Which color is best for night hunting? This question has some of the strongest, most opinionated answers that vary from amateurs to professionals. Normally I would give a short answer to this question upfront but after a lengthy discussion on the topic last Saturday while guest hosting on the Big n Wild Outdoors radio program, it has become very apparent that there is a lot of confusion over which light offers an advantage.
In humans, color blindness is the result of photopigment defects in the eye. The most common color blindness is red-green, followed by blue-yellow, and the total absence of color vision. Humans are very unique in this sense, we have trichromatic vision which means we have three pigment cones to blend colors together. Most other animals, at least those we consider game animals, are bichromatic, whilst most of the reptiles we hunt only have one pigment cone which means they see in black and white.
I don’t know if I’m making any sense to you, but I’ll push on ahead and hope I’m making some sense. You see, hogs, varmints and predators can see low wavelength light well (blue light), but as the wavelength of that light increases they have a hard time visually processing the light. The wavelength the biologists say they go color blind is in the range of 520-540 nm. This is the core of the "true green" light color range.
I reckon that means they really can’t see a green light very well, if at all. Most green hunting lights are right there at that 540-nm wavelength. The red color by manufacturing standards starts at 620-nm wavelength. Such a high wavelength means that they can’t see red, so you make up your own mind; hunt with a light they might not see or hunt with a light they cannot see.
Although varmints, hogs, predators and even deer can’t see red, that doesn’t mean you can blast them with a red spotlight in the eyes and they won’t take off. It simply means to set your light on a high enough intensity to light up the area but not a blinding intensity. Keep it at wide angles and soft, and if you have a light you can slowly turn up the intensity, so much the better.
If you ask me which color I use, well I use both. And being red-green colorblind myself, I can’t say as I’ve given it nearly as much thought as I did over the weekend when a caller ignited the debate. However, I always have favored a red light and I’ll tell you why.
There have been times when shining hogs at night when a hog, which was looking away from us, spooked and ran. The reason? His shadow. Before I did any research on how they process and recognize colors, I was aware that they CAN recognize shadows and green lights produce more defined shadows.
One hunt I enjoyed great success on was after coyotes. We, my calling partner and I, called in five separate songdogs in one night and we used both red and green lights to pick up their eyes and follow them into range. Not one of them acknowledged the light, focused only on the calling and the promise of an easy meal. So, take this info and keep it in mind if you find yourself on the market for a new night hunting light.
As always, I am very grateful for this opportunity to visit with you each week and any feedback, questions or if you just want to visit, reach out to me at RebelYellOutdoors@Gmail.com. God bless y’all and good hunting!