While most hunters take whatever opportunities they can to hunt during the day, night hunting is becoming increasingly popular. While hunting at night makes use of many of the skills that hunters use during the day, it also requires a different mindset and different technology. What you’re allowed to hunt at night is also different than what you are allowed to hunt during the day. In most states, night hunting of big-game is not permitted. Instead, you will hunt for animals like coyotes, bobcats or feral hogs.
With the right guide — especially during your first nighttime trip — and the right technology, however, nighttime hunting can be challenging, fun and exciting.
If you are thinking about going hunting at night, there are some hunting and safety tips you’ll need to keep in mind.
Tips for A Successful Hunt
You won’t always find what you want on every hunt, particularly at night, but here are a few tips that will help you enjoy a more successful hunt.
1. Hunting Restrictions
Hunting for larger game such as deer and elk at night is generally restricted across the United States. One state official in Minnesota told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that allowing big-game hunting at night “would be a disaster.”
“If you flooded the fields and woods with a half-million deer hunters at night, Lord knows what would happen,” he remarked. Officials also expressed concern that allowing big-game hunting at night would make it more difficult to control the deer population.
So check with your state’ s Department of Fish and Game to learn about what animals are legal to hunt at night and what technology you can use. Some states don’t allow any nighttime hunting or only permit the use of certain kinds of lights during certain periods of the year. The last thing you want to do is to get into legal trouble with wildlife authorities. Do your homework and make sure you know what’s legal.
What’s true for having a successful business in the urban world is also true for having a successful hunt in the rural one. The location you choose for nighttime hunting is critical. Many animals have better eyesight at night than they do during the day. So you need to find a spot where you will not be seen.
If you’re planning on hunting in an unfamiliar area, talk to people who know the lay of the land or live nearby. They will know a great deal about the best places to look for game and the routes of animals. Scout your locations during the day. This will make it much easier for you when you come in at night because you’ll be aware of any possible footfalls or ditches. Also, it’s not a bad idea to scout two or three locations at the same time. If you don’t attract any game in one location, after an hour or so, you can move to a new one.
Look for an elevated location that presents you with a good view of everything around you. You’ll spot any approaching game more easily. If you’re hunting in cleared fields, for example, find a location that overlooks the field but is covered on the backside by a wooded area. When you’re in the woods with friends or a group, sit close to each other. This will ensure better communication since vision is limited at night.
Speaking of groups, if you’re going night hunting with a group of friends and this is your first time, make sure you talk to each other about what you’re about to do and where you’re going to be located before you go into the woods. Hunting accidents happen in broad daylight, so imagine how much more important it is to know the exact location of other hunters in your party at night.
Lighting for nighttime hunting has come a long way over the years. The host of a weekly hunting radio show in East Texas is fond of telling his listeners how he would carry two car batteries into the woods when he went nighttime hunting when he was young. He would then hook the batteries up to a string of Christmas lights to illuminate the area so he could see the animals when they got close. Later, he and his friends would put red cellophane over their lights once they determined that it scared the animals away less often.
Never use a white light when hunting. It will spook potential game such as coyotes, bobcats or foxes, and they will never come close enough for you to take a clear kill shot. Instead look for a red lens that reduces the brightness of the light. This dim red glow is perfect for illuminating an animal’s eyes. Even so, never shine it directly at the game but always a little bit above and then slowly lower the light to illuminate the area.
Hunters tend to prefer either a light mounted on the gun or a head torch you can attach your hat. If you attach a red or green filter, it means that you won’t need to pick up your gun every time game approaches.
If you’re hunting feral hogs, one trick is to place a red light under the feeder filled with something like corn or acorns. Hogs have poor eyesight as it is, and when they come in to eat, they are much less wary of the red light.
Hunters with deep pockets can also afford to use tools like night observant devices (NODs), image intensifiers (i2), digital scopes or thermal imaging. You don’t need this technology, however, to have a successful hunt.
