Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Do Deer See...Really?


It's the last week of August and we are already witnessing the first invasion of cooler air into the majority of the nation.  The grip of summer is beginning to loosen in the northern hemisphere.  With equinox coming next month, we will begin to see very crisp mornings and deer season right around the corner.

Doe at NightAs we have begun our preparations for the season, I began wondering how well do deer actually see.  I mean what do they really, really see?  First of all, deer see nothing like humans.  Their pupils can dilate much larger than ours. They have way more rods in the make up of their eyes than humans.  Which is why they see so well in low-light situations.  To a deer, a starless cloudy night, is like noon time to us.  On the other hand, we have the advantage when it comes to color and the number of cones in our eyes but don't get too excited.

The short of it is that while our eyes focus on very specific things and are not focused on objects in our peripheral vision, deer's eyes have the same focus through their entire field of vision.  In other words, a deer doesn't have to be looking directly at you to see you or your movement.  In fact, their eyes are built to detect movement so well that they have an uncanny knack for ducking when an arrow is fired at them.

Video Courtesy of Bass Pro 1Source and Dr. Grant Woods

Unlike predators, Deer do not have binocular vision.  Their eyes are set on the sides of their heads giving them roughly 300-310 degrees of vision.  This fact coupled with their lack of focus gives good reason why they bob their heads up, down, left and right to try to get a better handle on what they are viewing and if it is a threat or not.

When it comes to color, deer really see only two colors expertly.  They see Blue, Violet and UV rays very well which is the type of light that is prevalent very early and late in the day.  They do not pick up colors in the Red spectrum. But don't forget that while they do not see those colors well, they see movement better than you or I regardless of what color you happen to be wearing.

This brings up an interesting question, which cammo works the best?  Cammo is made for all sorts of situations.  But the truth is, deer cannot detect depth in a pattern even if they tried.  They struggle to view in 3D.  You want to be careful of patterns that contain a lot of Grey and White.  Both of those colors reflect Blue and UV light.  Patterns that contain dark Brown, Tan and Black are best to stay concealed.

Another interesting note is that some detergents include UV Brighteners.  This is like taking a bucket of blue paint and splashing it on your $100 cammo outfit.  Check the pic below.  Notice the Blue from detergents on the right and how the Orange turns to Brown or Grey, which is how a deer sees the world.: 

Courtesy of QDMA.COM
The real trick is being motionless.  Waiting to move at the proper times will likely be the difference in success or failure.  Face-paint and cammo gloves can go a long way to remaining undetected.

All of the information for this article is due to the incredible research done by Dr. Karl V. Miller and Dr. Bradley Cohen.  Reference links are provided below:


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