Spotlights and Night Vision: Scout and Confirm|
Hunting at night is no easy task. Regulations and ordinances can sometimes be heavily set against anyone wishing to hunt at night. Spotlights and night vision devices although gaining some leeway as far as nuisance and non game animals are concerned are still heavily prohibited for use when hunting many of the more popular game animals. Adding to the problems of regulations are the simple facts of hunting in the dark. Without a spotlight or some other form of illumination, ground that during the day is fairly simple to navigate can become treacherous in the dark of night. There’s more than one hunter who has literally fallen over a log or slipped down into an unseen gulley in the dark of night.
Despite the fact of heavy regulations, spotlights and night vision devices can still be extremely useful in preparing for night hunting activities. Before embarking on any activities with spotlight or night vision device however it is a good idea to check with you local game laws. Some localities may ban any use of a spotlight at all, while others have provisions that allow the use of a spotlight as long as the user is not in possession of a firearm or weapon. Some of the fines can be pretty steep, not to mention the havoc that can result with your hunting privileges, so take the safe road and verse yourself well before making any excursions with a spotlight.
So how can spotlights and night vision equipment help you if you can’t use it for the actual hunt? Well, the answer has to do with preparation and planning. While it is fine to scout a location during the day, and in fact it is easier to note sign, trails, and other indicators of game activity, it is at night when many game animals become truly active. It is here that night vision equipment and spotlights can be extremely useful indeed.
In some states like Virginia it is legal to spotlight deer as long as there is no weapon and the hunter has the land owner’s permission. In these cases some hunters like to use a spotlight to verify that an area they are scouting indeed has the big animals they think it does. Pulling up to a location few hundred yards away from where they suspect the animals may be foraging, hunters can oftentimes simply sit and occasionally illuminate the targeted area and be rewarded with a direct visual confirmation. Although the light may possibly spook an animal, using the light only long enough to make a confirmation and not repeatedly visiting the area ensure that the spotlighting activity will have little impact on the animals movements later in the season.
This kind of confirmation scouting of course requires a strong spotlight like Larson Electronics’s Handheld Spotlight - 70 Watt Metal Halide. Over 6,000 lumens of light is pretty much guaranteed to bring out every detail of anything! A good pair of binoculars and spotlight is pretty much all you need to make a few successful confirming scouting expeditions from the relative comfort of your vehicle. It’s important, however, to remember that deer are very wary animals. If you pay repeated visits to the area or insist on lighting them up more than once or twice, they may very well abandon the area and move on. Keep these sorts of excursions short and sweet. You’re only there to confirm the deer’s presence and perhaps his suitability as a good target to settle on in your later hunt and nothing more. Seeing him once is usually more than sufficient.
It’s also a good idea to let local law enforcement know what you’ll be doing. Let them know what times and the locations, and they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness. While an officer my not have an real reason to ticket or cite you if he has to check on a call of spotlighting, he more than likely will not be very happy with having his time wasted. Play it safe and be courteous. They’ll appreciate it and you won’t be distracting officers from things more deserving of their time.
Night vision offers some advantages and disadvantages over using spotlights for scouting an area. The great thing about a good pair of night vision goggles or binoculars is the fact that they are undetectable to the animals being stalked. If you have a good area in mind and suspect that animals may be frequent visitors, it’s very easy to set up a stand and simply spend a few hours watching if you have a pair of night vision goggles on. With no bright light and the ability to remain undetected, you can not only be rewarded with a confirmation of the animal’s presence, but many times learn a great deal about him as well. Where does he enter the area from? Where does he leave? How large is his rack? Does he appear healthy and vigorous? Are there multiple animals frequenting the spot? Night vision can allow you to learn all of this and more without ever letting the animals know you were even there.
Even better, you can improve the resolution and detail of your night vision equipment by bringing along an infrared light source to use in tandem with your NVDs. Not to be confused with a simple red lens equipped spotlight, infrared emitters as they are more accurately termed emit light only in the infrared spectrum. Invisible to animals, these lights will literally light up anything viewed through NVDs many times more than the NVDs alone can. Just like with regular lights, however, night vision devices are regulated and you need to be aware of any local ordinances or laws regarding their use. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that although they don’t emit visible light, if you accidentally look straight into the beam from an infrared emitter while using your night vision binoculars or goggles it may be a while before you can see again.
Hunting at night isn’t just about being able to hunt while the animals are more likely to be active and less wary. It involves careful planning and some common sense practices that will allow you to greatly improve the odds of you taking that trophy animal you just know is lurking in the area. Check for signs, scout the area, and spend some night time hours with a spotlight or night vision equipment confirming what you suspect a given area may be holding. It can make the difference between an empty season and trophy ending.