Sightmark Wraith Digital Night Vision Scope Review

The new Sightmark Wraith digital night vision scope's black and white logo features a an ominous skull-faced figure bearing a scythe standing behind it.
The newly designed Sightmark Wraith logo.

It started with a private email to Sightmark ProStaff notifying us of an upcoming and yet unannounced product simply called “Wraith.” Attached to the message was a newly designed red and black logo with ‘WRAITH’ splashed across the bottom and an ominous skull-faced figure bearing a scythe standing behind it. The description of the logo is what most people would associate with the Grim Reaper…..and for many hunters, the Wraith is exactly what they will become.

The Sightmark Wraith is a digital riflescope designed from the ground up for both day and nighttime use.  This means that in nighttime mode there is black and white or traditional emerald green night vision, and for daytime use images are displayed in full color.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.
The Sightmark Wraith is a digital riflescope designed from the ground up for both day and nighttime use.

The primary focus of this product is predator and hog hunting. Sightmark has brought numerous products to market prior to the Wraith that were night vision and low-light based, such as the Photon series of scopes I’ve reviewed previously. As good a product as the Photon is every generation of optics released stands on the shoulders of the optics that came before. If a company is to succeed in the industry, they must continuously work to enhance features with each iteration of product AND listen to the wants and needs of its customers. The Wraith is the physical embodiment of Sightmark’s desire to bring the wants and needs of its customers to them at a price point that puts it within the reach of the average consumer in this market.

White phosphor provides great contrast.
The Sightmark Wraith has a removable IR illuminator.

The Wraith digital night vision scope has a 1920×1080 HD sensor for high-resolution imaging and video recording in 1080p with 8x digital zoom, 10 tactical and hunting reticles with 9 color options and a battery life of up to 4.5 hours on 4 easy-to-find AA batteries. For extended-use situations, the Wraith also accepts Micro USB power input. There is also an included detachable 850nm IR illuminator that mounts on the side of the Wraith allowing for target detection in darkness up to 200 yards. The transition from daytime to nighttime mode comes with the push of a single button and if you have more than one weapon, it allows up to five weapon saves in the internal memory so moving from one to another is nothing more than swapping the Wraith from firearm to firearm, selecting the correct weapon profile and confirming zero.

Wraith Digital Night Vision Scope Unboxing

Unboxing the Wraith, as with any of the other Sightmark scopes that I have had the opportunity to review, is impressive. The products are shipped in boxes that are designed to get them into your hands just like you had picked it up at the end of the assembly line. Sightmark takes pride in their work and products, and you can see that from the moment you open your shipping box or pick up your scope from your local Sightmark dealer.

One-Shot Zero

The transition from daytime to nighttime mode comes with the push of a single button. Photo by Brad Korando
The transition from daytime to nighttime mode comes with the push of a single button. Photo by Brad Korando

The battery holder pops right out of the side of the scope and after placing the four AA batteries in the holder and locking it back down in place, you can power up the Wraith and go through the menu to get it set up. Once you do that, mounting is easy via the Picatinny rail mount and then it is off to the range. Zeroing is easy, just like Sightmark’s previous digital night vision riflescopes. Aim the crosshairs at the bullseye, shoot, and then using the zeroing settings, adjust the digital crosshairs to the point of actual impact. Once that is set, shoot again to confirm your settings and then your scope is zeroed. That’s the beauty and simplicity of the One-Shot Zero.

The Wraith digital night vision scope has a 1920x1080 HD sensor for high-resolution imaging and video recording in 1080p with 8x digital zoom
The Wraith digital night vision scope has a 1920×1080 HD sensor for high-resolution imaging and video recording in 1080p with 8x digital zoom

The wonderful thing about the Wraith, in comparison to the previous Photon RT that it improves upon, is that Sightmark took notice of those minor details and improved them. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Photon RT, and had I not been introduced to the Wraith, it would still be my recommended digital night vision scope. The Wraith is just honestly that good.

Now, as good as the Photon is, it’s not in the same category, at least to me, due to its lack of full-color daytime mode. So, to be fair, it is best to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges so you, the consumer, can decide if the juice is worth the squeeze—(it is.)

The scope closest to the Wraith is the ATN X-Sight 2 3-14×50 and is the one compared in the chart below.

