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September 24, 2008

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Chad Love: Camo Doesn't Matter

One of the most overhyped and over-marketed areas in big-game hunting is camouflage. This story from the NYT science blog certainly isn't going to help much.

"...there’s a new type of digital camouflage specifically designed to fool deer’s vision. Called Optifade, it’s being unveiled today by W.L. Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex".

"...the new digital camouflage consists of a micropattern made up of tiny squares that are supposed to match the overall texture of the landscape — the “spatial frequency” or “busyness” of the forest or scrubland as seen through the deer’s eyes. It also has a macropattern of large geometric shapes that are supposed to break up the outline of the body so that even if a deer sees a hunter moving, it doesn’t register in the deer’s brain as a human shape."

It's an interesting development, but I found the Times readers’ comments on the story much more fascinating. Apparently some are upset because this new wunderflage makes us "invisible" and that's just not fair.

From the comments section...

"Do hunters really need any more technological advantages over the deer then they already have? To call deer hunting a “sport” is absurd; considering all the hardware available to hunters, the deer never stand a chance..." -- comment from "AZ"

It just goes to show how little anti-hunters know about the animals they profess to love. The belief that human technology will always prevail over a deer's senses is the mark of someone who has obviously never spent any time in the woods.

You can spend as much money on as many gimmicks and gadgets and look as ridiculous as you want and it won't make a damn bit of difference to the animal you're hunting. The first set of "real" camouflage I ever purchased (that hadn't already been discarded by the military) made me look like one of the ents from "Lord of the Rings," but it didn't me get any closer to deer than my old surplus duds. If you rely on technological doo-dads instead of respecting an animal enough to actually learn a little bit about it, then a bunch of fuzzy dots on your clothes aren't going to give you any advantage at all.



I agree. after all the expense of this$$$$ gear, then you have to wear all of that orange, I still don't buy that deer/elk etc can not see colors. I personaly believe it is our movement and smell that is the real issue. Once you are in place and down windof them, I dont think colors or paterns matter much, it is your movement in gereral. and don't forget noise.


Apparently "AZ" doesn't live in the country and has never witnessed a deer standing beside his back patio and grazing on his wife's potted geraniums. If he had, he might consider deer hunting a sport, or at least a necessity to control over-population of the "hooved locusts" - as a witty friend of mine calls them.

Camo can't help the guys who are terrible shots anyway.

Teak Phillips


We don't need all that camo. We want it. Can't that be good enough?

Chad Love

Absolutely, Teak. And if you took a peek in my closet you'd call me the world's biggest hypocrite.
I was pointing out the laughable notion among non-hunters that things like camo patterns give us this huge technological edge over a deer.

It might help a little bit, and we all have our pet patterns, but if I had a choice between dressing up like Ho-Ho the Clown and sitting still versus wearing the pixelated wonder pattern in the story while fidgeting and squirming in my seat, I'll take Ho-Ho any day.
Technique will always (well, mostly) trump technology.
Having said that, I really want to try out this new camo. It looks pretty cool and I'm as big a sucker as the next guy...


I have found that there is another often overlooked factor in becoming invisible to deer.
Washing your clothes with a detergent with no UV or color enhancers, and no scent. I used to think that the special hunting clothes detergents were a marketing ploy until I used it. I have washed blue jeans and wore them hunting in a low tree stand and had bucks look right through me. Conversely I tried regular detergent and no matter how still and quiet I sat, bucks would often spook. Occasionally they would look at me and act like they saw me. I know it's only anecdotal evidence, but I sire became a believer.
As far as camo goes, I prefer Marine Marpat digital or my old original Vietnam tiger stripe. I use German Flectarn too.


While I believe that most animals are color blind, I'm sure that they can perceive brightness. Up here, even with blaze camo, I fell like I stick out like a sore thumb unless I'm behind a tree or something. After we get snow, I feel a lot better. Whitetails sure can detect movement though, even with snow.


I think you are right on the brightness, or tone of the color.I have had elk walk right up to me(not in season,damn!) i was not wearing any camo, I was taking a break while hiking, and he was not spooked until I moved, then his eyes almost popped out of his head as he turned and leaped away.I was down wind from him.


When I started hunting (?) in the early 50's, camo was a green coat and Roundhouse overalls! We killed less deer, but that's because there WERE less deer!
These days, I wrap my crippled butt in as much camo as I can "afford" (which is never enough!), wash them in scent killer detergent (though the deer still seem to smell my reeking carcass!), and sit still as a statue as long, as I'm asleep! (technology has gone a long way towards at least keeping me warm!)
Camo helps! I stand amazed that deer don't seem to notice the blaze orange cap and vest that stick out like a sore thumb to my "red blind" eyes!
Motion, noise and odor spook more deer than anything else. Control these three items as much as possible and you will have success!
Dark, drab colored clothing works just as well as camo when you sit still and quiet and use some type odor control!



