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Busted: What You Didn’t Know About Deer Vision

Have you ever experienced a bow hunt when a big mature buck walks in and suddenly looks up at you? Next he begins shifting his head from side to side and bobs it up and down to get a better 3D view of you. At this moment you have just been busted and with a blink of an eye he is gone. With this one misfortune you may have lost your opportunity to harvest this big mature buck for the season. Deer patterns show alerted mature bucks will not return to possible areas of danger for the rest of the season. This can be a especially frustrating for most hunters since they assume they took all the proper precautions. They scouted the perfect spot, hunted the wind, remained still, wore expensive camouflage and did their best to decrease their human odors but they were still busted!

After a failed hunt, hunters will question everything they might have done wrong. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” What hunters fail to understand is that deer eyes are equally as important as their sense of smell is for survival. Most hunters have been so over educated on scent control that they typically disregard a deer’s other super charged senses and that can be a huge mistake. One of the most overlooked senses of a deer and other big game animals is their vision.

Anatomy of a deer eye

To better understand why hunters need to respect a deer’s vision then they must know the capabilities of a deer’s eye. A deer’s eye is complex and much different than a hunter’s eye. Deer have the ability to see further on the visual spectrum than humans. The spectrum of color ranges from ultra-violet (UV) on the short end of the spectrum to infrared on the long end of the spectrum. Humans can see the range of colors between, but not UV or Infrared. The visual spectrum of deer vs human’s eyes is depicted in FIG. 1.

The eye of a deer is made up of rods and cones much like the human eye. The major difference between the human eye and a deer eye is the number of rods versus the number of cones. Deer have more rods and fewer cones than a human; therefore, deer have much better low light vision. Conversely, deer cannot distinguish between colors as well as a human. Deer also have a pupil that opens much wider than a humans which allows more light in for improved night vision.

Another major difference is that deer lack the ultra-violet filtration that human eyes possess. Humans have a protective filter on their eyes that block up to 99% of ultra-violet rays. Because of the ultra-violet filter, humans are able to focus more sharply on fine details. Human eyes can only see light in the “Visible Spectrum”, this consist of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Beyond violet light in the visible spectrum is what is known as ultra-violet light in the “Ultra-violet Spectrum”, which is light that is invisible to the human eye. The filtering of the human eye however limits human’s sensitivity to shortwave lengths, including those in the ultra-violet spectrum. Without the ultra-violet filter deer are limited by their ability to see fine details. However, deer see light within the ultra-violet spectrum. As with deer, the eyes of many other wild game such as elk, bear, rabbit, squirrel and birds are sensitive in the ultra-violet wavelengths.

A major study was done at the University of Georgia titled, “Visual Specialization of an Herbivore Prey Species, the White-tailed Deer” D′Angelo, et. al., Can. J. Zool. 86: 735-243 (2008), the entirety of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. The study found deer lack the cone that is responsible for the color red, which are the longer wave lengths depicted in. Therefore, it is safe to say that wearing such colors as Red and Orange do not affect a hunter’s ability to remain hidden from a deer’s vision. This does not mean that deer do not see these colors, the colors are just perceived differently. Within the human visual spectrum, a deer’s’ vision is limited to short length blue and middle length green wave lengths. This means that deer can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red or orange from red. According to this data, it is safe to say that blue colors are the worst to wear for camouflage and that green, red and orange are safe to wear from a camouflage stand point when hunting wild game. This lack of cones is what allows hunters to wear their blaze orange safely and not alert any wild game. Also at all cost try to avoid hunting while wearing blue tones and yes I know your grandfather killed deer in his wranglers.

The University Georgia study also found that deer are capable of seeing ultra-violet dyes and brighteners found within fabrics. Unfortunately these are the same dyes, brighteners and clothing fibers that Camouflage and jean manufacturers use to make their clothing visually appealing thus increasing their sales. To better understand UV glow, take a black light and shine it on your blue jeans.  That glow you see mimics what wild game see. These dyes and fibers in modern day camouflage emit that same UV glow that deer and other wild game see from afar alerting them of your presence (Fig. 2). This camouflage UV glow seen in Fig 2 shows what a deer sees from a distance. Most likely a deer will not know that the strange UV glowing thing in a tree is a hunter but they will know that it is not normal and will most likely avoid the area or quickly leave. This ultra-violet factor will only be of concern during low light hours. Unfortunately, this is when deer and other wild game are the most active feeding or transitioning.

Conclusion

While there is no doubt that a hunter’s scent control is very important for harvesting big mature bucks. It is equally as important for hunters to take caution to eliminate any visual alerts like UV glow on camouflage or hunting gear. Bow hunters know that they may only get one shot at a big mature buck per season and it pays to eliminate every possible warning indicators. By using a patent pending product like X-Out Odor™ a hunter will now have the ability to not only to control their scent but also their UV glow. Hunters that control their scent and UV glow will have increased opportunities to harvest big mature big bucks. Be UV Free…Odor Free…Deadly!

This fall, pick up a bottle of X-Out Odor™ and have the piece of mind knowing that you didn’t waste all that time tending to food plots and scouting to only blow it by having preventable odors and a UV glow! Visit us at www.xouthunt.com and see why we have been called the “Next Generation in Odor and UV Control!”

This article was written by good friend Dr. Shawn Tyson. Shawn is a life long hunter and owner of  Xout Hunt. His company provides the outdoor industry great products at a fair price.

About Steve Sheetz (1001 Articles)
Steve is an avid outdoorsman who has been fortunate enough to publish two books on archery hunting. His first book, For the Love of the Hunt, was published in 2011. His second book, Wading Through the Darkness will be published in 2015. Steve sits on numerous Pro Staffs throughout the archery industry. For almost a decade Steve helped build Huntonly.com, but wanted the opportunity to build something bigger and better and launched Chasinwhitetails.com in December of 2014 as a way to share his love and passion for the outdoors. Today Chasin'Whitetails Media is growing. With the addition of the a radio show in 2014 and a The Heartbeat TV show in 2015, who knows what will come his way next. When it comes to understanding the movement and logic of the urban whitetail and waterfowl, he is more than just a PHD with a love of the outdoors. He is a self proclaimed expert who loves to engage and teach others about the sport he loves so very much. Spending over 125 days a year in the big city woods and urban waterways chasing all types of game.

7 Comments on Busted: What You Didn’t Know About Deer Vision

  1. I do Not Believe this Story bout Deer eye sight ..

    Like

  2. Elusion Camo defeated the visual acuity of game animals in 2010 check us out. We proved the human outline doesn’t exist. The only natural camo is Elusion camo

    Like

  3. Most detergents have brighteners in that make your whites whiter and colours brighter, and presumably would also have an enhanced effect for deer. So best not too use them on hunting gear. Maybe use cheap shampoo instead.

    Like

  4. T'd off hunter // October 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm // Reply

    So I read this whole article for you to sell me on your “good buddies” scent killer Landry detergent Gimmick !!!! Thanks for wasting my time on a BS article. Damn click bate

    Like

  5. Clayton Clark // January 7, 2017 at 10:07 am // Reply

    I like how everyone is an expert and readily disagrees by saying, “B.S” or “I don’t believe,” without giving a reason for disbelief. This is prejudice as best, and willful ignorance at worst. I have no idea as to the accuracy of the above article, but it was the only once that made a case for its claim. Grow up guys.

    Like

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