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How Long Can You Hunt After Sunset? Everything You Need to Know

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hunter in the wild

If you own private property, you might assume the animals and times you can hunt are fair game, but that’s not the case. All states have laws limiting the creatures, seasons, and even times of day you can hunt. The restrictions protect animal populations from over-hunting, as well as protect humans from hunting accidents after dark. If you hunt an animal outside of the legal boundaries, that’s known as poaching, and it’s an offense that could cost you fines and maybe even jail-time. Hunting for big game animals such as deer is typically restricted to the hours between 30 minutes before dawn and 30 minutes after sunset. However, the laws vary by state. Continue reading to learn more about hunting after sunset.hummingbird divider

What Animals Can You Hunt at Night?

In New York, big game hunting is only permitted between sunrise and sunset. Some people have protested this regulation since deer, in particular, are crepuscular, meaning that they are the most active in the twilight hours than in the middle of the day or night. Some argue that the sunrise to sunset rule limits their productivity since the best time to shoot a buck is between 9 and 10 a.m., before hunting slows down as deer tend to not be as active in the middle of the day.

Some states ban night hunting entirely. However, for the most part, you can generally hunt wild hogs and “pests” such as raccoons and coyotes, just not animals you typically harvest for meat. In some parts of the country coyotes are considered a protected species, so be sure to check on your state’s guidelines for the most accurate information. Other animals commonly hunted at night include alligators, frogs, and opossums.

Hunter in the forest
Image By: Robert Nyholm, Shutterstock

What’s the Purpose of Hunting Seasons?

Hunting seasons aren’t standardized nationally, but rather are determined by wildlife biologists within the state who study the animals that reside locally. Open seasons for hunting are calculated to avoid mating times and may change depending on the overall population of the species. For example, a hunting season may close early if the species experiences a dip in population size or experiences significant distress due to environmental factors.

The restrictions on the particular times of day are generally geared more towards protecting humans. Shooting after dark can result in tragic mistakes, such as confusing another hunter for a big game animal. Additionally, a shot fired in the night can confuse local law enforcement who are vigilantly out during the wee hours to prevent crime. 

three elk hunters
Image By: melissamn, Shutterstock

What Other Hunting Restrictions Do I Need to Know About?

In some states such as Alabama, night vision is completely prohibited. Other states have more nuanced rules but may not entirely ban its use.  Not all animals are legal to hunt in every state, either. Additionally, you might have to have a special permit to hunt at night—if it’s allowed at all. It’s very important to become familiar with the hunting laws and restrictions in your state so that you don’t get into accidental legal trouble.

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Final Thoughts

Though it depends on the state, hunting for big game animals that are typically killed for meat, such deer and bears, are limited to the hours between 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Smaller animals that are usually hunted because of environmental problems such as coyotes and raccoons may be hunted at night, but not in all areas. Regardless of where you go hunting—even if it’s on your own land—you should check with local law enforcement to verify what the rules are in your area. Failure to obey the rules could result in fines, suspension of your hunting license, or even jail time depending on where you live.

Featured Image Credit: Kyle Glenn, Unsplash

About the Author Brooke Bundy

Brooke Bundy is a freelance writer who lives with three cats and a dog. She attended the University of North Georgia where she acquired a B.S. in Media Studies. Booke loves storytelling and spending time with her pets at their house in New Orleans, Louisiana. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and brewing coffee.