November 10, 2021
By Brian McCombie
It's Zero-Dark-30 and you're making your way to your stand, on opening day of the deer season. You've scouted and done your game camera due diligence, and you know the residents include a couple of nice bucks.
Not wanting to alert those bucks or their female companions to your presence, you're not using a flashlight as you navigate these dark woods. You move slow and quiet and then . . . you step on a dried branch that sounds off like a rifle shot. What's more, you trip into a small hole right afterward and stumble, your feet thumping the hard ground.
The commotion you made is immediately followed by the drum of hooved feet moving away and a crackling of brush being run through, sure signs a deer or two is long gone.
So, how does one get into the deep woods pre-dawn without alerting the local wildlife? And is there a way to check that field for deer before you walk through it in the dark, on your way to or from the stand?
The answer, depending on your state's hunting laws, might well be a night vision unit like the SIONYX Aurora Pro. A high-tech hand-held unit, the SIONYX Aurora Pro allows a user to see what's up ahead in near-total darkness. The unit runs on two rechargeable batteries that are included, allows video recording, and the EXPLORER Kit edition sports an IR Illuminator to extend the unit's range of night-time vision. It's even Wi-Fi enabled.
Technically speaking, the Aurora Pro is actually a digital night vision camera. The front of the unit (the objective) grabs up the available ambient light energy (from stars, the moon, etc.) and transforms and intensifies that energy into a digital signal. The signal is run through an image sensor, and the images appear on the unit's rear screen, allowing the user to see what his or her human eye cannot otherwise detect.
Infrared (IR) technology is often used in conjunction with night vision for better illumination. IR is a form of light the human and animal eye cannot detect, as it exists outside their visible light spectrum ranges. But IR is easily picked up by night vision. Think of IR as a flashlight beam that can only be seen with night vision.
On a unit like the SIONYX Aurora Pro, the attached IR Illuminator can be aimed at the area or object under observation, with the IR in effect “lighting up” things to make the night vision detection work even better. (Note to buyers: If Aurora Pro Explorer kits, which include the IR illuminator, are unavailable, you can always purchase an Aurora Pro kit for $999 and then purchase the IR kit separately.)
Whereas night vision units intensify the available light to make images visible, thermal units detect heat. A thermal handheld or rifle scope finds takes these heat signatures and transforms them into images for the user.
Obviously, a night vision unit like the Aurora Pro could be very handy for the deer hunter moving around in the dark, plus would have all sorts of night scouting potential.
However, and this is very important, the deer hunter first needs to check his or her state game agency laws regarding using such technology afield. The laws regarding the use of night vision vary greatly by state, with some allowing it and others strictly forbidding the technology.
In Georgia, for example, a hunter can legally use the Aurora Pro to get to his or her hunting stand in the dark morning and to help them get back safely to their vehicle after the sun goes down. Off-season, that same hunter could employ the same Aurora Pro to scout for deer at night.
However, when scouting off-season, that same Georgia hunter cannot have a firearm or bow in his or her possession as the night vision plus weapon could be used for poaching.
In Missouri, though, according to the Hunting Regulations found on the Missouri Department of Conservation website, a person cannot,
“Possess night vision or thermal imagery equipment while carrying a firearm, bow, or other implement used to take wildlife, except: To take coyotes from February 1 – March 31 in conjunction with other legal hunting methods; For the purposes of killing feral swine by landowners or their authorized representatives on the landowner's property; with written authorization of an agent of the department.”
This regulation would allow scouting with a night vision unit during the off season, as long as “no firearm, bow, or other implement used to take wildlife” was in the possession of the person. But the deer hunter heading to the stand, with gun or bow in hand, is out of luck.
Can night vision be used for any actual hunting? In many states, the use of night vision to find or take wildlife is legal for taking predators like coyotes, foxes and bobcats, and non-game animals like feral hogs.
But to our knowledge here at NAW, no states allow for the hunting of game species at night with night vision or thermal optics. In fact, states generally don't allow any night hunting of game species, the exception being the afore-mentioned coyotes and bobcats, etc.
Technology keeps marching on, and there is often a lag in time between new tech being available to hunters and their respective game agencies deciding if that technology is suitable for ethical hunting or not. It is possible that some states which currently dis-allow the possession of a night vision unit by someone carrying a hunting firearm or bow will one day make an exception for the hunter heading to their hunting area in the dark.
For now? Check and re-check with your state game agency before investing in a night vision technology to know exactly what you the deer hunter can and can't do with this exciting and useful technology.
The SIONYX Aurora Pro Night Vision Camera
Based in Massachusetts, SIONYX develops and manufactures proprietary ultra-low-light image sensors and high-performance night vision camera systems. These sensors dramatically enhance the performance of light sensing devices commonly used in commercial, industrial, medical, and defense related applications, and the company has a number of United States Department of Defense contracts.
The Aurora Pro is one of the company's commercially available and award-winning night vision cameras developed for consumer use. This small, lightweight and all digital camera system can perform in moonless starlight conditions and is most commonly used by outdoorsmen, law enforcement, search and rescue, and mariners around the world.
The Aurora Pro Explorer Edition kit includes:
- Aurora PRO color night vision camera
- Hardshell waterproof case
- 940nm IR Illuminator
- Illuminator rail mount
- 2 camera batteries and an external battery charger for Aurora
- 32 GB microSD card
- Rechargeable batteries and external battery charger for the illuminator
- USB charge/data cable
$1299 | sionyx.com