Wednesday, September 24, 2008

 Digital Camo will Make Deer Hunters Invisible

Hunters may be given an extra advantage over deer soon.  If you are unfamiliar with traditional hunting camouflage, it can best be described as a brown and leafy green pattern meant to blend the wearer into a woodsy background.  It is very convincing—to human eyes.  But what do deer actually see?  Extensive research into ungulate vision and U.S. military concealment technology have come together to create Optifade, new hunting gear that claims it can render hunters invisible to deer’s eyes.

            Jay Nietz, of Medical College in Wisconsin and his team of colleagues have spent decades doing vision tests on notoriously shy deer.  The researchers tested their vision by showing their subjects three cards, and rewarded them with food when they selected the right pattern.  Nietz discovered that deer vision is a little bit blurry, at about 20/40.  They also have what’s equivalent to red/green colorblindness, with only two color receptors to our three.  Deer are more sensitive than humans on the blue end of the spectrum, and have a 270-degree field of vision, due to eyes on each side of the head.

            Timothy O’Neill, a creator of the pixilated digital camo used by the U.S. army today, describes Optifade as specific to deer eyes, and claims the patterns blend the wearer seamlessly into the background.  “This new camo…fools the deer’s vision system at its roots”.  At Hyperstealth Biotechnology, computer generated algorithms create fractal patterns that will be used for the camo.  Though being developed in state of the art computer labs, Optifade also owes some of its effectiveness to tricks borrowed from top predators.  The camouflage works in two ways:  micropatterns that blend into the background, like the spots on a leopard, paired with micropatterns that break up the wearer’s shape while in motion, like the stripes on a tiger.  Optifade camouflage will soon be marketed by W.L. Gore, of Gore-Tex fame. 

 Soon hunters will be disappearing in front of deer's eyes.  Doesn't it seem like a lot of money and effort went into outsmarting an already defenseless animal?

 Read  about it here.

Update, 9/30/2008:

Thanks for all the great comments.  I would like to clear something up:  When searching for an article to use, this one caught my attention, though I was hesitant to use it because, as a few of you mentioned, it does not have much on the behavior of the deer.  But I was still interested, so I asked Prof. Houlihan if it was a suitable topic.  He said it was, and to think of camouflage as predator behavior.  With that in mind, I found it interesting the comments made about the reality of camo as less about animal response and more about human response.  It is true that deer cannot see blaze orange on account of their color-blindness, making it effective for communication with other hunters rather than their prey.  As for scent and hearing, many hunters use products marketed to minimize scent-detection, and practice staying silent and still.  

Unfortunately, i could not find much additional information about the methods of the vision tests done on the deer.  I was curious about it myself.  

A video by Gore about Optifade.

Posted by Jane de Verges (2)


At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At what point do you stop and contemplate the reality that wearing camoflage has nothing to do with deer and everything to do with human communication.

You can kill a deer just as easily in a jogging suit as garbed in camoflage overalls. But just as jogging suits, gold chains, and hair gel allow a subset of american culture to recognize one another in a crowd, camoflage clothing allows "hunters" to recognize each other as well. Thus the clothing serves a role in non-verbal communication between humans.

Given that the first order of business after donning ones camoflage is to cover it with a flourescent orange vest, the entire notion of "camoflage" becomes laughable.

Hunters don't wear camoflage for the deer, they wear it for each other. More importantly, they do so because the marketing machines behind Realtree, Mossyoak, The Outdoor Channel, The Buckmaster, etc... Have convinced them that that can't kill a deer without $30,000 worth of Gizmos, widgets and ATV's.

Makes you wonder how the Native Americans ever did it!

At 11:46 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Great topic! Thats amazing so much research has gone into studying the vision of deer. I wonder in the long run if this vision oriented gear to be wore by hunters will impact the deer population heavily.

