Since there isn’t much natural light during the night, it would make sense to think that deer can’t see very well when it’s dark. After all, humans can’t see well in the dark without a flashlight. However, deer eyes are different from human eyes. Can deer see in the dark? The answer is yes, deer can see in the dark, and they see better in the dark than humans.
Since deer vision differs from human vision, deer see differently at night than you might think. Let’s take a look at how deer vision works to gain a better understanding of how and what deer can and can’t see in the dark.
How Deer Eyes Work (the basics)
First, let’s go over some basics about eyesight. There are two parts of the eye that allow the eye to register light and color: rods and cones.
Rods register light, but they don’t recognize color. Cones recognize color, but not light. Humans have lots of cones but not very many rods. This means that, except for people who are colorblind, humans recognize color easily.
Humans do not have very many rods in their eyes, which is why we don’t see as well in the dark as other animals. Deer have more rods than we do, but they have fewer cones.
This means that deer eyes can detect light better than we can, but deer are limited in terms of the colors they see.
There are several other important differences between deer and human vision that we will explain as they come up. The basic thing to keep in mind about deer and the dark is that they are able to absorb a lot more light than we can.
What Can Deer See at Night?
What a deer sees at night depends on how good the lighting is. If the lighting is good, they can essentially see the same things they would during the day but still would not be able to distinguish color as well.
However, another odd feature of deer eyesight is the way they detect motion.
A deer’s vision is not necessarily very sharp, meaning many things that would be clear to humans would appear blurry for a deer. To compensate for this, they can see motion very well.
This is because deer always have to be on the lookout for predators. Enhanced motion detection allows them to spot potential predators at a second’s notice so that they can take of running almost instantly.
So, even if the lighting is not very good and a deer can’t see very far, it can see things rustling in the trees fairly well.
How Far Can Deer See in the Dark?
If you ask hunters how far deer can see in the dark, you will probably get a bunch of different answers.
Some claim that deer have spotted them from hundreds of yards away. Others have been able to creep right in front of a deer in the dark without being noticed.
The general consensus is that under normal nighttime conditions, deer can see between 100 and 150 yards away. There will be some variation depending on the time of year and the other light sources.
During a full moon, for instance, this distance could increase to 200 yards.
However, deer have an extremely wide field of vision. A deer’s eyes are located on the side of its head, which means it can see in either direction. This gives deer a vision field of about 300 degrees.
Since humans have their eyes on the front of their head facing the same direction, we only have a vision of 180 degrees.
This means that if you approach a deer from the side, it has a much better chance of spotting you than you might think.
Deer Vision vs Human Vision at Night
As we mentioned earlier, deer are better at detecting light than humans. This means that while their vision is not as good as it is during the day, their eyes are better adapted to nighttime conditions than human eyes.
Deer also have a cool feature in the membranes of their eyes. If you’ve ever seen a deer caught in the headlights and seen its eyes reflecting a bright, reddish color, then you’ve witnessed this firsthand.
When light hits a deer’s eyes, it reflects back off of this membrane, allowing the deer to process the light more than once. This allows the deer to take in more light.
This phenomenon doesn’t only apply to headlights and flashlights. When a deer absorbs moonlight, it is using this feature. This means that if a deer and humans are using the same light sources, the deer will be able to see much more.
Deer Vision During the Day vs. Night
A deer’s eyes do not change as soon as the sun goes up and down. There are the same things to keep in mind about deer eyesight during the day as well as at night.
For instance, deer see limited color during the day as they do at night. Their vision is also more sensitive to motion than clarity of vision.
The conditions around the deer are what change, and the deer’s eyes adapt well to this. Since the lighting conditions are not good at night, it would be wrong to say that deer see better at night than during the day.
Rather, deer are better adapted to seeing at night, making their night vision better than human night vision.
While dawn and dusk tend to be when deer are most active, it can also be the most difficult time to hunt them since their vision is comparatively better than ours under these conditions.
Good optical equipment such as night vision binoculars can help compensate for this difference.
How Well Can Whitetail Deer See in the Dark?
There are many different types of deer in the world. It’s impossible to say exactly how each species of deer sees differently, and the conditions vary depending on where a deer is located.
Deer that live in regions with extreme seasonal differences, such as moose, will have different adaptations than deer living in an area with more constant sunlight.
Not all of these differences have been well-researched, and most of the information in this article comes from research conducted on whitetail deer.
Whitetail deer are the most common species of deer in North America, and they are one of the most frequently hunted. This means information on their eyesight is probably of most use to the average hunter.
While we can never know exactly how deer see, it’s safe to say that a whitetail deer’s eyesight matches our description.
They are well-adapted to seeing in the dark, and based on accounts from hunters and observers, whitetail deer can probably see up to 150 yards in poor lighting conditions.
In Conclusion: Deer Vision in the Dark
There is still a lot of information to be learned about deer and human vision, and hopefully scientific research will help us gain a better understanding of exactly how deer see.
For now, the information we have should be enough to help out hunters and anyone who is interesting in observing deer.
In summary, deer see better at night than humans do because they can absorb more light and have a greater field of vision. However, deer are colorblind and do not have very clear vision, but they are good at detecting motion.
If you’re hoping to spot a deer, the best thing you can do no matter what time of day is to stay as still and quiet as possible.