Product NameATN X-Sight 2 3-14×50Wraith 4-32×50
Magnification3-144-32
Lens Diameter50mm50mm
Digital Zoom4.6x8x
Field of View at 100 yards4621
Eye relief2.5”2.4”
Resolution1920×10801920×1080
Number of Reticles710
Reticle Colors79
Range of Detection100 yards200 yards
Battery Type4xAA4xAA
Battery Life3 hours4.5 hours
MaterialAluminumAluminum
Length11.5”10.5”
Waterproof RatingWater-ResistantWater-Resistant
Weight (oz)34.436.3
Price$599$599

 

For me, especially after reviewing the chart above, the Sightmark Wraith is the easy choice. The $20.97 price difference is a non-issue for the extra advantages that the Wraith offers.

Click here to get your own Wraith.

Then the next time you’re out in the field on a dark night, silently slipping out of the darkness to take down a hog, you might just become the Baba Yaga to all of the swine are there.

Digital Riflescopes for Dummies—Quick Start Guide to the Wraith Digital Riflescope

I admit it. I’m pretty old school. The latest in technology doesn’t interest me. The biggest, baddest TV/phone/computer, etc. is never on my “must-have” list. In fact, I get upset every time I have to upgrade my phone because I worry its going to be different and more complicated to operate. Though I do enjoy a few advances—Bluetooth wireless and handsfree, faster internet and the iPhone, I’m slow at adapting and always have been. In college, I almost returned my DVD player because I couldn’t figure out how to hook it up to the TV. I’m that electronically-lame! I’m like that with my firearms, too.

Though electronic and magnified optics are super accurate, you should also master using your iron sights.
Though electronic and magnified optics are super accurate, you should also master using your iron sights.

Though I’ll try anything for testing and evaluation, on my personal guns, I prefer iron/fixed sights. I’m not sure why. I just do. Yes, it makes shooting more challenging. And yes, I can acquire targets quicker with optics. I have run lasers on my handguns and do currently run a red dot on my AR; however, with each new optic comes a learning curve.

I am not a regular hunter and use my firearms mostly for fun and self-defense. Though I have shot long-range before, none of the guns I own are set up for precision shooting. I’ve never mounted a traditional magnified riflescope on any of my firearms. I’ve never had a reason to, but after getting my hands on the new Wraith digital day/night scope, I felt it was high time I get it together and adopt some new technology.

Why?

I mean, I know I’m a writer and should have better words than this, but seriously, this thing is really cool.

The Wraith is a 4-32x50mm digital riflescope with detachable IR illuminator. It provides digital images of your target during the day and black and white or traditional green night vision at night. It features a 1920×1080 high definition CMOS sensor and a 1280×720 FLCOS display. During the day, images appear crisp and clear in full color. Transitioning to low-light situations is a simple touch of the digital controls on top of the unit—power and left, right and up and down arrows for navigating through the menu and settings. Nighttime target acquisition is up to 200 yards. There are 10 different reticle patterns in 9 different colors. It will also record video and still images with 4 to 5 hours of battery life on common 4 AA batteries.

What is Digital Night Vision?

Traditional night vision devices use an image intensifier tube (IIT.) Digital scopes (DNV,) on the other hand, use a charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) and a micro display. Light that projected onto the CCD or CMOS array from the objective lens is converted to an electronic signal. This signal is then processed and sent to the micro display to be viewed by the user.

Digital night vision devices use a charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) and a micro display to display images at night.
Digital night vision devices use a charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) and a micro display to display images at night.

CCD and CMOS sensors are more sensitive to near-IR than IITs and can see light up into 1,000nm. Unlike IIT’s, digital night vision units require the addition of artificial light to create bright images, but digital night vision can be used in daylight conditions. They can also record images directly to an internal memory card or be sent through a video output to a DVR. DNV has now become a viable replacement for Gen 2 night vision as digital offers similar performance and resolution but at a comparable or lesser cost than Gen 2.

Digital night vision devices, like the Wraith, require an outside light source to detect clear images in low and no light. An infrared illuminator creates enough light while going undetected to animals and other people so that targets are clearly identified in the dark.

There are two types of resolution listed on the specifications of digital night vision. Sensor resolution—also capture resolution—is the resolution of the imaging sensor. Display resolution is the resolution of the display or image seen by the user and is not to be confused with the sensor resolution. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in the sensor array or in the display. These numbers refer to the total number of pixels along the width and height of the sensor or display. A resolution of 800×600 means the display or sensor has 800 pixels across its width and 600 pixels high. Generally, the higher the number, the more details the image will provide. For imaging sensors, the more pixels on a sensor array the more light that will be captured which usually increases image brightness, resolution and viewing distance.

