At first, it seems to make a lot of sense to hunt deer at night: they are nocturnally active; you don’t have to worry about your shadow; you probably have more free time in the evenings; and there’s certainly a unique thrill to testing your skill against an animal alone, at night, in the forest.

    But the fact is, night deer hunting is illegal in most states. And that makes a certain amount of sense too—it can be very dangerous, and some methods are unethical.

    Assuming you are in a state or a country where night deer hunting is legal, you must still know how to hunt deer at night. I will take you through the basic steps to keep in mind.

    Call your local authorities and ask detailed questions about your plans—here are the numbers for all 50 US state Departments of Natural Resources . Get some form of written permission that you can carry with you. If they say no, consider the alternatives.

    Here is our step-by-step guide on hunting deer at night.

    What You Will Need

    As with any hunting trip, make a definite plan ahead of time. This is even more important when hunting at night—make sure you have someone else along, and someone nearby to call. Decide whether you will be spotlighting in some form or using night vision.

    • Plan to have the same basic tools as you would for a daytime hunt: your weapon and ammo, camo, water and snacks, knives, a compass, etc.
    • Your license, and any additional paperwork giving you permission to hunt at night.
    • Personal flashlights, and a portable spotlight if you are allowed to hunt by “spotlighting” (see below). If you are not, consider red lights, which are less likely to spook animals.
    • Night vision or thermal optic scopes, if you plan to hunt that way.
    • A fully-charged cell phone and a back-up power bank.
    • Warm clothing and rain gear—check the forecast.

    Here is a video demonstrating that red lighting is less visible to your quarry.

    Pro Tip: When picking your equipment, remember that while darkness makes a huge difference to us, it is not really a disadvantage to the deer. They have good night vision, and of course, their keen hearing and smell are unaffected.

    Take all the same precautions that you normally would: wear scent-free clothing, find land that you can walk on noiselessly, wear camo, and find good cover or set up a ground blind in advance.

    Another Pro-Tip: Consider the phases of the moon when planning your trip. A full moon is best, as it means greater visibility and safety without unnatural lighting. Just remember that that the deer can see better too—you will need to treat it exactly like day-hunting.

    Stick Together

    Once you are in the forest, do not split up from your companion or group. It is too easy to mistake a human for a deer in the dark. Additionally, it is much easier to slip and fall or meet a dangerous animal at night, and much harder for a rescue team to find you.

    Keep cell phones handy (silenced, of course!) at all times. If you are spotlighting, you should not need to go as far from your vehicle. If using night vision or thermal vision, hunt in a familiar area with easy terrain.

    Shining a bright light on a deer at night, or “spotlighting,” will make it freeze in place. Hunting this way is illegal almost everywhere unless you have special permission.

    “Spotlighting” will freeze Deer in place

    Pro Tip: You should not be night hunting on public land; it is usually illegal, and for good reason: in the dark, you cannot tell what buildings, animals or people are behind the shot you’re lining up.

    If you are on someone else’s land or a shared area, be sure to coordinate with the owners so that no one else will be out while you’re hunting.

    Stay Patient and Aware

    Night hunting is unpredictable; you may have success right away or a spot may pay off after an hour. The deer might be just out of your range of vision, so stay quiet and keep watching.

    You may also see some nocturnal predators that you didn’t expect, or predators behaving differently than in daylight. Let these animals go about their night activities in peace, and if you feel threatened, quietly move in the opposite direction to a new spot. Only shoot if they spot you and behave aggressively.

    Pro-Tip: It’s quite possible that you will find night hunting lucrative and enjoyable! Although it may be tempting to keep going all night, stick to the limits that you have permission to bag, that you can carry away easily, and that will fit in your vehicle(s). There will be plenty of other nights to come.

    Consider Alternatives

    It bears repeating that night-hunting of deer is illegal almost everywhere, especially “spotlighting” (shining bright lights at the deer to freeze them).

    Even taking all of the above into account, night hunting has its risks. If you cannot get permission to hunt deer at night, or find that it just isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options:

    • Hunt something else. Many areas that ban night hunting for deer allow it for other animals, including foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and hogs.
    • Hunt at dawn and dusk. These are times of high deer activity throughout the year, and you may be able to hunt for a short period before sunrise and after sunset. Again, check with your local hunting authorities.
    • Set up the best trail camera for hunting . This is a rewarding way to learn about deer movement at night, and predict where they will be the first thing in the morning.
    • Spot without shooting. In some places, you are allowed to spotlight deer only to view them, on the condition that you don’t have any weapons in your car. This is another way to better understand nocturnal activity so you can find them in the morning.

    I wrote this article because, while there are a lot of sites out there telling you not to hunt deer at night, I couldn’t find many quality tips for those few individuals who can do so legally.

    I hope these steps were helpful to you, and I wish you a safe and successful hunt! I link below to some quality sources for more night hunting and deer hunting steps that every outdoorsman should review.

    References and Further Reading

    • Is it legal to hunt deer at night?
    • Basic Deer Hunting Checklist
    • How to Hunt a Nocturnal Buck

    Last Updated on March 21, 2022 by Marty Prokop

    Can you hunt deer at night in Maryland?
    Public land that is designated for Sunday hunting by the Department. (b) Nighttime. -- A person may not hunt any game bird or mammal, except raccoon and opossum, at nighttime. more
    Where can you hunt deer in Maryland?
    Top 4 Public Lands to Hunt Deer in Southern Maryland
    • Parkers Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Cedar Point Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Popes Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Places to Stay.
    Can you hunt deer with a rifle in Maryland?
    Deer may be hunted with a muzzleloading rifle, muzzleloading shotgun or muzzleloading handgun (both single shot and revolvers) in all Maryland counties. To be considered a muzzleloader, a rifle, shotgun or handgun must be loaded from the muzzle and a revolver must be loaded from the front of the cylinder. more
    Is it legal to hunt at night in Maryland?
    Public land that is designated for Sunday hunting by the Department. (b) Nighttime. -- A person may not hunt any game bird or mammal, except raccoon and opossum, at nighttime. more
    Where can I hunt sika deer in Maryland?
    Two state Wildlife Management Area's (WMA's) in Dorchester County offer sika hunting opportunities. For information about the 1,000-acre Taylor's Island WMA or the 20,000+-acre Fishing Bay WMA, call the district office at LeCompte WMA: 410-376-3236. Blackwater National Wildlife refuge allows permit hunts. more
    Where can I hunt deer in Maryland?
    Top 4 Public Lands to Hunt Deer in Southern Maryland
    • Parkers Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Cedar Point Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Popes Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
    • Places to Stay.
    Can you hunt at night in Maryland?
    What are the legal hunting hours for coyotes in Maryland? Coyote may be hunted in all counties year-round during daylight hours (½ before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset). Coyotes can be hunted at night during the period specified in the furbearer seasons and bag limits chart. more
    Is it legal to hunt deer in Maryland?
    A hunter must carry personal photo identification (such as a driver's license) or a secondary form of positive identification while hunting. Written permission is required to hunt on private land. A hunting license is required to hunt deer (with exceptions). more
    Can you hunt deer at night in Texas?
    While some hunters may think that going out at night will give them an advantage, it's important to know that hunting deer at night is illegal. If you were trying to get your hands on a nocturnal buck, it's not going to happen, especially in Texas. more
    When can you hunt deer in Maryland?
    The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announces the January firearm deer hunting season opens Jan. 7, 2022, in Deer Management Region B, which includes all of the state except the westernmost counties. more
    Can you hunt deer from a boat in Maryland?
    Deer and waterfowl only. Waterfowl by boat access only. Permit and sign-in required. 301-743-5161. more


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