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        Thermal Legality by State

        Thermal Legality by State

        Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. 


        Sightmark has done its due diligence and has reached out to the Fish and Wildlife representatives from all 50 states to determine the legality of thermal optics for hunting within their jurisdictions so that anyone who is unsure about using our new, powerful Wraith Thermal digital thermal riflescope on a night hunt can rest easy knowing that it can be used without legal repercussions.

        The laws on thermal optics vary by state. Before trying your hand at night hunting with your new thermal device, it would be good to check with your local Game Warden before you reserve a date on the calendar for a hunting trip. 


        Alabama – LEGAL; thanks to new legislation in 2021, Alabama residents will be able to purchase a $15 license ($51 for non-residents) to hunt hogs and coyotes at night. Night vision and thermal are encouraged. 

        Alaska – ILLEGAL; Using a pit, fire, laser sight (excluding rangefinders), electronically-enhanced night vision, any forward looking infrared device, any device that has been airborne, controlled remotely, or communicates wirelessly, and used to spot or locate game with the use of a camera or video device, any camera or other sensory device that can send messages through wireless communication is considered illegal. 

        Arizona – ILLEGAL, Electronic night vision equipment, electronically enhanced light-gathering devices, thermal imaging devices or laser sights projecting a visible light; except for devices such as laser range finders projecting a non-visible light, scopes with self-illuminating reticles, and fiber optic sights with self-illuminating sights or pins that do not project a visible light onto an animal. 

        Arkansas – LEGAL, but only for feral hogs. They can also be used to hunt raccoons if used in conjunction with a hunting dog. 

        California – ILLEGAL, California law considers all night vision or thermal imaging devices for firearms illegal. 

        Colorado – ILLEGAL; It is unlawful for a person to utilize electronic night vision equipment, electronically enhanced light-gathering optics, or thermal imaging devices as an aid in hunting or taking wildlife outside legal hunting hours according to commission rules. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. 

        Connecticut – LEGAL but only from Jan.2 to Jan. 21st for raccoons and possums as well as from Oct. 21st to Dec. 30th 

        Delaware – LEGAL if the device doesn’t cast infrared, it cannot be used in conjunction with a light at night. You can’t use any artificial light when hunting. No predator hunting in the evening because of the use of a light. 

        Florida – LEGAL, generally, subject to local area. No light emission for hogs and coyotes, raccoons, and possums.  

        Georgia – LEGAL; no restrictions 

        Hawaii – ILLEGAL, there is no night hunting in Hawaii. 

        Idaho – LEGAL as long as there is no emitted light. 

        Illinois – LEGAL for the following animals: red fox, gray fox, bobcat, raccoons, opossums, coyote, and striped skunk during the specified season. Night hunting legality may vary depending on whichever region of Illinois you are hunting in. 

        Indiana – LEGAL only if there is a continuously burning light among hunters visible from at least 500 feet away. 

        Iowa – LEGAL; thermal and night vision equipment is allowed if it does not emit visible light. 

        Kansas – LEGAL, night vision equipment permit required. Thermal imaging equipment may be used to hunt coyotes from Jan. 1 through March 31. 

        Kentucky – LEGAL for coyote hunting, but only with shotguns. Even though they may be hunted year-round, thermal and other artificial illumination can only be used from Dec. 1st – May 31st. 

        Louisiana – LEGAL for hogs and coyotes.  

        Maine – LEGAL but only for raccoons and coyotes. Raccoons may only be hunted at night when the hunter uses a dog and a firearm with a caliber greater than .22LR. Coyotes may be hunted at night from Dec. 16th to Aug 31st. Hunters must use a calling device. 

        Maryland – LEGAL, as long as the artificial illumination device does not emit visible light. Coyotes, foxes, opossums, or raccoons may be hunted on foot at nighttime during open season with the use of a dog and light. 

        Massachusetts – LEGAL, as long as there is no emitted visible light. Night hunting is from ½ hour after sunset to midnight. 

        Michigan – LEGAL, can be used during legal nighttime hours to hunt grey fox, red fox, raccoons, opossums, and coyotes.  

        Minnesota – LEGAL, only when hunting fox or coyotes at night during the legal hunting season. For coyotes, this is from January 1 – March 15. Fox season varies by year.  

