Are Thermal Scopes Legal? Our 2024 Update

Are Thermal Scopes Legal
Alfred Mendoza

Hunting at night is exciting and thermal scopes seem like a must-have. However, there are essential things about hunting and the use of thermal optics that every hunter must bear in mind. Before you pull the trigger, you have to know: are thermal scopes legal?

Yes, thermal optics are legal to use when hunting in the United States of America. However, certain states like California have special laws about illegal sniper scopes, any attachment, or apparatuses that use infrared in hunting hogs. 

You have to remember that every state has different laws and perceptions about night hunting and night vision optic use. Some states have firearms and device restrictions, even when it is only acceptable to hunt at night or anything related to hunting hogs is banned altogether.

Researching State Hunting Regulations

It’s vital to do your own research about the Hunting Regulations that your state requires. In some states, hunters are not allowed to hunt certain animals like turkey, feral hogs, elk, deer, and moose. In contrast, it is perfectly legal to hunt using thermal and night vision in some states. Other states require licenses to own and operate some night vision goggles regarding hunting laws.

Various State Laws and the Department of Natural Resources provide restrictions and a set of regulations that need to be followed. Aside from the night vision devices, there are also restrictions in date ranges, various firearms, calibers, and other gears used for animals or invasive species. 

Therefore, we suggest that you check these regulations within your state offices or find information about these through their website before hunting with night vision optics.

Also Read: 5 Best Places to Shoot a Deer

What Makes Thermal Scopes Popular

thermal scope


In the most basic terms, thermal imaging works by allowing you to see or visually determine and locate the presence of objects and the heat radiating off themselves. Thermal cameras more or less record the temperature of various objects in the frame. Then it assigns each temperature a shade of a color, which lets you see how much heat it is radiating compared to objects around it. [1]  

In other words, thermal optics let you see your targets during nighttime or even in total darkness. Thermal imaging optics are more versatile than normal day optics that only let you see your targets during the daytime. It’s also a better choice than night vision optics that only work with ambient light found in the natural environment.

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When thermal imaging optics hit the shooting community, it started a frenzy. However, since it was more expensive than other optics, some hunters felt reluctant to buy one. Thanks to advanced technology, this reluctance is slowly fading away.

Several budget-friendly thermal optics now feature advanced features and technology best for detecting objects during nighttime.  

Due to its demand, these devices are almost considered part of an average hunter’s field gear. Therefore, we can safely predict that hunters will soon have these high-quality thermal optics as a standard tool to use while hunting feral hogs or other animals.


Preventing Predators 

Time will come that hunters will enter the wilderness with confidence without fear of becoming a target. Predators are everywhere, especially at night—when these predators are most powerful and hunters are more vulnerable. 

However, the chances of becoming a target get thinner when you have the same power as these predators do—the ability to see at night. Thermal optics are relatively more powerful than regular night vision devices because you can see at night and become undetected.

How to Get Permission to Use Thermal Scopes

Not all states allow the use of thermal optics or any night vision optics. Therefore, the night hunter’s responsibility is to secure necessary permits before night hunting hogs to avoid penalties and other sanctions punishable by law. 

States such as Hawaii, Colorado, and New Mexico ban night hunting altogether.

However, there are still some states that made it legal to hunt using night vision with IR or infrared light source and thermal optics but with certain conditions. Some even require licenses. Therefore, it’s important to know state laws regarding hunting. 

thermal imaging

Due to the banning of thermal and night vision devices, many people have started to ask for petitions to lift the ban. Our team finds these petitions essential as laws are deemed to govern its people and the state. Hence, the people must have their own voice in any matter that they want to be discussed.

Wrapping Up - The Legality of Using Thermal Scopes

After carefully researching the pros of knowing the legality of using thermal scopes, our team found out that this matter must be addressed at all costs. Whether you hunt for fun or hunt for gaining experience in tactical shooting, it is always essential to know your limits and the legalities of owning a thermal scope.

These night hunting devices bear responsibilities for all hunters. Therefore, as a night hunter, you must ensure your safety and respect the law, at the same time. 



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