Those with traditional riflescope, digital night vision or thermal imaging experience will have no problems setting up their Wraith riflescope, but those of us who need a little extra help in the electronics department may have issues without specific instructions.

The Sightmark Wraith digital night vision riflescope
The Sightmark Wraith digital night vision riflescope

Before shooting with the Wraith, I highly recommend getting familiar with its menu and settings. After becoming familiar with its operation, boresight at home before heading out to the range to sight it in. This will save you a lot of money on ammo, time and frustration.

How to Use the Wraith Digital Night Vision Menu and Settings

To begin, push the power (middle) button. This is also your “select” or “enter” button. You will see the “Sightmark” logo and then when fully powered, you will be on your shooting screen. You’ll see the field of view and a reticle. To access the menu, push the power button again.

Brightness

To adjust the brightness of the image, click on the brightness button, push the power button to select, then the up and down arrows to adjust the brightness. When it is set, push the power button again.

To go back at any time, push the left arrow.

Choosing a Reticle

Push down arrow to “reticle settings.” Push power. Reticle color will be highlighted first. Push the power button. Use the down arrow to scroll through the different colors. Once you’ve selected a color, push power. Give the unit a second and it will then return to the main reticle settings navigation menu. Push power on “reticle style” and use the up and down arrows to change reticles.

Taking Video and Pictures

To take pictures or video, you must have an SD card inserted. Go to: Menu, settings, record mode. Chose ‘video’ or ‘picture’ and push the power button, then the left arrow to return to your shooting screen. To start and stop recording, push the right arrow once. To take a picture, also push the right arrow once. In this mode, if you push the left arrow, it will change your view from day to night vision. To playback, go to “playback” on the menu options and push the power button.

After getting to know the menu and options and how to navigate your Wraith, you’re ready to bore sight it!

To learn how to boresight a rifle, click here.

If you don’t have a boresight, click here.

After boresighting it, you will be ready to head off to the range and start the real fun. Click here to learn how to zero/sight in your Wraith digital riflescope.

Marathon Hunting Never Looked So Good

Merriarm-Webster suggests marathons aren’t just for runners; in fact, by the trusted source’s definition, a marathon is “something characterized by great length or concentrated effort.” Always one to box things up with labels, then I had to take up marathon hunting. Of course, I’m also one to stir pots so responses to inquiries were immediate… and effectively repetitive, “What’s marathon hunting?”

The Sightmark Wraith allow you to hunt during the day and at night.
Have you hunted from the day into the night?

In the context of long stalks and even longer sits, marathon is practiced by countless hunters, predominately during deer season and especially during the rut; however, there is another side to marathon hunting most hunters have never considered—hunting daylight into nighttime. Yes, it’s a thing and last I checked (2017), 17 states permitted this transition during deer hunting season. Hunters could legally transition from hunting deer during daylight shooting hours to hogs, predators and varmints, or some combination thereof, at night. To this end, here in Texas, some of us literally turned hunts into 24-hour pursuits—yes, we load up on energy drinks.

While numerous states allow marathon hunting, doing so took some effort, especially in terms of optics. Hunters committed to hunting during the day and continuing into the night often had to change rifles from one topped with a traditional day optic to some type of electro-optic, i.e. traditional or digital night vision, or even thermal. Others literally changed optics, checked accuracy, and then returned to the hunt. Of course, outside of traditional hunting seasons, hunting regulations from state to state are often even more lax when it comes to electro-optics, including using them 24 hours per day and effectively eliminating any need to switch firearms or optics.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.
The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.

Admittedly, optics suitable for handling a 24-hour task have been few, far between and expensive, until now. The Sightmark Wraith solves our 24-hour electro-optic problem once and for all without breaking the bank. At an MSRP of $599, hunters can jump into a digital optic providing true HD, full-color digital imaging by day and with the touch of a button, tried-and-true traditional green or black-white digital night vision for post-sunset pursuits. Even better, the Sightmark Wraith boasts up to 1080 HD photo and video capture with a 1280×720 resolution FLCOS display.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, 50mm objective lens, ¼-MOA windage and elevation adjustment values and SD card media storage compatible with up to 64gb cards. Photo and video files are self-contained in easy-to-use .jpg and .mp4 formats. The Wraith’s battery life is up to 4.5 hours and can also be powered with a micro-USB cable. The Wraith also includes up to 10 reticles in 9 colors for a customized display and can detect targets out to 200 yards with the included 850nm LED IR illuminator. All this to close with good news. Marathon hunting is hard work. It’s good to finally see a true 24-hour optic up to the task.

