American Hunter - November 2016 - 69


VISIBLE LIGHT SPECTRUM

INFRARED

U

VISIBLE LIGHT

ntil manufacturers make clothing and laundry soaps that
eliminate human movements,
deer hunters should realize
they face bigger worries than which camo
or blaze-orange clothing hides them best.
In fact, fretting over colors and camo
patterns nearly misses the point. It's
like bowhunters debating three- and
four-blade broadheads: Both have their
charms, but what matters more is blade
sharpness. Likewise, no matter the color,
the patterns, the lighting or the habitat,
what matters most is how well you imitate a woodland statue.
"Whether it's hype about blaze orange
or ultraviolet colors, those are minor issues
compared to the deer's ability to detect
movements," said professor Karl Miller,
who has studied whitetail vision with graduate-school researchers at the University
of Georgia for much of the past 25 years.
One of Miller's recent students, Bradley Cohen, recently found that whitetails can see a bit further into the red
and blue-and possibly ultraviolet-
spectrums than previous physiological
research indicated. Therefore, they recommend that "clothing worn by hunters and wildlife viewers should not be
washed with laundry detergents containing brightening agents."
Does that mean UV-brightened
clothes regularly ruin hunts? No comment. Researchers don't speculate about
things they can't measure.
"A hunter's No. 1 concern is making
sure you're not moving when deer can
see you," Cohen said.
What else can researchers say about
their studies into the whitetail's visual
capabilities? Studies at U-Georgia a
generation ago concluded that a deer's
color vision is probably limited to the
shorter blue and green wavelength colors.
Human eyes, however, see those colors as
well as the longer-wavelength red colors.
This means deer likely distinguish
blue from red, but not green from

ULTRAVIOLET

red, or orange from red. The research- its center. Therefore, deer see blues across
ers reported that whitetails probably
their entire 300-degree field of view.
see blaze orange as a shade of gray or
"Deer see blue better than we see
brown. "It appears hunters would be
orange, but they don't see bright orange
equally suited wearing green, red or
as bright blue," Miller said. "Those colors
orange clothing, but perhaps be slightly
are not in the same spectrum."
disadvantaged wearing blue," they wrote.
Deer see blue colors extremely well
Recent research confirmed those
because their eyes don't have a yellow
early assessments, but defined them
filter to block UV light. In contrast,
more precisely. Yes, humans can see
yellow pigments in the human retina
reds (including orange) better than deer
filter out UV light, as do "macular" pigcan, but deer see blues far better than
ments-another set of yellow filters-
which block even more blue light. To
humans can. More specifically, deer see
understand how that affects human
further into the dark end of the blue
vision, consider what happens when
spectrum, and perhaps further into the
UV range, than researchers once thought. using yellow shooting glasses. Yellow
Still, they probably don't see UV lenses heighten clarity by blocking blue
colors as something glowing under black
color waves. Because deer lack yellow
filters, blues pour into their eyes and
lights. "It just means deer can see darker
blues than we can see, and our eyes see
decrease visual clarity.
further into the red spectrum than deer
But although all that blue hurts a
can see," Miller said. "That's why we can
whitetail's visual acuity, it enhances its
see blaze orange, but we can't see all the
ability to detect danger at twilight.
way into the infrared spectrum."
"The light most available at dawn and
Here are some other insights and
dusk are all those blues in the shortwavelength spectrum," Cohen said.
conclusions from Cohen and Miller:
Deer do not need to see their world's "Deer eyes are most sensitive to light
fine detail. It's more important that they
that's most available when they're most
quickly detect movement, near and far. active. This is an animal that sees best
For instance, U-Georgia research in 2007 when it's moving the most. Their vision
system makes them a highly specialized
estimated a deer's daylight vision to be
anti-predation machine."
about 20/100. Miller said subsequent
research puts the estimate closer to
That might also explain the deer's
2/60, still three times worse than normal
most defining feature: its white tail. The
human visual acuity of 20/20.
greatest amount of light reflected by a
"When you see those fine-detailed
deer's white tail is in the short-wavelength blue spectrum. When deer flee
camo prints with leaves and twigs, that's
not important to deer," Miller said. "You'd
with their white tail waving, it's a loud
probably do as well with a blurry camo. visual signal to other deer.
"If you're running through the woods
That's why a stationary object isn't easy for
being chased by a predator, you want to
deer to see, but moving objects are very
see your mama's or buddy's tail," Cohen
easy for them to see. Their eye catches
movements much better than our eye can." said. "You want to stick close and get
Deer likely see the blue color spec- one step ahead of your buddy before the
predator catches up."
trum 20 times better than humans do. The
human eye has relatively few blue cones,
The researchers suggest hunters choose
and they're in the central 2 degrees of our
clothes and camo patterns with darker
retina. Deer have far more blue cones, backgrounds. Their studies suggest deer
and they're all across the retina, not just
detect grays and light tans better than they

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69 ❘ november 2016


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Hunter - November 2016

Contents
American Hunter - November 2016 - CW1
American Hunter - November 2016 - CW2
American Hunter - November 2016 - Cover1
American Hunter - November 2016 - CW3
American Hunter - November 2016 - CW4
American Hunter - November 2016 - C2
American Hunter - November 2016 - 1
American Hunter - November 2016 - Contents
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