Why Is It Illegal To Hunt Deer At Night

Deer running frantically in the dark.

Although hunting deer can be an amazing experience if done properly, there are some limitations and precautions that we should follow before getting out there.  According to the law, hunting at night is, in fact, illegal, but, it’s for good reason, and I will be more than happy to explain exactly why down below so that not only do you stay protected but keep your hunting license as well.

Hunting deer at night is illegal because it poses a threat to you and the people around you.  With no sunlight to help you see what you’re doing, you could accidentally end up tripping over something and injuring yourself, or even worse, injuring someone else. 

Mistaking a friend for a target is not something that is not unlikely when hunting at night, especially for beginners.  On top of that, the risk you take of losing your license is simply not worth it.

Let’s get more into detail of when would be the best times for you to hunt deer and the penalizations you may face if you get caught hunting after-hours plus some good alternatives to what you can hunt instead.

BEST TIME TO HUNT DEER

Deer are of the crepuscular species, so, just like rabbit and many other animals, they too are most likely to be spotted between dusk and dawn.  This can change during the Rut, though.  This is when you will find deer anywhere at any given time.

For those that don’t know, the Rut is pretty much when there is increased activity in buck activity.  So, with that being said, even though you might be unable to hunt at night, you can still hunt pretty close to it. I know this might be disappointing for many hunters, but it is the law, and our safety should come before anything.

To be more specific with a good time in which you should hunt, I’ve found that many have found success with sightings mid to late morning.  This can be because they are still feeding from the night prior.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET CAUGHT

hunting ground rules and regulations

The risks of getting caught hunting at night alone make it not worth it.  If caught, you could be facing some serious jail time, misdemeanors and large fines.  I don’t know about you, but I enjoy my freedom… and my money.

Using South Dakota wildlife laws, for example, this is what you could potentially face with a first-time conviction if hunting at night

  • $2,000 fine, one-year imprisonment, or both.
  • Hunting without a license could result in a $250 fine plus hunting privilege revocation for up to one year.
  • Exceeding the daily or possession limit can result in a revocation for up to three years.

Now, this isn’t about the penalties you may face while hunting without a license, but these are all still things to keep in mind just so you know what you could be facing if breaking the wildlife laws. If that doesn’t convince you to not hunt at night, though, take a look at the safety risks you might face when hunting after the sundown.

MORE RISKS OF HUNTING AT NIGHT

Even though this may apply more towards new hunters, this is still something to keep in mind for even the most seasoned hunter. Because whether it’s at your own fault or someone else’s, anything can happen to anyone and mistakes do happen all the time.

Say you’re in the woods alone at night and you trip and break an arm, hit your head on a rock or even slip into a cold stream. Not only can this be a very scary experience for many, but in some cases, a deadly one.

Yes, you could always try and call assuming that you didn’t fall into a river bank, but what if your phone dies? what if it gets damaged by water? What if you forgot to bring it?  The possibilities are endless. All of these things need to be taken into consideration.  There are a million things that could go wrong while hunting if inexperienced or experienced, but hunting when your visibility is reduced can double or triple your chances of something bad happening.

WILD ANIMALS

Other wildlife do pose a threat when hunting, but unlike hunting during the day, the chances of running directly into a dangerous wild animal while hunting at night are even greater. Not because of increased activity, but because of the advantages particular animals have over us. 

Grizzly bear

One potential dangerous animal that we are all familiar with are bears.  The chances of you running into one of these guys may be slim, but it is still a good thing to keep in mind just in case you end up hunting other animals instead.

The fact of the matter is that some animals can see way better than us humans at night and will, therefore, use this as an advantage over us.  It would really suck to run face-to-face with a bear at night knowing it has the upper hand and not being able to do much about it or have your aiming abilities be restricted due to having little light to see with. 

Of course, there may be signs of when other wildlife are near you, but due to your decreased visual acuity, your ability to judge your actions could suffer pretty greatly. 

Again, this is very unlikely, but bobcat could also be a threat to hunters.  They are fast, strong and could very well cut a major blood vessel, such as an artery, and cause you to bleed out very quickly.  I don’t mean to go into gruesome detail, but these are all real possibilities you should take into consideration while and before hunting.

Safety should be your number one priority before leaving the house, so, bringing the correct gear along with you should always be mandatory. It is always recommended to pack some good repellent and a firearm just in case something does happen.

Here are a few more animals that can be potential threats while hunting…

  • Polar Bear
  • Cougar
  • Wolves
  • Bison
  • Wild Boar
  • Alligators 

HUNTING ALTERNATIVES

Just because you can’t hunt deer doesn’t mean you’re all the way out of luck.  Not only are there other animals that are far safer to hunt at night, but are completely legal to hunt at night as well.  One one of the most common animals to hunt at night are Coyote.

The only problem with hunting coyote is that they can be a little harder to catch, so it’s good to know what you’re looking forward to with some good tips in mind and a good strategy in-plan. Despite the quickness of them, coyote will tend to approach distress calls very slowly, so you’ll have to be patient when hunting so that you don’t leave disappointed.Raccoon standing in grass

If you like a challenge than raccoon are another great animal to hunt.  These animals are fast, great at evading predators and will give even the most skilled hunters a run for their money. It is suggested to invest in a good coon squad call that will make your nighttime hunt a little easier.

Juvenile coon’s in particular use a combination of purr and chattering noises, so using something to mimic these sounds can give you an advantage over them.  A good way to make the sounds that will attract them is to invest in an electronic calling device. An advantage to this is that it can be hooked up to speaker and set a good distance away from you so that you can avoid any conflict when the raccoons arrive.

Please keep in mind that raccoons can be really aggressive when provoked, so use caution and good hunting tactics when hunting for them.

CONCLUSION

After doing some research, I was highly surprised that there was a lack of in-depth information regarding the law of hunting deer at night while providing explanations and alternatives to what you could hunt, so I decided to write my own post about it.

It is unfortunate that, no, we cannot hunt deer at night, but after looking at all the safety and legal issues that we are faced with, it’s probably better to just hunt other wildlife instead anyways.

Over the years, I have heard many people ask why this law exists for deer and not other animals, and I could definitely see why when first starting off with bowhunting.  I’d say the main reason for not being able to hunt deer at night above all would be the safety aspect of it.

Deer can actually be pretty aggressive when faced in a situation where they have to defend themselves, unlike other animals, and it is safe to be on your toes and know when the best times to hunt are so that you ensure your safety is always the first priority over everything else.

Also, people don’t realize how great a deer’s eyesight is at night compared to ours.  I suppose it is not uncommon to assume that deer have the same eyesight as you, but this is not at all the case.