4. Digital Calls vs. Mouth Calls
Most people are familiar with the devices that hunters use to mimic ducks, but a variety of mouth call devices exist to attract many different creatures to your area. Experienced hunters tend to prefer mouth calls over digital calls because they appreciate the skill and practice that it takes to find just the right call. Newer hunters or hunters who only hunt infrequently, however, may prefer the digital calls.
If you plan on hunting regularly, learning how to use multiple calls is your best bet not only because they give you a truer sound but also because they are much easier to carry into the woods.
5. Feral Hog Hunting
For many hunters, nighttime hunting means feral hog hunting. This is especially true in the southeastern United States where many consider hogs annoying pests and are concerned about the overpopulation of these animals. Many states do not require a hunting license to hunt feral hogs and encourage hunters to seek them out. Why hunt them at night? Hogs, it turns out, learn quickly and they have shifted their feeding patterns so that they are more nocturnal.
We’ve already spoken about the importance of using a feeder. Hogs can smell food left in a feeder from five to seven miles away. The best bait to use in a feeder is corn, fruits and nuts or acorns.
Regulations about hunting hogs can vary greatly from state to state. Check with your fish and game department to know whether hog hunting at night is legal and if you can use artificial light. States that allow you to use artificial lighting while hog hunting at night include:
- North Carolina
As much as you might like to fantasize about reaching your location and five minutes later being able to make a kill, the chances are you’re going to have to wait a while. Continue to scan the area for any possible movement. If you can afford it, using something like a monocle viewer with thermal will give you a very clear picture of the area. Use your calls every three to five minutes.
If you’ve been in a location for 45 minutes to an hour without sighting any game, it’s probably a good idea to move to another spot.
7. Think Ahead and Be Safe
Most animals prefer to run away from humans, but there are times when they may attack if they feel threatened. For instance, a wounded feral hog or a mother with piglets can be quite aggressive. With their sharp tasks and quick reflexes, they could administer a deep wound.
That’s why it makes sense to investigate your surroundings before you hunt at night so that you can retreat safely if necessary. If a feral hog or a pack of coyotes seems a little too menacing, the best thing is to either move to a new location or save hunting for another night.
Tips for a Safe Hunting Trip
If you’re going to have a successful hunting trip, you need to have a safe hunting trip. Many accidents happen in the woods because of a lack of attention or preparation. And while the possibilities for hunting accident are high during the day when safety precautions are taken, it can be even more dangerous at night.
So here are just a few things that you can do to make sure your trip is a successful and safe one:
1. Always Assume Your Firearm Is Loaded
You should always treat every gun as if it is loaded. Hunters can sometimes forget to check before they head into the woods and not remember that they left the gun loaded the last time they used it. If someone else used the gun last, they might have left it loaded. Never assume.
Even before you go into the woods, always check to make sure your gun is not loaded before you clean it to avoid any possible accident.
2. Never Point a Gun at Anything You Don’t Plan to Shoot
Many gun accidents happen at home or in the woods because a person jokingly points a gun at someone thinking that it’s not loaded, but it is. Never point your gun at any target other than the one you plan to shoot.
3. Keep Your Finger Away From That Trigger
Never walk around in the woods with your finger on the trigger. Sometimes people think they can get off a shot faster if they’re always ready to shoot. Accidents, however, are much more likely to happen when someone constantly keeps their finger on the trigger.
This is especially true when hunting at night. If you’re traveling into the woods at night for a hunt, make sure you take the time to talk to each other about where you will be located. This is why it’s a good idea to scout out locations the day before in the daylight.
4. Clearly Identify Your Target Before You Shoot
Even if you’re hunting at night with nightvision or thermal devices, you can sometimes mistake a cow or a deer in the dark for a larger animal like a hog. If you want to stay out of trouble with local farmers and local law enforcement, make sure you know what you’re shooting before you use your firearm.
5. If Your Gun Misfires or Hangfires, Treat It With Extreme Caution
A misfire is when a firing pin strikes the cartridge, and nothing happens. A hangfire is when there is a delay between when the pin strikes the cartridge and when the gun fires. The latter is a much more dangerous situation. Always assume every misfire is a hangfire.