        Mississippi – LEGAL when hunting coyotes, raccoons, foxes, opossums, beavers, and bobcats on private land. 

        Missouri – LEGAL only for coyote season Feb 1 – to March 31. Artificial light, night vision, IR and thermal. 

        Montana – LEGAL for coyotes and any animal not regulated by fish and wildlife. 

        Nebraska – LEGAL for furbearers and coyotes. 

        Nevada – ILLEGAL; no night hunting allowed in Nevada. 

        New Hampshire – LEGAL with no restrictions 

        New Jersey – LEGAL with no restrictions 

        New Mexico – ILLEGAL; there is no night hunting allowed in New Mexico. 

        New York – LEGAL during legal nighttime hours for the following animals: gray and red fox, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, skunk, mink, and opossums 

        North Carolina – LEGAL, no restrictions. 

        North Dakota – LEGAL for coyotes and foxes. 

        Ohio – LEGAL, during legal hunting hours for fox, hogs, raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, coyotes, weasels and skunks. 

        Oklahoma – LEGAL for coyotes and feral hogs. 

        Oregon – ILLEGAL, all night vision and thermal banned. 

        Pennsylvania – LEGAL, no restrictions. 

        Rhode Island – LEGAL, but only raccoons are huntable at night. There is no rifle use in the state other than .229 and lower for small game only. 

        South Carolina – LEGAL for hunting hogs, coyotes, and armadillos on any registered property. 

        South Dakota – LEGAL, but only on private property. A landowner may have a maximum of two guests with thermal or night vision to hunt jackrabbits, coyotes, beaver, foxes, raccoons, opossums, badgers, skunks, and rodents, but only if they are armed with a shotgun or rifle with a caliber less than .225. 

        Tennessee – ILLEGAL, no night hunting allowed in Tennessee. 

        Texas – LEGAL, no restrictions. 

        Utah – ILLEGAL, trail cameras, night vision and thermal banned. 

        Vermont – LEGAL, since thermal vision does not emit IR light, it is legal. 

        Virginia – LEGAL, when hunting at legal nighttime hours for the following animals: bobcat, coyote, feral hog, fox, opossum, raccoon, and skunk. 

        Washington – LEGAL, only for coyotes outside of deer and elk season. 

        West Virginia – LEGAL, only for coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, and opossum. 

        Wisconsin – LEGAL, only for small game like coyotes, raccoons. 

        Wyoming – LEGAL for shooting predators on public land with written permission. 

        On the Nocturnal Habits of the Feral Pig

        On the Nocturnal Habits of the Feral Pig

        As every southern boy knows, the arrival of feral pigs is both a blessing and a curse. The same animals that destroy over $1.5 billion worth of property and agricultural damage in the US every year give armed citizens a legitimate reason to exercise their Second Amendment on creatures that truly deserve to die. They also make fine eating. 

        The omnivorous diet and size of the feral pig has placed it so high up on the food chain that the only challenges to it are very large predators and red-blooded Americans with guns. There was even an instance where a lone boar was able to fight off an entire pack of wolves by itself. The feral pig’s diet and its lack of natural predators are exactly what make it a problem to farmers and landowners in the rural south. 

        Feral pigs have been ravaging rural Southern states for centuries, and there are now about 6 million wild hogs in the United States and growing. By this logic, there should be roughly six pigs per every square mile of the US South. Of course, hunters aren’t finding feral hogs under every rock and behind every tree. This is because the invasive Eurasian wild boar has learned over the years that the humans they share their home with want to see them dead, and because we want them dead, the pigs were smart enough to live out the majority of their lives at night when we humans aren’t up and about. 

        While wild pigs who live in areas constantly hunted by humans tend to be active mostly at night, similar populations who live far away from busy towns and hunting ranches are bold enough to attack crops, fields, and livestock pens in broad daylight. 

        Since feral pigs eat every shrub, grub, and mushroom that won’t poison them, they tend to dig for eatables under the topsoil. A large sounder can destroy an entire field by digging through the surface with their powerful hooves, exposing the helpful microorganisms that give the soil its nutrition and ruining the soil in the process. This behavior also causes soil erosion, and if it’s done near a water source, rooting can contaminate streams through sedimentation, impacting fish and other aquatic wildlife downstream. 

