When hunting predators like coyotes, your choice of scope can make a big difference. The coyote is usually difficult to locate at night, but now any hunter can use night vision scopes to bring the odds back in their favor.
A good scope on your AR-15 will allow you to spot, track and kill the target with a highly-accurate shot, even in low light conditions. In this article we look at the factors you should consider when choosing the right scope so that you can be successful in bagging a coyote in your chosen hunting environment and specific conditions.
Quick Take: Best AR-15 Scopes for Coyote Hunting
Here are the 3 best AR scopes for coyote hunting:
- Nikon - P-223 Riflescope
- Leupold - Mark AR™ Mod 1 Riflescopes
- Nightforce Optics 5-20x56 SHV Riflescope
Dealing with Predators
Coyote hunting is popular in Southwest and Midwest states, and people hunt them for multiple reasons. The first reason to hunt coyotes is population control. Coyotes are predators, and in recent years their population has increased, leading to many states issuing specific coyote hunting regulations. This is because they can attack livestock, be vectors for disease and decrease other kinds of game available for hunting.
Since coyote hunt wild animals like turkeys, deer, quail, ducks, and rabbits, they are increasingly coming into competition with human hunters. So, hunting coyotes makes sense as we can eliminate our competition for wild game.
The second reason to hunt coyotes is disease control. Coyotes can harbor diseases like distemper, rabies, trichinosis, and parvo, as well as parasites like mange, lice, fleas, and worms. The diseases they carry can be passed from coyotes to dogs and from dogs to humans.
The third reason for hunting coyotes is for the sheer thrill of the hunt. Coyotes are a notoriously cunning and alert quarry, with an acute sense of smell. Being wary and sensitive to movements that are not quite right in their immediate surroundings, they are a difficult animal to hunt.
Another reason to hunt coyotes is to protect livestock from attack, as they often kill and eat fowl and attack sheep and calves. In 2014, 28% of adult sheep losses and 36 % of lamb losses were attributed to predators. Of those animals, ranchers stated that 33,510 adult sheep (more than half of total predation losses) and 84,519 lambs (nearly two-thirds of all predation losses) were killed by coyotes.
In states where it’s legal to hunt, coyotes usually have a bounty on their heads as they provide valuable pelts.
What to Look for in a Scope
When we talk about the ideal scope for hunting coyotes, keep in mind that you’ll need to tailor your scope to your specific hunting environment and time of hunting. Nighttime hunting will have different requirements from early morning or dusk shooting.
In this article we’re going to focus on scopes that are good for dusk/dawn/daylight and for shorter ranges up to 100 -150 yards. Let’s understand what factors will affect what you should look for in a scope for coyote hunting.
Magnification is a hotly debated topic when it comes to scopes, with some hunters advocating for the “higher the better” mantra and others supporting the medium-to-low magnification power. The best magnification is the one that meets your hunting requirements and style of shooting.
While hunting in the deep woods your farthest shot will be no more than 150 yards, so a 1.5-5x may be all that you need. Or if hunting coyote on the open plains, your shooting range may extend to 450 yards and then you’ll need a scope with at least a 20x-power zoom. So keep in mind the kind of terrain that you’ll be shooting in and what kind of habitats the coyotes in your area like to live in, as well as your average shot distance.
This is the light-gathering lens on the far end of your scope, and when it comes to coyote hunting the bigger the objective lens, the better the low-light ability and the better you can shoot. The last number in the scope’s description tells you the objective size. For example, a scope with the designation of 5.5-22x56mm has a 56mm objective. Simply get the biggest objective you can afford. An objective that is at least 50mm is highly recommended, but keep in mind that the size will affect your sight picture.
There is no need to overcomplicate things by buying a fancy reticle. You should remember your AR-15 is shooting high-velocity rounds that drop very little out to 400 yards.
But memorizing your drop at ranges of 100, 200, and up to 400 yards will allow you to take down any coyote with a simple crosshair reticle. Our recommendation is just a simple crosshairs reticle such as the fine duplex or the wide duplex.
