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After reading up on hunting wild hogs, raccoons, and coyotes the advice came up repeatedly about hunting at night. However, there are many obvious potential disadvantages to hunting at night.
Since no one in my family did night hunting, just traditional early morning starts during deer season, I really had to go digging into figuring out what the answer was. Is it legal to hunt with night vision? Is it legal to hunt with a red light scope?
The short answer is it depends state to state and which red light scope is being discussed. Most states consider a red lens scope the same as night vision scopes and they are covered under those regulations. Red dot scopes can be a bit more tricky and have their own rules from state to state. In most states using red light or night vision scopes are illegal to use with the exception of occasional invasive species like feral hogs or coyotes.
While that was really interesting, it got me thinking about the laws in all the many states I’ve lived in (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Iowa, Alaska, and Texas just to name a few) and what exactly the rules are in each one?
I spent way too much time researching this, but read on so you won’t have to.
Where Is it Legal to Hunt with Night Vision?
Generally you can assume that hunting with night vision scopes is illegal, unless otherwise mentioned here. In 15 states it is banned outright and most of them where it is allowed there are major restrictions on it. However, the laws do change over time, and some states consider night vision artificial light while others put it under a different category and that can affect how the local hunting guidelines are seen and enforced.
Alaska – Generally not allowed in the state but in some very specific situations and seasons night vision hunting scopes could be allowed, best step is to check with local wildlife management to get the rundown on what is and isn’t allowed.
Arkansas – Only allowed for feral hogs. All other instances are illegal in the state.
California – Surprisingly, night vision scopes are legal to hunt with in the state however there are some restrictions and it’s important to note that there are restrictions. It’s illegal to use or even have on hand infrared equipment of any kind while hunting. Also the night vision equipment can NOT use circuits that amplify light. Check in with local DNR if there are any questions about exact pieces of gear.
Connecticut – Night vision use is legal.
Florida – Night vision equipment is legal as long as it doesn’t emit visible light.
Georgia – Night vision is currently allowed for night hunting.
Idaho – Night vision is legal ONLY for coyotes and raccoons at night, and that is assuming the hunter has gathered all the necessary permits in order to both hunt at night and to use spotlights within the state’s legally accepted parameters.
Illinois – Hunting using night vision is 100% legal in the state of Illinois
Indiana – Laws about using this type of gear are a bit weird in Indiana. The use of any type of night vision-based hunting gear is completely legal in the Hoosier state but if and only if there is also a continuously burning light among the hunters that can be seen for at least 500 feet away.
Iowa – Legal in Iowa for specific game that is considered legal to hunt at night however can not be used with infrared or artificial light.
Kentucky – Allowed for a short season, from February 1st to May 31st, but illegal during the rest of the year.
Louisiana – Using night vision goggles, scopes, or binoculars is fully legal while hunting in the state of Louisiana.
Maine – Legal with the notable exception of raccoon hunting, for which the use of any night vision gear is illegal.
Maryland – The use of night vision hunting gear is allowed in Maryland.
Massachusetts – Night vision can be used by hunters during legal hunting hours however no artificial light can be used. The only two exceptions to this rule are opossums and raccoons.
Michigan – Legal as long as all other night hunting rules & regulations are properly followed.
Mississippi – Fully allowed as of the last update.
Montana – Night vision is allowed only for predator species and non-game species. All animals that Montana classifies as game animals can not be hunted with the assistance of night vision gear.
Nebraska – Night vision is allowed for hunting in the state of Nebraska.
Nevada – Use of night vision based hunting equipment is currently not restricted in the state of Nevada however things can change from year to year on a county by county basis so always double check with the specific county before use.
New Hampshire – The state of New Hampshire allows for the use of night vision equipment to aid hunters while participating in legal night hunting seasons.
New Jersey – Allowed for night hunting, however night hunting is limited to the special permit fox and coyote hunting seasons (normally in the early spring), and laser sights are prohibited, as are rifles (shotgun only during these special hunting seasons).
