It has happened to all of us before, a nice buck is almost within striking distance, he pauses, your eyes lock for a few seconds, and then he bolts. Was it your movement? A noise? A scent? Does the UV in your clothing make you glow like a light bulb?

Many of us go to great measures to avoid detection by deer. The first thing that comes to mind for most of us is camouflage. But how effective is the method?

First, you need to understand how a deer eye performs. A deer eye, much like a human eye is made up of rods and cones. If we can remember back for a moment, to our high school biology class, we know that rods are sensitive to light, while cones pick up color. The difference between a human eye and a deer eye is the number of rods versus the number of cones. Deer have more rods and fewer cones than a human; therefore, deer have much better low light vision, but they do not distinguish between colors as well as a human. Deer also have a pupil that opens wider than ours which allows more light in for improved night vision.

Another major difference is that deer lack the UV filtration that human eyes have. Humans have a protective filter on their eyes that block up to 99% of UV rays. Because of this we are able to focus more sharply on fine details, this however limits humans sensitivity to shortwave lengths, mainly those in the UV spectrum. Without this filter deer are limited by their ability to see fine details, as a result however, they have a better view of the UV spectrum. Humans eyes can only see light in the “Visible Spectrum”, this consist of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Beyond violet light in the visible spectrum is what is known as ultraviolet light in the "UV Spectrum", light that is invisible to the human eye. We can see the effects of ultra violet light only by using a black light to give us an idea of how a deer might perceive certain surroundings.

Light Spectrum

This is the reason manufactures are now making a special UV eliminating spray for clothing. Clothing and laundry detergent manufactures add UV brighteners, or more specifically, phosphors to clothing to make them appear more colorful and bright. This technique is most noticeable in white clothing; you will notice that new white clothing looks whiter than it should in full sun.

A major study by leading researchers and scientist at the University of Georgia concluded the following:

  • Deer lack the cone that is responsible for red color (long wave lengths). Therefore, it is safe to say that wearing such colors as Red and Orange do not affect a hunters ability to remain hidden from a deer's vision. This does not mean that deer don’t see these colors, they are just perceived differently. A deer’s vision is limited to short blue and middle green wave lengths. “This means that deer can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red or orange from red”. According to this data, it is safe to say that blue colors are the worst to wear for camouflage and that green, red and orange are safe to wear from a camouflage stand point.
  • This study also found that deer are capable of seeing UV dyes and brighteners within fabrics. This study was unable to determine how bright these colors appear to the deer. Keep in mind that the UV factor will only be of concern during low light hours. Unfortunately, this is when deer are most active.

In our test, we used a brand new camo shirt, placed it in a room accented with low natural light and took pictures under a black light. The first picture simply shows the shirt under normal light as we would normally see the shirt. The second picture shows the same shirt under a black light. Notice with this particular shirt, it doesn’t appear to contain any UV illuminating material in its brand new state. The third picture was taken after one wash with a standard laundry detergent. You will notice that the shirt appears to have a slight glow and is a little bit lighter under the black light than it was before the wash. The forth picture of the shirt is after a second wash. You will notice that the shirt appears much brighter than it did after the first wash. Looking at this shirt under a black light shows us a dramatic difference and is enough cause alarm for those of us who want to make sure that we have done everything possible to remain hidden from view. And finally the fifth picture, which has been treated with a UV eliminating spary. The right side of the shirt is obviously the side with the UV eliminating spray. But the question still remains, how much UV do deer see and do they see more or less of what we can see under a black light.


Camo Shirt Under Normal Light
Camo Shirt Without Blacklight
Camo Shirt Under Black Light - No Washes
Camo Shirt With Blacklight No Wash
Camo Shirt Under Blacklight - 1 Wash
Camo Shirt With Blacklight 1 Wash
Camo Shirt Under Blacklight - 2 Washes
Camo Shirt With Blacklight 2 Washes

Right Side Has Been Treated With UV Killer
Half Shirt Treated With UV Killer

In conclusion, should we dress in camouflage clothing? Yes. Does it have to be the latest and greatest pattern? Probably not. As long as you do not wear clothing that is a solid color you should be fine. In fact according to the data above, a red plaid flannel shirt should keep you just as camouflaged as some of the pricier camouflage patterned shirts currently available. As far as the UV goes, our clothing definitely contains UV illuminating material unless treated. But how much of a factor this is still up for debate. To me, I would pay an extra $12 - $15 for the UV eliminating treatment and know its one less thing to worry about.

