.

The cost of thermal scopes is seemingly dropping each year as they become more popular. By the look of things, thermal scopes might soon be considered a standard hunting tool in certain states.

Work During the Day & Night

Thermal scopes are designed to work equally well during the day and night, which makes them highly versatile & cost-effective, unlike night vision scopes that can only be used at night.

This is because thermal technology works in complete darkness and under the full sun. This is great because a thermal scope eliminates the need for hunters to carry two different devices for different times of the day.

Better Target Identification

It’s no secret that hunting at night is more challenging than during the day. Your chances of identifying your target are limited at night. That’s where thermal imaging devices come in. They help increase your chances of spotting deer for a more accurate shot.

Thermal devices allow you to view crisp and clear images of your target. This means that your chances of hitting the right target are high if you use a thermal scope.

Thermal Scopes Can See Through Tall Grass

Because thermal images detect heat and not light, you can see deer through tall grass and other foliage.

Long Detection Range

Another advantage of thermal scopes is that they have a long detection range. With the right lenses, they can detect warm targets from a great distance—as far as 1,000 yards. This essentially makes it safer for you compared to using other devices.

While you may not necessarily be able to identify the actual target from that distance, depending on the optics you are using, you’ll be aware that something is there so you can move closer.


What to Look for When Buying a Thermal Scope

When going deer hunting, you want to ensure that you have the best thermal scope for the task. This way, you get the most out of your hunting adventure. Pay attention to the following:

  • Magnification: This refers to the ability of your thermal scope to magnify your target from a distance.
  • Thermal Resolution: Your scope’s resolution will determine the clarity of the images you view. The higher it is, the better.
  • Scope detection range refers to the distance from which you can view your target with clarity. The Pulsar Thermion is an example of a thermal scope with impressive long-range detection.
  • Refresh rate: This feature also determines the clarity of the image. The higher it is, the clearer your target will be. We recommend at least a 30Hz—refresh rate.
  • Battery life: The last thing you need is a thermal scope that will run out of battery soon after starting your hunting adventure. Buying a thermal scope with long battery life is non-negotiable.

Final Thoughts

To reiterate, it’s of the utmost importance to observe the specific laws for the area where you want to hunt deer. But where thermal scopes are permitted, your chances of tracking deer are higher if you use these devices.

If you’re new to hunting, thermal scopes may provide you with a learning curve. But after enough practice, you’ll be a pro in handling the device in no time. Make use of the user manual provided.

If you find out that your state doesn’t permit hunting deer with a thermal scope, and you want to try this, consider going on a hunting trip in a different region.

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comment section below.

About the author 

Daniel Gray

As a digital marketing manager, Daniel is responsible planning and managing marketing campaigns at Smart Scouter. He has a masters degree from Indiana University and over 20 years of experience in the thermal imaging industry. In his spare time he likes hiking and traveling around South America.

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