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Do deer see color??

Discussion in 'Guns & Hunting' started by longbow, Apr 10, 2009.

  1. Apr 10, 2009 at 8:20 AM
    #1
    longbow

    longbow [OP] I see you now..................

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    Long read, but pretty informational
    [​IMG] Is this how deer see? No, but a study does reveal that deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors.


    It's happened to nearly every deer hunter — for no apparent reason a deer spots you from a distance through heavy cover.

    Why? Was it your scent, your noise, your movement, or perhaps what you were wearing?
    While all hunters agree that deer have an amazing ability to detect movement, the consensus regarding their ability to see color is far less unanimous.

    While the debate over deer vision is not new, it has intensified in recent years as more states have required hunters to wear blaze orange clothing while hunting. Many hunters are concerned that wearing blaze orange reduces their chances of success.
    Another topic of debate is camouflage clothing. During the past decade, there has been a tremendous increase in the number and variety of camouflage patterns available to hunters. This has occurred despite little knowledge of what game animals actually see.
    A more recent question is whether or not deer can see ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light is the type of light that causes your clothes to "glow" when near insect zappers or nightclub lights. The connection with hunting is that many laundry products and dyes used in the manufacture and care of hunting clothing contain "color brighteners" or more technically, UV "enhancers." This is why clothes containing these products look "brighter" and "whiter" to the human eye. In fact, it has been proposed that hunters wearing UV treated clothes actually emit a "glow" that deer can see in low light conditions.
    Fortunately, arguments on deer vision can largely be laid to rest due to the results of the most advanced deer vision study ever undertaken. This study revealed many previously unknown facts regarding deer vision. I was fortunate to participate in this study while working as a Wildlife Research Coordinator for The University of Georgia.
    What is vision?

    [​IMG] The best clothing for hunters would be a product that provides both camouflage for concealment and blaze orange for safety.


    Before discussing the results of the study, it is important to understand the basics of vision.

    First of all, what is vision? Vision occurs when light enters the eye and is absorbed by specialized cells located in the back of the eye. These cells respond to the light and send a signal to the brain which is translated into sight.
    The color perceived by the brain is determined by the wavelength of light reflected. In other words, objects do not actually have color they simply reflect light of a particular wavelength that our brain perceives as color. The spectrum of color ranges from ultraviolet 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 including, these two extremes.
    Understanding the general make-up of the eye also is important. In all mammals, the retina, located at the back of the eye, consists of two types of light sensitive cells called rods and cones.
    Rods function in the absence, or near absence, of light and permit vision in darkness. Cones function in full light and permit daytime and color vision.
    Humans can see a wide range of colors because we have three types of cones in our eye. One is sensitive to short wavelength light (blue), one is sensitive to middle wavelength light (green) and the third is sensitive to long wavelength light (red). This three-color, or trichromatic, vision is the most advanced form of color vision known.
    Differences between a deer's eye and a human's
    Prior to our study, we reviewed the existing information on deer vision with some interesting findings.
    First, deer have a higher concentration of rods (nighttime cells) than humans, but a lower concentration of cones (daytime and color cells). Therefore, deer have better nighttime vision than humans but poorer daytime and color vision.
    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][/FONT]Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors. [FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][/FONT]
    Second, deer have a pupil that opens wider than ours. This allows more light to be gathered in low light conditions.
    Third, deer have a reflective layer in the back of their eye called a tapetum that causes their eyes to shine at night. The tapetum acts as a mirror and reflects the light not absorbed by the receptor cells when it enters the eye the first time back across the cells for a second chance. In other words, deer get to use the same light twice while humans get to use it only once.
    A fourth difference found between a deer's eye and a human's gives us some idea of their ability to see UV light. The human eye is protected by a filter that blocks about 99 percent of UV light from entering the eye. This filter protects our eye, much like a pair of sunglasses. It also allows us to focus more sharply on fine detail. The trade-off for having this filter is a severe loss of sensitivity to short wavelength colors, especially those in the UV spectrum.
    Deer, on the other hand, do not have a UV filter. Therefore, they see much better in the UV spectrum but lack the ability to see fine detail. This explains why deer often move their head from side to side when they encounter a hunter. Since deer lack this filter, they would be expected to see a greater difference in UV treated fabrics than humans.
    The study
    In August 1992, a group of leading deer researchers and vision scientists gathered at The University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens to conduct this landmark study. The group of researchers included Drs. R. Larry Marchinton and Karl V. Miller, and myself from UGA, Dr. Gerald H. Jacobs and Jess Degan from the University of California, and Dr. Jay Neitz from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
    This study was made possible due to a highly sophisticated computer system developed by Dr. Jacobs. This system is based on the principle that an electrical response is produced when light enters the eye. The computer interprets these responses and translates them into a "scientific best guess" of what deer can actually see.
    Findings of the study
    Deer have better nighttime vision than humans but poorer daytime and color vision. [FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][/FONT]
    The results of our study confirmed that deer possess two (rather than three as in humans) types of cones allowing limited color vision. The cone that deer lack is the "red" cone, or the one sensitive to long wavelength colors such as red and orange. This suggests that wearing bright colors while hunting does not affect hunting success. This does not mean that these colors are invisible to deer, but rather that they are perceived differently.
    Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors.
    As a result, deer likely can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red, or orange from red. Therefore, it appears that hunters would be equally suited wearing green, red, or orange clothing but perhaps slightly disadvantaged wearing blue.
    The results regarding the UV capabilities of deer were equally fascinating.
    Our results confirmed that deer lack a UV filter in their eye and that their vision in the shorter wavelengths was much better than ours. Deer also were found to have a relatively high sensitivity (good vision) in the short wavelengths where UV brighteners and dyes are active.
    While not entirely conclusive, this finding suggests that deer are capable of seeing some UV light and that fabrics containing UV dyes and brighteners may be more visible to deer than to humans.
    Implications for hunters
    What do the results of this study mean for hunters? Should you throw away all of your camouflage clothes? Definitely not.
    It is important to keep the findings of this study in perspective. There is no question that scent and movement are far more important than the color of your clothing or whether or not it contains UV brighteners.
    As far as a deer's senses are concerned, their daytime and color vision is pretty average. In fact, the actual color of the fabric is relatively unimportant as long as the pattern blends with your surroundings. Therefore, camouflage clothing is still recommended. In contrast, solid unbroken patterns, especially of light colors, are not recommended. Similarly, garments made from vinyl or plastic can alert deer because they reflect light. This works much like the glare from a blued gun barrel. It is not the color of the barrel that alerts the game, but rather the light the barrel reflects.
    The best of both worlds would be a product that provides both camouflage for concealment and blaze orange for safety. Such camouflage blaze orange hunting apparel is available but unfortunately is not legal in many states.
    Should hunters be concerned about the UV brightness of their clothes? Perhaps. Keep in mind that this would only be a problem during low-light conditions such as early morning and late evening. However, this is when deer are most active. One option is to stop washing your hunting clothes in laundry products containing "brighteners." This may prove difficult because most laundry products currently available contain these agents. However, there are now products available that eliminate UV light from clothing.
    Should you purchase such a product? This is difficult to answer. Hunters have been successfully harvesting deer for hundreds of years without the aid of such products. However, armed with our latest knowledge it remains possible, even likely, that such a product may help. On the other hand, it definitely can't hurt.

