Update 2014– I have updated this article, because this is still one my most-read pieces. It originally was an off-hand post on D&DH Forum. As we near the 6th anniversary, I thought I’d update things here and write a look back:
It is absolutely ludicrous to believe that deer are sensitive to UV. The mammalian eye simply is not built to resolve visible light AND UV light– not to the extent purported. Deer do not have magic eyes. They see a lot like we do, except they see less red and more blue and green. (EDIT: I was partially right about this back in 2008. The real truth is that deer do have UV receptors in their retinas, but they cannot focus the light. It probably appears much as a defuse glow to them. However, read on and you will see why this point is moot.)
This is the classic case of somebody creating a need and then attempting to fill it.
I have a couple of books on deer hunting that devote whole chapters to this anti-UV craze. I’m sure the authors themselves were just reporting what was available at the time. If you go back and look at it, this craze was typical of hunting gadgetry. Somebody comes out with a product that promises no-UV brighteners added to their clothes. Then somebody comes out with a product that will kill UV brighteners already on your clothes. Then . . .
The fact of the matter is that UV-brighteners exist, but they’re put on clothes to make them whiter than white and brighter-than-bright– not something you’d do to the average camo material. At the time UV brighteners became the big bugaboo for hunters, women’s fashion was big on white stockings. UV sensitive dies were put on the fabric to keep them from looking dull in office lighting. As a result, when they got out in the sunlight they’d fluoresce to the point of annoyance. I’ve been in the woods now for 26 seasons. I’ve never seen anyone’s hunting clothes with that kind of day-glo. (Edit: In doing the testing for Atsko, I did find a couple of samples of Mossy Oak that had small white patches in the camo that flouresced in UV. These were put there to improve the contrast of the camo pattern. However, I tested a bunch of other camo material and none glowed demonstrably when exposed to any UV light)
That is with one exception. Why is it we go to such lengths to kill UV on all our other clothes and then don fluorescent hunter orange hats and vests? Has anyone ever stopped to think how silly this all gets? I can see an orange hat at a distance of a mile or more when it gets into the sun. I’m sure the deer can too. They just don’t pay any attention to it. To them, it’s just a BRIGHT gray (?). What is bright gray? (EDIT: it turns out deer don’t see hunter orange as gray. They see it as a muted yellow. I did a post on it a few years later: What do deer really see? )
So now I spray UV Killer on it– somehow this magic potion dulls one dye (the UV brightener) without touching any other color. Hmmmm. Selective bleaching. There’s a trick! It kills the UV dye on my camo clothes, but does not touch the florescence of my orange vest. How do it know? How do it know? (EDIT: Truth is, Atsko was already selling a UV-Suppressed vest in 2008. I got a sample of the fabric, and though legal, I was inclined to pick safety over fashion.)
Back in the 20’s the canned tuna industry was a tight race– nobody had clear leadership in the field. All tuna was pink. Then Bumble Bee Tuna accidentally came up with a way to bleach tuna and turn it white. They didn’t mean to. It just happened that way. Stuck with bleached tuna, somebody in the marketing department came up with an idea. Their ad campaign: “Bumble Bee Tuna– Guaranteed not to turn pink!” Bumble Bee got on top and stayed there for years. I’ll leave you to ponder that one.
This all started innocently enough. I was just expressing my opinion on UV suppression. Next thing I know I’m embroiled in controversy over UV Killer. I tested the product at Atsko’s request and found it was useless. The real truth finally came out a few years later, when I discovered an article, UV and Reindeer. Along the way, it accounted for a bunch of posts on this weblog:
What is the truth? Deer DO have UV receptors in their eyes, but they are meant to pick out predators in a snowy environment. Fur shows up darker in UV. This is the exact opposite of the UV suppression hype tries to tell you.
However, the real rotten snot in this whole saga is the basic fact that UV enhancers in clothing do not themselves emit UV, otherwise we humans would not see the glow. What UV fluorescing dye does is react to UV light and then re-emit things in the visible part of the spectrum. That’s why we see things like zinc oxide as being a brighter, whiter white in bright sunlight. With UV suppression products, you are not only being sold something that does a lame job of what it is purporting to do, but what it is doing is useless and may be counter productive.
If you still doubt me, just look at this pic of me in my UV radioactive clownsuit that I got back in 2011 and have hunted in it more times than not since– if for no other reason than to show how stupid this whole UV Suppression thing is. The deer still show up under my stand. They still look right through me. When folks talk about UV and deer point them to the shaman. I will set them straight.