        Like criminals and teenagers, all of a feral pig’s destruction is done under cover of darkness. Hogs might not have good eyesight, but a particularly alert hog will notice someone shining a flashlight on them or near them. It won’t be because it will notice the color of the light, it’s more to do with the light’s intensity. To a colorblind boar, a bright patch of grass is still a bright patch of grass. This unnatural glowing terrain has the potential to scare away wild pigs, but this is mitigated through green and red lights, since both characters have relatively low brightness. 

        Night vision and thermal, however, are nearly undetectable. A hunter with a good thermal unit can detect heat signatures over a thousand yards away. While a feral hog’s sense of smell has a detection range of 5 to 7 miles and is nothing to sneeze at (pun intended), a competent hunter will make sure he is situated downwind of his prey, and Sightmark’s new thermal scope is perfect for both stand hunting and stalking. 

        The Sightmark Wraith, known for being a quality night vision scope, has crossed over into the world of thermal. The new Wraith Thermal from Sightmark has a detection range of 1440 yards and is offered in a 1024x768 display resolution, capable of giving hunters sharp and clear pictures of feral hogs in complete darkness over long ranges. 

        With its five color palettes, the Wraith Mini Thermal has a camera type for every kind of eye. Aside from the traditional black/white hot palette, the new Wraith Thermal not only offers additional black/white hot thermal for traditionalists, but also has options for several other color palettes. 

        It can also be used to capture the sights and sounds of nature and the thrill of the hunt in glorious thermal with its built-in high-resolution audio/video recording software. With up to 3.5 hours of battery life on video mode and 4.4 hours on preview mode, the Wraith Mini Thermal can be used to capture every moment of a hunter’s adventure. 

        Highly customizable for each user, the Wraith Mini Thermal offers five different weapon profiles with ten different reticle choices. After pushing a few buttons, a Wraith Mini Thermal, zeroed for a Remington 700 with a BDC reticle, can be configured for a Zastava PAP and use a simple duplex reticle. This means hunters can drop hogs with a with different reticle at different zeroed distances with the touch of a button. 

        It should be noted, however, that before attempting to hold back the porcine invasion in your own state, hunters should do their own due diligence and check with their local hunting laws regarding the legality of hunting with night vision or thermal. States like California and Alaska are firmly against this practice, as well as several states in the west. 

        Flat Dark Earth and colored rifles

        Flat Dark Earth and colored rifles

        The sleek, classic black rifle is great for everyday use. Whether it’s used in the swamps of Louisiana, the snowy mountains of Colorado, or the rocky red deserts of Nevada and Utah, everything goes well with black – but it’s not perfect.

        Hunters who find themselves consistently hunting in the prairie or desert may appreciate the value of a rifle in flat dark earth.


        In the desert, black is not a naturally occurring color and the darkest things in a natural environment are typically shadows, shaded areas, or depressions. As depicted in the image above, a black rifle stands out much more than even a solid FDE rifle with no camouflage pattern.

        While deer, hog, and many other huntable animals don’t see color the way we do, they definitely see shades. Even if an animal had black and white or grayscale vision, a black gun would pop much more than one in FDE.

        The acronym stands for Flat Dark Earth. Flat due to its matte non-glossy finish, dark for its shade, and earth for its sand-like color.

        Even in the animal kingdom, the vast majority of mammals with black fur are nocturnal. Diurnal animals – especially prey animals, whose entire survival depends on how well they can hide – are usually tawny, tan, or some variant of brown. There are some exceptions of course, but Creation is generally in agreement that black camo is better suited for nighttime use.

        We humans, who had relied extensively on camouflage during our time as hunter gatherers, largely ignored it when we began fighting each other. For hundreds of years, bright colors and shining armor were the military status quo until someone realized that bright red coats were a liability when someone was trying to shoot you from a hundred yards away.

        Khaki, the direct ancestor of FDE was one of the first “patterns” to be introduced to units in the British Army on a wide scale. 19th century British troops fighting in the sandy wastes of Southern Asia noticed their Indian sepoy auxiliaries purposely staining their light cotton uniforms with sand or tea to blend with their surroundings. It didn’t take long for the entire army to adopt khaki as an official uniform color.

