If you are a hunter, you’ve probably found yourself in the woods after the sun goes down. Some hunters actually wait until dark to hit the woods. If you enjoy hunting nocturnal game like feral hogs, coyotes, foxes, or raccoons, you’ll eventually have to learn to embrace the dark.
However, even if you hunt during daylight hours, you may find yourself outside before dawn or after dusk. For example, if you’re a deer hunter, you probably hike to their favorite treestand before the sun comes up. This allows you to be in position at dawn when deer are most active.
No matter why you find yourself in the dark, having a red LED light will help you view your surroundings without scaring any animals that may be in the area.
Let’s take a closer look at why you want to use a red LED flashlight for hunting.
How the Eyes Work
How humans see in the dark is very different from how most other mammals see. The human eye can see a broad color spectrum thanks to something called trichromatic vision. The human retina contains three different types of color receptors. These receptors, called cone cells, perceive fine detail and color. However, they require bright light to work properly.
Each type of cone cell absorbs and processes different parts of the color spectrum. As the cones blend colors together, we are able to differentiate an almost infinite number of color shades.
This lack of color perception is not a handicap. It is actually the opposite. With fewer color receptive cones, there is more room within the animal’s eye for light sensitive rod cells. Rods do not detect color, however they are well-suited for capturing very dim light and detecting movement.
Dichromatic vision actually helps animals detect low light wavelengths, giving them much better night vision than humans and other primates. However, dichromatic vision means nonhuman animals are unable to process certain colors. As a result, they lack the ability to separate green and red wavelengths of light.
Hunters can use this to their advantage.
The Problem with Standard Flashlights
For hunters, secrecy is important to success. Whether you’re moving to and from your hunting location or calling animals to you, you don’t want to alert every deer, varmint, or predator to your presence. While a standard flashlight helps our human eyes see better in the dark, that white light is also easy for other mammals to see.
Animals understand very quickly that a bright white light in the woods doesn’t belong there. If they spot your flashlight, they automatically become wary. And a spooked animal is a lost opportunity.
You basically become blind to anything beyond the beam of your flashlight.
Also, if you turn off your light (or God forbid, your batteries die), you have to wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
When you use a bright white flashlight to get to and from your favorite hunting stand, your eyes naturally adapt to seeing in that bright condition. Your pupils contract. The photo-pigments in the eye’s rods and cones are also affected by the bright light.
Intense light causes these pigments to decompose, reducing your natural sensitivity to dim light.
Our eyes adapt to bright light much more quickly than they adjust to seeing in the dark. If your flashlight fails, it can take as long as 45 minutes for your eyes to adequately adapt to the dark. Total dark adaptation can take several hours.
If you want to see well in the dark, you need to ditch your white LED flashlight.
Key Advantages of Red Light LEDs
Hunters have some pretty strong opinions about what type of light is best for hunting, especially for hunting coyotes, hogs, or other nocturnal game animals. However, a red light LED is the traditional go-to light color for hunting, and for good reason.
Here are just a few good reasons to swap out your traditional flashlight for a red light LED.
- Red light is difficult for animals to see.
- Preserves a hunter’s natural night vision.
- Increases visual contrast, making it easier to detect animals when scanning an area.
- Does not interfere with night vision or infrared technology.
- Attracts fewer mosquitoes and other flying insects.
- Can also be used to hunt wild hogs, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, and small mammals.
Types of Red LED Lights for Hunting
There are several ways you can incorporate a red LED light into your hunting practices. Red LEDs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many are best suited for specific hunting applications and the “best” kind largely depends on what and how you plan to hunt.
Here is a basic run-down of the types of red LED lights hunters can choose from.
Standard Handheld Flashlight
What most people think of first when they hear the word “flashlight” is a standard handheld light. These portable devices are compact, convenient, and easy to slip into your pocket or hunting pack until you need some illumination.
A handheld light has plenty of limitations. However, they are extremely useful for finding your way to and from your hunting location.
Our favorite handheld red LED flashlight is the Surefire Aviator Dual Output Light. It comes in several color light options, but red is obviously our favorite. This model is sturdy and dependable, but also admittedly pricey.
If you need something more affordable, the High Power One Mode Red LED Flashlight from WAYLLSHINE is a great second choice.
Rail-Mounted Gun Light
If you need a hands-free red light for hunting, it's hard to beat a rail-mounted gun light. Mounted directly to your rifle, these devices illuminate the area directly in front of your firearm.
A headlamp is another hands-free red light option. This choice has one major advantage over a rail-mounted gun light, however. It provides red illumination wherever you turn your head, so you won’t have to swing your rifle around to see.
A popular choice for coon hunters, headlamps are perfect for trudging long distances through the woods. They are particularly handy for hunters who need to shuffle dog leashes, calls, and other hunting equipment.
A spotlight provides a high-powered light beam perfect for spotting feeding deer in agricultural fields. Some hunters also use them for spotting coons in the treetops or locating predators lurking along the treeline.
Many hunters use a bright white spotlight for these functions because they momentarily stun animals with their light intensity. A red LED spotlight makes a great alternative if you want to observe distant animals without scaring them.
You can carry a spotlight in your hunting pack or you can mount one to your pickup truck or ATV. Some models have separate long-life battery packs that connect directly to your truck’s cigarette lighter.
Be sure to check local laws before you use a spotlight. In some areas, this practice is illegal.
We love the Handheld Red Spotlight from Larson Electronics. With a 100-watt industrial grade halogen bulb, this handheld spotlight produces a surprisingly powerful beam capable of stretching across vast cornfields. It also has a tough, shatter resistant lens, making it perfect for tough hunting conditions. And it has a detachable cord with a cigarette plug adapter, so you can plug it directly into your vehicle.
Hunters who find themselves in the woods after dark must rely on their flashlights to help them perform a variety of tasks. A quality flashlight is essential for illuminating dark trails, scanning the area for animals, and tracking injured game. However, the bright white light produced by traditional flashlights can spook your target animals.
By choosing a red LED flashlight, you will be able to observe your surroundings while both preserving your night vision and going undetected by game. With so many advantages, every hunter should consider adding a red light LED flashlight to their hunting gear.