Quick Comparison Chart of the Top Scopes for Coyote Hunting with the AR-15
Nikon - P-223 Riflescope
Vortex Viper PST Gen II 2-10x32mm
Leupold - Mark AR™ Mod 1 Riflescopes
Sightmark - Photon Xt 6.5x50mm Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope
Nightforce Optics 5-20x56 SHV Riflescope
Reviews of Top Scopes for Coyote Hunting with the AR-15
Now that we know what to look for, let’s have a look at some of the scopes that will serve you best when you’re on the hunt for coyotes.
This scope is designed specifically for the AR-15 and is targeted at shooters who don’t need all the high-end features of the more expensive M-223. Because the P-223 scopes are factory-calibrated for 55-grain 5.56mm NATO cartridges, they’ll be very accurate with those out of the box. However, the user can modify the sighting for other cartridges using Nikon’s Spot-On technology.
The coating on the scope is excellent for low-light shooting and the BDC 600 reticle option compensates for bullet drop up to 600 yards.
- Very clear picture sight
- Quick sight acquisition
- Reasonably priced
- Fewer features than more expensive scopes
This Vortex Viper scope offers 2.5-10x magnification and a medium lens diameter of 32 mm. It is a lightweight scope machined from a single block of aircraft grade aluminum.
The FOV is 47 - 10.9ft (100 yards) and the lenses are coated to allow excellent light transmission, making it ideal for low light conditions. Adjustments in the field are quick and easy with tactical-style turrets that are easy to read and adjust. It has an EBR-4 reticle.
- Great for night hunting or low light
- Packed with features
- Fogproof, shockproof, waterproof
- Scope covers not rugged enough
The Mark AR Mod 1 uses a blend of argon/krypton gas for eliminating thermal shock, allowing you to aim for the target better. It comes in various magnifications, ranging from 1.5X4 to 6X18. The multiple coatings on the lens provide a clear, bright image.
Some models come with the green reticle that can be illuminated with the push of a button and They feature six intensity levels and automatically deactivate after five minutes of inactivity to conserve the battery. The elevation dial compensates for bullet-drop factory-calibrated to 55-grain .223/5.56 ballistics.
- Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof.
- Easy to sight-in
- Does not come with scope covers
The Photon Xt has 6.5x magnification, a large 50mm objective lens and 640x480 resolution that allows optimal brightness and vivid detailing at up to 200 yards. This scope comes with a kit and is ready to mount up with rings, so setup is quick and easy.
With this scope, you can easily shoot out to an AR-15’s maximum effective range. A few extra features like a built-in laser designator allow you to see where you are pointing your muzzle when you look through the scope.
The Photon Xt features six red/green/white digital reticle options for a vast range of long-distance applications as well as offering the ability to capture everything seen through the video output feature. The device also utilizes a digital windage and elevation adjustment system for guaranteed precision.
- High magnification
- Six different reticles
Nightforce SHV 5-20×56 comes with a 5x to 20x magnification range, 56mm objective lens diameter, and reticles located in the Second Focal Plane (SFP).
This scope is particularly useful for long-range hunters and shooters because they can use it for observation for long hours over a vast plane. The field of view of this scope is wide, right from 17.9 feet to 5 feet per 100 yards.
- You can make large adjustments in both windage and elevation, making it easier to take long-range shots.
- Optimized for use in low-light conditions and has great resolution.
- The fast-focus eyepiece helps in easy and quick diopter adjustment.
- The MOAR reticle is very simple to use.
When choosing the best scope for your AR-15, you need to know the habits of the coyotes in the locality where you plan to hunt. If you expect to hunt in low light conditions with shot ranges of 100 to 200 yards, choose a scope that medium magnification and the right coating for low light.
The reticle and objective lens size will also determine the best scope for your desired conditions. You may be able to go for a less expensive scope that gives the desired results and save yourself a ton of money if you don’t need the fancy features in high-end scopes.