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Nighttime Tactics: Strategies for Successful Nocturnal Hunting

Some animals just don’t like the daylight. For these animals, there’s just no two ways about it. You’re going to have to hunt at night. That might sound as simple as hunting during the day but without light… but nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a whole slew of techniques and tactics that you will have to apply when hunting after the sun goes down that you just haven’t learned if you’ve only ever hunted during the day. 

Even knowing whether or not to go out in the day or the night can be tricky for some animals… and that’s just the first decision to make. If you feel the call of the wild pulling at you to hunt by the light of the silvery moon, here are some tips to help you get started hunting after the sun goes down. 

Safety First!

Engaging in night hunting demands a heightened level of safety and overall vigilance. Venturing alone into the nighttime wilderness poses not only the risk of encountering dangerous wildlife but also the potential for injuries due to navigating challenging terrain. The darkness increases the likelihood of tripping if one isn’t attentive to their surroundings.

Maintaining considerations for noise discipline, light discipline, wind direction, and other factors can be overwhelming. Amidst these concerns, it is crucial to avoid getting carried away and prioritize positively identifying your targets before discharging any rounds. Unless equipped with quality infra-red sights or the latest-generation night vision goggles (NVGs), errors can easily occur. Additionally, even when hunting predators or invasive species, it is essential to strive for ethical shooting practices.

Choosing Your Weapon

Hunters have the flexibility to employ a wide range of weapons for night hunting, provided there are no legal constraints. However, among dedicated night hunters, AR-style assault rifles stand out as a popular choice. These tactical weapons have gained favor for several reasons, with their adaptability to accommodate accessories being a primary attraction, especially in light of the challenges posed by darkness.

Key accessories that enhance night hunting effectiveness include flashlight attachments and laser sights. For the most committed night hunters, the option to install a suppressor (commonly known as a “silencer”) is available, significantly reducing the firearm’s sound when used with appropriate ammunition.

Efficiency is another compelling factor driving the popularity of AR-style assault rifles. In scenarios like hunting wild hogs, where multiple shots may be desired, the semiautomatic nature of these rifles allows hunters to fire successive rounds by simply releasing and pulling the trigger. Renowned for their generous magazine capacity, these rifles are designed to enable hunters to shoot multiple times while maintaining control over the weapon. For those hunters focused on eliminating as many targets as possible, assault rifles prove to be highly effective and difficult to surpass.

Enhancing Night Vision for Effective Hunting: A Guide

To be effective at night, hunters face the crucial challenge of overcoming limited visibility. Shooting safely requires the ability to see, and there are two primary methods to address this inherent issue. The more costly approach involves utilizing night vision or thermal devices, which, while highly effective and enjoyable, can be prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, a more budget-friendly alternative is simply relying on lights.

It may seem counterintuitive for a hunter to achieve success by shining a light around at night. One might expect that animals would notice the light and either avoid the line of sight or flee as soon as the light is turned on. 

However, the intersection of science and hunting reveals a unique advantage for humans in maintaining their position at the top of the food chain. Research has shown that many animals perceive light and colors differently than humans. This insight has led to the proliferation of products such as red and green lights with various intensities. 

Using Bait To Catch Prey At Night

The age-old technique of utilizing bait and natural food sources remains a staple in the hunter’s playbook. However, regulatory restrictions on hunting over bait exist in many jurisdictions, necessitating a thorough check of applicable laws before setting up any bait for a particular species. When transitioning from day to night hunting over bait or natural food sources, familiar tactics can be applied, but the challenges of night hunting introduce additional considerations.

In contrast, hunting over natural food sources, such as open fields, adds complexity to the use of light. While a high-quality lighting system may suffice for feeder hunting, night vision or thermal devices prove more effective when the animal’s precise location is uncertain. Recognizing the importance of lights in any night hunting scenario, this article details five types of lights essential for every night hunter.

Calling Predators At Night

Using a predator caller at night introduces another effective method for hunting coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and hogs. However, the challenge of limited vision persists, especially in open areas where visibility is crucial. Animals approaching a predator call exhibit heightened alertness, creating an intense and fast-paced environment. Incorporating a light attachment on the rifle for accurate shots and a handheld light for scanning the area enhances the hunter’s ability to navigate this heightened intensity.

While night vision and thermal devices offer substantial advantages for hunting with a caller, often surpassing their effectiveness in hunting over a food source, they remain valuable tools for maximizing success in the darkness of the night.

