Is Night Vision Legal?
Generally, this is an easy question to answer. Night vision and thermal devices are legal to own in the United States. Through my research, I found out that only California has laws regarding night vision scopes.
The California law states that it is illegal to possess any attachment, device, or similar contrivance designed for or adaptable to use on a firearm which, through the utilization of a projected infrared light source and electronic telescope, enables the operator thereof to visually determine and locate the presence of objects during the nighttime.
Other night vision devices are perfectly legal, though.
The primary law in the United States regarding the import and export of NV device is: without an exclusive license, you cannot export night vision devices overseas and the same goes for importing them. Shipping between states is fine but it just can’t land on a foreign country.
Is It Possible To Hunt With Night Vision Device?
Now this question is a little trickier. From a purely technical standpoint, yes, night vision is capable enough to hunt with. But it limits your overall range to around 150 to 200 yards on a clear night with a good bright moon overhead.
Hunting with night vision can be an absolute blast. It’s a unique challenge that requires stealth, accuracy, and individual gear choices. Hunting at night with it usually requires a laser aiming module.
When you are wearing a monocular or goggles, it’s quite difficult to try and use your traditional sights. Optionally, you can mount a monocular with daytime scopes that allow the use of night vision in coordination with the day scope.
Know Your Target
If you ever choose to hunt at night, using a night vision gear is probably one of the most exciting methods. It’s critical that you understand what and how animals look under night vision and ensure it doesn’t affect your ability to engage them humanely and appropriately.
Night vision is by far one of the safest methods to hunt at night due to the ability to see your target plainly. One of the most important firearms rules is knowing your target and what lies beyond it. If you cannot identify your target, you are not following this rule.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
When it comes to stalking prey and game, it’s essential you get lots of practice before hitting the field. Moving efficiently and quietly with night vision takes serious practice. Adjusting to a loss of depth perception and the loss of several degrees of vision takes time and practice.
It took running countless night mission in Afghanistan before I was fully competent with night vision. Also, practice between seasons because the skills are perishable.
Researching State Hunting Rules
From a legal standpoint is where we run into the trickier aspects. Yes and no and maybe. That is the clearest answer I can give succinctly, and it is utterly confusing. However, it is a genuine and honest answer.
One thing that states always control is the laws regarding hunting. Every state is slightly different. Some states have specific date ranges for night shooting, and others ban it all together. Some ban it for hunting certain animals.
This is where hunting with night vision becomes muddled because laws change all the time. This is particularly the case with invasive species like feral hogs that are sweeping the southeast.
Your best bet is to research and understand the laws in your state, or the state you wish to hunt in.
Federally, there are no rules regarding night vision use while hunting. Each state regulates it to a certain extent. Some have no issues with night vision. They just ban night hunting altogether.
Genuinely when we talk of hunting, we are talking mostly of game animals. Vermin hunting is actually not regulated regarding night hunting or using NV gear.
A few states that currently (as of 20 Dec. 2016 ) allow the use of night vision to hunt at least some animals include:
This isn’t a conclusive list. These are the states I was able to find clear information if it is allowed or not. Several states have no named restrictions, but I couldn’t find solid information on the allowance of night vision.
What’s important to remember is that some of these states only allow the hunting of certain animals and certain areas at night or with night vision.
Keep Yourself Updated
Night vision is relatively unrestricted in the United States as I type this. However, it is important that you research your state laws before making a decision in buying night vision for hunting.
Night vision is certainly an interesting and a new way to hunt. Aside from making night hunting easy, it also spices up the experience.