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11/14/13 Hunting SpotLight Myths and Facts

Article- November 8, 2013 By Larson

Red LED Pistol Grip Hunting Spotlight

Larson Electronics Red LED Pistol Grip Hunting Spotlight

Few subjects are guaranteed to stir up discussion within the hunting community more than which spotlights are the best for hunting. Everything from power, to brand, to color is an area of contention, and unfortunately along with this comes a lot of misconceptions. While we certainly wouldn’t promote ourselves as the definitive voice on just what constitutes the best overall hunting spotlight, we can offer some sound facts and advice on what to look for when considering the purchase of a high grade spotlight.

For most people outside of the hunting community, hunting with spotlights conjures up images of shady characters skulking about in the dead of night looking to jacklight a deer or two and haul em off before wardens can show up. They mistakenly assume any kind of spotlight hunting is illegal, and believe it or not this carries over to quite a few novice hunters as well. While there are indeed quite a number of regulations regarding the use of spotlights for hunting, and almost every state has some sort of prohibition or stringent guidelines in some form or another, the truth is that there remains a substantial portion of hunting which is quite amenable to the use of spotlights. Particularly in the case of predator and nuisance animal hunting, spotlighting is often an integral part of established hunting procedure and quite legal as long as the proper guidelines are followed.

For most cases, the only way to ensure the use of a spotlight for a given type of game is legal is to consult with your local wildlife authorities. The rules are so widely varied from one state to the next, and even from county to county, to make a definitive list of locations and game suitable for spotlight use would practically fill a small book, so we leave that determination to you the reader. Instead we’ll address a couple of the more common misconceptions regarding the use of spotlights, and hopefully help clear up some issues rather than compound them. Since pigs and coyotes are the most commonly hunted when it comes to nighttime spotlight use, lets consider them.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues revolving around the use of spotlights is the color of light used. By now most of us are familiar with the old yarn about red being invisible, green being less likely to spook an animal, and white just being an outright horrible choice for all but the boldest of critters. The truth however lies somewhere in the middle, and the color of light used really doesn’t play as large a role compared to the importance of using a light properly.

First and foremost pigs have dichromatic vision, which means unlike humans which see with trichromatic vision and have three pigment cones, pigs have only two pigment cones that create colors. Because of this a pig’s vision does not perceive the world as richly as a human, but he does have the ability to perceive and differentiate colors. This of course means that no, pigs are not color blind, and no, the use of a red light is not invisible to them. As anyone who has used a red light on a hog knows, although often effective, red light can very much so spook a pig, particularly in areas where hunting pressure is high and he has learned to associate red light with getting shot at. The same pretty much goes for other colors such as green and amber as well. The problem really isn’t in the color of the light used, but rather how often the pig has been exposed to colored spotlights and thus learned to avoid them.

The same thing pretty much goes for coyotes as well. Although they cannot perceive colors as well as human beings, they are quite capable of seeing a red spotlight. The bigger issue really is how heavy hunting pressure has been in the area you are staking out, and how often the animals have been exposed to a colored light.
Which brings us to one of the best pieces of advice we’ve heard when it comes to choosing the color of spotlight to use; if you are going to use a colored spotlight, find out which color everyone else in the area is using, and choose something different. Chances are that the most desirable animals have been shot at more than once, and are only still around because they have learned to avoid the most common hunter tactics, including colored spotlights.

Another good piece of advice is to not choose the brightest spotlight, but one that is strong enough for your needs. If you are going to be shooting under a hundred yards, you don’t need a megwatt handheld that can throw a beam for two miles. The brighter light will only increase your chances of spooking an animal and eat up your power supplies that much faster. Choose a light that provides a clear enough picture of an animal at your expected ranges, and practice with it several times before putting it to the field to ensure you’ll be able to clearly discern your target.

Another good idea that has come about in more recent times is to consider using an LED spotlight. No, we are not talking about those cheap handhelds from the big box store that advertise hundreds of hours operation on a single charge and look like some sort of Buck Rogers toy ray gun. There are high quality LED spotlights available that can easily throw a beam 800 feet or more, run for 50 or more hours on a charge, and are so lightweight that they won’t place an added burden on you when hiking a few miles carrying full gear.

One of the really nice features of LED spotlights is that you can forget accidentally burning yourself, and if you drop the thing you won’t be fumbling around for 20 minutes trying to change out the bulb. These things can take a beating that would destroy a normal spotlight and keep on ticking.

Although all of this is hardly anything groundbreaking, hopefully the takeaway is that it isn’t so much the color or power of spotlight you use, but how you use them and when. A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to hunting with spotlights, and with a little forethought you can avoid all the confusion and get on with successful hunting.

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