        American troops soon adopted the color for their campaign uniforms in Cuba and the Philippines. Although their blue woolen shirts negated whatever camouflage their khaki pants and hats provided in the jungles of Southeast Asia, US armed forces soon adopted it on a wider scale during World War I.

        Naturally, other militaries around the world soon followed the muted color trend, and by World War 2, every major military in the world had done away with their colorful coats and adopted either khaki, olive drab, or gray for their field uniforms. Rifles were yet to follow suit.

        Decades after the world wars, somewhere in the Rhodesian bush, someone decided it would be a good idea to paint his rifle with leftover aircraft paint to blend better with the grass and shrubs of the savannah. The Rhodesian Army was fighting an irregular war against separatist forces, where ambushes were more common than conventional warfare. Stealth and subterfuge were the order of the day. FALs and G3s were painted in a green and yellow camo scheme frequently described as “baby poop.” While it looked atrocious (hence the name), it proved to be effective in the dry savanna.

        In 1984, four years after the Bush War ended, a company was founded in southern Oregon that would change the world of rifle camouflage forever. Cerakote, a company which started out coating car parts, would soon expand into the firearms industry, but not before two marine snipers would put their heads together to figure out what kind of uniform their brothers in the Corps would wear.

        USMC sniper Sergeant Ken Henley was tasked with helping the Marines develop a new camo to replace the M81 woodland pattern. Not only was it the same pattern the army was using, but it also had too much black and green to be of any practical use in the desert. Initially, the Marines were deciding on a pattern very similar to what the Rhodesians used during the Bush War, but Henley’s partner, another sniper known only as “Gunny H,” stumbled upon a nice flat, dark, earthen color in the paint section of a Home Depot. It was a Ralph Lauren paint with the color code SF11B. This “Coyote” brown had just the right saturation to make it mesh well with either olive drab or tan and went on to become one of the main colors in the Marines’ digital MARPAT camo.

        Coyote brown serves as the base color for the woodland MARPAT camo pattern.

        When the United States went to war against terrorists worldwide, the military anticipated that most of the fighting would occur in the middle east. The green of the Vietnam War and the Cold War era made way for khaki, coyote brown, and flat dark earth.

        As went the military, so went the civilian world. The proliferation of flat dark earth accessories like boots, chest rigs, backpacks, and clothing carried over to the world of firearms. Soon, painting weapons was back in fashion again, and this time Cerakote was available to make sure the finishes looked nice and professional. Flat dark earth was one of the most popular coats for firearms in the late 2010s and remains so to this day.

        Weapon accessory makers also caught on to this trend, with brands like Sightmark producing reflex sights like the Mini Shot and the Ultra Shot as well as powerful red dots like the Wolverine coated in flat dark earth to match customers’ rifles. Sightmark knows that, just like the Americans with their blue jackets and khaki pants at the turn of the 20th century, too much black can negate the benefits of good camo.

        How to Defend your Home: Room Clearing

        In the event of a home invasion, you are your own first responder. Calm can become chaos in seconds, and even the fastest police in the world wouldn’t be able to reach you in the time it would take for you to grab your self-defense firearm and defend your home and your loved ones. 

        Your home is your castle, and a good castle is prepared for a siege. A well-prepared home defender should have an appropriate weapon for close quarters combat and an easy way to access it. Iron sights are impossible to see in the dark, and illuminated sights should be prioritized for nighttime home defense. Shotguns are an excellent choice for room clearing, and in a low-light environment, a red dot like the hardy Sightmark Ultrashot or the long-lasting Wolverine would be excellent for quick target acquisition, but for those who prefer rifles for home defense, a low-powered variable optic (LPVO) like the Sightmark Core 2.0 1-4x24mm is perfect for both-eyes-open shooting and precise fire at short and medium ranges. Its variable illumination allows for low-light vision shooting, while the design of its etched reticle is specifically designed for practical combat applications. 

        It would also be beneficial to mount a flashlight on your weapon. INFORCE makes rugged, powerful rifle-mounted lights with high lumen and candela counts. Perfect for flooding an entire room with just one small light, these INFORCE products are built with home defense in mind. 

