Once you’ve got sufficient hunting experience under your belt, you may want to take it one step further and tackle the challenge of shooting at night. Night vision hunting is quite a different field and poses its own set of hurdles, but by following some essential guidelines and equipping yourself with a few additional pieces of gear, you can take your ZeroTech riflescope out into the field at night with confidence.
Read on to find out our recommendations for the best night vision hunting experience, and put them down on your checklist before taking on the backcountry post sunset.
1. Choose the Right Gear
Taking your standard riflescope alone may not always be enough, though testing it in a low-light indoor setting can help you determine if you require additional night vision gear. More often than not, this would be the case. Night vision gear can be divided into two types depending on where they are mounted: worn and firearm-mounted.
Worn gear typically consists of monoculars, goggles or binoculars that are worn on the head, by means of a harness or a helmet. You may have seen these setups in military applications or in movies. Generally, a helmet is the more preferred setup for mounting worn night vision goggles by bolting or strapping it on, as it offers more stability along with the use of a chin strap. For a slightly higher price range, you can get helmet-mounted goggles that can flip up when not in use, which are handy in rapidly changing light conditions.
Firearm-mounted night vision gear are separate scopes that can be mounted to your rifle as standalone, front-mounted or rear-mounted optics. The one drawback of firearm mounted gear is that it cannot usually be used in conjunction with the daytime scope, with rear-mounted optics being an exception. If you are uncomfortable with worn gear, then consider a firearm-mounted option.
2. Riflescope or Red Dot Sight?
We’ve covered the differences between riflescopes and red dot sights in our previous article, and the same advantages and disadvantages apply in the case of night vision hunting. If you’re looking for a great red dot alternative to a bigger riflescope, the ZeroTech Thrive Red Dot comes with 11 brightness settings and Anti Reflective lens coating, perfect for night vision shooting.
Recent developments in optics technology means green dots are becoming more popular, since they are also the existing standard for night vision goggles. The human eye picks up green more than red light wavelengths. However, if you have astigmatism, you may want to stick with using a riflescope, or consider a holographic sight over a red or green dot.
3. Test Your Optic Setup
Generally, night vision gear will not get in the way of your riflescope if you mount it properly. If you are rear-mounting a separate night vision device, make sure your riflescope or red dot is mounted sufficiently far forward so the night vision optic doesn’t interfere. If you are using a monocular night vision scope, it is recommended to put it over the non-dominant eye so your dominant eye can look through the daytime scope and get a better field of view. Whatever your setup may be, it’s best to test out its comfort, ease of use and target practice in the daytime before taking it out into the field at night.
4. Be Familiar with the Terrain
A good tip is to visit the hunting ground in the daytime and be familiar with the lay of the land, especially if it is an area you haven’t visited before. Even though the land can change dramatically in the night time, it’s good to survey distinctive landmarks and telltale signs of quarry activity like animal tracks in the daylight. Use a rangefinder to map them out relative to the position you’ll be shooting in, and the calculated drop of your equipment. This will give you a better idea of the distances to keep from potential targets at night, and which habitats they’re best found in.
Talk to the locals and the farmers who will know best where potential game is situated, and if you’re hunting in a vehicle, use this information as a guide for where to park. Try to park close to trees or any other significant landmarks you identified in the daytime, allowing your vehicle to blend in with the dark.
5. Follow All Necessary Guidelines
Check off all local safety procedures, and keep your starting landmark fixed in mind as it is easy to get lost at night, especially on new terrain. Ensure your shooting platform is sturdy and soundproofed and everything you need is at hand so you don’t have to force extra movement; even the lightest sounds carry a lot further at night. Once again, practice with a good padded rest in the daytime will come in handy. Be aware of the battery life of your devices, and carry a torch with a wide beam just in case.
Just as one would do in the daytime, it is best to use the spotting scope to properly locate your target first, rather than your night vision scope which will help you identify its features more clearly. The traditional rules of daytime hunting still apply, such as checking scent and wind direction.
Night vision hunting can be an enjoyable and exhilarating experience provided you make all the necessary preparations, both with your gear and surveying the land you’ll be taking on. With the advancements in optics technology, it has become much easier and more effective to shoot at night, and you can quickly and accurately land your target while maintaining the stealth required in the dark.