Click here to check out the Wraith digital day/night scope!

Unveiling the New Standard in Digital Riflescopes: Wraith

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2019/01/22) – Sightmark introduces the Wraith Digital Riflescope: the future, in high definition. The 4-32x50mm Wraith digital riflescope is a revolutionary, new high-definition optic designed in Texas by hunters, for hunters.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.
The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.

The advanced 1920×1080 HD sensor provides full-color clarity in daytime; simply hit the left arrow to enable night mode with classic emerald or black and white viewing options. An included 850nm IR illuminator provides enhanced image brightness and accurate target acquisition to an astounding 200 yards. Notably, the IR is removable for hunters who live in states where emitted light is illegal.

The Wraith allows (and Sightmark encourages) onboard recording and video export so your favorite moments can be shared with your friends and family on your favorite social media platform.

The Wraith also includes:

  • Memory slot for up to 64GB storage
  • Customizability, with 10 reticle options and 9 color choices
  • 4 hours of battery life from 4 common AAs
  • MicroUSB port for external power
  • 4-32 optical magnification; 1-8x digital zoom

Thinking Outside the Law Enforcement Budgetary Box—the Case for Value-Priced Digital Night Vision

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

Over the years, we have all heard the same thing. Night vision costs an arm and a leg. Reliable, night vision and economical are three terms rarely, if ever, used in conjunction with one another. Typically, you are forced to pick only two of them since the three attributes simply are not available in one package.

Sightmark heard this and said, “Hold my drink. Watch this!” (Completely in jest, the only drinks that should ever be involved with anything firearms related should be HYDRATING beverages and NEVER alcoholic based.)

That life lesson out-of-the-way, let me introduce the new Sightmark Photon RT series.

Updated features on the Photon RT include a 768x576 CMOS sensor, 40% higher resolution, and integrated built-in video recorder.
Updated features on the Photon RT include a 768×576 CMOS sensor, 40% higher resolution, and integrated built-in video recorder.

Directly from Sightmark.com:

Delivering unmatched performance day or night, the revamped Photon RT 4.5x42s digital night vision riflescope features an upgraded 768×576 CMOS sensor with 40% higher resolution over the Photon XT series, crisp 640×480 LCD display, built-in video/sound recording and integrated WiFi via the Stream Vision App. Available 2x digital zoom and a built-in 850nm LED IR illuminator allow shooters to hone in on targets up to 220 yards away in total darkness. The scope has 6 reticle options with 4 different colors and boasts a one-shot zero function, making zeroing the Photon RT a breeze. Shockproof and IP55 water resistant, the Photon RT also offers an additional weaver rail for accessories and a power input that works with power banks via microUSB. The Photon RT works with most aftermarket 30mm rings and includes carrying case, user manual, USB cable, spare battery container, battery container pouch and lens cloth.

Whew! Now, that you’ve read all of that, let me break it down to you in a cop’s easy-to-understand terms. The Photon RT series is a digital night vision riflescope that, for under $1,000 allows you to observe and report in complete darkness at typical “law enforcement engagement distances” of 100 yards or less.

HANDS ON  

The Photon RT model I received was the 4.5x42s. The optic comes nicely packaged inside a padded box proudly bearing the Sightmark logo. Upon opening the box, you find the scope comes with a soft carrying case for those times you choose to remove it from your rifle. You will be as impressed as I was by the size of the scope when pulling it out of the case. With the flexible eyecup, it is 16.57 inches in length, 3.93 inches in width and 3.62 inches in height. The weight is 30.7 ounces—1.92 pounds for those not good at conversions like myself. Thanks, Siri!

Now, you may be thinking “Man, that seems like a lot of weight on the top of my rifle.” Looking at it on paper, you may think so but then consider the power nestled in its compact body. The Photon RT 4.5x42S is a battery-powered digital night vision riflescope that not only allows you to see in the dark but also includes recording capability with audio. The Photon RT allows you to stream video to YouTube, update firmware, download footage and even allows the display to be viewed on a wirelessly connected smartphone or tablet using the device’s integral Wi-Fi along with the Stream Vision App. Doesn’t seem all that heavy now does it? And yes, you read right. It records video and audio and allows you to stream it. Wow! It comes in tactical SWAT black. Get you some of that.

