The Science Behind Choosing a Red or Green Light for Night Hunting
This weeks blog will be exposing some of the hottest topics of night hunting:
1 - What is a night hunting light?
2 - Is a red or green light best for hog hunting?
3 - Is a red or green light best for predator hunting?
4 - Is a red or green light best for varmint hunting?
This age old question has some of the strongest, most opinionated answers that vary from amateurs to professionals. Normally I would give a short answer to this question upfront but due to the continued controversy we receive from our friends, followers, customers and even family, the answer will come after the scientific facts are presented.
What is a Night Hunting Light?
Definition of a night hunting light
A night hunting light is a tool used to illuminate animals for harvest during a period of time between one hour after official sunset of a day and one hour before official sunrise of the following day.
Night hunting lights are commonly used for tracking, spotting, and harvesting hogs, varmints, and predators. The best night hunting lights are designed with the understanding of how the vision of these target species works. It is important to choose a night hunting light that is best suited for the species you are targeting.
Science Behind Night Hunting Lights
In humans, color blindness is the result of photopigment defects in three different types of cones that respond to blue, green, and red light. The most common color blindness is red-green, followed by blue-yellow, and the total absence of color vision - total color blindness - is extremely rare. Humans are very unique in this sense, we have trichromatic vision which means we have three pigment cones to blend colors together.
Wild hogs, pigs, varmints, predators, and all other mammals have dichromatic vision which means they only have two pigment cones to blend colors together. Many other animals that are not mammals only have one pigment cone which means they see in black and white.
To further expand, hogs, varmints, and predators can see low wavelength light well (blue light), but as the wavelength increases they have a hard time visually processing the light.
Hint: blue jeans stick out to deer and most other animals like a sore thumb!
The approximate wavelength at which these dichromatic vision mammals go color blind is in the range of 520 nm to 540 nm. This is the core of the "true green" light color range. Our hunting lights are approximately 540 nm wavelength, as are most other green hunting lights made by reputable manufacturers. It is important to note that the level of color blindness can vary and is not necessarily exact to a certain wavelength.
The green light wavelengths range from a blue-green in the low 400 nm range, to solid green in the 520 to 540 nm range, and then a yellow-green in the 560-580 nm range. The official red color by manufacturing standards starts at 620 nm wavelength. This color visually appears to have an orange tint in it to humans but the red we are most familiar with, a true red, is approximately 660 nm.
We use 660 nm wavelength in both our Predator Cannon Hunting Light and our traditional bow hunting lights, which is actually tremendously more expensive than the manufacturing standard 620 nm due to the higher wavelength but we've chosen to maintain quality assurance. To reiterate, the approximate maximum wavelength dichromate vision animals (all mammals except humans) can process is 540 nm. This is a true green light. These same animals cannot visualize red at 660 nm, which is 120 nm above green on the color spectrum.
Although varmints, hogs, predators, and even deer can't see red, that doesn't mean you can blast them with a red spotlight and they won't take off.
It simply means if you have a light mounted to your feeder, for example, and leave it on at high enough intensity to light up the area but not a blinding intensity, the red light will produce better results than white or green the majority of the time. We've seen hogs, bobcats, fox, coons, and even deer walk under the wide flood beam of the Predator Cannon.
When you increase any light intensity, especially abruptly while the animal is standing there, the animals can feel it just like a white spotlight being shined in our face. This is part of the reason of why all our lights have remote controlled dimming capabilities - you can slowly increase the light intensity or slowly decrease the light intensity and turn the light on or off. Another thing to consider if the animal is not looking at you is the fact that bright lights cast very apparent shadows. White light will cast the most apparent shadow followed by green and then red casts the least apparent shadow.
The Best Color Light for Night Hunting
Now that you've read the scientific evidence, I can give you the short answer - red is the better light for night hunting. On the contrary end, we've noticed that most consumers will purchase green light because they associate it with night vision. We sell both color lights because we want to support our customers needs, but please do not confuse night vision and green light. They are not the same. Most lower end night vision will use infrared light while the higher end thermals use heat. Neither of these have anything to do with green light. In comparison with red and green light, these both are more efficient but they also require more expensive tools to get the job done. Green light casts the most apparent shadow and is easier for animals to detect that red light.
Best color light for hog hunting
Despite the popularity with green hog hunting lights, the best color light for hog hunting is actually red. Whether you want to call them feral pigs, wild hogs, or swine, they are dichromate vision mammals and their vision follows the criteria discussed above. Hogs seem to be less observant in comparison to predators, which may be the reason green still works with some hogs. If you want the best color light for hog hunting, you should choose a red hog hunting light.
Best color light for predator hunting
The best color light for predator hunting is red. Coyotes are natures premier predator, and they are very observant and aware of their surroundings. This is common among all of the top predators, because unlike hogs, they are much harder to trick. In order to maximize your chances at harvesting predators while hunting, you have to take full advantage of their weaknesses.
As we previously discussed, make sure your predator hunting light is geared to fit the proper wavelength of light and is capable of adjustable intensity controls, so you can remain in the shadows while illuminating the predators in the pasture. Adjustable intensity is equally important as having the right color light.
Best color light for varmint hunting
The best color light for varmint hunting is red. Varmints, like predators and hogs, are also classified as dichromate vision mammals and their visual spectrum is most susceptible to red light. As discussed above, the lower wavelength lights are easier for varmints to distinguish in comparison to a true red wavelength light.
Learn How to use Light while Night Hunting
Just because your target species is color blind, doesn't mean you can blast them with full intensity and they won't see it. Humans are not able to see infrared light but if you take an infrared light and shine it straight in your eye (I don't recommend actually doing this) you will see and feel the source of the light.
This is why it's important to learn how to use light to your advantage. I strongly suggest you read this article on How to Use Light to Bring in More Predators once you've pulled the trigger on your next night hunting light. The strategy and methodology behind using the predator hunting light properly is crucial.
If you've found this informative and you want to learn more about choosing your night hunting light, check out our ultimate guide: The Best Coyote Hunting Light: 5 Features You Must Have
Outrigger Outdoors is your trusted source for predator hunting lights. Shop our product selection to learn more! Have questions? Contact us!
Thank you for the really informative article. I’m not a hunter, but I live in the country and am recently bothered by raccoons and feral pigs. You answered my question about which color of light I should use. Red it is. Now I just need to find an adequate and not super expensive one for a .22 and a .223. Thanks again.
Hi Richard – thanks for commenting. I would suggest you read our article again. It seems to you missed some of the important points we made. We recommend red light over green light for hog hunting and have explained their sensitivity to the different wavelength colors pretty thoroughly.
Show me the science please. Pigs have an abundance of M-cones which are highly sensitive to green light so why do you think they are insensitive to green light?. Possibly to sell green led spotlights!
Good information, thanks
Is red the best for rats too?
I have rats in my back yard; I’m locked down; I recently got a nice PCP Pellet Rife (.22) to deal with no range time and pesky rats. Most of the time, rats scamper past me before I can see them. I am thinking of getting a hunting light to give myself an edge and a longer view.