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Can Deer See Color?

Are whitetail deer color blind? If a hunter wore a blaze orange hat, a red shirt, and blue jeans, which garment would be most detectable to whitetail deer? Although the deer aren’t telling the answer, researchers at the School of Forest Resources at the University of Georgia tested deer responses to various color stimulations. If you have had this argument with buddies in deer camp, here’s the information you need to settle the matter once and for all… or at least until next time.

You’ve just topped over a little rise, and there he stands TX Deer 06 274 less than 100 yards away. Looking straight at you! You freeze, but you know you’ve been spotted. You know that at any instant he’s going to bolt. But amazingly, after a short while he drops his head and resumes his search for acorns! “Certainly he saw me,” you think. “I see him clear as day. Why didn’t he recognize me as a human? Is he just stupid?”

I imagine that any deer hunter who has spent any time in the woods can relate very similar experiences. Why does it seem that a deer can look directly at something, and still not ‘see’ it? The answer lies in how a deer’s eyes are constructed. A deer’s view of the world is very different than how we see it. Our eyes, and those of a deer, are adapted for very different purposes, and understanding these differences can not only make you a better hunter, but a safer hunter as well.  As prey animals, deer must constantly be on the lookout around them. Their eyes are set on the sides of the head, and protrude slightly from the skull.

Joe Byers has more than 1,000 magazine articles in print and is currently a field editor with Whitetail Journal, Predator Xtreme, Whitetails Unlimited, Crossbow Revolution, and African Hunting Journal magazines. He’s spent the last three decades depicting the thrill of the chase and photographing the majesty of all things wild. Byers is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association and numerous other professional and conservation organizations.