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Coyote hunting is a different proposition from hunting big game, and since it happens at a different time of year, avid hunters can challenge themselves with both options.
Hunting coyotes does not require a big cartridge, and in most situations, a .223 or 5.56 is the right amount of velocity and stopping power. This makes an AR-15 variant a viable option for a lot of coyote hunts.
Coyote hunting can happen at long distances of several hundred yards, but often shots are at 100 yards or less. This can make buying the right optic tricky, since it can depend a lot on what part of the country and in what area you’re hunting in, but in these reviews, we’ll cover the eight best scopes for using an AR-15 to hunt coyotes in 2021.
|Best Overall||Vortex Optics Crossfire II Riflescopes||
|Best Value||CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope||
|Premium Choice||Athlon Optics Argos BTR Gen2||
|Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope||
|MidTen 4-12x50 Dual Illuminated Scope||
Experienced hunters are probably not surprised to see a Vortex at the top of the list of best AR-15 scopes for hunting. Vortex makes scopes from as little as a couple of hundred dollars all the way up to a few thousand dollars, and they have a habit of letting the technology from their advanced scopes trickle down to the more budget options like the Crossfire II.
You can choose a magnification range of either 4-12x or 6-18x, and for hunting coyotes, the 4-12x is probably the better choice. The 12x maximum is enough and the 4x is wide enough to take closer shots. You can choose between either the Dead-Hold BDC reticle, which adds three dots underneath and to the right and left of the center and helps with estimating holdovers, or the V-Brite Illuminated, which just gives you an illuminated red dot in the middle of a duplex.
The optics are bright, clear, and sharp, and the scope is durable enough to handle the winter elements. The scope also comes with an adjustable objective for parallax, so if you’re surprised when a coyote shows up closer or further than you expected, you can still quickly get your reticle lined up.
The CVLife almost seems too good to be true. You get a 6-24x magnification with an illuminated reticle and parallax adjustment all for a tiny price. There are definitely reasons why this scope is not the best overall, though. First is the image quality. Light transmission is fairly good for the price, but especially as you add more magnification power, the image gets very dark.
This may not be a problem in direct sunlight with snow all around, but as soon as thick clouds roll in or the shadows start to get long, the image quickly gets too dark for confident use.
The second is durability and strength. It’s made of tough aluminum and it’s waterproof, fog-proof, and shockproof, but it doesn’t hold up as long or as well in extreme conditions as a more expensive scope like the Vortex would. It has a great rangefinder reticle and is overall the best AR-15 scope for coyote hunting for the money.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more on your scope, then there are a few features that are nice to have when hunting coyotes: a first focal plane reticle, parallax adjustment, and a Christmas tree reticle. A first focal plane keeps the markings on the scope accurate at all levels of magnification, which makes the scope much more usable throughout the magnification range.
Parallax adjustment can stop the reticle from moving off your target even if your eye moves, and the Christmas tree reticle gives you the ability to quickly compensate for both windage and bullet drop (or elevation) without having to mess with the turrets.
All these features require practice to take full advantage of, so if you’re not planning on spending much time with your scope, you may not want to bother investing in the Argos BTR, but if you’re serious about coyote hunting, then this is a great choice. It only comes in a 6-24x flavor, so if you want something a little less powerful that can be a good reason not to choose this scope.
A lot of coyote hunting happens at close range, especially in wooded areas with lots of cover. In cases like that, a scope with a massive range like the Athlon would be more of a hindrance than a help, and something as simple as a red dot sight might be the right choice. Red dots are a category all their own, and we could do a list of more than eight red dots that would be great for coyote hunting, but the Bushnell offers a lot of functionality at a reasonable price.
The dot is 3 MOA and has 11 brightness settings, which is handy in wintertime when a 2 MOA dot can be hard to see and you may have to crank the brightness all the way up. There’s no magnification here, but that gives you the ability to shoot with both eyes open and acquire your target much faster than any other option on this list.
If you’re shooting out past 50 yards or so, then a coyote might present too small of a target for the Bushnell, but if you’re doing close-range shooting, it’s a good bet.
The MidTen is one of two combo scopes we’re including on this list. What makes this type of scope great for coyote hunting is that it gives you options. It has a 4-12x scope, a red dot on top, and a laser sight on the side. The nice thing about this is that you have the ultimate in flexibility: a red dot for close range, a scope for mid to long-range, and a laser sight for extreme low light and fast target acquisition.
Here’s the thing about these combo scopes: you get 3 for the price of 1 (or less than 1), and you cannot expect the image quality and durability to hold up to a much more expensive scope. In addition to that, the MidTen will add around 3 pounds to the weight of your rifle, and each sight has to be zeroed in on their own and practiced on their own as well.
Since we’re talking about putting a scope on an AR-15 variant, the recoil shouldn’t be a threat to the MidTen and it should be able to handle a lot of situations you throw at it just fine.
The HIRAM is similar in principle to the MidTen, but it is a bit more expensive and adds a flashlight to the whole rig, which adds even more weight. The magnification on the main scope is also 4-16x, which gives you more on the long end, and you get parallax adjustment on the scope.
The HIRAM runs into a lot of the same issues as the MidTen; it’s pretty heavy, and the quality of each of the individual components is a little lacking. The mount for the laser sight is a little stronger and shouldn’t run into as many issues getting knocked off zero, but the scope is noticeably more expensive and the only real extra is the flashlight.