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Wildlife Management Decisions Should Be Made by Experts, Not Public Votes


In recent developments, a debate has emerged over whether the public should decide on banning the hunting of mountain lions and bobcats. This matter, experts argue, should be handled by those with specialized knowledge in wildlife management rather than left to popular opinion. State wildlife agencies, which monitor lion populations and set hunting limits, are best equipped to ensure stable wildlife populations.

A campaign is currently underway to ban hunting and trapping of lions, bobcats, and even lynx, despite lynx already being protected by the state. Advocates against hunting are gathering signatures to place this ban on the ballot for a vote this fall.

Colorado residents are urged to reconsider signing this petition. Across western states, decisions like these should remain in the hands of biologists and game managers within state wildlife agencies. Unlike eastern states, many western states permit citizen-initiated ballot measures, allowing the public to make policy decisions on complex issues such as big cat hunting or wolf reintroduction, a process referred to as “ballot box biology.”

Complexities of the Proposed Hunting Ban


The proposed ban presents various complexities. Including lynx with the rest of the big cats (which is only legal to hunt in Alaska) adds confusion. Additionally, the ban aims to prevent the hunting of cougars and bobcats for trophies instead of meat. Colorado hunters must already take all edible meat from their kills of lions, though not for bobcats. Other states, like Montana and Utah, exempt big cats from meat-salvage regulations. However, decisions on how hunters utilize their harvest are best left to experts.

Animal rights activists aim to stop hunting altogether, beginning with species that the public may know little about. The ethics of hunting mountain lions is a nuanced issue that goes beyond a simple ban.

Case Study: California’s Mountain Lion Ban


California provides a relevant case study. The state banned mountain lion hunting long ago. In 2023, California’s wildlife agencies received 515 reports of cougars attacking livestock, issuing 204 “depredation” permits in response. Of these, 39 allowed the animals to be killed, while 165 permitted non-lethal removal.

Biological science dictates that some predators must be hunted to maintain ecological balance, regardless of public sentiment.

Importance of Expert Management

Managing Colorado’s estimated 4,000 mountain lions is a complex task. Hunters must complete a course and pass a test to obtain a hunting license. In the past year, 2,599 hunters killed 502 mountain lions in the state. This hunting helps control the population, preventing an overabundance of deer and elk from being killed by these predators.

Hundreds of biologists work full-time to determine the appropriate number of hunting permits, relying on scientific data rather than public votes. It is crucial that expert biologists retain hunting as a tool for managing mountain lion populations.

Living in Mountain Lion Territory

Residents in mountain lion country frequently encounter signs of these predators, such as deer carcasses in trees and the eerie sounds of mating calls. Despite these experiences, statistics show that bees cause more fatalities than mountain lions. Although mountain lions are dangerous predators, there have been fewer than 30 fatal attacks on humans in the past century.

Hunting these apex predators helps prevent overpopulation, which can lead to overhunting of prey species and increased human-wildlife conflicts. Managing these populations through hunting is a more humane and intelligent approach than allowing overpopulation and subsequent starvation.

The Challenges of Ballot Box Biology

While the practice of ballot box biology is prevalent in the West, it raises concerns about the effectiveness of wildlife management. When asked to sign a petition or vote on wildlife policies, individuals should consider whether they possess the necessary expertise on the subject.

It is essential to trust the policies of state wildlife agencies and the biologists and game managers dedicated to responsibly and sustainably managing wildlife populations.

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The History of Hunting with Firearms

Hunting has been a significant aspect of human history for thousands of years, serving as a means of survival, a sport, and a cultural tradition. In the past, hunting was primarily done with primitive tools such as spears and bows and arrows. However, the development of firearms revolutionized the way we hunt, making the process more efficient and changing the landscape of hunting forever.

The history of hunting with firearms can be traced back to the 14th century when the first gunpowder-powered firearms were developed in China. These early firearms were bulky and inaccurate, but they marked the beginning of a new era in hunting. By the 16th century, firearms had become more refined, with the invention of the matchlock, wheellock, and flintlock mechanisms, which made guns more reliable and easier to use.

With the advancements in firearm technology, hunting became more accessible to a wider range of people. Instead of relying on physical strength and skill with a bow and arrow, hunters could now use firearms to take down game from a distance. This led to an increase in the number of people participating in hunting, both for sport and for sustenance.