I was at the WaWa yesterday and a kid had a funky looking camo jacket- when i got close to him I could see that all the leaves were pot plants- too funny. I think most of the new technology isn't very helpful, but I guess people can spend their money as they see fit. It seems kind of silly to have a special season for slug guns or "black powder" when these modern guns are as accurate as a 30/30 and offer no more challenge. Most people look at hunters as unpaid game wardens- which is just fine by me.

John C.

I don't know, it is getting to the point that I am at least somewhat sympathetic to "AZ,s" point of view.

Before anyone starts yelling and calling me an anti and all of that, I invite you to go watch one of the major outdoor networks first.

Some of these shows advocate things that I personally find repulsive.

Just this week I watched a show on which two yahoos were using the latest uber magnums on which they had mounted what amounted to full size telescopes to shoot mule deer at ranges in excess of 800 yards.

Yes, Yes, Yes, I know it takes skill and practice to accurately shoot animals at these ranges, but that doesn't mean it is ethical.

I'm in school right now

If deer are colorblind, why do we need camo? Blaze orange is easier to see to people but the deer can't tell the difference.



I am trying to get my own line of camo marketed. The basic pattern will be that of the front bumper and grill of my friends 2005 Toyota Corrolla. Extensive testing has proven that the deer in our area CAN NOT see this coming at them at any speed. In fact, based on my friends experience (7 deer in the last 4 years) it has some sort of attractant quality to it.

Mike Diehl

I wear blaze. The deer don't care, it's movement and odor that gets their attention. I see lots of becamoed fellows every fall. I figure that making oneself invisible to other hunters in the woods with no gain in ability to take deer is either a symptom of stupidity or a window on what "fashion conscious" hunters feel they must wear in the woods.

Happy Myles

Interesting comments on camo. I know a chap who since getting out of the jungles of Vietnam has been a full time predator control officer in the western U.S. He has sat patiently for decades waiting for smart critters to show up. Says camo makes no difference, Flat colors with no poly stay fast color chemicals that reflect light will do the trick. Have a good background, and stay still.


I wear orange during gun seasons. No deer is worth getting shot. I don't wear orange on my limbs, because I do think deer can more easily spot a limb in orange moving than one in brown/green/camo.

I try to wear two different camo patterns during turkey season (e.g. mossy oak breakup on top, realtree forest on bottom). It is just as effective on the turkeys, but humans are better able to pick you out than if you wear one pattern head to toe. Especially when you are sitting against a tree and being still.



"Colorblind" doesn't mean you don't see color, as in a black and white TV, it means the color you see when a TV's color is out of whack. Remember the green faces!?
To me, some shades of purple are just another shade of blue. Light blues and greens are all a smear of the same color to me. To track a wounded deer? I gotta go get a dog or my wife, I don't see blood, well, unless there's a flood of it!
According to what I've heard, a deer's vision is much like an older black & white TV.



I have this really old Chuck Adams bow-hunting video that my grandma found at a yard sale. It includes a Baker brand tree-stand in it, which should provide a time point of reference.

Anyway, in that video, Chuck recommends wearing a pattern that breaks up your outline - such as red and black plaid flannel. Plaid! Chuck wears a plaid flannel shirt and a pair of blue jeans for the entire video - along with his signature cap, of course.

Chuck wears camo like everyone else now, of course, but it's worth noting that he became a great hunter while wearing plaid.


I'm in school right now

im wondering how anybody can know what color deer are seeing? Do scientists have a way of disecting the eye and finding something that helps them figure it out??


Mike Diehl

Yes, they have dissected the eyes etc. It has something to with the number and kinds and sizes and shapes of rods n cones. Anyhow, bottom line is that flat blaze orange looks like flat medium-light green to a deer. If your'e sitting still on a hillside full of grass, or in a tree stand, or in a brush line, you're nothing special to the deer, and highly visible to hunters. Which is after all the whole point of wearing blaze.

I'm in school right now

Mike, well ya that makes sense. I don't see what the big deal about wearing blaze orange is. Up in ND you have to have blaze orange on your head and 400 square inches of blaze on your body.



Yeah but, optifade is so cool....

I have to have some....

joe e

hey i once had a small 6 point walk by my stand while i was wearing a blaze orange jacket and i was bored and didnt want to shoot him so i started jumping up and down and all he did was look at me then he went back to eating


The best hunter I know has actually hunted in jeans and a white t-shirt. He can sit more still than a dead man and he hunts with a 25 year old bow. Camo is for people to try to look cool. I personally think its dumb to spend money on all your fancy camo and then throw an orange vest over it. I wear drab olive Carhardt pants and a blaze orange sweatshirt. I also wear a blaze ski hat and put blaze tape on my tree stand. Hunting public land is dangerous with all the dumb*sses that see movement and shoot. The problem is, we are all dumb consumers and buy all this crap that they sell us.


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