Home Blog Why Do Hunters Wear Blaze Orange? (Plus What Animals See)

Why Do Hunters Wear Blaze Orange? (Plus What Animals See)

hunter in orange hat aiming rifle

As the crisp air calls, it often seems like a small army of camouflaged hunters emerge to take their places in stands and blinds throughout the woods.

However, despite investing a good deal of time and effort into finding the perfect camouflage print to keep themselves hidden, virtually every one of these sportsmen also has a large swath of bright orange.

This apparent contradiction leads many people — both hunters and non-hunters alike — to ask the question: “Why do hunters wear orange?” 

It is an excellent question since it would seem that the bright color would attract the attention of your quarry. So let’s take a closer look at why hunters wear orange and how it affects different animals in the woods.

Why Hunters Wear Orange

At first glance, a bright orange shooting vest and hat may seem glaringly obvious to most folks. However, many commonly hunted animals’ vision doesn’t work quite like ours, so you are usually pretty safe on that front.

Besides, there are plenty of excellent answers to the question of “why should you wear orange when hunting?” Consider these top justifications for displaying blaze orange gear on a hunt.

Hunters wear blaze orange while hunting because:

  • It makes them visible to other hunters.
  • It reduces hunting accidents.
  • It is required.

Why You Should Wear Orange When Hunting

back view of hunter wearing orange vest and cap

Now that you know why other hunters wear safety orange in the woods, let’s apply that logic to your situation by considering these answers to why you should wear orange when hunting.

To Establish Your Presence in the Woods

As a responsible hunter, you should always try to stay as safe as possible. Part of that is to ensure that any other hunters in the area can easily see you. Think about this situation:

You are in your stand and catch sight of some movement in the distance. A brown figure starts to take shape. You look through your scope, only to see a blaze orange hat appear above the undergrowth. Without that hat, you may have taken a shot and potentially killed a fellow hunter.

Preventing accidents is the most obvious answer to the question, “Why do hunters wear orange?” Consider for a minute that a 2010 report by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife showed 81% of victims in vision-related hunting accidents in the 20 years prior were not wearing blaze orange.

To Comply with State and Local Hunting Regulations

A large body of hunters wears safety colors because hunting regulations in their area require it. They know that if a game warden were to catch them without it, they could lose their ability to hunt.

Yes, sometimes things are this simple. In many states, hunters are required to wear blaze orange. These regulations are usually in place due to the reasons already given, but not everyone believes in the efficacy of safety procedures. However, they do trust that there is always the chance that they’ll get caught without the required safety equipment.

You want to do the right thing and follow all safety procedures as a hunter, whether to create goodwill to non-hunters or help keep the sport visible for the right reasons — instead of careless accidents.

The simple truth is that you should always wear safety orange when on a hunt because it is part of the regulations you have agreed to abide by.

Do Animals See Orange on Hunters?

This is a tricky question to answer. First, we don’t fully understand everything many common animals can do. Even the senses of well-studied whitetail deer are largely unknown.

However, we can make educated guesses based on eye structure, observed behavior patterns, and scientific studies. Using that information, here’s what we know so far about some commonly hunted animals and their ability to see blaze orange:

Deer: The short answer is not really. Deer most likely see bright orange and other fluorescent colors as a muted yellow or tan, making it blend into typical fall surroundings. This is why hunters wear orange as a safety color. 

Turkeys: Like most other birds, turkeys have a keen sense of vision. It is far better than the visual capability of people. So, while you still have to wear safety orange. You will want to stay out of sight as much as possible.

Bears: According to researchers at the University of Tennessee, bears can see in color. During testing, they could differentiate between varying shades of blue and green bowls containing food. In addition, some of those bowls had red and yellow tints, so bears may spot your safety orange. There’s also a pretty good chance they picked up your scent an hour before you knew they were around. 

Rabbits: Like many other mammals, rabbits primarily see colors in the blue and green range. That means any grey or white camo patterns are likely to pop bright, but your blaze colors are going to be muted.

Why Orange Doesn’t Scare Off Deer

The short answer is that deer aren’t scared of orange — or other bright red-based colors — because they don’t see them very well. They can tell that the color is different, but it doesn’t appear bright — or orange, for that matter.

Instead, it shows as a muted yellow, which blends nicely into the surroundings. Let’s take a closer look at deer vision to get to the bottom of the issue.

How Deer See Their Surroundings

Contrary to popular belief, deer are not color blind. They can see certain colors quite well — far better than humans in some instances. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we know about deer’s ability to see their surroundings.

Distance Vision

Deer cannot see clearly at a great distance, so they need to be relatively close to discern distinct figures like a very still hunter. The picture they do see is best described as blurry. Their visual abilities also explain why deer are much more likely to be scared off by a sudden movement or sound than the presence of a blaze orange jacket.

Visible Colors

Deer see blue, violet, and browns very well, so any blue or grey coloring will stand out to them, almost appearing to glow. They can also see white and other pale colors like yellow. So, why do hunters wear orange? Because it is not on this end of the color spectrum.

UV Enhancement

This is one area where deer’s vision excels. They are particularly sensitive to colors in the UV spectrum, which helps them stay safe in low-light conditions. So, skip detergents with UV brighteners or color enhancers for your hunting gear.

However, washing your blaze orange in a UV-dampening product can make it harder for deer to spot while still making you very visible to other hunters.

Many people wonder why hunters wear orange when in the field, so let’s recap the reasons you should wear orange when hunting. Blaze orange gear helps you stay safe, reduces accidents, and is required by law in many states without attracting excess attention from most animals.

References:

Colour of the hunters’ clothing and the alertness in Capreolus capreolus (Artiodactyla: Cervidae), LYNX: A Journal of Mammalogy, Petr OBLESER, 22 April 2019

To Hunt and Return, Firearm Safety Council of New Zealand, Joe Green, 2003

How Game Animals See and Smell, ATSKO/SNO-SEAL Inc., Kurt von Besser, 2010

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