Being in the outdoors, hunting and fishing, has always been a part of my life. I remember getting up before dawn to chase steelhead heading upstream to complete their annual trip to the breeding grounds, or hanging high in the tree stand, listening to the sounds of mating deer.
These are the moments I, and many other sportsmen, live for. However, I had a point in my life where starting a family became a priority. In September, 2014, my wife April and I found we were expecting our first child. In May 2015, my life changed forever—our first daughter was born. It wasn’t until that very moment I found out what unconditional love really is.
The excitement of the start of our family, plus the fear of being responsible for this tiny life, is something I will never forget. A short two years later, our second daughter made her appearance. The joy of being a father to these two beautiful little girls is something I can never express. These circumstances changed my outdoor focus to family goals.
Being home for the family throughout the day put my time in the outdoors on the back burner. As much as I longed for fresh air, I found it very difficult—almost impossible—to fit that time in my schedule.
I’m very fortunate to have a job that puts me in a position to work regular 8-5 Monday through Friday, allowing me to be home on the evenings and weekends to be a dad and spend time with the kids. Let’s face it, no hobby in the world takes the place of the quality of time you have with your own children.
In December 2016, between the births of my daughters, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) voted to allow the use of centerfire rifles at night for predator hunting. I cannot thank the Centerfire at Night group of individuals enough for petitioning the NRC and DNR for this opportunity.
Although you could already predator hunt at night in Michigan, we were restricted to rimfires and shotguns. Both have their place in predator hunting, but range is extremely limited. This new opportunity filled the one opening in my schedule—nighttime.
The passing of this legislation brought on a huge increase in predator hunters throughout the state, many of whom were looking for the same reprieve from the daily grind as I was. Through social media, it was easier to locate other nocturnal hunters to spend some time in the field.
Hunting at Night
Getting started, I was on a very tight budget and ordered a gun-mounted hunting light from NightSnipe Hunting Lights. A light gets you in the field for as little as a couple of hundred dollars while still putting fur on the ground.
As the popularity of nighttime hunting grew, the predator population also became less tolerant of hunting lights. Not saying they aren’t effective, just not as effective as when the sport was young.
Although red and green are low on a predator’s visible light spectrum, it changes the dynamic of the scenario when you’re trying to bring them in. Fellow hunters found predators locking up and not closing the game to comfortable shooting ranges.
Switching to an infrared (IR) light and a night vision scope is a game-changer for many nighttime hunters. It greatly improves the number of predators working the set, allowing for close shots and easy target identification.
Predator hunting is my primary objective – I’ve found that being mobile and versatile provides me more shot opportunities. Having access to multiple properties allows you to use the weather conditions in your favor—wind being the key factor. Fooling the nose of a canine is impossible. I have yet to find a device or product capable of eliminating the human odor enough to fool Ol’ Wiley Coyote.
If I am expecting a woodlot or drainage to hold a coyote or two, I make sure my scent is blowing out the into the open terrain. However, while completing a stand, I have my head on a swivel. Even if I expect a coyote to come from a woodlot, they can sometimes materialize, seemingly out of nowhere, often working towards the downwind side of the caller.
Thermal and Night Vision Changes the Game
While calling, I like to use thePulsar Helion thermal monocularfor scanning. The contrast between hot and cold objects makes animals much more visible, especially at longer distances than scanning with night vision. From the moment I set foot out of the truck, to the moment I get back in the truck, I am constantly scanning.
Predators are almost always traveling and looking for food. Under the cover of darkness, they feel comfortable in the wide-open terrain. Once a potential target is located, you can then switch on your IR and look through the Digisight N455 digital riflescope to identify.
Once you’ve identified your target as a predator, it’s time to coax it into range for a shot. This is about the time I also hit the record button the Digisight to capture the action as it all goes down. I can replay and share the success or on the flip side, see what I did wrong.
Closing the Distance
I’m a big fan of mouse or baby rabbit distress to get them to close the distance. Ninety-five percent of the time, a light bark or lip squeak will get them to stop. If they don’t stop, I keep increasing the intensity of the sound until they do.
The other five percent of the time, they have their mind set on one thing, so taking a moving shot may be needed. Knowing your rifle’s capabilities is important in these cases.
I primarily use a .223 as my predator rifle. On a predator walk at 100 yards, I place my lead at the brisket of the coyote. This typically places the bullet about mid rib cage. If the coyote is on a dead run at that distance, I tend to lead half a coyote length, which puts the crosshairs jut in front of their nose.
This is not a perfect science and with experience and several attempts, you will start to get the instinctive feel of your rifle to make these types of shots more consistently.
I’ve missed plenty of coyotes, and when I replay the video, it doesn’t lie. Every time I missed, the crosshairs were not on target. Adrenaline and excitement get even the most seasoned hunters from time to time.
Digital Night Vision for Predator Hunting
The cost of night vision equipment is considerably lower than thermal vision. Night vision is a little easier to fit into the budget. At a retail cost of around $1300, thePulsar Digisight N450/N455at 1280×720 resolution provides ultra-crisp target identification both day and night.
Ambient light provides illumination for daytime use and at night, the use of an IR light produces a light that is invisible to you and your targets. Pulsar’s stock IR is capable of target identification upwards of 550 yards. This range can be increased with the addition of a higher-powered IR.
I’ve also found that mounting the IR below your rifle, on the foregrip helps minimize the smoke glare after a shot is taken, allowing faster recovery and target tracking for follow-up shots if needed.
One of the most convenient things I’ve noticed with Pulsar products is the menu. The layout of the menu among all the product is almost identical—all are very easy to navigate and adjust everything from brightness and contrast to reticle type and colors, even zero functions.
If you’re looking for one scope capable of producing consistent results, regardless if you are hunting deer, pigs or predators, thePulsar Digisight N455is the only scope you need. Handling recoil of up to .375 H&H, this digital night vision scope can be mounted to a multitude of different hunting rifles.
Five different rifle profiles allow you to easily transfer the scope from one rifle to another—one profile set for small game and or predator calibers, mid-range calibers for pigs and deer, or even long-range for antelope or elk.
There are multiple reticle options to choose from which helps in scenarios where quick elevation and windage adjustments are needed. To aid with long-range shots, Pulsar’s signature Picture-in-Picture feature allows for the base magnification field-of-view and increase magnification of the target on the same screen.
This feature comes in handy especially if follow-up shots are needed—using the increased magnification for the first shot and base magnification for any follow-up shots on moving targets. This, coupled with onboard recording, allows you to relieve the shot and confirm crosshair placement.
As a predator and big game hunter, the Digisight N455 offers many features to keep me in the field whenever time allows. My email inbox is always open for predator hunting questions or questions regarding any of the Pulsar line of products:firstname.lastname@example.org.