Night-vision gadgets aren't just for the military anymore. Here's why you should consider using them

I once believed night-vision optics were a tool designed solely for the military, with no practical application for hunting and fishing. That all changed one autumn night in the dark woods of northwestern Quebec, when a member of our hunting party got lost. Using night-vision binoculars, I eventually spotted our wayward pal walking along a distant shoreline. It was a sight for sore eyes-and a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy. It was also an epiphany for me, and being a bit of a debunker by nature, I set out to prove night-vision indeed has a use for hunting and fishing.

I soon discovered, for example, that a good set of infrared-illuminating binoculars is ideal for pre-season deer and moose scouting-provided you leave your firearm at home, of course. The ability to scan the woods, fields and marshland of my hunting territory after dark opened up a whole new world to me. You would not believe the critters that come out at night.

And since many fish, such as walleye, are twilight feeders, I started bringing a starlight scope with me in the boat to help navigate the way after dark. My evening fishing excursions would never be the same.

The main problem is, many outdoorsmen tend to associate night-vision devices with poaching, automatically assuming they're used for shooting after legal light, rather than merely for scouting and helping to safely guide the way in the dark. Indeed, I would never suggest you tote a rifle after dark.

Of course, night-vision isn't the first technological advance to be viewed suspiciously by some in the outdoors community. Back in the days when iron sights were first being replaced by high-magnification riflescopes, for example, many felt the hunter was gaining an unfair advantage. And just as riflescopes are now widely accepted, I believe night-vision will one day also become a fact of life for both hunting and fishing. Contrary to popular belief, not all progress is bad.

To me, night-vision is about fun, safety and the ability to spend more time in the great outdoors. And just think of all the competition nowadays for big game, or even for a small slice of the moose woods to call your own-any way to help get a leg up can make a big difference.

Yet the question remains: Is night-vision ethical? I believe it is, if only for the opportunity to gain insight into our quarry's movement after dark. By learning more about fish and wildlife behaviour, after all, we become better informed-and more efficient-anglers and hunters.

Although night-vision technology has not completely overcome the stigma of being linked to the pursuit of game after dark, it's nonetheless slowly finding a niche within the hunting and fishing world. And as I field-test new night-vision gear, I continue to discover exciting uses to complement my adventures in the great outdoors. If you ask me, that's what it's all about.