        To keep your weapons easy to access, consider storing your weapon(s) in a panel in your headboard. This will keep your firearms within reach and out of the hands of your children. While this might seem like something from out of a James Bond movie, American Concealed Furniture specializes in making concealed panels for your bed or cupboard. This makes your weapons easier and faster to access than they would be in a gun safe with a combination while also giving you peace of mind that your children will never find them. 

        Your priority in the event of a home invasion is to protect your life and the lives of your family members. If you live alone, or if you and your significant other share the same bedroom, there is absolutely no need to exit the room to clear the rest of your house. If your room has a single entry point, it acts as a bunker, and your home insurance should cover the cost of whatever you lose to the burglary, but it won’t be able to bring you back from the dead. 

        If everyone you care about is in the same room as you, access your weapon and aim it at the door. Call the police and let them know there is a suspected burglary at your residence. It is important to let them know you are armed. When you hear them announcing themselves, stow your weapon to avoid being mistaken for the suspect. 

        Standing directly in front of the door would not be the smartest thing to do, since it puts you in the direct line of fire of anyone coming into the room. Instead, huddle in the corner of your room behind cover if you have it.

        defending your room

        Most might think that hunting for the people breaking into your home is the first thing to do, but the only situation where room clearing would be justified is if another person, whether that be your child, parent, or significant other (maybe she wanted you to sleep on the couch for the night) is in another part of the house. Your sole duty would be to find them and defend the room. As tempting as it would be, the objective of home defense is not to seek and destroy the enemy.  

        Home invaders rarely act alone and rely on strength in numbers to overcome their own fear. You have no idea how many of them are in your home, and by looking for them, you may be running headfirst into a fight where you are outnumbered and outgunned. 

        If you do have loved ones in another part of the house, you will have to make your way to them using stealth and caution. Room clearing aside, it’s important not to disregard footwear when you make your way to your objective. Whoever is in your house may have broken your window to gain entry, or smashed a pot looking for hidden cash. Needless to say, lacerating your feet on broken shards of glass is a bad thing. Quiet footwear like flip flops or bathroom slippers is advisable. 

        One of the shocking things about engaging in a real-life firefight is you might experience a phenomenon known as “combat stress reaction.” The sheer stress of your home invasion scenario combined with the grogginess of being roused from your sleep, assuming it’s a nighttime event, will affect your combat effectiveness. Your ability to process information will be severely affected, and you may forget the most basic fundamentals of firearm operation, such as disengaging your safety, reloading, or even that your finger needs to pull the trigger to make the gun go bang. Your fine motor skills may disappear along with any accuracy you may have had when shooting on the range. Both your eyes will be wide open due to your natural fear response, which is another reason why an LPVO like the Core 2.0 1-4x24mm makes a good optic for your rifle. 

        When proceeding down the hallway to rescue your loved one, corners will be your enemy. To ensure that you won’t walk into an ambush, you will have to employ a technique called “slicing the pie.” This involves moving in a quarter circle around a corner, making sure that your barrel never extends beyond the corner’s edge, keeping it hidden from the enemy. 

        clearing corners

        Stay close to the wall, but avoid touching it, as the noise will alert any nearby intruders. Imagine yourself standing on a “slice” of the pie, stepping onto a new “slice” when you’ve made sure that your section is clear. Continue “slicing” until the corner and everything around it is clear of danger. 

        When encountering a target, you will have a split second to identify whether the thing you are shooting at is actually a home invader or the very loved one you are trying to reach. It’s crucial to be aware of your target before you pull the trigger. 

        Doors will be another challenge to you if you are room clearing alone. Since opening one could find you facing down the barrel of a gun, stand behind the door frame instead of the entryway. In the United States, door frames are thick enough to provide cover from small caliber rounds more than the doors themselves or the drywall surrounding them. Turn the door handle quickly, swing the door completely open, and slice the pie through the doorway as fast as you can.

        room clearing in a doorway

        Make sure to step back from the doorway as soon as it’s opened to avoid being seen by potential threats. Once you’ve seen as much as you can, enter the room, going either left or right, into the corner of the room you are entering, never straight into the room. Try to hug the walls, using them as a “road” to guide you through the house, since doing so will provide you with the assurance that you will not be ambushed from whichever side is being protected by the wall. 

