Hunting, in general, is very involved and requires many moving pieces. You need to be thinking about a lot of different variables and scenarios constantly in order to stay ahead of the prey and give yourself the best chance at that yearly trophy kill, or restocking your freezer for the coming winter. Taking this is one step further is hunting at night, where even the simplest of tasks, if not planned for and prepared, can ruin your hunt.
Recently my brother, two friends, and I entered a weekend long Coyote hunting tournament with the ultimate goal being who could bag the most yotes within the given time limit in southern Michigan. If there was a tie in quantity of yotes (which often happened, as the typical winning number is 4-5), then the size and weight would come into play. Our strategy was to hunt all night long and sleep during the day, but before we set off on the exertion, we had some serious prep work. The mission of this article is to provide you with a few (of many) concepts to consider prior to heading out for the night that we either successfully did or wish we would’ve during the tournament.
Survey/Scout the Surrounding Area
First and foremost is know the land you are hunting on and where the property lines lie. This is to stay on the legal side of the game, but also to help avoid run ins with other hunters, potentially running their hunts. There are some good resources online to help determine property lines, which I recommend checking out. After understanding boundaries, use google satellite view or even a drone with a camera to associate landmarks with the property lines. This is a very good practice to get used to as it is very easy to get turned around and even slightly lost at night. Without that full-daylight view of landmarks it is hard to judge distances and the distance you have traveled in the dark. Knowing that the opening to the field off to the south is the farthest spot you can go is very valuable prior to the hunt.
Beyond knowing the boundaries, we of course need to understand the paths the coyotes (or whatever game) is most likely going to travel. This can drastically change based on the terrain and weather patterns, but again, study these patterns with trail cameras and topographical layouts before the hunt! Additionally, take a pair of binoculars out on the trails to check the integrity of shooting lanes from your stands. Ensure no branches could deflect bullets or cause some disturbances.
Layout Proper Equipment for the Night
There is a lot of gear that is required for hunting and even more when it is at night. We of course can’t list all of the necessary pieces of equipment, but rather the unique ones for your pitch black adventures.
First and foremost here is the thermal scope you plan on using (if you do indeed plan on having one). We did an extensive review on a few thermal rifle scopes and, although expensive, they can absolutely make or break your hunt. Some of the scopes we checked out can even automatically calculate the trajectory of your bullets prior to firing the shot. This allows you to sit back, make some adjustments on the screen, and have a much better chance at hitting where you want to. Please note the weather conditions as well, as some of the scopes can operate in a wide range and only a few are frost resistant, if you think that is a possibility.
Secondly, a low level, red flashlight to get to the stand as quietly as possible is always a good idea. You could certainly use your thermal monocular or something similar, but a low red light will work well and is often overlooked in prepping.
Thirdly, dress warm! In Michigan at least, it gets very cold and of course the coldest time of the day is, of course, the night. Don’t underestimate the low temperatures and wear various layers of clothing to keep you comfortable.
Set up Blind/Stand and Know Shooting Lanes
We briefly mentioned understanding and analyzing the lay of the land during full daylight. To take this one step further, do a “dry-run” in the day and literally walk the exact path you are planning to follow the upcoming night. This can help you ensure you stay on track and, most importantly, make the least amount of noise possible getting to your perching place. You can also time yourself by setting obvious landmarks (a fence, a large tree, a rock outcropping, etc.) during your dry-run to help in judging distances traveled at night, mapping out your route. During our coyote tournament, one of my buddies actually got stuck in a barbed wire fence on the way to the tree blind. He had gotten slightly off the path and, not knowing any better, continued through some shrubs and ended up making quite the racket. Again, you can avoid this by walking that path a week or so early and identifying possible areas of concern before they bite you in the butt.
Along these lines, set up your blind or tree stand earlier on in the week, so that it is all set for you to come out to. We would recommend not setting it up during the day immediately preceding your night hunt, but rather at least a few days in advance. The main reason behind this strategy is to ensure you don’t disturb and scare off any game in the area during blind installation. Whether it is a tree stand, ground blind, or permanent structure blind, make sure you always are concentrating on safety. I know you’re excited for the big kill and the trophy, believe me, I have gotten the adrenaline a time or two, but we have to keep our health in mind. Make sure to have a safety harness already set up in the tree, make sure you have the tree stand completely secured and tested, and just do the small checks to ensure you are doing it safely and correctly.
In summary, make sure you understand the lay of the land, set out appropriate night time equipment, and set up your blind/stand early enough as to not scare off any game you’re interested in! You can contact Roger at https://buyerbenchmark.com if you have any further questions or comments!
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