Direct transcript of the above podcast
Welcome to the omega outdoors podcast, your leading source for becoming a better Hunter. My name is Patrick Long. Today I’m going to play you the audio file to a recent YouTube video I uploaded about whether or not whitetail can see the color orange.
In the video, I talk about the basics of whitetail vision and the research behind why we wear orange. If you want to know more about it, you can read my article on the topic at omegaoutdoors.blog/orange or click the link in the show notes. With that being said, let’s hop into the podcast.
Before we can talk about what colors deer can and cannot see. We need to talk about how they see, so a deer’s eyes and a human’s eyes are obviously different. We have our eyes facing forward. Humans see about 180 degrees and in the middle, we overlap about 140-150 degrees. What this does is it gives us very detailed depth perception. So when you look and you can see something that’s 20 yards away, you can tell how far away it is.
A deer’s eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. What this does for them is it gives them a much larger field of view. So we can see 180 degrees in front of us. Deer can see actually about 300 degrees around them, but where their eyes overlap, it’s only about 30 degrees in front of them. So what are the effects of this?
Because of this deer don’t really have great depth perception. They see with one eye on most of their vision and about 30 degrees in front of them, they overlap. Even when they do overlap, they don’t have great as depth perception, because they are prey animals. They’re not built for that. They are built to be able to see all the way around them nearly and be able to see threats from anywhere around them. Other than the positioning of their eyes, the actual eyes built differently.
I’m sure you’ve looked at a deer eye and you can tell that the cornea of the eye is much bigger, the cornea is outside just around the pupil. And it is what lets light in. So humans see very well during the daytime, not so well at night. Whitetail deer see a whole lot better at night than we do. They also see great in the daytime. And this is because their corneas are a lot bigger. They let in a lot more light.
How The Eye Works
Why is this though? So to understand how seeing light works, you need to understand the photoreceptor cells. There are two types of photoreceptor cells, rods and cones, and they let you see different wavelengths of light differently. So wavelengths of light may sound complicated, but it’s really not. Humans see between 400 and 700 nanometers in the wavelength spectrum. So 400 is around the blue spectrum, 700 around the red’s spectrum. Everything else is in between. Below the blues, you have your UV lights and above the reds, you have your infrared lights. Deer see very well between the 400 and around 500 wavelengths, and 500 to 600.
What they see is much different than what we see. Humans are trichromatic creatures, we see in three different colors and that’s red, green and blue. So you have your RGB scale. I know you’ve heard the RGB, that is where all your pictures are colored in. You can go through and change all of that and see how the colors change. So our eyesight is built off of those three main colors. But a whitetail is what we call dichromatic. They only, so “di” meaning two. They only see in two main colors and that is blue and green.
So where you may perceive light and have a mixture of these three colors and you see a certain color because of that, deer mix, it only sees a mixture of two colors. So when you see a red, that is almost like a totally total red, not mixed with blue or green, you’ll see a totally different color than a whitetail can. When you see a red, they’re going to see more of a brown. Just how their eyes perceive light differently. They’re going to see a totally different color. So this is why we wear blaze orange. Orange is obviously, heavily mixed with red. But when whitetail deer sees color orange, they actually see more of a gray color.
This is why we actually make hunters wear these during gun season and in the eighties, we passed all the mandatory law where hunters had to wear either red or orange and most of the hunters were wearing red because they felt like they weren’t seen as well. Because it’s not as bright. The entire objective was was to keep hunters safe. And in the past decades, unfortunately, we do have accidents where hunters get shot by other hunters because of bad ethics. Not knowing where your shot is going, not knowing what’s behind your shot.
All these factors line up and accidents can happen. But studies have shown that the orange, humans can see orange way better then and they can see red especially this bright fluorescent orange and it keeps us safe. And studies have actually shown that the number of hunting-related fatalities has been going down, down, down, year after year.
So anybody can come around and say Oh, deer are color blind. Deer see black and white; they can see any color. I’ve heard plenty of stories of hunters saying, oh, I’ll sit in my deer stand. And as soon as the deer walked up, as soon as I put my orange on, and they saw me and ran off. Well, that wasn’t because you were wearing orange, it is because you’re moving around and putting a vest on. They saw your movement. The color doesn’t matter.
But how do we know this? A lot of hunters are very stubborn, so research helps to convince people. You don’t really need convincing of scientific fact, but there have been studies in the eighties and nineties and most recently there was a study at the University of Georgia where an undergrad student, by the last name of Miller actually took seven does and put them into a deer training apparatus. So what they had was basically two big screens, two LCD screens and they put one color on one and one color on the other. And at the bottom was the food trough and there was an infrared sensor.
So they would show two colors and they would train the deer to go to the color they wanted it to. And if the deer went to the correct color, it would hit the sensor and the trough would open and they will be able to eat. If they went to the wrong one, it would trigger the sensor, close trough and they won’t be able to eat.
After months and months of training I think about 4-5 months of training they began to run tests on these deer. Now that they have them trained to respond to the correct stimuli, they were able to put colors that they wanted on the board or on the screens and get deer to go to the one that they wanted. They ran data on this for more months and they finally concluded that deer, which were after the positive stimuli of food, couldn’t tell the difference between browns and grays and oranges and reds.
This is our evidence for the most recent case but like I said there are studies in the 80s 90s aswell. It’s a well-known fact when you get into the scientific world, but the problem is a lot of hunters do not do research they are just kind of hunting based on what their dad or Granddad told him and that’s not a bad thing at all. A whole lot of aspects of how I hunt are predicated on how my dad hunts and my dad’s always right in my mind. It’s not a bad thing at all it’s just sometimes getting out of that little bubble of well this is how I’ve always done it and how my family’s always done it, but doing a little bit of research can really help you on your hunt.
When it comes to a topic like wearing an orange vest if you’re a hunter that really believes that whitetails can see the color orange and it’s hurting your hunt and you didn’t kill a big buck because of it and you’re sitting out there without orange, I hope nothing happens but I’m just saying you’re at a higher risk of an accident happening. Especially if you are hunting on public property or private land where you’re not the only hunter out there or maybe there is somebody trespassing you never know.
So even when I am hunting in my very own backyard, my parents’ backyard, I wear my orange, it doesn’t matter. So from the research, we know for a hundred percent fact whitetails, can’t see orange. Might as well next gun season make sure you’re wearing your orange.
Hey guys, it’s Patrick, and just pop him back in after this audio. I just wanted to thank you for hanging around for the whole podcast, and if you want to know more about the topic like I said earlier, you can go omegaoutdoors.blog/orange and read it back there. Or you can click the link in the show notes. But anyway, thank you for listening and hope you have a wonderful day.