The first time I went hunting at night it was a totally new experience, more intense than the day and requiring an almost entirely different approach. It was thrilling, eerie, exciting and perhaps even a little more fun than I was expecting.
But there's a few things to keep in mind should you be planning your own night hunt. Especially if you want to improve your chances you'll be bringing home a fresh catch on each hunting trip.
For me, night hunting is a key part of our lifestyle on our property, and one that features in my SHTF planning. Because it's one of the best ways I've found to reliably bring home a fresh haul of rabbit, and keep some of the bigger predators away from our livestock.
The animals in your area
First and foremost, is your target prey.
Some animals are far more active at night, and with your lights and a little noise, you can flush them out easy, and this is actually my favorite tactic for hunting rabbits.
But you've got to remember, you're not the only one doing the hunting. If you're in an area with a large concentration of deadly animals, large cats, wolves and even bears, my advice would be to stick to the day. You don't want to get on the wrong side of a wild animal at night, when you're much more likely to become the prey.
The location you're hunting
Finding the perfect location will make all the difference to a successful night hunt. You can choose to sit in your hide and wait them out, but you need to remember most animals have far better night vision than you (yes, even the ones hunting you).
I'd recommend finding somewhere that you can't be snuck up on, with your back protected yet giving you a clear view out to the surrounding area. If you're in a group, stay close to each other so you can continue to communicate. And invest in a good survival whistle just in case you get lost or separated.
One strategy we use pretty regularly is flushing out the rabbits with our truck and a spotlight. The noise of the truck drives them out of hiding, and they tend to "freeze" when the light hits making it an easy shot (and a reliable source of meat).
The right lighting colors
We touched on this in the last point, but you're not going to be a very successful night hunter if you've not got the ability to see. Especially if you're targeting the fast, predatory animals with your hunt, you need light to see your target.
Bright, white spotlights are what most people consider first, but in my experience, these are really only good with small game like rabbits. Bigger targets, like foxes, coyotes and even bobcats will simply slink away, and you'll never even know they were there.
Red lights are better in this instance, softening the glow while also creating that illuminating effect in an animals eye that helps you pick them out in the shadows. Just remember, don't spotlight your prey directly, shine above their heads so you don't spook them.
The professionals recommend using red light that softens the bright light and reflects as a soft, dim glow that tends to illuminate the animal’s eye. If you don’t want the game to run away, then make sure to target the light slightly above the head.
The night vision question
Do I need to invest in night vision goggles (or a scope)?
Well, it depends. First and foremost, I'd consider just how much night hunting you'll be doing. Because they are an expensive piece of gear, and there are so many different ways you can spend your hard-earned cash when it comes to survival.
If you're a regular night time hunter, or are planning to be, it could very well be the best money you spend. Because they give you the ability to see when the light is either very low, or nonexistent. You'll spot more game, and have more opportunities on every hunt.
Plus, you get dual use out of it. A night vision scope not only helps your hunting game, it could prove the difference between successfully holding off an attack on your property when the SHTF, because you can see the intruders creeping in, once night falls.
The calls to draw your prey
Any experienced hunter knows the power of a hunting call, and they work wonders at night. I've lured bobcats and coyotes close with deer and duck calls, as they come to investigate what sounds like an animal in distress.
At night, when you've got a limited hunting area and almost zero visibility, you need a good hunting call to bring the animals right to you. Then all you need to do is light them up and take the shot.
The patience to do it right
My dad was an avid fisherman, and he had a level of patience that I can only hope to develop one day. You need patience when you're hunting, especially at night, to avoid getting frustrated, bored (or even tired), while you're waiting for your targets.
I've set my watch to vibrate silently every 4 minutes to remind me to do another round of calls, and I try to be in each location at least 45 minutes to an hour. That gives the wilderness around you time to settle down after you've moved, and hopefully forget you're even there so you can lure your prey right to you.
Armed with the right mindset, plan and hunting gear, a night hunt becomes a challenging and rewarding experience I'm sure you'll love as much as I do. The whole atmosphere of an area changes as night falls, adding another level of thrill to each hunt. Plus, it gives you the chance, practice and experience you need to become a more reliable hunter (while honing your night shooting skills, just in case). Stay safe out there.