MOUNTING

After two weeks of riding inside a case in the trunk, the Photon didn’t shift from zero.
After two weeks of riding inside a case in the trunk, the Photon didn’t shift from zero.

Mounting the scope is no different than other scopes. It mounts quickly and easily with standard 30mm rings. Sightmark offers various types of optic mounts and is more than happy to help you make the right choice. This particular test and evaluation (T&E) model did not include rings, so I rushed out and sourced a high set locally. The rings locked up and once torqued into place with a FAT wrench, kept the scope locked down and set with no issues. That said, just get the suggested mounts from Sightmark—they’re better than what you’ll find at a moment’s notice like I did.

INITIAL ZERO

One thing to remember about the Photon RT is that it is truly a digital riflescope… including the reticle. There are no traditional crosshairs to adjust. Adjustments are done inside the menu settings of the scope’s software. The Photon RT features “One Shot Zero.” Essentially, you lock the rifle into position and eliminate movement while on target, fire a round and then enter the zeroing mode in the menu—a second crosshair appears. Using digital controls, move the second crosshair to your actual position of impact. Once the adjustment has been saved, that’s it. The manual suggests a 100-yard setup; however, I began at 25 yards. Once I confirmed my shot placement, I sighted in again at 100 yards. Honestly, perhaps I should have just gone to 100 yards as the manual suggested and saved some ammo… but Nah! That would be one less reason to stay at the range longer.

Since the Photon RT is a day- and night-compatible digital riflescope, I performed my zero at about 3 p.m. on a slightly cloudy day. With the zero set, the change in light made no difference to my position of impact when I double-checked accuracy that evening, at roughly 8 p.m. (Author’s note:  This was during standard time, so it was actually dark at 8 p.m.).

DAYTIME RANGE SESSION/FIRST SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS

The rifle and Photon RT combo consistently shoots MOA at 100 yards with Federal 168-grain BTHP Match ammo with no performance deviations between day or night shooting. What did take a little getting used to was adjusting to a black and white sight picture on the 640×480 digital display. Moving around with helmet-mounted NODS is completely different than the Photon RT, at least for my eyes. One additional note related to sight picture, the Photon RT features two magnification settings: 4.5x optical zoom and 9x digital zoom—there is no variable zoom; it’s one or the other.

Another feature I appreciate is attention to eye relief. The Photon RT’s eye relief is generous and different from a traditional scope. Remember, when it comes to digital night vision scopes, you aren’t looking through a lens system. You are looking at a digital display manufactured by the information coming in from the objective lens and through multiple light manipulating processes, including converting gathered light into an electrical signal displayed on the device’s digital display. You can imagine how different it might be transitioning from an optical field of view to a digitally manufactured one. But, once you’re on the trigger, you forget about all the fancy processes it takes to make your sight picture happen. To that end, target acquisition is the same—place your crosshair on the target and squeeze the trigger.

Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member recommends the Photon RT for hunting and law enforcement.
Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member recommends the Photon RT for hunting and law enforcement.

Nighttime shooting was done under only moonlight conditions and on a standard police silhouette-type target. At 100 yards, IR setting six offered an optimum easy-to-engage target. On higher IR powers, the IT flashback was too bright against the target face. That’s not a knock on the IR, it simply means the IR is pretty good.

A second daytime range visit confirmed that two weeks of riding in the case on my rifle had not caused any shift in zero.

Recordings are easy to produce with a dedicated button. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here because the videos available online speak volumes about the Photon RT’s content quality. (Editor’s Note: Jamie’s videos are evidence and cannot be published.) What I can tell you is recording is simple and reviewing footage is just as easy. The Photon RT also boasts onboard memory, not an SD card, so there’s no need to worry about video quality or buying SD cards. SD cards have also proven to be pretty unreliable under recoil conditions—another great benefit of the Photon’s integrated storage. Nice feature, Sightmark!

Author’s Note:  Now writing this, I realize I have failed to explain that my rig included a suppressor, effectively eliminating muzzle flash. So, I can’t tell you to what degree muzzle flash may momentarily affect field of view. I can only assume it’s minimal based on the numerous Photon RT shooting videos I have watched online.

