Selecting The Best Night Vision Optics For Hunting
Those who’ve never experienced an after (daylight) hours hunt with night vision optics are missing out on quite the adventure. Despite very different circumstances and decreased risk intensities, creeping through the timber with such gear will certainly make you feel like a real-life Navy Seal or Special Ops personnel.
Of course, that isn’t the aim. The goal is to knock down legal game, and night hunting is vastly different from chasing critters while the sun is up. It requires different tactics, but especially different gear.
Those who are intrigued by the thought of using military grade night vision goggles to hunt with should understand its legal restrictions and limitations. Obviously, you aren’t hunting whitetails, wild turkeys or other highly-regulated game animals. Instead, you’re most likely focusing on wild hogs, coyotes, and a select group of other predators.
“Our line of night vision devices allow, within certain parameters, the ability to hunt wild boars, coyotes, and other things that you can legally hunt at night,” said Sean Kirk with Photonis Defense, Inc. Listen to an interview with Kirk from the Huntin’ Land Podcast below.
That being said, when permitted by state law, it also can be used in other non-hunting applications. This might be when getting gear, and yourself, situated before daylight during another type of hunt. The same holds true for packing everything up after dark once the hunt ends.
Kirk also likes it for other case uses.
“I’m a big duck hunter, and I use them all of the time for setting up my layout blinds,” Kirk said. “Instead of having a flashlight on my head, I’ll use a night vision device. Then, before sunrise, it’s great for identifying what species of ducks are flying over. As the sky starts to glow, you can see them clearly enough to know what types of ducks are around.”
While it’s obvious that hunters aren’t using night vision goggles to “hunt” ducks, a big part of being a good duck hunter is knowing what you’re shooting at. This is important in regard to abiding by species bag limits. And if you can get a good idea of what’s flying right before daylight, it might help you be more accurate when trying to determine what a duck is once legal light begins.
Many hunters like using thermal when hunting, but Kirk says it isn’t as effective as night vision equipment. Night vision reigns supreme in low-light conditions.
“A lot of hunters think they should have thermal,” Kirk said. “But there are some disadvantages to thermal. You might have brush in front of the shot that you cannot see when looking through the thermal scope, because you’re only seeing the heat signature of the animal. With a night vision device, you would be able to see and identify the animal, and anything that would impede the shot along the way.”
Another thing to remember is just how much gear hunters take afield. Having a lot of things on hand is cumbersome, especially when the poundage increases. Don’t underestimate this aspect. Carrying too much weight will wear you down.
“When you’re carrying gear around, weight and size matter,” Kirk said. “You not only have thousands of dollars worth of gear but also a lot of weight. Rarely are you getting out of the truck and setting up right there. You’re packing or riding in. With other models on the market, size and weight are issues. Ours offers about a 40% decrease in weight and size [from other models]. It’s not as stressful on your neck, and not as heavy on your head.”
Once hunters understand that thermal doesn’t trump all, and that a well-designed set of night vision optics is crucial, they’re ready to gear up.
Fortunately for hunting enthusiasts, Photonis Defense offers a line of products that make night vision hunting much easier and more enjoyable.
“For hunting applications, I would go with the two Photonis PD Pro devices,” Kirk said. “One is a night vision monocular, and one is a binocular. The monocular works well because you can have it in your pocket or vest. It’s small and compact. You can use it as needed.”
According to him, you can also have a flip mount on your weapon. You can flip it in and out of line with your existing day sight. Use it as a night scope for when hunting boars [and coyotes], essentially.
Photonis also offers a set of night vision binoculars. He says these are generally for spotting. Maybe you’re driving on an ATV to get to a spot, such as a blind. Perhaps you’re looking on the horizon for animals. It’s great for spotting, regardless of the exact scenario.
As expected, good night vision optics can be pricey, but as with most things, pricing reflects quality. There are pros and cons to anything, of course, but this option certainly has more benefits than drawbacks. It’s worth the price tag.
“The thing you want to be sure of, is you get what you pay for when buying night vision gear,” Kirk said. “People spend thousands of dollars on weapons, and then buy cheap night vision goggles, knock-offs from Russia or China, and expect it to perform. When buying the Photonis PD line of products, you’re getting what you pay for, and getting a quality image with the best resolution available on the market.”
Optimize the Hunt
While the best night vision goggles are an aspect of hunting, it isn’t the fix all. Great gear doesn’t make you a great hunter, but great gear can make a good hunter more effective, which can produce more desirable results. It might even mean getting the kill shot off, when without it, you would not.
So, spend time learning your craft. Whether chasing bobcats, coyotes, hogs, fox or other legal nighttime game, understanding how to call, where to locate, when to set up, and otherwise pursuing these animals is still important. Become proficient in the hunting of each species before going afield. Then, with quality night vision equipment in hand, go get the job done, and have fun while doing it.
As with all aspects of firearms and hunting, safety matters. Whether going afield during the day, or at night, safety is No. 1. This is also true when using night vision glasses for hunting. Understand how the technology works, how it’s appropriately used, and what not to do when using these devices.
Take precautions, protect yourself (including your eyes), as well as those around you. Also, be aware of your surroundings. This can be more difficult at night, but night vision certainly helps in this regard. Still, know your target, and know what’s beyond it. Never pull the trigger unless you’ve correctly identified the target, and that there’s a safe backdrop beyond it. Then, send it.
Photonis Defense, Inc