    [​IMG]
    Material from the Quality Deer Management Association.
    Visit the web site at www.qdma.com
     
  2. Apr 10, 2009 at 9:19 AM
    #2
    cbcs1987

    cbcs1987 Redneck from the hills

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    I've always heard the story go both ways wheather they can or not. I just have the habbit of wearin the orange all season long just to be extra safe, even though its not required durin bow season. Killed all my deer wearin orange. I've always figured if I can break up my pattern that would be good enough. Interesting read though. Never knew a "glow" could be emitted. thanks for sharin!
     
  3. Apr 10, 2009 at 9:36 AM
    #3
    KMN-BLU

    KMN-BLU less work/more play

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    "Hunters have been successfully harvesting deer for hundreds of years without the aid of such products. "


    Unless i am trying to hit him wiith a club when he walks by I dont see where it makes that big a difference if you are rifle hunting. As long as you wear a broken pattern and not a solid color your contours will hide you.

    Now if I am bowhunting I find concealment a necessity if for nothing but my own mental abilities. I dress in army ACU digital camo and I have had friends practically step on me when i am sitting next to a tree. The ACU pattern messes with your eyes.

    I say movement is the #1 reason most hunters get busted. Build a good enough groundblind and you can practically play cards while you await your prey. I dont personally waste my money on deer piss scent UNLESS you are definately in a true RUT timeframe.
     
  4. Apr 10, 2009 at 10:05 AM
    #4
    cbcs1987

    cbcs1987 Redneck from the hills

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    Couldnt agree more. These big companies have been raping people outta their money for the latest and greates stuff over the past years. Fishin as well. Durin rifle season you could get by wearin overalls and a flannel shirt (thats what dad wore when he killed his GIANT 8 pt.) But durin bowseason I usually worry more about what I'm wearin. Ill wear a turkey huntin mask, and usually get higher in the tree
     
  5. Apr 10, 2009 at 11:11 AM
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    RCBS

    RCBS "Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag."

