A Wilder View: Deer and hunter’s orange

Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 19:50:00-04

MISSOULA — Have you ever wondered if deer can see that orange vest you wear during hunting season?

We break down the incredible vision white-tailed deer possess in this week’s edition of A Wilder View.

Many deer hunters have a strong desire to know whether they are more visible to their quarry while wearing fluorescent orange clothing.

Likewise, deer researchers and photographers, trying to avoid influencing the behavior of their subjects, have an interest in the color discrimination capabilities of deer.

During the day deer discriminate colors in the range blue to yellow-green and can also distinguish orange and red wavelengths.

But at night deer see color in the blue to the blue-green range. So deer actually can see those orange vests worn by hunters.

Although they can detect the color orange, it is the brightness of the fluorescent clothing worn by hunters and not the color per se that most likely draws a deer's attention.

Deer benefit from this color vision by being able to distinguish different plant species and provides enhanced predator-detection capabilities.

Color vision isn’t the only cool thing about their vision. They have a very wide field of vision that is 310 degrees. Comparing this to us -- we only have a field of vision that is 180 degrees.

Another adaptive feature of deer eyes is the tapetum lucidum. This enhances vision under low-light conditions and is responsible for the eye glare that you see when a deer is in your car’s headlights at night

The tapetum acts as a mirror, reflecting light back through the eye twice. So it’s increasing the brightness that they see by two times.

Deer also possess an adaptive feature that enhances eyesight during the day. They have a ring of pigment in the cornea that is hypothesized to be an anti-glare device -- sort of like special deer sunglasses.

Although deer rely primarily on hearing and smell to monitor their environment, their vision is an essential complement. They utilize vision to confirm what the other senses detect and to move through their habitat.