Despite there being many additional concerns with deciding to undertake the adventure of hunting at night, the rewards can be substantial as well. Although some additional preparation and planning is necessary as well as some additional equipment, chances are that once you’ve successfully performed your first night hunt you’ll be permanently hooked and ready for more.
Perhaps one of the first things to consider when deciding to undertake hunting at night is the applicability of your local hunting laws. Hunting at night requires extra safety precautions and the mandatory use of lighting equipment. Because of this, many states have laws governing night hunting and the use of lights for taking game. Some places do not allow the use of lights for hunting at all, and others make night hunting difficult at best. Since these laws vary widely from one state to the next, before planning an excursion it is of course wise to first determine if night hunting is even legal in your area, much less hunting with artificial lighting.
Of the types of night hunting, going after small predators such as Coyotes is probably the fastest growing and most popular. There are several reasons for this popularity and understanding them will help you to get started with an advantage that will improve your chances of a successful first time out.
One of the first things to realize is that hunting for Coyotes at night can be both a challenge and easy at the same time. This is due to a combination of factors.
Many small predators including Coyotes are more active during evening hours than during the day. The darkness of night improves their ability to stalk and find prey as well as gives them an advantage over prey that usually prefers to bed down during the evening hours. They’ll be actively travelling over large areas in search of prey and will be easier to lure into range with distress calls. Coyotes will also tend to be somewhat less cautious at night as human activity is much lower during the evening hours, especially in more rural locations, so they will be less apprehensive and more readily willing to approach any area where they are lured in with calls or they suspect a possible meal may be found. One other benefit of night hunting comes from the fact that weather conditions tend to be calmer in the evening and winds will have slowed down, making it harder for Coyotes to pick up your scent. This is not to say you should not be concerned with wind direction, just that you have a little more leeway when choosing your location.
Now, as for the difficulties hunting at night creates the first and most important is the reduced visibility that comes with little to no available light. When hunting at night your effective range is going to be reduced and thus your ability to identify a target. This means that you must be supremely cautious when setting up a potential shot and always aware of where you are and any potential problems that may lie outside the intended direction of your shot. In addition, if you are hunting with a partner you must always be aware of their position and maintain good communication to avoid serious accidents.
Hunting at night also necessitates additional gear in the form of portable illumination and it is here that you need to take some extra time to choose carefully what lighting equipment you’ll be using. First and foremost, your lights need to be dependable. A portable light is mandatory for hunting Coyotes at night and if your light burns out a bulb or the batteries die your hunt has pretty well just ended. Some of the best portable lights are those that use a HID bulb and lithium ion batteries in their construction.
HID lamps are preferable for hunting applications for two main reasons; they are rugged and can withstand impacts and vibrations without damage to the bulb, and they are very powerful. Lithium ion batteries are preferable because they offer longer run times, do not need to be fully discharged before being recharged, and have an overall longer lifespan and can withstand more charge cycles than Nicad rechargeable batteries. Maganlight offers a 15 Million Candle Power Rechargeable HID Pistol Grip Handheld Spotlight that should be more than capable of handling all the requirements nighttime hunting for Coyotes creates. As a last couple of considerations for illumination, keep in mind that whatever light you choose will need to be weather resistant and have the option for the addition of a red lens. Although there is some contention, the general consensus is that red light tends to spook Coyotes less than white light, and in either case color is less important than the effectiveness of the illumination itself.
Continuing with the challenges of hunting at night, you must also take into consideration that any game you take will have to be taken at closer ranges than during daylight hours. The distances for what constitutes a safe shot are reduced by darkness and you’ll need to be extra vigilant in identifying your target before taking the shot. To this end, consider using a call that simulates prey in distress and use it to bring a Coyote in to closer ranges before settling in to take the shot. Although bringing them in to closer ranges may raise some concern for spooking them before getting the shot off, remember that the darkness is also your ally and will help to conceal your presence, helping to make up for the reduction in range.
Now that you’ve covered all the extras, it’s time to begin thinking about how you’ll actually take a shot at night. When using your light, do so from a position that allows you a free range of movement so you can cover as much area as possible with the beam. Use a call and the light at the same time, slowly scanning back and forth as you call. The idea is to detect the eye-shine of an approaching coyote. Once you have found the eye-shine, avoid shining the light directly on the animal until you are ready to set up for your shot. Keep the beam edge on the Coyote long enough to keep its eyes reflecting the light until you have made a certain identification and verified the safety of your backdrop behind the animal. Once you’ve made your verification you can go ahead and fully illuminate the animal and take your shot.
Once you’ve taken the shot, use your light to verify your kill and scan the terrain leading to the animal. The ground between you and your game can look different at night so it pays to be a little more careful before setting off to retrieve your kill.
Although it can be challenging, hunting at night also has the potential for great rewards. With a little forethought and planning you may find yourself making nighttime hunting trips a regular part of your hunting routine.