We all know the cliché where the hunter, or angler, wakes up at sunrise to hit their favourite honey hole or settle into their tree stand, at first light. Since our outdoor pursuits are limited to daylight hours, essentially half of every day goes unused. Harnessing the power of night vision optics, life for outdoor enthusiasts may never be the same, should they choose to take advantage of 24/7 vision!

With the development of  ‘1st generation’ night vision for the military, manufacturers were soon marketing night vision optics for use, not only by soldiers, but outdoor enthusiasts as well. The average cost of these sophisticated units also dropped and a plethora of products soon were available. Once you have seen clearly into the darkness as our wild neighbours do, a whole new world will open!

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History and Evolution

At one time, night vision optics were available only to the military, as the ability to see with the naked eye at night was an advantage only necessary in combat situations. Generation 1-level night vision slowly squeaked into the mainstream market. Also known as starlight scopes, these entry-level optics were the most simplistic of all night vision, requiring some ambient light in order to function.  Generation 1 optics will not work in complete darkness. Eventually, Generation 2, 3 and higher night vision grades became available; as newer technology advanced.

The world’s largest maker of binoculars; Bushnell, starting producing an assortment of night vision products for outdoor enthusiasts which went largely unnoticed at first. This niche market slowly, but surely, took shape as enthusiasts eventually realized how useful night vision would become.

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What is Night Vision?

Night vision is defined as a device which allows you to view your outdoor surroundings, with little to no light source. Night vision viewers are composed of an image intensifier, a phosphorous screen, an objective lens and an infrared illuminator. These devices work in conjunction offering humans insight into a dark world, on a different level of the light spectrum. Generation 1 night vision does not require an active infrared light source. Instead, it magnifies or amplifies a minimal amount of ambient light. There are night vision binoculars, night vision monoculars and even night vision goggles. All of these tools; however, have yet to overcome the stigma attached to pursuing game after dark; but they are slowly finding their place among the hunting and fishing community.

Source: Bushnell


There is a small but mighty line of night vision products available on the market today.  Manufacturers like Bushnell produce user-friendly and moderately priced units for various applications. The digital Equinox line of monoculars, for example, offer excellent distance viewing in complete darkness and now even record HD video.

The Bushnell Equinox Z2 presents clear viewing in low-light conditions and even total darkness. The infrared-sensitive complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor offers edge-to-edge resolution. With 6x magnification and a 50mm objective lens, these fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission and decrease glare. Night time never looked so clear!

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Some users find night vision binoculars easier to use as they look and feel more like traditional field optics. Night vision goggles and headgear is another more sophisticated and expensive option used for specific applications.  Night vision headgear is great for travelling in the outdoors at night and is effective for moving throughout the forest and countryside. With a low magnification, a goggle user may travel comfortably after sundown.

Night Vision for Hunting

There is a stigma attached to night vision when it comes to hunting-related activities. Since hunting at night is illegal in North America, in most cases, you cannot lawfully carry night vision optics and a firearm at the same time, that is obvious. Where night vision has its place though is in the preparation, scouting and traveling to and from a hunting location, after dark. Provided you are not actively hunting i.e. carrying a firearm with you, these optics are fabulous for getting around in the forest after sundown, or locating a disoriented hunting companion after dark.

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The safety aspect of night vision during hunting situations is of utmost importance. The ability to move safely through the forest after dark opens doors for hunters, both pre-season and during the season itself.  While scouting and gathering research in pre-season, night vision binoculars or monocular are great for spotting white-tailed deer as they move in low-light conditions. Monitoring game movement with your night vision optics offers a huge advantage, since most animals are inherently crepuscular and some even nocturnal. The ability to observe game as they slip through the darkness allows hunters the advance of tracking movement never before seen.

Advanced techniques

Another trick with night vision is the advanced use of goggles or a night vision headset.  The use of night vision goggles will allow the user to travel freely after dark.  These goggles typically have low magnification and serve as an after dark set of eyes to replace our human eyes.  Since most night vision viewing appears with a green hue, it does take some getting used to as our eyes are more sensitive to the green portion of the light spectrum.  Most night vision is viewed in this part of the light spectrum.

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Night vision optics are handy when used as a secondary tool along with conventional field optics such as a binoculars. You now have outdoor viewing covered 24/7! If you have never tried using night vision, I suggest you do.

For more information on night vision products available, vision Bushnell.com

Want to learn more about hunting? Check out my feature on tree stand hunting.