How Whitetail Deer See Us, The Hunter In The Woods

By Bruce Raymond

When a deer sees you in the woods, will you be busted or not?

Hunters pay extra attention to a deer’s nose and his ability to hear us; but how many hunters fail the test when it comes to understanding how or why deer see us in the woods? My guess is many!

Extensive research has been done to try and understand how a whitetail deer sees things.
The following list of experts are mainly responsible for what we now know about a whitetail deer‘s vision:Brian P. Murphy, Karl Miller, & R. Larry Marchinton, University of Georgia; Jess Deegan II, Gerald H. Jacobs, University of California; and Jay Neitz, Medical College of Wisconsin.

Basically, when it’s light out, deer see "everything" in shades of yellow just like what we would see if we wore yellow shooters glasses all the time. In lighted conditions (low light or bright sunny days), humans are capable of seeing the full spectrum of colors in the rainbow, while whitetails can only see two colors: yellow and blue.

Deer are red/green color blind; they lack a UV filter and can see in the ultra violet known as the UV range. Most laundry detergents contain UV brighteners. Those are the chemical compounds that cause colors to become brighter, vibrant and radiant causing a “UV Glow”. When a deer sees UV glow, he sees it as a glowing blue, i.e., if your camo colors contain UV hot (glowing) brown colors, a deer sees them as glowing blues.

The research also verified that deer are not as sensitive to longer wavelengths than humans. This means that if a blaze orange vest had no brightener dyes and was purely blaze orange, the deer would not see it as good as we do. Deer see UV glow BETTER than we see blaze orange.

Imagine going into the woods before sunrise. You’ve taken all the steps to de-scent so the deer might not be able to smell you, especially if the winds in your favor. You walk in super quietly so the deer shouldn’t hear you but all of your clothes were washed in regular detergents. So, as you enter the woods, you are literally glowing to a deer’s eyes–even if you’re in full camo clothing!

In extreme low light conditions, deer see about the same as we do in shades of white, black and gray.

What does this all mean to the hunter? It means that if a hunter doesn’t take the necessary steps to eliminate "UV Glow," a deer is going to bust you each and every time you enter the woods.

You can beat a deer’s nose by keeping the wind in your face. You can beat a deer’s ears by hunting from a stand. But, when it comes to a deer’s eyes, you can’t beat them. You can however take steps to increase your odds when a deer sees you.

When you wash your hunting clothes, MAKE SURE you use a hunter specific detergent that contains UV eliminators! Without it, you’re going to GLOW!

I’m not an expert on a deer’s eyes but by passing along what I’ve learned on the subject, I hope this helps increase your odds on your next hunts.

Good Luck and Happy Safe Hunting!

Bruce RaymondBruce Raymond
Bruce was born in Newark, NJ Sept. of 1959. His parents relocated to Vermont in 1969 when Bruce was just 10 years old. He quickly developed a passion for shooting Rifles, Pistols and Bows.
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