Blaze-Orange and Other Visual Handicaps

Blaze-orange hunting clothing is very easy for hunters to spot over great distances, providing well-proven safety for deer hunters while hunting within shooting range of other hunters. The trouble is, blaze-orange is also very easy for whitetails to spot. What they spot is different, however. Because whitetails lack receptors for colors in the red spectrum in their eyes, whitetails see reds in shades from black to white. Hunter red clothing of bygone hunting seasons appeared black to them (see photo on left above). Today’s blaze-orange clothing appears glowing white, most vivid when bathed in sunlight and moving (see center photo above). That’s not all. Regardless of what a tree stand hunter is wearing, natural camo when bowhunting or blaze-orange while firearm hunting, when seen against a bright sky in early morning or late evening when shadows are long or while shadowed beneath a mature tree at any time of the day, a hunter’s entire body will appear black against the sky or a snowy background, also especially visible while moving (see photo on right above). Today’s deer hunters therefore have three terrible visual handicaps to deal with: one caused by glowing blaze-orange, a second caused by eye-catching movements and a third caused by sky-lighting or snow-lighting. All three routinely ruin chances to take deer, most often without hunters realizing it.

There are effective ways to overcome these handicaps. One is, “mask or hide your body and movements while hunting.” This should be relatively easy for stand hunters, sitting or standing in one place amid natural cover for hours at a time as they do. Unfortunately, most are unaware of how easy they are for mature whitetails to discover and avoid and therefore find little reason to remain motionless long enough. When moving, few stand hunters move slowly enough to avoid being noticed by any of the 15–30 deer that live in the square-mile surrounding their stands. Few realize they should not move at all while one or both eyes of a nearby whitetail’s eyes are visible. Few select stand sites that provide adequate silhouette and motion hiding cover.

Today, ground level stand hunters generally use blinds to keep themselves and their movements hidden – blinds composed of natural, unaltered cover, blinds made from natural materials found lying on the ground and blinds made from man-made materials such as camo fabric with metal frameworks. I prefer using a fallen tree as a blind or natural unaltered cover deep and dense enough to mask or hide my entire body up to my neck while seated on my backpacked stool. I hide the light skin of my face and my head by wearing a camo headnet topped with my camo cap. I often add a fleecy evergreen bough to the top of my blind to further hide my head and head movements. I’ve taken several trophy bucks while seated behind a young evergreen with a horizontal space between boughs at eye level (quietly created with a knife when necessary) through which I could take aim without being noticed by those bucks.

My favorite tree to sit in while tree stand hunting is a mature red oak (which retains rust-colored leaves throughout winter) or a mature, well-branched evergreen closely surrounded by other mature trees that act as secondary blinds at stand level. Because height alone no longer hides hunters from mature whitetails, 9–10 feet above the ground is high enough for me. I make it a rule to a avoid altering surrounding cover as much as possible, using natural shooting windows through which to fire at deer rather than stand-to-ground shooting lanes which are instantly recognized as dangerous by today’s mature bucks. Admittedly, extra surrounding cover sometimes spoils opportunities to fire at nearby deer, but I’ve long been convinced such cover provides me with more opportunities to fire at mature bucks within easy shooting range.

Whether at ground level or in a tree, surrounding natural cover should be at least two-thirds effective at hiding your body and movements, if you are capable of remaining motionless for long periods and then when necessary, move very slowly. If you know you are going to move a lot, 80–100 percent hidden is recommended. It’s that important. The first time you begin easing up a rifle or bow up to fire at a big buck standing 10–50 yards away, you are going to wish your blind was 100% effective.

Here’s another bit of important advice, probably new to you: learn to fire your gun or bow while seated when stand hunting – you will be less noticeable and thus minimize noticeable movements at critical moments. Once learned, you will not only be more accurate when the chips are down, but your quarry will likely remain unaware you are near, therefore standing still or moving slowly when you take aim (an easy target).


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