Take a look the camo aisle of any hunting store and you see a lot of camouflage that was made to trick hunter’s eyes more than deer. You will see hunters grabbing the latest and greatest camo jackets and pants and heading for the checkout.
Why are most of these camouflaged clothes not designed for deer?
More importantly, why do hunters still buy them? Why are we saying the camo is designed to trick hunters?
To understand better why hunter camo is not really designed to hide from deer, you need to understand a few simple things:
- What camo was originally designed for
- The colors and camouflage in the natural world
- How deer and humans see differently
- How camo is marketed to hunters
Modern hunter camouflage has its roots in the military. The idea of breaking up the pattern on clothes was first developed by the British around 1960. The idea of using different color patterns was to hide soldiers from other soldiers. Quite simply, the original goal of camo was to hide from people, not animals. This lead to the development of different patterns that would blend into their surroundings when viewed by human eyes. The main colors in original camouflage patterns were black, brown and green. Since then, many different colors and patterns have been developed to blend into different environments, from jungle to desert. All to hide from human eyes.
Yet in the natural world of predator and prey, you don’t see these same colors on animal camouflage. You will see dots and stripes, similar patterns to break up the outline, but the colors are fewer. When was the last time you saw an animal with green fur? You haven’t of course. Green in camouflage is not a color that occurs in the natural world. The camouflage of animals is dominated by browns, tans and blacks. The reason for this is that humans and animals see differently.
It’s common knowledge that deer “see in black and white”. This isn’t quite true, deer see “dichromatic”, being able to see more blue, and hardly any red. This helps them have better vision in the dark. Compared to humans, the idea of seeing in black and white is a pretty good approximation though. Most importantly, deer are not able to see bright blaze orange. Take your expensive hunter camo and dye it orange and it will be just as effective as before. Why is hunter camo designed more to hide from humans than deer then? The answer, of course, is in the marketing.
When hunters walk down the aisle, or look in the catalog, they aren’t doing so with black and white vision goggles (if they were, they would save some money!). They of course, are seeing in human color, and so will be drawn to camo that is blending in and hiding from them. When was the last time you saw a hunting catalog with all the photos in black and white? You haven’t. The photos are of hunters using color specific camo to hide from the readers, not from deer. Marketers know that people can’t set aside their emotional bias when they buy camo – “if that camo hides from me it must hide from deer”. Purchasing something is mostly an emotional, not intellectual process.
The end result is an entire industry making, and selling, expensive camouflage clothes to hunters every year. Camo with colors “adapted to the environment”, when a single suit of black and white camo would work in any terrain. All a hunter needs is something to break up their outline. Even better is to use a base color of blaze orange with a break-up pattern. This is the best of both worlds. A single suit that will hide you from deer in any terrain, yet one that is highly visible to hunters to increase safety.
Even better, of course, is a base blaze orange base for safety and then a 3D suit to maximize blending.