The scope is waterproof and fog-proof, with nitrogen purging, and comes with a mount for Picatinny/Weaver rails, which most AR variants will already have on the top.
If you want to put your money into something more specialized, then the Monstrum 2-7x can be something you may want to look at. It’s got parallax adjustment, illumination, and a throw lever on the mag ring, but there are a couple of issues that make this a scope that may not work perfectly for you. First is the 2-7x magnification. It’s just not high enough to hit a small target out further than roughly 200 yards unless you’re quite the sharpshooter.
The reticle has a rangefinder and illumination to use in low light situations, the turrets are capped, finger-adjustable, and can reset to zero, and overall it’s a tough, rugged scope. Where the scope begins to disappoint is the image quality. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not particularly bright or sharp compared to more expensive options like the Vortex or the Athlon.
If you’re comfortable with the lower magnification and the image quality, then the Monstrum can be a great choice.
Here’s the good about the Edenberg: it’s designed specifically for low-light and has a wide field of view, which makes it particularly good for coyote hunting. It comes with flip-up caps, and a flexible 3-9x magnification, which may or may not be enough depending on where you’re hunting. The scope is affordable and the image quality you get for the price is impressive.
Now for the bad. It’s missing a lot of nice features like illumination, zero-stop turrets, and parallax adjustment, but the real issue is that it may not hold up very well to extreme temperatures and rough conditions. Considering winter is the best time for hunting coyotes and you’ll be up and moving every 20-30 minutes, you need a scope that is rugged enough to withstand the conditions.
If you’re willing to baby it a little bit, then it is impossible to find similar image quality in this price range.
If you’re experienced at hunting big game and are breaking into the world of coyote hunting, there are some differences that can affect the scope you choose to hunt with.
There are a lot of implications of this. In terms of optics, this means that you may need more magnification than you’re used to in order to properly see the coyote at a long distance. It also means that you can hunt coyotes with a smaller caliber, which means you may not need a scope that’s rated for higher recoil.
This can be a handy way to save money, but you still want to be careful not to purchase a scope that’s only going to last one season.
As opposed to deer hunting where you set up your site and stick around for an entire morning or afternoon, you may move spots every 20-30 minutes when hunting coyotes. Each time, you’ve got to heft up your rifle as quietly as possible and sneak to a new spot that may be a quarter of a mile away. This means that extra pounds can make a big difference throughout the hunt.
If you’re able to save a pound or even a half a pound by choosing a specific scope, that can be the right choice if you intend to be hunting coyotes for full days.
This can mean white camouflage, warmer clothes, shooting with gloves on, and sometimes blindingly bright landscapes. All of this plays into what scope you want for your hunt. The best hunting hours are similar to deer, with dusk and dawn being the best times, but as the weather gets colder, coyotes tend to be out more during the day as well.
All this means that you actually don’t need a scope with killer low light performance as much as you do when hunting big game. Even at night-time, the snow will reflect more of the moonlight and starlight, which keeps everything brighter. The difference may be small, but you may not need that extra 1% of light transmission that a more expensive scope offers you when you’re hunting coyotes.
If possible, try to find a way to shoot with the model of scope you’re considering before you purchase it. That’s the only way to know for sure if the image quality is what you want it to be, the eye relief is comfortable for you, and overall if it’s a good solution for you. If you’re not able to get one in your hands to test out, you can always look online for videos of the scope being used.
An online video won’t show the image quality as clearly as having it in your hand, but you can still compare between the scopes you have used and the one you are considering.
Magnification is important, but more magnification will not magically make you a better shooter. The only thing magnification does is allow you to see your target clearly enough to hit it. If you buy a scope with more magnification than you need and it has a second focal plane reticle, you may find that it’s more difficult to use than a scope with the right amount of magnification.
Other features only matter as much as you want them to matter. Parallax adjustment is nice, but as long as you have a consistent cheek weld and good shooting form, then it shouldn’t be necessary for hunting. Having turrets that reset to zero after being sighted in can be great so that when you adjust for a specific shot you don’t have to remember how many clicks you traveled and can just take it back to zero.
If you just use the reticle to estimate those holdovers, though, then you may never find yourself appreciating the zero-reset on the turrets. The same is true for reticle illumination; if you never shoot in conditions where you use the illumination, then you paid for something you may not have needed.
As a general rule, it’s best to prioritize durability and image quality over features like those, although in the best world you could just buy a scope that has everything, right?
Hopefully, these reviews were helpful as you look for the right scope for your AR-15 for hunting coyotes. Hunting coyotes can take place from as close as 50 yards and as far away as 500 yards, so narrowing down the best scope for every situation is impossible. Our choice for the best overall is the Vortex Crossfire II since it has the right magnification for most situations and everything else about it is high-quality.
Our choice for the best AR-15 scope for coyote hunting on a budget is the CVLife 6-24×50CVLife 6-24×50 because it offers an incredible feature set and passable image quality at a price point that’s hard to beat. We’ve included a number of other scopes that we feel could be the right fit in different situations. Even if you find a different scope is better for you, we hope that this article was helpful in pointing you in the right direction.
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Featured Image Credit: meketrefe, Pixabay
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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