Understanding Jacklighting

As the Deer
Morten Falch Sortland / Getty Images

Jacklighting is the practice of shining a light into a forest or a field at night, to find animals for hunting. This can be done with car headlights, spotlights, searchlights or other lights, mounted on a vehicle or not. The animals are temporarily blinded and stand still, making it easier for hunters to kill them. In some areas, jacklighting is illegal because it is considered unsporting and dangerous because the hunters cannot see far enough beyond the targeted animal.

Laws Regarding Jacklighting

Where jacklighting is illegal, the law has a specific definition of the prohibited activity. For example, in Indiana:

(b) A person may not knowingly throw or cast the rays of any spotlight or other artificial light:
(1) not required by law on a motor vehicle; and
(2) in search of or upon any wild bird or wild animal;
from a vehicle while the person possesses a firearm, bow, or crossbow, if by throwing or casting the rays a wild bird or wild animal could be killed. This subsection applies even though the animal is not killed, injured, shot at, or otherwise pursued.
(c) A person may not take any wildlife, except furbearing mammals, with the aid of illumination of any spotlight, searchlight, or other artificial light.
(d) A person may not shine a spotlight, searchlight, or other artificial light for the purpose of taking, attempting to take, or assisting another person to take a deer.

In New Jersey, the law states:

No person or persons while in or on a vehicle shall throw or cast the rays of any illuminating device including, but not limited to, a spotlight, flashlight, floodlight or headlight, which is affixed to a vehicle or which is portable, on or in any area where deer may reasonably be expected to be found, while having in his or their possession or control, or in or on the vehicle, or any compartment thereof, whether or not the vehicle or compartment is locked, any firearm, weapon or other instrument capable of killing deer.

Additionally, hunting at night is illegal in some states, whether or not a spotlight is being used. Some states specify which types of animals may be hunted with spotlights at night.

Also Known As: spotlighting, shining, lamping

Examples: A conservation officer caught four men jacklighting in the state park last night, and cited them for violating state hunting regulations.