Being a long time successful deer and elk hunter (64 years of my almost 72 year life), this question has come up a lot from my younger hunting friends and those just getting into the sport. Can deer and elk see colors?
Well you might as well start off your hunting career right, so listen up. People think animals are color blind, but they aren’t. We see colors and so do they. They just see them differently than we do or some better than others.
Elk and deer see better short wave colors like Violets (380 to 450 nm) and Bules (450 to 495 nm) which they see 20 times better than we do. They really have a hard time with Green (495–570 nm) Yellow (570–590 nm) Orange (590–620 nm) Red (620–750 nm). So you can see why Blaze Orange works, though some hunters hate wearing it. I have taken plenty of elk and deer wearing this non pattern, so I don’t have a problem wearing it and in fact feel safer out there on public lands.
Be aware that both of these game animals have excellent night vision. They see the best in low light at Dusk and Dawn. Deer can naturally see 300 degrees and Elk 280 degrees but with a slight head movement they can see 360 degrees, due to their eye being mounted more on the side of their head. The only blind spot they have is directly behind them.
Now here’s another controversial subject covering colors, that being Camo. Not all camo is good camo. Most of it is just marketing a color pattern the manufacturers think the public will buy.
There are like 13 different patterns but mixed with dozens of varying colors. What you should have is an outfit that has a camo pattern and color that fits the environment you are hunting in. In some cases that’s several colors and patterns
Being an old Marine Sniper and Instructor I was taught to break up your outline and that is done with patterns, secondly is color. The more you blend in with your environment the better. I personally use a blend of patterns and colors by Realtree. They have the Edge pattern that have leaves, sticks and limbs on it as well as the Timber pattern which looks like bark and partial bark on a tree. in my backpack with all my essential gear I being a Leaf suit System, which really breaks you up. You look like a bush, and even more so when you painstakingly add foliage from your surroundings.
In the end, the best camo is non movement. BE STILL! This is more meaningful than the perfect camo pattern. When you see me ask me about a camo story of poking a hunter in the back with my rifle. It’s a good laugh.
Go out and have a great time, and as in bass fishing , take a kid hunting with you and pass your knowledge and passion along. Involve your youth.
RB Bass Angler and Hunter