ONE FINAL SHOT

The Photon RT I tested was used in a way it is not truly intended. It was used as a spotting scope by a narcotics surveillance unit engaged in true LEO observation in an area believed to be a storefront operated by a “street level pharmaceutical engineer.” I can’t go into further detail, obviously, but I can tell you it has performed admirably. And remember, what it sees, it can record. Even in the dark.

If you are looking for a way to help clear your property of feral hogs, protect your livestock from predators or need a riflescope to assist you in your duties—even limited, cost-conscious law enforcement—give the Sightmark Photon RT line of digital night vision riflescopes a solid look.

My time with the scope was limited since quite a few folks are still waiting to get their hands on the small supply of test units. As with any law enforcement product, you may want to test it out for yourself to make sure it meets your needs and performs to your expectations. I accept and respect the opinions of others, but I ALWAYS must do my own testing, and I expect (and hope) you do the same.

If you are in law enforcement, contact Sightmark. Their law enforcement division is always willing to answer questions and discuss night vision options. They also offer courtesy discounts to individual officers, as well as departments.

Stay safe and happy hunting.

To reach Sellmark’s Law Enforcement team with questions about products and ordering, call 817-225-0310 extension 288.

Click here to purchase a Sightmark Photon RT digital night vision riflescope.

About Jamie
Jamie Trahan is a career law enforcement officer with over 17 years of experience and works for a Sheriff’s Office in southern Louisiana. His full-time assignment is as a Detective in the Crime Scene Investigations Unit where he holds the rank of Lieutenant. He is also the entry team leader for the SWAT team, a member of the department’s Honor Guard and a LA POST Firearms Instructor. He is a member of the National Tactical Police Officer’s Association and the Louisiana Tactical Police Officer’s Association. First and foremost, he is a husband to his wife, Tara, and a father to his two sons, Luke and Liam. He is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights for all law-abiding citizens of this great country. He plans to pass the love of shooting on to his sons in the hopes that after he is gone and they are spending time with their own children, that they will reflect back upon the memories of what Jamie taught them as they are teaching their own, just like Jamie’s father taught him.

First Time Hog Hunt, Lifetime of Memories

I remember the first time I set my gaze upon feral hogs like it was yesterday. Dense morning fog had just lifted to reveal an unruly sounder rooting under an oak tree on the edge of a steep finger well off the beaten path in California’s La Panza range. It was my first hog hunt and while I did not kill that weekend, the hunt stayed with me, gnawing at me like a tick to get back out there. Seriously—and not from experience mind you—I liken hog hunting to crack or some other stranglehold drug—you absolutely can get addicted your first time out. I didn’t kill on my second, third or fourth time out either. Even my fifth, sixth and seventh time were exercises in futility; however, my addiction stayed. Every hog I saw fanned the fire.

Writer Kevin Reese recalls his first nighttime hog hunt, made even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.
Nighttime hog hunting is even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.

To be honest, I don’t recall how many hunts it took to drop my first hog, but I do remember the experience well. It was an early morning rifle hunt and I was walking to the corner of a wheat field when I heard the grunts. I had seen pigs from afar but this was the first time I heard them. I froze and scanned to my right to see a half-dozen rooting up a soft patch of dirt at a tree line some 50 yards from my position. I shot a large sow and learned quickly how little they sometimes bleed. With virtually no blood trail to go on, I conducted a methodical sweep of the area. After a solid two hours of combing, I had to laugh silently to myself. While I thought she had made good distance before she expired, I found her less than 15 yards from where she was shot; she had bolted out of sight then circled back.

I also remember my first night hunts—first with a bow, then with night vision and thermal. What is spooky to some, simply added excitement to my nighttime experience. New sounds shattered the silence in every direction—locusts, the intensified volume of lulling cattle, even the shrill scream of a cougar rose the hair on the back of my neck on that first dusk ‘til dawn hunt. And, of course, the screeches, barks and grunts from agitated hogs crashing into a freshly rooted area had my heart beating out of my chest. Admittedly, I bow hunted hogs for years before stumbling upon the thrill of night hunting with digital night vision with a Sightmark Photon.

