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Author: Mike Schoby
Predator calling with night vision optics is not only productive - it's a lot of fun.
I have called predators for the better part of 20 years, but almost always in daylight. It wasn't until several years ago, that I started calling them at night. The cover of darkness adds another level to this already challenging sport. On the plus side, predators are abundant at night and readily come to the call, but the obvious downside is they are hard to see. I have experimented with various spotlight, and gun mounted lights, and while they do work well under most situation, you have to lug around a bunch of battery packs and the occasional coyote will spook from the telltale glare of an uncovered light. When night vision optics first entered the market at an affordable price, I rushed out and bought one with preconceived notions of how well it would work for predators. To my dismay this inexpensive, first generation night vision wasn't very good. It didn't gather enough light, the image was very grainy and it required constant focusing to be able to see anything at all.
The scope's reticle is a red illuminated crosshair with vertical holdover points and is adjustable for intensity with an easy to adjust knob located on the right hand side of the scope. The windage and elevation dials are finger-adjustable, but were stiff enough on the test model I reviewed to necessitate a coin or a small screwdriver. Once adjusted however, the scope did not shift point-of-aim during any of the testing which equaled a hundred shots and many miles on foot and in a vehicle over rough roads.
Taking The ATN Afield
The first night I took the ATN afield, it was a dark, cloudy night with no moon or stars visible, so I was a bit skeptical as to how the night scope would perform, as they do need some ambient light to perform well. The first time I shouldered the gun and pressed my eye to the shock-absorbing rubber eyecup of the scope, the field in front of me was lit up like a football field on homecoming night. I could easily shoot a coyote out to 100 yards and could see one approaching past 200 yards. The picture was crystal-clear and precise aiming wouldn't be a problem as the red crosshairs showed up well on the green background. I made two stands, but no coyotes made an appearance.
The next night I took the ATN out again; it was a typical Nebraska night that makes Montana want to reconsider their state slogan - Nebraska truly is Big Sky Country- the moon was full and every star was shining bright. I sat down, started calling and turned on the scope. When I first looked through it, the previous night's "great" performance paled by comparison. I could spot a coyote out to 500 yards and could easily shoot to 200 yards - more than far enough for any predator-calling situation.
After two stands I picked up movement out past 300 yards. Within seconds, the movement grew into a clearly defined coyote running towards my position. By the time the coyote got to 100 yards he was in focus and crystal-clear. At 75 yards I barked once with my Zepp 1080 open reed call and the coyote stopped in his tracks. The red crosshairs hovered on the chest and I squeezed the trigger. A momentary muzzle flash was visible through the scope then was gone - in its wake, lay a dead coyote.
In addition to making a great line of night vision Optics, ATN also pioneered IR illuminator devices for aiding in low and no-light situations. I tested the integrated IR illuminator on top of the Crusader and the results were likewise incredible. The illuminator acts like an invisible spot light out to roughly 150 yards, lighting up everything for crystal-clear aiming and precise shot placement.
After testing the ATN 7900 Crusader, I was glad I didn't let my previous poor experience with night vision cloud my judgment. There is a big difference between professional night vision devices like the ATN line of products and devices that merely allow one to "kind of" see in the dark. The 7900 Crusader elevates the sport of night predator calling and puts the hunter and predator on even terms. You can bet I won't be heading afield this winter without an ATN on my rifle.
Click this link for more information or to purchase Nightvision.