Do not open or unload your firearm as this could ignite the cartridge, which could damage the gun and severely injure you or someone else. Instead, point the firearm in a safe direction for about a minute with a gun using a modern cartridge and probably about two minutes for a muzzleloader. This is more than enough time for a hangfire to discharge. If nothing happens after this time, then you have a misfire. In that case, you should unload your firearm and inspect the faulty cartridge. The problem can either be that you have a weak firing pin or bad ammunition.
6. Never Jump Across a Ditch or Climb a Fence With a Loaded Gun
As we mentioned above, always assume your gun is loaded. If your gun is loaded because you are close to where you are going to hunt, be extremely careful about possible footfalls or obstacles you need to cross before you reach your location. The answer is to wait to load your gun until you are safely situated in your blind or any place you will use for hunting.
7. Dress for Success
What works in the business world also works in the hunting world. Make sure you know what the weather is going to be ahead of time. Temperatures can plunge at night even the southeast. If you’re hunting in colder climes at night, hypothermia is a risk, especially if the conditions are also wet. Dress in appropriate warm layers and never wear cotton close to your skin since it retains moisture. Before you leave home for the hunt, always check the weather one more time so you won’t get caught off guard.
8. If Possible, Take a GPS Device With You
If you are a new hunter or hunting in unfamiliar surroundings at night, there’s always the chance of losing your way. While smartphones often contain GPS devices, cell phone coverage can be spotty in rural or mountainous locations. It’s better to invest in a separate GPS device. While once quite expensive, these location finding devices have fallen in price, making them much more affordable for hunters on a budget.
9. Always Carry a Small First-Aid Kit
Think like a Boy Scout — always be prepared. The last thing you want to do is have your hunt spoiled because you cut yourself on a branch or fall and gouge yourself. Your first aid kit should include bandages and antiseptic.
10. Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Before you leave home to go hunting, tell someone where you’re going hunting and when you plan to return home or to a camp location. It’s also a good idea to notify other members of your party that you are changing locations during a hunt so that they are aware of your presence when targeting game.
11. Make Sure You Have the Proper Lighting to Get Into the Woods at Night
Even on a moonlit night, it’s hard to find your way around in the dark. If that’s true in an urban setting, imagine how much more difficult it will be in a forest. Even if you scouted the location during the day, you could still trip over a root or twist your ankle stepping in a depression. You need a good light to be able to get into your location.
Panther Vision’s POWERCAP LED lighted hats are the ideal answer. When you use a POWERCAP, your hands are free to safely carry your gun which means you’ll be much less likely to suffer an accident because you dropped your weapon and it accidentally discharged.
Better yet, Panther Vision makes POWERCAP available in a variety of styles. In the summer, the POWERCAP baseball style cap is perfect, but if you prefer to hunt in the winter, the POWERCAP comes in a variety of styles that will keep your head and ears warm while still providing great illumination.
You could also use Panther Vision’s LIGHTSPECS, a pair of reading glasses that use concealed LED technology to provide superior illumination.
If you’re looking for a flashlight that you can use to provide more pinpoint illumination, either in a hunting blind or perhaps at a campsite, you want to try Panther Vision’s FLATEYE UNROUND flashlight. Its flatter, pistol-style grip makes it much easier to carry in your hand and fit in the back pocket. Its design means that the LED lights have greater power. While regular flashlights use screw-on tops or bottoms, the FLATEYE includes plugs and sealed switches which means that it can withstand up to 30 minutes in 3 feet of water. Ideal for hunting and the wet conditions that hunters often face.
Let Panther Vision Help You Find Quality LED Lighting to Use While You Hunt
Panther Vision started as a project in our founder’s garage a decade ago. Since that time, our company has worked hard to provide you with the very best in high quality LED lighting. If you’re looking for a hands-free light or a utility light you can count on to provide you with illumination that you need in the darkest places, Panther Vision has the lighting devices you need. That’s true whether you’re working on your car at night, in a dark basement or during a nighttime hunt.
You can order our products online at any time. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us online to leave information on how we can contact you and about your lighting needs.