Hunting Lights For Nighttime Coyotes

The owner of Night Eyes talks proper use of lights while coyote hunting, which can be a game changer.

Joe Zaffuto | December 6, 2021

Hunting the eastern coyote can be quite challenging. Since they are mostly nocturnal, one advantage is to target them at night. Utilizing lights can be very successful when done correctly.

When hunting for coyotes at night, some hunters just use their bright red gun light to scan for eyes. However, a light that is made specifically for scanning would be a much better choice. All scanning lights are not created equal. It is a common misconception that brighter is always better however, that is not the case when using scanning lights. Some lights that are sold as scanning lights use high output LEDs with smooth reflector housings and/or a magnifying spherical glass lens to concentrate the focus of the beam. While this may show eyes over in the next county, it may also have the undesirable result of “burning” the eyes and spooking the predator.

Joe Zaffuto is the owner of Night Eyes, which produces speciality lights for nighttime predator hunting. Joe prefers to use a headlamp light when calling as he scans for an approaching predator. 

The objective of a scanning light is to continuously scan the area where you are calling. The most common method of calling is imitating the sound of an injured rabbit while scanning and looking for the reflection of approaching eyes. A lower-intensity diffused beam will do this at surprisingly long distances.

I prefer using a headlamp for scanning over a handheld scan light because it keeps my hands free. The Night Eyes Headlamps were designed specifically to pick up a predator’s eyes at well over 300 yards when set at only 40% brightness. The light has also been designed to minimize the odds of spooking the predator. The orange peel reflector housing fragments and diffuses the light beam and the fully adjustable brightness control lets the hunter dial up as little or as much of this diffuse light as desired.  Keeping this minimal amount of diffused light on the coyote conditions the predator to the light as it continues to approach.

Coyotes get accustomed to the scan light, and then when they are within shooting range (I prefer around 100 yards or so), the hunter can switch on a brighter gun mounted light for positive identification and the shot.  A Night Eyes GL-350 gun-mounted light will positively identify any predator at distances of 350 yards. Because the coyote has been conditioned with the less-brilliant scanning light, the brighter shooting light does not immediately trigger the animal’s photo-phobia (aversion to light), thus keeping it in range longer.

Night Eyes GL-350 LED Gun Light Kit

I am often asked if it is better to turn off the scanning light once the gun light is on the animal.  Basically, it comes down to preference, but because I am using a headlamp rather than a handheld light, I can easily reach up and turn the headlamp off once the gun light has been turned on. It is important to make sure the gun light has been turned on prior to turning the headlamp off. You never want to leave the coyote in total darkness once he has been spotted. The light beam acts as concealment for the hunter. Night Eyes now offers a wireless remote controlled headlamp option for those who do not want to take your hand off your weapon to reach up and turn off your headlamp.

The goal is not just seeing the coyote’s eyes but to get the animal in close. Overpowering them with too much scanning light is not the way to do this. I guess you could compare scanning with a shooting light to hunting squirrels with a deer rifle. Sure, it might work, but there are better choices. Save the brighter shooting lights for positive target identification and the kill shot.

No lighting system, no matter how well designed, will make you a better hunter. You still need to be mindful of good hunting tactics and to use good light discipline while calling. Lights are tools like any other tool and when used correctly you will be more successful.


Centre Hall, PA

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