WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Scouting in the Dark: Using Night Vision Legally

Have you ever thought of scouting in the dark? LG and I’ve done a lot of scouting. We’ve chatted with a few bull elks in the night. We’ve heard footsteps near our tent at night. This past year we were given the opportunity to try a couple different methods of seeing those things that go “grunt” in the night. We tested both infrared and thermal vision devices by spying on animals in the dark.

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When we received the optics on trial basis only, I thought, “What are we going to do with these? We cannot legally hunt with them.” LG and I began to throw out ideas of fun we might have with said items. I phoned the local departments of fish and game to inquire as to what rules we’d need to follow.

FLIR-Mia-Photo-Hank-Anstine copy 2

(Hank Anstine photo)

The area in which we live is near the Colorado-New Mexico boarder, so I decided to contact officials in both states. The upper state indicated we wouldn’t be able to use the night vision optics during a hunt. They said as long as we had a firearm with us, we could not have the night vision device in our possession as well. *We suggest checking your state’s regulations.

“Rats!” we thought, because these sight-enhancing items would be fabulous to use for more that one purpose, while hunting. LG and I thought we could use them to look for wildlife, before a guide drops us off at our stand or blind.

Guess what? When I phoned New Mexico Department of Fish and Game (NMDGF), they said we would be able to have the optics, but we couldn’t hunt with night vision, except under special circumstances.

The NMDGF official gave caution when he shared that some animals, coyote and jackrabbit, could be hunted at night. Night vision (or thermal vision) can complicate the laws of hunting. He said even though night vision could be used for said species, there is a shade of gray due to risk of being ticketed for reckless use with a firearm. This is due to the inhibited ability to see beyond a target.

Since we weren’t actually going to use mounted scopes and hunting at night, we took this advice as a word of caution, which we appreciated.

After we had clarification about the legalities for taking in the views at night, we headed out to do some scouting.

We had a ton of fun learning to use the optics. We looked to see what may be chasing our ducks, geese, goats and other animals in the night. After we got the devices figured out, we headed out for a road hunt. –Remember, we shoot cameras!


Flirts Scout infrared monocular camera on a mule deer buck (Lea Leggitt photo)

We checked some of our favorite hunting leases and learned a few things.
• Look for predators – If our farm animals were not being quiet in the night, we were able to scan the area to see if a predator was near.
• Check the area – Using night vision to see if animals are around your stand, before you get out of the vehicle, is a great idea. At times, we suspected there were animals nearby. We were amazed with the number of animals we saw.
• Locate bucks and bulls – With both devices, we were able to see if the animals had antlers. However, the thermal vision was not as sharp, so we weren’t able to determine size of antlers.

Thermal vision works, detecting heat. If you’re viewing a live animal, you’ll see the body, as well as warmer areas around the eyes and nose. Antlers don’t carry a large amount of heat, but we learned we were able to see them if sun had been upon the animals during the day.

Infrared night vision collects ambient light, therefor works well on a clear, starry night when the moon is out. On a dark, cloudy night, it doesn’t have much light to collect, so will be a bit dimmer.

Night vision optics tested –


(Mia Anstine photo)

FLIR Scout BTS Series – MSRP $6199 (This one’s for the pros, but there are more affordable versions available.)


(Mia Anstine photo)

Stealth Cam Digital Night Vision Monocular STC-NVM – MSRP $199 (YES! It is affordable, and on sale for $139.99 at Amazon.)

  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.