Best Camo Pattern: One That Doesn’t Glow

Which colors do deer see?

A white-tailed deer sees ultraviolet light as a glowing blue image — much like this distorted photo of a hunter wearing pants that are not treated with a UV killer.

Having a deer bust you walking through the woods or in a stand often leaves you feeling blue.

Perhaps you got busted because to the deer, you looked blue. Research shows whitetails are highly sensitive to ultraviolet and infrared light, which your hunting camo may be throwing off like a baby blue Vegas jumpsuit on a bad karaoke night.

by Alan Clemons

One presentation at the Southeast Deer Study Group last week in Florida focused on “Sensitivity of Whitetailed Deer to Ultraviolet and Infrared Light.” Brad Cohen and David Osborn of the University of Georgia worked with George Gallagher of Berry College and Karl Miller and Robert Warren of the University of Georgia on the project.

Cohen explained they measured visual sensitivity by comparing “intensity thresholds on performance of deer in forced-choice discrimination tests conducted at the short and long wavelengths of their purported visual spectrum” with feeding stations with automatic lids and varying wavelengths of lights.

They confirmed that deer, when compared to humans, are more sensitive to shorter wavelengths and have lower sensitivity to longer wavelengths, Deer are about eight times more sensitive than humans to lights with wavelengths of 430-440 nanometers, which as Cohen noted is the peak emission of most UV brighteners.

Humans have a yellowish pigment in our eye’s lens and that helps filter the shortwave “blue” light. Deer do not have that filter in their lens. Additionally, unlike humans, deer have a high density of cones throughout their retinas that are sensitive to blue light. Other studies are showing that UV and infrared lights are detected at different levels by different animals, as well. That research is starting to emerge in the fishing industry and ornithologists are looking at different aspects of it in the birding world.

We’ve heard for years to not wash hunting camouflage in regular laundry detergents. Why? Because those detergents use brighteners for that “whiter, brighter” appearance. That’s fine if you’re headed to the karaoke bar and need to look your Elvis-best for the ladies.

But if you’re hunting, dull and glow-free is the word.

Want to keep your clothing free of UV brighteners? Check out this laundry detergent that is formulated specifically for hunters.