Deer Vision 101

by Tracy Breen

Recently there has been much discussion about how deer see.  Do they see in color?  Can hunters hunt wearing blue jeans and a striped polo shirt and get away with it?  Keep reading and you’ll find out.

More than ever, hunters are starting to get away from wearing traditional camouflage in the field. Pink camouflage is becoming very popular with female hunters.  Many women are reporting success in the field while being decked out in pink camouflage.  To the human eye, pink camouflage stands out, especially when the hunter wearing it is surrounded by green leaves or fall colors, but deer don’t see the way we do.  What is more important than the camouflage you wear is whether it has been treated with ultraviolet brighteners.

Science supports findings that deer can see ultraviolet (UV) light much better than humans can.  UV light gives off a blue glow that many animals can easily see. Big game animals and birds readily detect UV light.  A deer sees UV light because of the way his eyes work.  “A deer is a dichromatic animal.  He only has two cones in his eye; humans have three.  He has receptors for blue and yellow so he only sees shades of blue and yellow,” Michael Jordan from Atsko, maker of UV Killer Products said. Since a deer only sees shades of blue and yellow, their view of the world is mostly a muddy yellow color, but his ability to gather light is amazing.  Knowing how a deer can see helps us know how to dress in the field.  “He has a tata lucidum in the back of the eye which gathers light and reflects it back out so it is used twice.  The lens in his eye is nine times larger than ours so his vision is nine to the second power brighter than our vision.   His peak of vision is 445 nanometers which is an area we hardly see in the UV spectrum.”  We hardly see UV light while deer easily see brighter light than we do and they picks up blue better than we do.  They can easily see anything with UV brighteners in it.

Most clothes we buy at the store have UV brighteners added to them at the factory to make them appear brighter and prettier to human eyes.  These brighteners cause our clothes to glow when seen by deer.  How many times have we been busted in the woods by a deer who suddenly saw us from a long distance even though we didn’t move?  Jordan says we get busted by our clothes.  “If a hunters’ clothes aren’t treated with a UV killer to destroy the UV brighteners their clothes are giving off, they look like a blue lightbulb in the tree,” Jordan explained. However, many camouflage companies are having clothes made without UV brighteners.

In case you are wondering if all of this is for real, check out the research online; you will find plenty of it! Jordan is a scientist and many other scientists have confirmed that many animals see UV light.  Many birds of prey, including turkeys, see UV light and use it as a way to hunt for insects who also give off a UV light.

There is a simple test you can perform on your clothes to see if they glow if you are skeptical. Take a small black light, go into a dark room, and turn the light on.  Shine it on your hunting clothes.  If your clothes have UV brighteners in them, they will glow bright blue.  If you see more of a dull light, your clothes are UV free.  Sometimes part of a garment is free of UV light while others parts are not.

For the hunters who want to wear crazy colors in the field like pink, Jordan says go for it!  “There are several colors that deer can’t see. We call them no colors. Pink is a no color; they can’t see pink so wearing it while hunting isn’t a problem,” Jordan said. “I am still not man enough to wear pink in the woods but anyone who is won’t be spotted by deer because they are wearing pink camouflage unless the clothing is glowing because of UV.”

So if you want to wear pink in the woods this fall, spray a UV killer on your clothe before wearing them in the field to ensure that you don’t have that glow effect.  For the rest of us who are wearing Lost Camo or another camouflage pattern, spraying down with a UV killer of some type or washing out clothes in UV free detergents is one way to help us blend in better in the field.

Many bowhunters add colored accessories to their bows. If you fall into this category, don’t worry about it. According to Jordan, the bright colors that we see cannot be seen by deer very well.   A little color here and there shouldn’t affect much.  If you want to deck out your new Mission bow in colored accessories and wear pink camouflage, go ahead!  All of that color will make great grip and grin pictures!

Submitted by: Mission Archery  Profile Photo

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