Friday Night Lights: ATN ThOR4 Hog Hunt

    Back in the summer of 2019, I reviewed the ATN Corp ThOR4 thermal scope. I tested and evaluated the ThOR4 from behind a bench, not so much as a hunter. Well, an opportunity arose to further test the ThOR4 but in a more practical scenario, such as hog hunting. I will admit I was not overly impressed with the ThOR4 the first time I reviewed it. However, Adam S. and I went on an ATN ThOR4 hog hunt down in South Texas at Mellon Creek Outfitters and the experience changed my mind about the ThOR4.

    Adam S. & Nicholas C.

    First Legitimate Thermal Hunt

    While I have plenty of time behind night vision and thermal systems, I have only been on a couple of impromptu hunts/pest eradication. Only one of those had any animals show up and we all missed it before it ran off. This time I got a lot more opportunities during our ATN ThOR4 hog hunt to detect, recognize and identify potential targets.

    I had brought along my personal thermal and night vision devices so I could compare them to the ATN products but also use them for the hunts and get more real-world use with them. I brought along my Jerry-C thermal clip-on for my NODs, and my AGM Micro TM384 thermal monocular to help record video and to help spot for game. Back during a failed coyote hunt last year, I learned very quickly that I was not a fan of glassing for the game with a rifle-mounted thermal optic. It was heavy and cumbersome, especially on a tripod. It is much easier to spot for game with a handheld thermal monocular. Mellon Creek Outfitters had their resident hunting guides available to us. Our guide, Cody, would help drive us and spot for game at the same time. We lent him my AGM Micro the first night and then the ATN OTS the second night.

    While the AGM works well, Cody preferred the ATN OTS-LT. The problem is Cody has to stick his head out of his driver’s side window of the truck to spot for hogs. Thermal devices cannot see through traditional windows. So he has to slowly drive the truck while helping to look for hogs. Meanwhile, Adam S. sat shotgun in the truck and stuck his head out the window glassing the entire time through the ATN ThOR4. It got tiring fast. You have to contort your body to position the Springfield Saint Victor and get behind the ThOR4 to look for game.

    ATN ThOR4 hog hunt

    Adam S. scanning for game with the  ATN ThOR4 hog hunt out of the passenger window.

    On the first night, we found a very good workflow. Cody would help spot with the thermal handheld monocular. He would detect potential game with the thermal monoculars however they have limitations in recognition and identification so he would call out to either me or Adam. Adam positioned himself to look out the right side of the truck and I rode in the rear seat behind Cody to help look out the left.

    The ATN ThOR4 worked rather well to help identify targets beyond the capabilities of the OTS-LT, my AGM Micro or my thermal fusion night vision goggles. I would scan for targets using my thermal fusion enhanced night vision goggles. Detection was great but I could only positively ID targets at about 50 yards realistically with the thermal clip-on Jerry-C. The bigger the animal the further I could ID them, like cows could be seen 100+ yards away.  Sometimes I could shine an IR illuminator at them then I could ID the targets at further distances. But it was just easier to flip the goggles up and get behind the ATN ThOR4 to further investigate what I was looking at earlier with the Jerry-C. Often times it would be a cow or deer lying down in a field.

    Springfield SAINT Victor ATN ThOR4 Hog Hunt

    The Springfield SAINT Victors were chambered in .308 Winchester. They felt a little bit long with 16″ barrels and I wish I had brought down my SAINT Victor pistol and ran the ThOR4 on that instead. It would have made getting in and out of the truck easier.

    We sighted the ATN ThOR4 using their one shot zero but we learned that there seems to be a POA/POI shift when we change the digital magnification. Since we did not expect to shoot game past 100 yards, I told Adam to keep his ATN ThOR4 at 4x and only use the higher magnification ranges for observing or getting a positive ID on a potential target.

    It surprised me how many rounds the hogs could soak up before going down. We were able to document our ATN ThOR4 hog hunt using the onboard recording feature of the ThOR4. We were able to rewatch our shots which were saved as video files. Here is a montage of the things we saw and shoot at.

    On the first night, we only manage to get one hog. On the second night, we got four hogs. Here is a video of the two we shot at the same spot. I used my thermal fusion Jerry-C to find the second hog carcass. Fortunately, it did not make it very far into the brush so we were able to retrieve it. On the third night, we shot at hogs on two separate occasions and the hogs escaped into the brush. We thought we got them but I was unable to detect them through the brush.

    ATN ThOR4 Hog Hunt AAR

    Ryan, me, & Adam after we got our second and third hog the second night.

    The ATN ThoR4 hog hunt was a lot of fun for me as I got to finally utilize thermal weapon sights in a more practical activity. Having thermal handheld devices, like the OTS-LT or in my case a thermal clip-on was great for scanning game. Then use the ThOR4 to see further and identify the target before deciding to pursue it further.

    We were able to stretch out the ATN ThOR4 a little bit on the Springfield Saint Victor at the shooting tower on site after we zeroed the ThOR4. It was extremely windy over 20 mph and I managed two hits at 200 yards on steel with the ThOR4. While 200 yards is not far for the Saint Victor, it was a challenge seeing the steel on a windy day.

    The nights we were hunting were with zero moonlight. There was some starlight but it still made it difficult to look for hogs at night. Often I would need to use a powerful infrared illuminator like the Modlite IR head or the MAWL-C1+ on another gun I brought down for the ATN ThOR4 hog hunt. It did help lighting up the animals and seeing their eyes reflecting the light. However, it was only after we detected a possible target using our respective thermal devices. Often the target was beyond my ability to see that far with night vision. Positive ID distance for a person is only 170 yards according to Don Edwards of Greenline Tactical. So it makes sense trying to ID a coyote or hog past 200 yards will be difficult, to say the least using just night vision.

    There were some minor issues with the ThOR4. On the second night, my thermal scope sort of froze up. The scope stopped responding to input from the buttons. I didn’t know how to do force a reset but at least the scope still functioned as an aiming device and it still showed me heat signatures. Adam S. somehow didn’t charge up his ThOR4 that much so he started with only a quarter battery. The USB cable is a very tight fit so if it is not all the way in, it doesn’t charge. His scope did last the entire night but the battery was so low he was unable to record video when it counted. The OTS-LT was great for the guide but sadly it does not record any video so I cannot share with you what the image it produces looks like. All said and done, we were able to get 5 hogs and one coyote. There were at least a couple more hogs that I am sure we tagged but they managed to run off to die in the brush. For more information check out ATN’s website.

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    Nicholas C

    Steadicam Gun Operator
    Night Vision & Thermal Aficionado
    Flashlight/Laser Enthusiast
    USPSA competitor

    Any questions please email him at [email protected]