While my firsts have been many and decades of chasing critters and filling freezers in the making, nowadays, my favorite pursuits are those spent with new hunters and reveling in their firsts, especially those late-night experiences where an entirely different outdoor world is busy playing out. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing a first hunt. The hunter was equipped with an AR-platform rifle and Photon RT Digital Night Vision Scope as we scouted on freshly planted crop fields just south of Waxahachie, Texas. With amazing folks at Three Curl Outfitters at the reigns, we rolled down a handful of farm roads, scanning with thermal monoculars. As the night rolled on, we continued glassing fields and adding to the collection of empty energy drink cans on the truck floor. The time was right, the weather was right… but our timing had not been right at all. I laughed to myself several times as I imagined large sounders of hogs dropping down into the fields we scouted just seconds after we passed—who knows? They may have. Just as we began to tucker out it happened. “Pigs!” Our guide stopped the truck and glassed with his thermal monocular to confirm. Yes, finally, they were there, a half-dozen or so near a tree line on the opposite side of a field nearly 1,000 yards out. We parked the truck, slid out onto the road, then quickly and quietly filed out onto the field.

Hog hunting at night is easier with thermal scanners and scopes from Pulsar and digital riflescopes from Sightmark.
My first hog fell 15 yards from where I shot it.

With the wind in our favor, we closed the distance pretty quickly—especially given the trek across uneven terrain was over a half-mile—the last few hundred yards in stalk-mode. When the guide finally stopped us, we were no more than 75 yards away from the few remaining pigs—half had ventured back into the trees during our stalk. We quietly fanned out side-by-side, lowered the handguard of the rifle down into the cradle of the monopod and settled in.

I stood close by. Instead of a rifle this time, I had my smartphone. Amazingly enough, the Photon RT, Sightmark’s latest model, includes built-in video and Wi-Fi. Most importantly at this moment of truth, the Wi-Fi had allowed me to connect to the scope and to watch the first-time hunter’s display remotely on my device. The beauty of it was obvious—I was better able to coach him quietly while maintaining a shooter’s perspective of his reticle, overall field of view and the small sounder of pigs completely unaware of our presence.

Once we were set, the guide asked us to confirm when we had “eyes” on the targets. We confirmed and I watched his reticle on my phone lower and settle onto a sweet spot just behind the largest pig’s ear. The guide counted down, “three, two, one.”

At one, the first shot shattered the deafening silence, dropping the first pig where it stood, it never budged an inch. As hog hunting sometimes goes, especially with new hunters, the rest of the hogs made it into nearby trees, disappearing instantly under the cloak of a tangled thicket.

It was his first kill ever and on a wily old sow. I smiled to myself in the darkness as a flurry of high-fives and hugs made a quick round. Decades later, I still recall the sudden rush of adrenaline, when my emotions suddenly were not my own… and a mix of tears and laughter, perhaps best described as elation, reverence plain old uncontrollable jitters. I had been a mess and now some of those feeling had rushed back being fortunate enough to share this defining moment with him. There, on that field trimmed neatly in hues of midnight blue and silver, another hunter was born.

We would love to hear your first hunt stories. Share them with us in the comment section.

Sightmark Signal DNV Monoculars: Hunt the Night

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/02/14) – New Sightmark Signal Digital Night Vision Monoculars are helping people see flawlessly at both day and night. With two different models, the 320RT 4.5×30 (SM18024) and 340RT 4.5×30 (SM18025), seeing in pure darkness (up to 380 yards away!) has never been easier.

New enhanced digital night vision has built-in video recording with sound and has a 380-yard detection range at night.
New enhanced digital night vision has built-in video recording with sound and has a 380-yard detection range at night.

Replacing the popular Ranger Digital Monocular series, the Signal lineup hits shelves packed with enhanced features. A new and improved high-sensitivity 640×480 CMOS sensor and high-resolution 640×480 LCD display ensure night time and low light performance. Both models feature available built-in video recording with sound, allowing users to take images and videos to show their friends or upload to the internet. The Signal can even stream directly to your smartphone or tablet for remote view via the Stream Vision app.

For ultimate stealth and discretion, the Signal 340RT’s 940nm IR illuminator produces no glow and is practically invisible to wildlife. Though not entirely invisible, the powerful 850nm IR illuminator found on Signal 320RT models gives viewers 50 more yards of detection range at night. Signals boast 2x digital zoom, enabling up to 9x magnification for up-close and personal viewing. Sightmark Signal Digital Night Vision Monoculars include carrying case, user manual, USB cable, neck strap and lens cloth.