What color light should hunters use when hunting deer? Can deer see red or green light? Are deer colorblind? Is red or green light better to use? What color should I use when deer hunting?
When learning how to hunt deer from the ground, these are all questions a novice deer hunter should ask to find out what to add to their gear before their first deer hunt.
I’ll answer these questions and more so you can be confident that you’re on the right track and better equipped to take down your prey when you step out to hunt your first deer.
Which Color is the Best Light for Deer Hunting?
Most hunters will use green or red lights instead of white lights or other colors when hunting deer in the dark. Green and red lights are proven to illuminate the deer sufficiently without frightening them off. Both colors are effective, but one of the two still has an advantage over the other. Can you guess which?
According to various hunters, red light is better than green when it comes to a nighttime deer hunt. Green light is still far more effective than white or any other color besides red, though. There are a few reasons for this.
Why Red Light is the Best
The biggest reason why red light is the best deer hunting color is also the simplest one. Deer cannot see red light as well as they can see any other colors, making them less likely to be scared off when the light covers them.
Red light can cover a deer for an extended period without it noticing and provide a perfect outline of your target. Thanks to this, you’ll enhance your chances of a clear shot and probably have as much as an 80% chance of getting a triumphant result. Many hunters prefer red light and have never felt the need to change to another color.
Is Green Light a Good Option?
So we’ve established that deer can’t see red light, but they also aren’t adept at seeing green light. Deer are red-green colorblind, with the color blindness to the color green called deuteranopia. Green lights appear grey to deer because of this condition.
Studies show that deer see red light more poorly than green light. If we take this even further, studies have concluded that the color vision of a deer is limited to middle green colors on the spectrum. Their color vision is even worse with red light, which they don’t seem to pick up at all. So yes, green light is a good option if you don’t have red.
Why White Light is the Worst Option for Deer Hunting
When you look at different shades and colors of light, white is among the most luminous. You would think this would make it the perfect choice to highlight your target. It certainly isn’t when it comes to deer, though. White is much too bright to keep a deer in your sights for long.
A deer’s eyes don’t have the same cones as humans, which is why they can’t see red. The cones they do have, and the fact that they have more rods in their eyes than humans do means their eyesight is more sensitive in dark conditions. For the same reason, a deer is also more susceptible to bright lights and can detect movement easier.
When bright lights shine on a deer, this sensitivity is even more pronounced, except for the colors or shades that the cones in their eyes don’t detect. A deer will realize as soon as white light passes over it or shines close by. Its first instinct will be to scoot to the safety of a nearby brush or scrub, and your chance of a kill shot will be gone.
Blue light has the same effect as white, as a deer’s cones detect the color blue the same way they do white. And like lights, the colors you wear when deer hunting also goes some way to defining the success of your hunt. If you choose to wear blue jeans or camouflage, you’ll likely struggle to keep a deer in your sight.
Does a Deer Have Better Vision Than a Human?
As we can see green or red light better than a deer, does this mean we have a better vision? The short answer is no. Humans don’t suffer from the same color blindness as deer, but we won’t pick up white shades or blue colors in the dark or at dusk as quickly as deer see them.
I’ve mentioned eye rods and cones already, but it helps to understand how they function. Then we can understand why a deer actually has better eyesight than a human.
Rods are photoreceptor cells located within the retina. They define an eye’s sensitivity to lighting, helping us see in low light. They also give us our peripheral vision as they are at their highest concentration in the retina’s outer zone. Rods are close to 1,000 times more light-sensitive than the eye’s cones.
When you hunt a deer, the fact that it has more rods means that it’ll pick up movement far quicker than a human in the same situation would. This is why to gain the upper hand, you want to wear the color and use red or even orange or green light when hunting deer.
Cones are photoreceptor cells within the retina, giving us color in our vision. Unlike rods, cones are positioned in the retina’s center, the macula. Not only do they determine the colors we see, but also how clearly we see. There are around 6 million cones and 120 million rods in the retina.
Deer only have green and blue cones in their retinas, which explains their color blindness.
Apart from deer, what different species of animal can’t see red or green light?
Dogs suffer from deuteranopia, which prevents them from differentiating between red and green, the same colors deer can’t see. There is no evidence that other wild animals are color-blind in the same way and can’t see the orange, green or red colors deer struggle with. For this reason, using a red color of light won’t work as well for other hunting.
Is using blue or white light good for any form of hunting?
Not really. Many animals have poorer eyesight or are, in some way, color-blind. The vast majority will still be able to distinguish white or blue lights easier than many others. They will also see you in the wild more quickly if you wear these colors, so leave your blue camo at home when hunting.
It Seems Red is the Way to Go
When somebody says that hunters prefer red light for deer hunting, there’s valid reasoning behind the choice. And it’s not only the case for the color of lighting you choose but also the clothing you wear. Green or orange also makes sense but avoid the other shades and colors on the spectrum if you have a choice.
Your hunting endeavors are likely to be more successful that way.
If you enjoyed this guide, we have plenty more hunting guides to help you out. Whether you’re wondering if deer chew cud or anything else about these fascinating creatures, we’ve got you covered.