In the United States, the history of hunting with firearms played a significant role in the colonization and settlement of the country. During the 18th and 19th centuries, early settlers relied on hunting as a way to supplement their diet and provide for their families. Firearms were crucial tools for survival in the harsh wilderness of North America, allowing settlers to hunt large game such as deer, elk, and bison.

As the 20th century dawned, hunting with firearms continued to evolve with the introduction of new technologies such as rifles with telescopic sights and semi-automatic or fully automatic firearms. These advancements made hunting even more efficient, but also raised concerns about conservation and the ethics of hunting. Regulations were put in place to protect wildlife populations from overhunting and to ensure that hunting was done in a humane and sustainable manner.

Today, hunting with firearms remains a popular pastime for millions of people around the world. Whether it’s for meat, sport, or conservation purposes, hunters continue to use firearms to pursue game in forests, mountains, and plains. Modern firearms are safer and more accurate than ever before, allowing hunters to take down game with precision and efficiency.

The history of hunting with firearms is a rich and complex one, filled with technological advancements, cultural traditions, and ethical considerations. While the way we hunt may have changed over the centuries, the primal urge to pursue wild game and connect with nature remains a fundamental part of the human experience.

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Understanding the Anatomy of Feral Hogs for Optimal Shot Placement


Mammals differ from species to species, but their chest anatomy is remarkably similar. To achieve effective and humane kills, hunters need to understand the anatomy of their game. This article provides a detailed look at the anatomy of feral hogs to better understand where shots will have the most impact. While focusing specifically on hogs, it offers sportsmen guidelines for precise target selection on other game animals as well. Key considerations include the position of the heart and the level of the spine in the forward section of the chest.

Anatomy Insights for Precision

In the provided image, the shoulder has been lifted and the near lung removed to expose the internal anatomy. The heart is situated directly above the rear edge of the leg when the animal is broadside. Main blood vessels enter and exit the top of the heart, making this area a crucial target for a swift kill.

Spine and Chest Considerations


The drop of the spine from the back to the front of the chest is significant. The yellow lines in the image mark the top of the back and the bottom of the chest, showing that in the region of the shoulder, the spine is about halfway between them. The bones of the leg angle forward at a level corresponding to the bottom of the chest, ensuring they don’t block access to the heart.

Weapon Choice and Shot Placement

The hunter’s choice of weapon greatly influences shot placement strategies. A bullet or arrow through the heart causes quick death, but adrenaline release can cause the animal to cover a significant distance in its final moments. Therefore, some rifle hunters prefer to aim for the shoulder blade and spine to anchor the animal on the spot. However, this approach is not recommended for bow hunters.

Targeting the Lungs

The lungs occupy most of the chest cavity back to the diaphragm. Shots that pierce both lungs are quickly fatal. The diaphragm arches forward into the animal’s chest out from where it attaches to the ribcage, and its paunch extends into the same area. The lungs become very thin where the diaphragm meets the ribs, making heart or lung shots ideal for bow hunters.

Precise Shot Placement

The heart sits about a third of the way from the bottom chest’s top, located right above the rear edge of the front leg when the animal is exactly broadside. For a quartering animal, the hunter must judge a spot midway between the backs of the two legs—slightly behind the back edge of the nearest leg for quartering away and in front for quartering toward. 

Anatomical Targets for Effective Shots

During the dissection, the skin on the top of the back was left intact so the shoulder could be laid back into its natural position, allowing a view similar to what a hunter would see. The heart and anterior spine locations are marked, emphasizing the significance of aiming for these areas.

Shots impacting above the spine are unlikely to result in a recovered animal. The heart remains the most reliable target. However, a rifle hunter may aim for the front location marked “spine” to anchor the animal on the spot. The spine is near the top of the back in the abdomen and the rearmost region of the chest. While the back appears to progress forward toward the head in a straight line, this illusion is due to longer and longer fins sticking up from the vertebrae in the forward part of the chest. The spine itself drops low in the chest, typically about halfway down from the top of the back to the bottom of the chest.

Choosing the Right Aimpoint


Choosing the precise aimpoint depends on the hunter’s ability, the weapon, the steadiness of the rest, whether the game is stationary or moving, and the distance to the animal. It is always best to choose targets that inspire the utmost confidence. If conditions diminish the probability of a perfect shot, consider aiming for lethal areas with bigger margins of error. For instance, the heart/lung shot offers more room for error than a spine shot.

Knowing your chest anatomy is helpful for both bow and gun hunters alike when it comes to delivering quick, lethal shots consistently. 

Do you have any tips or insights into shot placement for feral hogs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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