Night Vision VS Thermal for Hog Hunting

Which type of nigh vision device to choose when talking about hunting worldwide is a very hot topic that needs further discussion. There are many factors when making a choice on what kind of device you are going to pick for your hunting activities.

Can night vision compete with thermal for hog hunting?

Both night vision devices bring their advantages as well as disadvantages – basically it is each hunter’s own preferable choice. Let’s dig deeper into this question to find out about both advantages and disadvantages both of the devices when they are used in hog hunting.

The Detecting Game

First let’s talk about thermal imaging. It detects minute-differences in heat when used for hunting hogs. The thermal night vision device will detect any change in the heat of the surroundings as well as any dug up ground and even animal tracks. The thermal vision devices rely on heat-radiation and do not require any visible natural light to be present to produce an image. So basically animals generate heat and are warmer than their surroundings – in result they get detected by the thermal night vision device and the user of the device gets a clear picture of the animal’s location. For this fact, the detection range is much greater than that of the night vision device, which most hunters would consider a great advantage.

On the other hand, the night vision system has a requirement of at least some natural light – starlight or moonlight. Although there is some kind of natural light available, the viewing and detection distance cannot even get near to that of the thermal vision devices. But what happens if the hunter decides to go out hunting but the night he chose if pitch black, with no sufficient light for a night vision device? Then there is an additional device called an IR illuminator. The IR Illuminator acts as the light provider for the night vision device. It basically works as a flashlight for the night vision device, but is invisible to the naked human eye. Alternately, night vision devices CANNOT be used in bright light as this will damage the intensifier tube, which is the main component of the night vision, and will become useless.

Recognize and Identify

Once the hunter has detected a live animal – to pick that animal as their target, the hunter needs to recognize and identify it successfully. If using a thermal device, images are displayed as black/white or various shades of a color. Various different colors are used to represented specific temperatures. In the thermal device, the more heat the specific object radiates, the brighter the shade of the color that the hunter receives. Taking that into consideration, detecting an object with the thermal vision device can be much faster and easier than the night vision device, but recognizing and identifying it may not work as fast as the hunter expects.

When using night vision, the visible light present bounces off and a detector in the night vision picks it up and this way turns that information into an image of the animal itself – making the detection and recognition range of the night vision superior to that of the thermal vision. The night vision devices are only problematic if the target is camouflaged or stands completely still.

Thermal vision is not inhibited by camouflage or fog since it functions off radiant heat – but on the other hand, thermal vision is greatly handicapped by extreme cold. Extreme winter conditions work almost the same as when trying to use the thermal vision in bright sunlight – the very high/low temperatures in the surroundings confuses the thermal vision greatly, as it relies only on temperature to give the user a picture of his surroundings.


Price is also a very important factor that does not have to be neglected and many hunters take into consideration. While thermal is better for detection, it definitely is much pricier than the night vision. Thermal imaging devices are a much newer technology and cost a lot more to be manufactured. The night vision on the other hand has been around since World War II and is in a much more flexible array of prices and is much more affordable and available to the average citizen.

Many night hunters prefer the thermal devices because for an instance – they can see through crops or fog while they are out hunting.

Taking everything into consideration, the night vision devices can definitely compare to the thermal devices – but for the best performance – every hunter’s better choice would be the thermal vision device.

Durability and price range of both devices.

When talking durability, both types of devices are very durable and reliable. While both devices have vital components that need to be taken care of, they can pretty much withstand .30 caliber recoils, when mounted on a hunting rifle. Comparing both devices to the budget available to the user – the night vision devices would win here. The Night vision has been around for decades and because of that longevity, it’s become available to almost every civilian for a much longer duration compared to the thermal imaging devices and consequently is much more affordable. The thermal imaging is a new technology that was recently made available to civilians after the military released that special tech firstly to car manufacturers. Even though the thermal imaging devices are not crazily-expensive comparing both devices- you can get your hands on a Gen 3-night vision device which has great quality and performance, for the price of a low-end thermal imaging device.

To summarize, why should a hunter chose the thermal vision device over the night vision device?

For a serious job that hunting is, you need to have the most capable and advantageous device available to you. Night vision is great for casual hiking, stargazing or just night nature and wildlife exploring. But when talking about something much more serious and dangerous like hog hunting – your much better and safer bet would be to rely on the thermal vision devices.

The thermal imaging offers far superior detection possibilities over the night vision. When hunting at night, detection is crucial. Despite having a much lower resolution compared to the image intensification technology in the night vision devices, modern thermal vision devices are capable of delivering an extremely detailed image that will give the hunter full information regarding his target and enable him to reliably and consistently detect and distinguish between different animals in a wide spectre of weather conditions and environments. The thermal technology can be used in complete pitch-black darkness, as mentioned, comparing it to the night vision device which needs some ambient light or a supplemental device (the IR – infrared – illuminator) in order to produce ANY kind of image.

To conclude:

All in all, both devices have their ups and downs, their advantages and disadvantages in different scenarios. If you just want to casually explore wildlife, night-time hitchhike or just explore then the night vision device would be your best choice. When talking hunting – the job gets much more serious than just casually walking around in the woods with a night vision device. This is where the thermal imaging devices would show their full potential. Tracking and hunting down that hog you detected would become much easier with a thermal imaging device compared to the Night Vision.

Related Questions

  • What is the best night vision scope for hog hunting? – For hog hunting, the thermal imaging device would be your safer and wiser bet, but if you are looking on buying a device that you can use not only for hunting, then here are the top four devices with the best performance while still staying budget friendly:
    • Armasight Nemesis6x-SD Gen2+
    • Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S Digital Night Vision
    • ATN X-Sight II 5-20x.85mm Smart Day&Night
    • Night Owl Optics NightShot digital Night Vision
  • What’s better thermal or night vision? – To each their own. Both have their advantages as well as disadvantages. Pick what you are going to do mostly with it and then you can personally decide on what device will suit your needs best. After detecting, recognizing and identifying a specific object, it can be harvested as desired. Thermal is best used to detect desired hunting target objects. Night vision is used to only recognize, identify and harvest the target if facial recognition is required or for deer depredation.
  • Can you see IR laser through thermal? – Yes and no. Different lasers have different bands than that of the Infrared Lights. But when talking science, the lasers generally produce thermal radiation which can be detected through the wavelength of the thermal vision device. The wavelength of the IR laser can possibly be detected by the thermal device, while other lasers’ wavelengths cannot.

Leave a Comment