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    i use Sportwash brand detergent that has no UV brighteners and no scent...don't know if it's needed, but i gotta wash my stuff anyways and it actually works very well on tough stains. gonna throw hearing into play as well...deer hear approximately as good as humans BUT, they have the ability to find exactly where the sounds is coming from by using their moveable ears. i believe this to be true as anyone who has deer hunted has seen them with one ear forward and one rearward. i have had two very close encounters in the 15 odd years i've hunted. both times i was on the ground and completely still. the first was quite a few years ago. it was first day slug season, i was wearing realtree's all purpose pattern head to toe. (the original one), sitting at the base of an oak tree wider than i was with my back leaned against it. had a little four point come along a trail i hadn't noticed in the dark when setting up. the trail was about 15-18ft in front of me. i had the wind in my face. as he approached, i didn't even raise my gun. i don't shoot young bucks. he proceded right up in front of me on the trail and was prettymuch unaware, but something caught his attention...not sure what. he looks my way and stops walking. i swear this deer actually had a puzzled look on his face. he stands there staring at me for 2-3 mins and then starts walking closer to me! he looked cautious, but not affraid. he was trying to figure out what i was. he finally stops at about 3 yards and continues to look at me. no stomping or other typical gestures, just looking me up & down. it was hard for me not to laugh at him at the time, but i kept absolutly still and quiet. i'm pretty much eye to eye with him at 3 yds. though i never made direct eye contact. he spent another couple minutes checking me out and then finally when the other deer he was travelling with were moving out of the area, he flickered his tail and turned back on the trail, like nothing had happened. very, very cool. you feel like the freakin' Predator after something like this happens. this lead me to believe that camo, wether needed or not, DOES WORK. i'm not saying it wouldn't happen if i had orange on, but when it did, i was not wearing any. yes, i know this is not safe and in fact illegal, but i was on family owned land, hunting with very trusted friends and relatives who knew exactly where i had set up, and they were all behind my back and over a hill from me. at the time, only an orange hat was required and all i had was a ballcap that wasn't keeping my head very warm, so i put it in my gear bag it once i sat down and put on a camo balaclava. dang...don't have time to finish, lunch over.
     
  6. Apr 10, 2009 at 11:32 AM
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    hillbillynwv

    hillbillynwv Well-Known Member

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    Last year about the middle of summer I rode my ATV up into the woods behind my house. I was sitting up against a tree in wide open view drinking a can of Budweiser with a white t-shirt on. A 10 point buck went walking by me about 30 yards away. It never knew I was sitting there. Now, if this would had been the first day of buck season he would of smelled me a mile away.
     
  7. Apr 10, 2009 at 11:37 AM
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    KMN-BLU

    KMN-BLU less work/more play

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    It was that beer scent you had on that he was interested in. Save all your cans and make you a blind out of BUD cans. That I would like to see, that would be true redneck there.
     
  8. Apr 10, 2009 at 9:32 PM
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    wildjerseyfirefighter

    wildjerseyfirefighter I sell fishing and fishing accessories

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    thats a good read..but consider this also.

    Last year, i was hunting on the ground with nothing infront of me with an old pair of camoflauge coveralls who has been throu quite a few seasons, and probably 3 washes. Brand new orange ballcap on. I had 2 deer come in to my area, and they both knew something wasnt right, but they didnt think anything of me..About 10 mins later, the big doe was on the ground...I guess its just how well you blend it, cuz down here its nothing to see old balloons or something up in a tree all year, so the deer may associate you with an old balloon or something.
     
  9. Apr 10, 2009 at 9:38 PM
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    DanGer

    DanGer Avatar approved by 98tacomav6

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    Here are my experiences.

    I have been busted while upwind of deer wearing full camo coveralls sitting PERFECTLY still.

    I have had deer walk right under me while wearing jeans and a tee shirt.

    I think its all luck of the draw whether they see you or not. Great read on a somewhat scientific approach to the issue, but my real world experiences have taught me to do my best to stay concealed, but ultimately it is out of my hands.
     
  10. Apr 10, 2009 at 10:01 PM
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    tacoma08MZ

    tacoma08MZ Well-Known Member

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  11. Apr 11, 2009 at 12:07 AM
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    ERdept

    ERdept Well-Known Member

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    I heard that they DON'T see color, that's why wearing orange for you safety doesn't matter.

    Better to protect yourself from getting shot from another hunter than to blend in.

    If you wear camo, people having buck fever may just see rustling and shoot.

    Finally, dont' carry the dear with antlers on a back pack. You'll get shot that way too.

    Just wear the blaze orange, the deer wont' see it, and go sit in your stand, or blind, or stalk them or just lay up against a tree and watch nature pass by and relax.
     
  12. Apr 11, 2009 at 12:54 PM
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    DanGer

    DanGer Avatar approved by 98tacomav6

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    My dad likes to drink diet coke in the woods while hunting. Even though it is our private property you never know who my be out there. He always uses a coozy and covers every bit of white on the can he possibly can so it isnt mistake for a tail running
     
  13. Apr 12, 2009 at 6:39 AM
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    hoosiertaco

    hoosiertaco Well-Known Member

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    Good read from the QDMA, a reliable source.
     
  14. Apr 12, 2009 at 1:17 PM
    #14
    longbow

    longbow [OP] I see you now..................

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    I think everyone has been busted, during the rut, I will say bucks seem dumb. Could of smack a few in the head they were that close.
    Seen 3 over the weekend, I wore jean and a brown chore coat, walked with in 20 yards of me. My friend had a blue coat on, last deer stopped and looked at him, then flashed it's tail and took off.

    I guess we will truely never know, unless we have an out of body experience and become a deer.
     
  15. Apr 12, 2009 at 1:38 PM
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    DanGer

    DanGer Avatar approved by 98tacomav6

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    In the rut, buck are lookin for one thing and one thing only. PUSSY. They are oblivious to everything else. In fact they don't even care waht they eat, hence the globby shit. Its the does that make me nervous during rut
     
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