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The Colorblind Hunter

The Colorblind Hunter

About one in eight men and one in 200 women are colorblind. (It's much rarer in females because the gene that causes color blindness is on the X chromosome. Women have two of them, so if they get one faulty X, they can usually count on getting one good one.) The same percentages are most likely represented among hunters. I hunt deer, and as a “strong deutan” (which means I have lots of trouble with red and green), I often don’t know what color I am seeing. Green, brown, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple all give me trouble, and it's worse in low light—which is, naturally, when a lot of hunting and tracking takes place, at dawn and dusk. People with the other types of color blindness have similar problems with different colors. Very few of us see only shades of grey. For every “type,” the level of weakness varies. The question of color blindness is important to colorblind hunters and those who see color well alike, because there are some safety issues attached to it.

Although I have trouble with many colors, I can see and distinguish blaze orange, even at great distances...but some colorblind hunters can’t. If you hunt with one of them, wear a color they can see. If your local hunting ordinances allow it, try international safety yellow or fluorescent yellow-green (chartreuse). The more fluorescent, the better we can see it.

If you don’t wear hunter orange, are well camouflaged and not moving, you may be harder to see than a deer—by anyone! We are all taught to make sure the area behind and near our target is clear. But if you’re the invisible hunter, even a hunter with perfect color vision might shoot you by accident. To me, it’s the best reason to wear hunter orange, especially if you’re on the ground. Again, the more fluorescent it is, the better. That color in the woods means “human” to most hunters. If you are against wearing orange, please at least wear an orange hat or cap. Nothing in the woods seems to move like a person's head does when they're walking, and the brilliance of the orange hat draws the eye to that uniquely human motion.

Safety issues aside, there are also ethical questions when it comes to being a colorblind hunter. Our weakness doesn’t seem to affect how well we see deer, but it does affect which deer we should aim for. I can’t track a blood trail because it only looks like moisture, and it doesn’t stand out at all. That means a sure kill is a must, since I really don’t want to lose a wounded deer. My solution is to keep my shots within 100 yards and use a cannon (.450 Marlin) with a 4X scope. I do sacrifice some meat, but so far all the deer have dropped where they were hit. Another strategy would be to hunt with a competent and willing tracker along. If you do that, be sure to make up for it during the dressing/dragging phase...and maybe share the backstraps.

Below: A landscape as seen by someone with "normal" color vision.


The same landscape as seen by someone with deuteranopia, like the author. If these images look the same to you, we have some bad news for you...

 

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