Night Hunting: What to Expect and What to Bring
A Guest Blog by Josh Montgomery
Even for people experienced hunting game during the day, it can be quite the shift to move to night hunting. After all, the lack of lighting can significantly change how you view your environment and the game you’re hunting could be new to you. Here, we are going to take a look at what you should bring to your night hunting trip and what you should bring.
Differences in Game
During the day, most hunters hunt whitetail deer. At night, though, many hunters go after predators - especially coyotes. These animals are very different, so you’ll want to take the time to learn their differences in behavior.
When hunting predators, you need to make extra sure to focus on safety. Coyotes are adaptable and have animals as small as a frog or big as a deer as prey. We’ll look at some of the gear you’ll want to keep with you for both efficiency and safety.
Getting a Hunting License
You’ll want to make sure that your hunting license permits night hunting and coyote hunting. Some states tightly regulate or don’t allow night hunting so it’s important to take a close look at state-by-state laws.
A typical exception to tight regulations to coyote hunting is that some states allow killing a coyote if it comes onto your property. This is a common rule that helps farmers to protect livestock or families to protect pets threatened by coyotes. It also helps those personally in danger from a coyote. Again, though, it’s important to consider your state’s laws.
Scout: Day or Night?
Like many other points, the idea of scouting during the day or night has some different opinions. On the one hand, you can see better during the day, so it’s easy to spot tracks and signs. Alternatively, night is when coyotes are active, giving you a better sense of where they go through calls.
Either way, hunters generally agree that scouting takes time. Many also suggest that you mark the locations that you note as important. Landmarks are a great, traditional method but many prefer GPS markers anymore because it gives you a specific location without having to be too close.
Choosing a Weapon for Hunting
One of the biggest considerations for use when hunting is the weapon you’ll want to use. There are a few potential options. Some suggestions from veteran hunters include an AR15, a .223 bolt-action rifle, or a No. 4 buckshot. With options like these, you’ll be prepared for long range or short range use.
As we’ve already touched on a couple of times, hunting in the dark can put you a distinct disadvantage if you don’t take steps to overcome that handicap. So, you’ll need to consider gear that will help you increase your visibility.
There are a few options here and part of this choice will come down to what you can afford. At the higher end, there are thermal devices. If you aren’t familiar, instead of adding more minute detail to visuals, these devices are going to show you where heat is. This means that they will pick up the coyote’s position by detecting their body heat.
Another is night vision. This is the choice that will allow you to see better detail in the dark. The vision offered through this is typically hued with a green tint. Night vision also works through glass (such as a car window) while thermal imaging does not.
When it comes to these two options, again, check your local laws. Some of them outlaw these devices on the ground that it gives the hunter an unfair advantage.
There is also the option of hunting lights. These come in more options than you might think. Many hunters have their own personal preference between red, white, or green light. White tends to attract animals like bobcats, coyotes, and foxes. Red reflects off eyes very well and green is popular as well. Many say that red light affects their own vision less than other colors of light. The Outrigger Outdoors Bow Mounted Light is unique in that it comes standard with all three color options included in one light.
Lighting also helps you communicate with others you might be hunting with non-verbally. Specifically, slightly shaking or wiggling the light when an animal is visible is the most popular signal.
Consider the Moon Phase
Never overlook the phase of the moon. The brightness you need with you lights will vary between a dark new moon and a bright full moon.
You’ve probably already noticed there’s a calm and quiet at night vs. during the day. This means that you’re calls are going to carry further, faster. Animals like coyotes are also very vocal once night falls.
Different hunters typically have slightly different methods for calling and locating coyotes. However, the core method of using a variety of howls to locate them is used almost universally. Many use higher pitches at night to match natural howls and sometimes even use lower-pitched calls to see if they can get an idea of where they are during the day.
Traditional calling is difficult, though. As an alternative, many hunters use mouth-blown or electronic calls. You can get these in a variety of sizes and shapes. They are also rather easy to pocket, so you can carry them wherever you go without putting in extra effort.
One final thing to keep in mind and expect from night hunting is that it does take a lot of patience. While coyotes do have their guard down more at night, that doesn’t mean you can locate and walk up to one. A general rule of thumb is to use your call around 3 to 5 minutes. If you don’t get any reaction or spot anything after 30 to 45 minutes, it’s probably best to change positions.
Night hunting can be a unique and rewarding experience. On the other hand, it also presents new challenges to hunters who are new to it. With the tips and gear we’ve looked at here, you’ll be well prepared for your first venture into night hunting.