-Joanne Philippeaux

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems a little silly that so much money goes into developing camoflage when a deer's eyesite is so poor to begin with. With 20/40 vision, how well is the deer really going to see you, no matter what you're wearing? A deer's sense of smell and hearing are much more well developed than their eyesite. It would be interesting for someone to develop a test to see how heavily they rely on those two senses to avoid hunters. I bet a lot of hunters would be surprised about how much money they've wasted buying next to useless camo.

-Corinne Delisle (2)

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

I think that learning about how different creatures view the world is very interesting. As humans, we can't experience, for ourselves, the senses of another creature. I am curious how the tests with cards actually worked to determine what they can and can't see.

I also have to wonder, since the deer's eyesight is not phenomenal, how much of an improvement is the new camouflage over over the old variety. Are there any studies regarding the effectiveness of the older style?

Allison Cornell (2)

At 2:57 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is an interesting article and I am curious to see what effect this camouflage will have on the ecosystems. Will the deer still be able to detect movement? Also won't they be aware of hunters because of their other senses including sound and smell? Either way it doesn't seem quite fair to have camouflage completely disguising hunters.

Rob Lubenow

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does this related to behaviors of deers? This just states physical properties of deers, but nothing about behaviors.
It will be more interesting to see how deers detect preys using such a bad vision and color blindness, rather than how people create better camouflage for the deer hunting.

-Yi, Jeongsang

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all the problems we have in this world- this is where our brain power is going?!?!?!

The main difference between humans and animals is that we do not act based on sole instincts alone. We are are able to learn, feel and tell right from wrong.
Learning about animals and the way they live, act and think is a privelage and as such, we musn't abuse it- we can not abuse it.

Hunting deer for sport is not necessarily bad and has a long history throughout the years. Although I would never be able to do it personally, I do not see people who enjoy the sport in a negative way; however a scientist that studies a defensless animal just so he can find more efficient ways to kill it is ,in my opinion, a disgrace to science and although not unethical I find it to be somewhat immoral.

It makes me wonder- if scientists put as much effort into finding what traits animals possess that make them more resilient to certain diseases as they do to finding out what trais make them mor evoulnerable to hunters, maybe we'd be one step closer to finding a cure for AIDS.

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This all seems very interesting, but I have heard differently. I am sure that they have come up with a "super" camouflage, but it isn't needed to hide from deer. People wear orange while hunting for two reasons. One of them is obvious, and it is so other hunters are aware and can see them (so there are no accidents). Secondly, hunters wear orange because the deer can't see them! That's right. As you mentioned in your article, deer are colorblind to reds (and oranges). Their spectrum is shifted so that they cannot see those colors, but they are able to see UV. Wearing bright orange makes you unseen by the deer. This is also why hunters use paint on their face. The deer can see UV rays, so by covering their face up, they won't be able to see the UV being emitted because the paint will keep it in.

-Alyson Paige

At 9:03 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This article is interesting because it proves how much humans are becoming more and more lazy. Hunting is supposed to be a sport, it's not something that's supposed to be extremely easy. That just defeats the purpose and I feel like it's cheating. I'm a little confused of why you chose this topic because it doesn't have much to do with animal behavior. Is there anything you could write about in the article that talks about how the deers respond, if they do respond at all?

Ashley Maillet

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very interesting technology, especially when applied to the military as you noted at the start of the article. But in the name of sport, this seems to be cheating the system. It could be useful to a hunter to know that deers have a certain level of colorblindness, and blurred vision when searching for deer, but to actually use technology to blend into the environment seems to take the sport out of it. I'm sure the suit isn't cheap, and if i was going to spend that kind of money, I would just pay someone to hunt the deer for me.

Stephen Lee

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's kind of sad that these people are spending all this time and money on deer hunting. I understand that they created this new camo to make hunting easier for those who interested in the sport but if you are already a seasoned hunter I see no need for it. Mainly because there is a likely chance that it won't increase their chances of killing these animals. Like any sport practice is what makes you perfect not gadgets and trinkets.

Anyway, will all this research how does it relate to the behavioral aspects of the deer?

- Debbie Theodat


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