Color Vision in Deer (Huntlady)

Color Vision in Deer

When I was growing up, I learned that birds had an even keener color sense than mine; but it was widely held that deer, dogs, and lower mammals were all completely color-blind. Now science has proven that this is simply not true. Neither deer, nor our canine friends live in a black-and-white world, but instead have dichromatic vision- that is, they can see all hues of blues and yellows, but they are red-green color blind. This dichromatic vision makes deer unable to see most shades of color, but it heightens visual sensitivity to movement.

In fact, deer can even see into the ultra violet, where blues that are invisible to us appear as bright fluorescent to them. And in nature only some flowers are blue, so when we wear any kind of blue it stands out in stark contrast to the deer. Study the chart below:

But, you tell me, all of my hunting clothes are camouflage, they have no blue in them. True enough, but if you are washing your clothes in regular laundry detergent, they are coated with the dyes and UV brighteners that are added to all commercial laundry detergents. 

You can see this by using a black light on clothing with UV Brighteners. The deer can see it in any low light conditions; in cover, in early morning or evening, anywhere you would expect to find deer. (You wouldn’t see them in the middle of an open field at noon, would you?)

When I found this out, I bought laundry detergent advertised as "Free of perfumes and Dyes". However, my clothes were still fluorescing because “free” really isn’t. What the detergent maker does is to use "Cover Scents" instead of perfume and they now call bluing, (Ultra Violet Brightener Dyes,) "FWA" (Fluorescent Whitening Agents,) instead of the dye it really is. It lists Flourescing Whitening Agents right on the ingredient label, even though it is supposedly free of dyes.

The only way to avoid this glow is to use SPORT-WASH laundry detergent. It is totally free of dyes, fragrance, phosphates, oxidizers, color, fluorescent whiteners, and lubricants. After using SPORT-WASH, you should spray your hunting clothes with UV-Killer. Because when your fancy patterned camouflage clothes were manufactured, they used UV Brighteners in the original dyes. That’s right- they made them to attract YOUR eye, instead of making them for maximum stealth in hunting. (Cabela's carries both Sport-wash, UV killer, and Carbon Blast.)

One last thing the astute deer hunter would be quick to point out to me- deer depend on their ears and nose much more than their vision. Yes, that’s true. A deer is a jumpy animal. Every little sound that is out of place will make it squirrelly, and their sense of smell is almost as good as a Bloodhound. But, if you are using a scent blocking agent, (like Carbon Blast,) and are moving as quietly as possible through the woods, don’t give away your position by looking like a neon sign to the deer. Use every advantage you can to even the playing field between you and the deer, and a trophy just might be yours the next time you hunt.

© Huntnlady 2002