  • Camotoe

    Wow, what a difference just a few washes make. NO Doubt, I\'ll be using a uv spray on my hunting gear from now on. Deer season only comes once a year and i don\'t want to take any chances.

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  • Shane

    I agree completely. I\'m fairly new to hunting but I\'ve done a lot of research on this topic and if your hunting in a way that your exposed to the deer, you better have some UV blocker on your clothes. Probably not so much if your hunting from a blind.

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  • Chris

    You don\'t have to use UV Killer all the time. What you want to do is use a detergent that doesn\'t have use bleach or UV. Atsko Sports Wash is very cheap and can be found at Walmart. This detergent is also scent free. If you\'ve been washing your clothes with normal detergent you should wash it with Atsko then treat it with UV Killer. Once you do that just keep washing it with the Atsko stuff and you won\'t have to treat it again.

    The bottom line is; don\'t use regular laundry detergent for your hunting clothes. People spend a small fortune on camo clothing but in reality people need to make sure their clothing isn\'t a solid color and isn\'t blue and be free of odors and UV. Red and Green clothing is the best. The classic red and black plaid wool shirts and grey or green pants used decades ago by traditional hunters are still a good choice. Who needs all this expensive camo?

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  • noname

    Why do people even hunt deer? Its so mean and cruel. Whats the point of killing deer just for the fun of it (or for the money)?

    0 Like
  • Noname reply

    noname it \"for the money?\" Are you some kind of idiot or something? Who the hell makes money from hunting deer? We do it to feed our families jackass. The point is to provide food (i.e., a basic requirement of life) without having to rely on someone else. What\'s so mean and cruel about that?

    0 Like
  • Joey v.


    Most hunt deer for food not so much for fun.. Hunting is more humane than the cow factories!

    0 Like
  • justin

    ill try and explain this from my pov. i bowhunt deer and find it one of my very few outlets in life that work. Also, youre right, it puts food on the table at a price of about $25lb if youre counting the hours and $$ on gear and gas plus the hell my wife puts me through to do it. obviously its way more than for food. How does it become about the money? this is what you replied on. well, try and buy deer hunting land. in Iowa most of it is bought up by corporations in place to make a killing off of people like us. the whitetail buisness is massive. and in the big picture the hunter will always be ridiculed. it doesnt help us in anyway to post comments the way you did to someone that is already against us. help change the vision.

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  • tom frye

    Naw...yallays spend lottsa cash to go huntin\'...steadda makin\' cash. Huntin\'
    keeps ya active an\'\' critter
    meat tastes differnt...variety\'s what
    some folks calls it. Body cud prolly make it on a garden and wild critter meat if need be...but be nice ta have
    a ol\' hawg around ta butcher fer the
    fat...Body\'s gotta have some fat...
    just not by th\' ton like was once thought. Enough hillrod english.
    Seriously, don\'t slam people who don\'t understand. Teach them. and yes...The
    cattle and hogs and chickens we eat
    feel the same thing the deer do...but
    a deer isn\'t entitled to any more
    consideration the any other animal.
    think about that. regards...Tom

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  • Dick Bastyr

    My major in college was physics and my thesis was on optical spectrum in humans and deer and other mammals. If my memory serves me correctly, deer for one perceive pink as neutral. Thus it is very much less visible, if not visible at all, to deer than say oranges, greens and browns. I have read several of the papers on visible spectra for deer online, but there is not any specific mention of pink. I no longer have any of my notes for my thesis, so I cannot verify the above. Please advise or direct me to a paper that directly addresses the color pink as perceived by the deer visible spectrum. Thank you, Dick Bastyr.

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  • Anomo

    So, your saying that we should all be wearing pink camo?

    0 Like
  • Jesse

    I hunted this morning with vertigo grey camo...deer spotted me asap at 6am. sunrise was at 719. I wondered how! after this article, I understand. BTW i take every scent control precaution there is...shower, decon washtub and drier and hands before switching loads, baselayers, rubbber boots etc. Deer was up wind as well! anyone have similar results?

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  • Dan

    Pink is an unsaturated red. Red that has little color and is mostly white.
    While the red component is hardley visible to a deer, the white component is very visible against most backgrounds. Worse yet the pink is likely to be full of u-V brightener. If this is the case it actually appears bright blue to the deer. It must be checked with a blacklight. If it fluoresces it must be treated with U-V-Killer. Google "check, camo, orange" to learn more.
    Good luck, Dan

    0 Like

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