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When I was a kid, I would dress up in the hunting camo my dad had gotten me for our hunting trips out into the wilderness and then try to play hide and seek with my friends. I was under the impression that my mere camo pants and camo shirt and camo cap would make me invisible to anyone trekking through the woods.
Of course, when you're only wearing camo clothing and standing between the trees, your friends are surely going to find you.
But true camouflage, camouflage designed to effectively hide a person in plain sight, has been around for thousands of years.
Animals have used camo since the dawn of man and probably beyond. Where do you think we got the idea for our own technology? (Probably from Uroplatus Geckos.)
Fortunately for us hunters, we only have to fool beasts lower on the food chain than us. (Kidding!) And, although camo technology has improved greatly since I was a kid, it's still no invisibility cloak, and you're not in the woods to be a ninja anyway. Maybe pretend you are one, but not be on.
And camo really does fool animals. So, let's talk about that.
Our vision, along with other primates, is trichromatic. This means that we have three photopigments in our eyes. These photopigments allow us to see blue, green, and red color wavelengths of light.
Deer, on the other hand, only have two photopigments. They have dichromatic color vision meaning they can only see blue wavelengths of light and some weird color in-between red and green.
Scientists also believe that deer don't have as much visual clarity as humans because the lenses in their eyes don't adjust to various distances, giving us a tactical advantage.
So, what does a camouflaged human look like to a deer? A big, indiscernible blob (as long as the blob doesn't move).
Scientists recommend hunters avoid wearing blue when hunting deer and to wear camo that blurs your outline.
Ever notice that a when a rabbit senses danger, the first thing it does is freeze?
I was out in the desert with my dogs the other week. I had let them loose to run off some energy.
And most of the time when I'm just out and about with my dogs, I only see the jack rabbits when they are hopping as fast as they can away from my dogs.
But this time, I'm the one who came upon a rabbit. And we both froze. Me, I just wanted to watch it. But the rabbit was hoping I didn't see it.
Why would a rabbit do this? Wouldn't it want to just zoom off and get away from a predator as fast as it could?
As it turns out, just like deer, foxes and coyotes and other canines have dichromatic color vision and can only see blue and greenish-red.
These canine predators also have worse visual clarity than humans, although not nearly as bad as deer. If a dog took a vision test at the eye doctor, his vision would come out to be about 20/50. That dog would not be allowed to drive without glasses.
So, the dog really can't distinguish the rabbit from the grass surrounding it. No wonder dogs have such highly developed sniffers.
Now cats, on the other hand, are a slightly different story.
Like humans, they have trichromatic vision and can see more colors than dogs. But the caveat is this: cat eyes were designed to work best at night. Which is why their visual clarity is fairly awful during the day.
So, do you need camo to hunt predators? Need. Maybe not. But, along with quiet movement and staying downwind of the predator, camo that blurs your outline will certainly help with keeping you invisible to the bobcat or the coyote.
Now, this one seems counter-intuitive at first but bare with me. Birds see better than humans.
Remember how deer and predators are dichromatic meaning they only see two color wavelengths? Birds are tetrachromats, meaning they can see everything we can, plus the UV spectrum of light.
So, if you're wearing camo, they probably can see more than just the colors of the camo.
This is one of the reasons why bird hunters are exempt from wearing orange in some states.
A bird is definitely going to see orange.
But why, then, should you wear camo when bird hunting? What's the point?
Well, it's simple. Flying.
When you want to conceal something from an aircraft, color it the same as the ground below.
The same principle applies when hiding from flying fowl. You need to wear camo that blends in with the ground or the swampland. You don't want the birds to know you are there before they land next to your decoys.
Really, the use of camo is partially negated by the use of the rifle. You're going to be far enough away with the rifle; the deer is most likely not going to see you before the bullet or slug hits their heart. That is, if you're hunting right.
But with bow hunting, you have to be up close and personal with the deer. And the better camouflaged you are, the less likely the deer is going to see you.
You're probably going to be out in the woods alone or with a few buddies who don't really care what you look like as long as you have clothes on.
But, no matter how useful camo is, and I think I've proven it is fairly useful, it marks you as a hunter among mortal men.
Nothing says success like a hunter coming back in his camo coveralls carrying a large catch.
And remember, whatever you wear out there, be safe and happy hunting!