All my life I’d been raised to believe that hunting at night was wrong, I mean it was illegal in my home state and nobody I knew would shoot a deer or other big game at night. But then I found myself living in Europe and reading the British magazines where lamping, as opposed as the stigmatized jacklighting, was an accepted method of take for rabbit hunters. When I returned to the States I started hitting the predators more aggressively, and many of the jurisdictions I was hunting in allowed the use of lights at night. Especially as I spent more time in Texas where you can hunt bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon, hogs, and rabbits after dark, I found myself loading up my gear and taking off for the field after dinner.
Some states will let you hunt at night, but without the use of artificial lights. Often when I’m out calling in winter, the reflection of moonlight off the snow covered fields lets you see pretty clearly in the ambient lighting. A good scope with optimal light transmission characteristics will let you see clearly with surprisingly little light, and this is one of the times I like a scope with an illuminated reticule.
But the most effective approach to hunting at night is with lights; these can be scope mounted, handheld, conventional white light or colored filters can be used, and a lot of LED lights are now available. I’ve used scope mounted lights from Leapers, Gamo/BSA, and many others as well as the new generations of laser locators to good effect. The king of the night hunting gear is the infrared sighting system, which lets you see without any light being tracked back to you. But nightvision and infrared optics are very expensive, and can’t be used in daylight hours requiring that you have a specialized night time gun.
When hunting predators in Texas we’ll sit on a platform mounted in a truck bed, with an e-called screaming out challenges or prey calls while a handheld spot light is swept in 360 degree sweeps with the light haloing the ground, which doesn’t spook the animals. This method works best with a two man team, letting the trigger man focus on the shot. When hunting on my own, I use a scope mounted light, putting my gun on a tripod and sweeping the barrel in an arc. It’s really excited to see a yote or raccoon charging in on you, or a bob cat winding his way in and hanging up to wait and see.
It is the combination of a light and a call thats particularly effective at night, one one hunt last winter I had a mixture of over twenty bobcat, fox, coyote, raccoon, and ringtail cats charge in to range, it was an incredible night. Predaors and varmint are on the prowl at night, so its a good time for the hunter to be out as we…
Another night we went out on a buddys farm in East Texas and we took off on his polaris one night scanning the trees with handheld spotlights and we took down a load of possum, raccoons and great big beaver that were tearing up Terry’s stack pond.
The thing you have to think about when picking out a light is how bright, how focused the beam, the battery life, how it will be mounted and directed, I have several set ups that I rotate through My Favorite lights are small and moderately light snap on the scope and don’t require a separate battery pack.
I like rifles in .22 or .25 calibers in mid to high velocity configuration for smaller game like rabbits or raccoons, but pull out the 30’s when the bigger predators come out to play.
When your out at night you do need to watch out for the other citizens of the dark, scorpions, rattlesnakes, skunks can all put a bad end to your evening, and work hard not to do a face plant as you work through the brush. It’s a lot of fun, if you have the chance, give it a go!