By mid-March, the ice on many of Maine’s lakes and ponds begins to grow thin. For those who don’t enjoy the possibility of taking an icy plunge, we begin to think of other outdoor pursuits. One of my favorite March activities is chasing coyotes. As with deer hunting, there always seems to be something new to learn about hunting these wily creatures.
Red, Green or White Light
One of the latest discussions is around the use of spotlights. Basically, spotlights for night hunting come in three basics colors, red, green and white. While red is more traditional, green appears to be increasingly more popular and the new kid on the black is white. A search online will yield testimonials singing the praises of each of these lighting systems. So how does a hunter choose?
In my experience and from what I have read about the experiences of other hunters, green lights, though exceedingly popular, seem to be the poorest choice for predator hunting. Red and white lights tie for second, with a slightly higher number of hunters preferring red, including me. There is even scientific research indicating most manufactured “red” spotlights emit visible light in the 620 nm wavelength but a true red and the best “red” for predator hunting are spotlights that emit light in the 660 nm wavelength. White lights have gained a lot of popularity over the past several years and more and more hunters are using them, especially those who enjoy videotaping their hunts.
Ultimately, despite the color employed, hunter success in the field is dependent more on how the spotlight is used and less on the chosen color. For example, coyotes can't see red light but that doesn't mean a direct blast with a spotlight (of any color) won't send them running. When scanning fields for coyotes, quickly scan back and forth looking for eyes. Red lights are extremely effective in picking up a coyotes eyes. This is because coyotes have a “mirror”, called a tapetum lucidum, beneath their retina that collects and focuses light back into the retina, enhancing their ability to see in low light conditions. Looking for that eye reflection is the key to success and all that is required to do so is a 3-4 second sweep of a field. Scanning is of course much easier, if it is done with two people, with one person operating the spotlight and the other operating the firearm.
Properly Identify Target
After identifying a reflection, it is critical that hunters properly identify their target, a task that is exceedingly difficult when only an animals eyes are identified. Most coyotes will spook, if hit with the direct beam of a spotlight for more than a few seconds. Instead, use the softer light on the edge of the spotlight beam to identify the target without sending it running off.
Shooting at Night
Light, light, light!
When the full moon isn’t shining, a hunter’s best friend is a spotlight. My best advice when selecting a quality light is don’t penny pinch. A good quality spotlight, that will perform well in Maine’s cold climate and won’t easily break, is somewhat pricy. Good spotlights include the Orion H30 ($129.95), the Predator Tactics Reaper ($199) and the Wicked Lights W403IC ($219.95). All of these models also have the ability to throw light well over 100 yards, a feature that will come in handy as a coyote hunter’s knowledge of an area and skill level increases and they decided to transition to using a rifle. Also, these high power light systems are incredibly helpful in picking out coyotes on bait sites where extended range is likely to be needed.