Can Deer See Red Light: The Science Behind Deer Visual

You have heard about using red light on deer a lot but still confused about it, haven’t you? The question here is: “ Can deer see red light ?” Well, today, we will figure it out together.

Are you a true deer hunter who has ever purchased a lot of products from the same hunting goods store? Have you ever wondered why they tried to sell the latest camo patterns during archery season but glowing blaze orange suites in rifle season?

That can make you overwhelmed and you may think that it has something to do with deer vision. More precisely, is there anything related to what colors deer can see? Well, the answer is “no”, actually, it’s just their marketing strategy.

But there is one thing I can guarantee you, that deer vision is totally different from ours. Therefore, just read on to know what they can really see, okay?

Can deer see red light?

Before we get into that work, I need you to understand what deer can see as well as how their vison is different from ours. To be honest, this is much more important than you think.

Generally, eyes contain specialized nerves which are called cones and rods. Different photopigments in cones are what give us as well as animals color vision. On the other hand, rods only contain one type of light-sensitive pigment. Therefore, they just enable us to see in low light such as dusk and dawn.

Can Deer See Red Light?

Image source: Wikipedia

Some anatomical studies of deer eyes have shown that there are far more rods in their eyes than us. Besides, they also have a reflective layer or tapetum lucidum. This layer can give them the “eye shine” which is exactly what you see in a nighttime photo. Additionally, it can reflect light back over the cones and rods again. Thus, deer can totally see far better in low light than humans.

We have trichromatic color vision, which means our eyes contain 3 types of photopigments. With these photopigments, we are allowed to see short, moderate, and long wavelengths of light such as blue, red, and green colors.

However, deer eyes only have 2 types of photopigments, hence, they have dichromatic color vision. Many experts believe that deer can see moderate-wavelength light and short-wavelength blue light. In deer eyes, these lights are perceived as something between green and red.

The cones in deer eyes, unlike ours, are disseminated across the back of them on a horizontal plane. In addition, the lens of deer eyes cannot adjust themselves to objects at alternating distances. The factors give these animals less visual clarity than we have.

Besides, any object, which a deer is staring at straight on, is equally in focus as other objects which are out to the side. Therefore, just do not assume that a deer can’t see you because it is not looking at you. Moreover, deer eyes are designed for detecting movement.


Many scientists and biologists have trained these animals to associated light wavelength with rewards. The purpose of this experiment is to test how well the deer can see. They gave the deer a choice of 2 empty food troughs. However, the deer only received a food reward when choosing to eat from the trough where the LED light stimulus was lit up.

After training, the scientists tested the deer on 6 different light wavelengths at alternative intensities. This way, they could determine what light colors the deer could see are.

The result

Finally, they found out that the deer see red colors worst but see blue colors best. Now, you’ve already known the answer to the question: “Can deer see red light?”, right? Yeah, they can, but not very well. Besides, they could see yellow, green colors and UV light. However, the deer couldn’t differentiate colors shades to the extent that we can.

From the conclusion above, you should not wear anything blue. Also, wearing camouflage with a lot of white is not a good idea. This is because white color can reflect every other color, including blue. Furthermore, as mentioned before, deer cannot perceive color shades well.

Once again, have you ever worn camouflage with a lot of subtle shades of brown or green? If so, then do not do this anymore if you don’t want to look like a huge blog to the animals. Instead, just wear camouflage which can break up your outline and remember to move as little as you can. This way, you can easily avoid being busted by their eyes.

Why deer freeze in headlights

As I said before, deer eyes can dilate much further than ours, that’s why they have great night vision. So what happens if you suddenly bright headlights into their face at night in an insane way? Well, they will definitely be painfully blinded until you turn off the lights.

Why deer freeze in headlights

Image source: Science ABC

Also, when in front of the headlights, the animals will freeze instinctively and you can consider it a fear response. At the moment, they just hope the predator, which is you in this case, will pass by. Therefore, do not think that they freeze in order to draw attention to themselves. The truth is even if they try to run, they are totally blinded and may run head first into your own car.

Final thoughts

I’m pretty sure that most of you hunters take this topic for granted. But trust me, it is very important to know how deer eyes work or their vision. This is not just for fun, honestly, this is for your deer hunting success. When you can answer questions such as “Can deer see red light?” and “can they see blue light?” you will know what to do to hunt them.