- November 25, 2020
In July of this year through the passage of House Bill 1188, the Game Commission was given authority to regulate night-vision and infrared optics. Previously, any and all hunting use of night-vision and infrared (thermal) optics was prohibited by state law. Now, having the authority to do so, the Game Commission has granted furbearer hunters
In July of this year through the passage of House Bill 1188, the Game Commission was given authority to regulate night-vision and infrared optics. Previously, any and all hunting use of night-vision and infrared (thermal) optics was prohibited by state law. Now, having the authority to do so, the Game Commission has granted furbearer hunters the option to use these handheld or sporting arms mounted optics. The law that permits the use of these devices became effective on Monday, November 9, 2020.
When it comes to furbearers, they are listed in two categories that can be taken either by hunting or by trapping. The following furbearers can be taken by hunting: Raccoons and foxes, Coyotes, opossums, striped skunks and weasels, Bobcats and (believe it or not!) Porcupines. Their seasons and limits are as follows: Raccoons and foxes can be hunted from October 24 to February 20, and there is no daily limit or possession limit. For coyotes, opossums, striped skunks and weasels, there are no limits and there is no closed season, with certain exceptions during big game seasons. Bobcat hunting requires a special permit, and only one animal can be taken per license year. They can be hunted in 16 of Pennsylvania’s WMUs. Please refer to the current PA Hunting and Trapping Digest for the list of applicable WMU’s for hunting bobcats and the restrictions during big game seasons for hunting coyotes, opossums, striped skunks and weasels. Finally, porcupines have a daily limit of 3 and a season limit of 10 and can be hunted from October 10 to January 30.
Predator hunters throughout Pennsylvania have for a long time known that hunting the various predators can often be much more effective in the hours of darkness. Handheld or sporting arms mounted lights are beneficial in locating and identifying animals as they respond to various calls, but can sometimes alert an animal to potential danger. Now, with the use of night vision or infrared devices, hunting of predators at night should be much more successful.
It is legal to use natural or manmade nonliving bait and any electronic or mechanical device to attract coyotes for hunting. When hunting for coyotes, you may hunt over bait that is visible from the air. Here again, the use of night vision optics will greatly enhance your chances of success.
So, what are the differences between night vision devices and infrared or thermal optics?
As you look into a night vision optic, you see a green hued screen. Night vision collects and intensifies ambient light — starlight, moonlight and any other light in the night sky — to allow you to see into the dark. Some night vision optics are paired with an infrared light to help illuminate a field or target in the pitch black, especially on a moonless night. The infrared is invisible to the eye, but through a night vision scope it looks like a spotlight. Digital night vision is one of the latest designs and uses an intensifier tube which captures light through an objective lens and then processes it with a charged coupler device and then sends an image to an LCD screen. Digital night vision is typically displayed black and white on the LCD screen, as opposed to the traditional green and black on a regular night vision. Digital night vision can also be used in the daytime and is typically cheaper than traditional night vision.
Unlike night vision, infrared or thermal devices read heat. The heat processor detects the minute and large differences in heat and creates a digital picture of the landscape and animal in the optic. In the white-hot mode, for example, hotter objects will appear white and cooler objects will be darker. The hotter the object, the brighter the white and the cooler the object that darker the black. One advantage of thermal over night vision is that it can see through tall grass, fog, smoke, etc., because it is reading heat and not using light to “see” the image. Another advantage of thermal over night vision is that it can detect objects at a much further range.
Entry level pricing for night vision can be more manageable, while thermal devices can quickly range into thousands of dollars. Either way, it’s nice to know that these optics are now legal for predator hunting in Pennsylvania.