New York – Night vision is allowed for hunting in New York however it is important to know that there are a lot of individual scopes and firearms are restricted in this state when it comes to night hunting.
North Carolina – Night vision is fully allowed for night hunting in the state of North Carolina.
Ohio – Night vision is fully allowed for night hunting in the state of Ohio.
Oregon – In very limited situations night vision is allowed. However, this is only allowed by landowners or a state-authorized landowner agent and even then it can only be used for hunting predatory animals on private land by said landowner or the landowner agent as that term is outlined by Oregon state law. In any other hunting situation, night vision is forbidden.
South Carolina – Night vision can only be used in hunting armadillos, coyotes, and hogs. Using these types of scopes or equipment for hunting any other type of game in the night is strictly forbidden.
Texas – The use of night vision in the state of Texas is considered legal as of this writing.
Utah – While there are no state-wide laws that restrict the use of night vision scopes, binoculars, or other similar gear there are certain local cities or counties that may actually have further regulations or restrictions, especially when it comes to the legal situation surrounding the hunting of predators at night.
Vermont – The use of night vision in the state of Vermont is considered legal as of this writing.
Virginia – Night vision is allowed as are lights, so long as those lights are not coming from a vehicle.
Washington – Night vision is legal in the state of Washington but only for those three species that can be legally hunted at night during their respective seasons which means as of this writing it’s limited to bobcats, coyotes, & raccoons.
West Virginia – Night visions is fully allowed throughout this state.
Wisconsin – Night vision aids are legal but they can not be used with any infrared devices or other artificial lights. Doing so is considered illegal in the state.
Wyoming – Night vision is legal as long as it is not used with artificial light of any kind.
If the state isn’t listed here, then you should assume that the use of night vision equipment while out hunting is straight out illegal. Important to note in some states that even having that equipment on you or in your vehicle while out night hunting can be in violation of the state’s laws so always make sure to double check on state rules and regulations before heading out.
An outstanding resource for more details on each state can be found HERE. While great on the details, do heed the site’s warning that the last full site update there was several years ago and you always want to double check with local DNR or natural resources management offices prior to a hunt or trip.
Does Night Vision Count as Artificial Light?
This depends on the state’s statutes. Some states count night vision pieces as artificial light while some states keep it as a completely separate category of gear.
Depending on the state, this works both ways. That can make it inclusive as a legal hunting device in one state, while in another state that might mean that the devices are illegal.
This is one of those questions that, unfortunately, must be decided on a state by state level. Many states are very specific about the legality of using artificial lights while hunting, and they will be specific on how night vision falls into this equation.
In most states they are recognized as slightly different things, but not always.
Where Is it Legal to Hunt with Red Light Scopes?
Most states consider red light scopes as being the same thing as night vision scopes. However, there are some specific places where this might not be the case. In some states the specific statutes talk about night vision aids that create additional light being illegal to use. Red lens technology doesn’t enhance or create additional light
In those cases there’s a chances that red light scopes or red lens scopes could be legal when other types of night vision are not. That being said, this is a technicality that should still be confirmed with local wildlife agents before going under the assumption that this is a legal night vision workaround in a state where otherwise more traditional night scopes would be considered illegal. Even in situations where that might be in play, if the scope is a green dot scope or red dot scope, it’s probably illegal because of the different ways the light works with each.
Hunters Need to Know the Law
While I’ll do my best to keep this article updated, it’s worth noting that hunting regulations can change every year, and aside from state laws sometimes regional or local rules come into play, as well.
There are many cases where certain types of scopes might be great toys for shooting but they’re actually illegal to use while hunting, as this online Pennsylvania newspaper article covers.
While this can be confusing, at the end of the day it is still incumbent upon the hunters to know and understand the local night hunting laws before using or even packing this type of gear for any nighttime hunt.