While many people may wonder how far can deer see in comparison to humans, the answer is a little complicated. Deers’ eyes are not simply “better” or “worse”. They are very different and uniquely designed for their needs. Let’s take a look at how well and how far deer can see.
How Far Can Deer See?
The first difference between deer and humans as far as eyesight is the position of the eyes. Whereas humans have their eyes on the front of their heads, deer have their eyes more on the sides of their heads. Due to their eye positioning, human beings generally have a range of view of 180 degrees and deer can have a field of view of up to 310 degrees. So human beings have a blind spot of 180 degrees while deer generally only have a blind spot of about 50 degrees.
As we can see, deer are able to see more of what’s around them than humans, but how clearly can they see it? Science suggests that while deer have a wider field of view, they actually have a less clear definition of details. Deer are estimated to have 20/100 vision as compared to the 20/20 vision of humans. This tells us that what a deer sees at 20 feet has the same level of clarity as what a human being sees at 100 feet.
A Wider Field of Vision with Less Clarity
The difference in clarity isn’t so much a disadvantage to the deer as it is an evolutionary trait. Deer do not need to be able to see things clearly, they just need to know if there’s a threat. The trade-off for a wider field of vision over clarity allows deer to detect motion at an unprecedented level to human beings, meaning they are more apt to determine if there is a threat in the vicinity at a great distance.
One caveat to the deer’s wide range of vision is that they can only see a clear image directly in front of them. What deer focus on primarily is movement, and the image they see is incredibly blurry compared to human beings. If a hunter is very still and has the right camouflage, they can remain undetected by deer at a fairly close range.
Eyesight is dictated by “photoreceptors”, and there are 2 different types of photoreceptors, known as “cones” and “rods”. Rods are what allow us to determine changes in light, as well as movement. While human beings have dense groups of cones in our retinas that allow us to focus on detail, deer have more scattered cones across their retina that are less prone to focusing and more prone to seeing an increased blurred image at a wider and farther range
Larger Pupils Mean Better Perception of Light
Another key difference in how deers see when compared to humans is how they see light and colors. Deers have much larger pupils than humans, which allows light to come in much differently. A deers pupil is touted as being able to see about 9 times as much light as a human being, allowing them to see much better in low-light conditions, such as dusk or dawn.
Deers’ eyes are predominantly focused on the horizon so they don’t have a good view of what’s happening below or above them unless they tilt their head correspondingly. This is due to the unique oval shape of the deer’s pupils. This oval shape essentially is wider and shorter than a human’s, once again leading to a wider field of vision at a more limited overall scope.
Limited Color Perception
As far as color, deer have a far less clear definition than humans. However, the definition they do have often makes colors appear lighter and more visible, while others simply appear gray. Our definition of color is determined by “photopigments” in the eyes, of which humans have 3 and deers have 2. This difference in photopigments gives humans trichromatic color vision while deer have dichromatic color vision.
In effect, deer see in fewer colors. It is believed that the strongest color they perceive is blue. Everything besides blue is seen as a shade ranging from gray to yellow. It would seem to be no coincidence, then, that deer are most active during the dusk and dawn, as dusk and dawn are the times in which there are the largest amount of lights in the blue spectrum.
The Best Ways to Remain Invisible to Deer
Another huge difference in a deer’s eyesight is that they do not have a UV filter, meaning they can actually perceive UV light. This is another thing that greatly increases a deer’s eyesight at nighttime. The lack of a UV filter also greatly decreases how well certain brighter types of camouflage will work whether it’s night or day.
In practical effect, a hunter should aim for camouflage that contains a few different colors. A single color, regardless of shade, will appear as a blurry blob to deer, and thus the deer will be able to detect movement more easily. Contrastingly, multiple colors will be harder for deer to discern, as the image will still be blurred but there will be less clear of a blob.
The best colors to wear when hunting deer are green, red, and orange. If you are hunting at nighttime and need to use light, you should also try to find lights in these shades, as they’ll appear gray to deer given their limited range of color.
Deer Can See More, But Not Better
So, how far can deer see? While deer may have a wider field of view than human beings, they have unique eyesight that does give them some disadvantages. Deer can see farther than human beings, but at nowhere near the same level of clarity. The limited detail and colors a deer can see may be used against them in hunting by a keen sportsman.
If you are careful about your movement and your use of light and camouflage, you can easily get an advantage over a deer. On top of this, trying to keep the higher ground will help you keep out of a deer’s sight. With careful planning, you can get fairly close to a deer without being spotted.