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Now You See Him...

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"Is all this camouflage hype really necessary?

QUESTION: I have a question on the eyesight of deer and other wild animals concerning the lack of camouflage. You see outfitters wearing blue jeans while the hunter is completely covered in camo. Other times you see hunters with bright, shiny chrome rifle barrels and scopes. Deer must surely know by now that a shiny barrel or scope means danger. It certainly pinpoints their location. What are your thoughts? — Michael S.

Now You See Him...

ANSWER: As a hunter I’ve found myself in that very situation on numerous occasions, and as a guide I’ve been guilty of the same fashion infraction a time or two.

In the case of stand hunters, it really doesn’t matter much what the guide wears because he is merely dropping off and picking up hunters and presumably is never seen by the deer.

It’s somewhat a different matter on spot-and-stalk hunts. However, a deer is far more likely to pick up and be alarmed by movement than color. Where it really matters is situations where hunter and guide will be exposed, possibly for long periods of time, or on open ground.

The primary purpose of camouflage is to break up the human outline, and there’s no question deer see a solid object better than a camouflaged one.

Your role also plays a part. As a hunter, your objective is to be invisible and undetected when sitting or sneaking.

A guide has many more duties, like toting you around, perhaps filling feeders, hanging stands, fixing ATVs, and so they wear what is most comfortable and practical. In some cases, I suspect they also want to look “like a guide” rather than a sport.

As for the color (blue jeans), you can peruse the archives of this site to find all you need to know and then some about color vision in deer. We know, and it’s been scientifically proven, that deer see blue very well. In the broad light of day it’s not as vibrant, but in the twilight hours it can literally glow to them.

Now for scopes and rifle barrels. Again, there’s no question that under certain conditions, deer might pick out the glint of sunlight off a shiny object. How they react can vary according to circumstances. After a rain everything is wet and shiny. In farm country there are lots of items, like machinery and fences, that reflect sunlight. If deer ran from every reflection, like a pond or stream, they’d never stop running. Conversely, a shiny object in an open field or a calm day in the woods might draw their attention more. Again, movement could tip the balance against you.

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