        This also applies when ascending stairs. Stick to the walls, with your weapon pointed at what is above you, ascending slowly and silently. Getting caught in a staircase without cover and without a quick escape route is a death sentence. 

        If you want to take this self-defense skill seriously, practice it at home. Know the blind spots in your rooms, think about how a person might enter your house through a window or the backdoor. You don’t even need your weapon to do it. Simply map out the house every time you come back home from work, or every time you head to another room to make a sandwich or watch a game. 

        But always remember, you are not superhuman, and in the event of a home invasion, your purpose is to save lives, not to neutralize every hostile in the house. 

        Using a riflescope with an offset red dot

        Since at least the early 2000s, the red dot and riflescope combo has been popular with tactical teams in law enforcement personnel as well as Tier One operators within the United States military. These elite operators favored this system for its versatility, as well as the several advantages it had over the alternatives: LPVOs and magnifier/optic combos. 

        Over the years, however, the red dot/scope combo has been adopted by civilian shooters and hunters for the same reasons it was favored by the military. While a Tier One operator might appreciate this system’s versatility for quickly transitioning from long-range outdoor engagements to close quarters combat, so can an IPSC shooter, who might need to quickly transition from an outdoor range to an interior shoot-house. Hunters who are on the prowl for their prey can utilize the red dot’s quick target acquisition to find their prey while using the scope’s high magnification to zoom in for a precise, ethical shot. 

        Unlike a magnifier/red dot combo or an LPVO, the red dot/riflescope combo is not limited to the short ranges typical of these other systems. While a good magnifier offers magnification at 3x or 4x at maximum and high magnification LPVO typically goes between 1-6x and 1-8x, a shooter can mount a 1x red dot on a riflescope with a magnification as high as they require. It would not be unheard of for a shooter to mount his red dot on top of a 20x or 50x optic simply for the sake of target identification. The only limitations to this would be the red dot’s weight and style as well as the type of rails in use. 

        It’s not advisable to mount a red dot with a hooded sight on top of a scope, since the extra weight would affect the shooter’s fatigue. Instead, shooters who wish to modify their shooting setup should consider mounting mini or micro reflex sights like the Mini Shot A-Spec M2 or using them as offset or canted sights. This is because the weight of a fully enclosed optic might be bad for the rifle’s ergonomics.  

        To put it in perspective, a hooded red dot like the Wolverine CSR weighs 10.3oz, while a Mini Shot M-Spec M2 Solar, one of the latest red dots from Sightmark, weighs in at only 2.5oz. The resulting weight difference of 7.8oz is equivalent to a little less than a box of 5.56x45mm ammunition. Not only is it lighter, but the shooter gets the benefits of both the red dot and the riflescope, negating the disadvantages of both platforms. 

        The Mini Shot A-Spec M3 Micro is a red dot optic featuring a unique dual dot reticle system. Built for pistols as well as rifles and shotguns, the Mini Shot A-Spec M3 Micro is designed with an RMS-C® footprint for easy mounting on compatible handguns. Powered by a single CR2032 battery, the Mini Shot A-Spec M3 Micro boasts a 100,000 hour battery life as well as a reticle that intelligently changes its brightness level depending on the light level of the surrounding environment. Shooters who value rapid target acquisition will find the Mini Shot A-Spec M3 Micro to be rugged, dependable, and accurate. 

        Since the Mini Shot A-Spec M3 Micro is so small, it makes the perfect optic for mounting on a canted mount or offset sight.

        For hunters, this means quick target acquisition and unlimited eye relief with the red dot. With the red dot’s close quarters dominance, it’s perfect for turkey or raccoon hunting, but not so much for hunting large game at great distances like deer or boar, in which case a riflescope would be more appropriate. However, with this setup, switching to the right optic would be as simple as raising or lowering your cheek or canting the rifle. 

        Thankfully, no gunsmithing or specialized machine work is needed for this type of optic solution. Affordable options for dual-mounting such as picatinny-ready scope rings or canted/offset optic mounts are readily available everywhere from Amazon to Bass Pro Shop. 




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