Night shooting

November 7, 2022

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Night shooting is a reasonably efficient technique for killing rabbits and can be undertaken throughout the year as required. Often three passes are needed for control to be achieved, and at least 70% of the area must be accessible before contemplating night shooting. Night shooting tackles the rabbit population at a time when they are above ground feeding. Night shooting is also a useful monitoring technique to allow problems to be noted and dealt with if shooting is not making headway.

Factors affecting night shooting include:

1. Rabbits feed actively in the early evening but intermittently later in the night.

2. Young rabbits react more unpredictably to noise, and don’t stray far from cover or their burrow. They are therefore less likely to be shot.

3. Bad weather, heavy rain, strong winds and hard frosts all reduce rabbit emergence and consequently shooting efficiency falls off. In light rain, rabbits feed normally but don’t run as readily.

4. Full moon makes shooting difficult as rabbits can see the shooter and don’t hold in the light as well.

5. Previous night shooting can make rabbits wary, as they react to the sound of a gunshot or to the beam of a spotlight.

6. Stock, cattle, horses and sheep can move in front of the night shooting team and frighten the rabbits away.

7. Night shooting becomes inefficient at higher rabbit population densities.


Before proceeding ensure you have:

Been trained in night shooting;

Hold a current firearms licence if required, some air rifles do not require a licence;

If required a permit issued by the Police Department, (with the issuing officer ranking higher than Police Inspector), to carry a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle, under the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, rule 7.211;

Current car/motorcycle licence (except for portable (i.e. on foot) night shooting or an entirely off-road night shoot);

Permission of the land occupier where the shoot is to occur;

Advise local Police if shooting on public or peri-urban land.

Equipment you may need:

First Aid kit; 

Personal locator beacon (preferably a GPS model)  GPS, preferably map capable if required;

Handheld radio telephone or cell phone subject to coverage in case of emergencies

High visibility clothing – white overalls are sufficient;  secure lockable storage for firearms.

Do not leave firearms locked in vehicles overnight;

Various spotlights can be used but all should be relatively light, not reflect back into the your eyes.  Appropriate firearm. If possible both a .22 and a shotgun should be carried. Both have advantages. Sight in your firearm during the day;  a scabbard fixed in a down pointing direction on a motorcycle (along front forks) or ATV (all terrain vehicle);  when motorcycle night shooting, ensure that the motorcycle headlight is working and set on low beam. Headlights show up ground form features such as ditches and logs by casting long shadows. Head-mounted spotlights flatten ground form features because of elevation, masking potential hazards such as dips and hollows;  carry a torch and/or spare sealed beam unit/halogen bulb;  enough ammunition to do the job x 150%.

Notify all landowners and neighbours. Discuss the operation with the landowner and confirm hazardous areas e.g. tracks, bridges, creek crossings, fences, drains and stock etc. Notify Police and Local Authority when there is an intention to shoot within or close to urban or public areas. Inspect all properties in your planned shooting area during daylight hours.

Identify and locate hazards (houses, sheds etc). Work out a suitable safe route (be familiar with your areas). Identify and confirm both your own and your buddy’s work routes and the required time it will take to complete these. Routes may be recorded to a GPS (preferably map capable) so they can be easily followed later, however, the route should vary according to prevailing wind or other conditions, and shooters should be prepared to alter their route to suit.

If possible, ensure radio or cell phone communication or, if that is not possible, arrange a suitable time and place to meet during the night. Motorcycle night shooting is the favoured method to transport a shooter into a position where he can dispatch rabbits. The major benefits of motorcycles over 4WD vehicles are manoeuvrability, quietness, economics and that they invariably cover the area more thoroughly. Motorcycles are usually transported to the place of work on specially modified trailers or utes. Portable (on foot) night shooting may be a good option in some instances.

Always observe the 7 basic safety rules of firearm use:

1. Treat every firearm as loaded.

2. Load the firearm only when you are ready to fire.

3. Always point firearms in a safe direction.

4. Identify your target.

5. Consider your firing zone (especially at night).

6. Store firearms and ammunition safely.

7. Avoid using alcohol or drugs when handling firearms.

Furthermore, observe the following when night shooting:

Always work separately, but preferably with a partner (one person, one area).

Know your partner’s intended night shooting route and estimated positions, and keep in regular communication by phone or radio if possible.

Always carry warm waterproof clothing and good boots, not gumboots. (Be prepared for poor weather conditions).  Check the weather forecast.

Be familiar with your route.  Arrange radio or cell phone for distress communication.

Carry sufficient battery power to ensure your equipment will operate for the full duration of your route.  Have a pre-arranged meeting time and place at the end of the night.  Ensure batteries are carried in a properly protected carrier or box (some type of sealed battery is safest).

Never discharge a firearm from a moving vehicle.  Don’t take risks with your vehicle at night. Only go where you know it is safe.

When crossing fences, always place firearms through the fence first.  When crossing streams, avoid rock hopping and, instead, always walk through the stream.  Never run with a loaded firearm.

Carry your First Aid Kit and EPIRB. Sweep the terrain with the spotlight in a steady, side-to-side fashion, avoiding jerky movements. Do not shine the spotlight outside the effective shooting range. The spotlight often picks up the ’eye shine’ first and the colour of the reflection from the eye indicates what animal is seen.

Rabbits, hares and possums have a red-pink eye shine, sheep are yellow green, cats and ferrets are brilliant green and cattle large, saucer-like and red. The reflection is caused by a layer at the back of the eye (tapetum) which reflects light and is an adaptation in animals for ‘seeing’ movement at low light intensities.

Portable night shooting entails stalking rabbits at night on foot using a helmet-mounted light with the battery carried in a backpack or attached to a belt. Portable shooting is most useful in areas of limited access such as steep faces or rocky places. The same lights and battery are used for motorcycle and portable night shooting. Thorough knowledge of the area is imperative. Always try to work into the wind when stalking rabbits. Work the cover areas and fence lines first, and then move into the open areas from the cover.

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