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Ask Winke Deer Behavior NAW+ Whitetail

How Far Can Deer See In The Dark?

by Bill Winke   |  July 30th, 2012 8

Q: During the early season, I hunt agricultural fields and food plots. There seems to be no good way to exit my stand without bumping deer. I was wondering if you have any idea as to how far deer can see in the dark? — Ryan Rothstein, Richmond, Minn.

A: I did a bunch of research on this myself once and learned some things about the physiology of their eyes. Deer have eyes ideally suited to low-light vision. I guess the light actually reflects off the back of the eye and it has the same effect as if they are sensing it twice. That is why their eyes are so reflective when they look into a car’s headlights. So, what does that mean regarding maximum visual range? I don’t think anyone knows for sure. Personally, I think they can see you at 100 yards, or less, under most nighttime conditions. I have snuck past deer on black nights, but normally, that ends badly. Better to find other ways out of the field. Think creatively, have someone drive in to bump them, or maybe plant screens to sneak behind.

  • chris

    I disagree. deer dont see real well but detect movement very well. Walk out hunched over and move slow.

  • John

    They see in diminished light better than we do thats why they feed and move so well at night. Movement of any kind is a killer and of course if they wind you they are gone. I agree its always best to wait them out when leaving a stand or find a way out (ie a stream bed or heavy brush) so they have no chance to see you. If you bump them off a field or bedding area you may not see them again. Oh BTW they got great ears too so be quiet.

  • deergetter

    Well deer actually see better at night than anyone hunter can .They have the same type of eye's just like the dog family .Ever wonder why they like comming to your stand mostly in low light conditions?? I have been hunting alot of years to come to this conclusion!!

  • michael weisneck

    Deer see very well at night.That is why you can see them in big fields at night they feel safe .they have the same type of vision as the dog family .We as humans have very poor night vision .Try good into the woods in a new moon and no flashlight!!

  • Chuck Altmix

    Your best best in exiting the field is to move very slowly from tree to tree and stopping for a minute here and there, lean up against the tree to look around. This allows you to be aware of your surroundings. I have walked up on deer several times this way by creeping very quietly and standing behind a tree to watch them or to set up a shot. This way takes a lot more time to get back to the truck but better than spooking them out of the woods near your favorite spot.

  • Randy

    I am a handicapped hunter so I really don't have much of a choice. My choice is whether or not to turn the lights on to the ATV or not or use other lighting systems. (flashlights) or nothing. Where I hunt much of the time is near town and they kind of get used to the noise and lights.

  • Daryn

    Just tonight I left the house and walked out to view a field near my stands with my nightvision. I was walking to the north with a NW wind. I was in my meadow on the way to the field and it was dark. The full moon was a few days past but we had cloud cover making it spooky dark. I was moving quietly on wet ground. Suddenly just 25 yards in front me in open ground a deer spooked and ran to the NW. I stopped and put up the night vision goggles. She stopped and actually walked back to me within 15 yards. Cautious but not terribly figgidity. I did not move and I observed her at close range for about 2 minutes as she eyed me up. Oh yeah I did have my Realtree jacket on with jeans. There was woods some 30 yards behind me that were dark to help break up my body. I finally moved forward and she snorted and ran off. I was more surprised that she did not see me coming in the open meadow. Its ironic that I saw this thread tonight as I would guess they could see very well in the dark. But tonight it did not seem the case. For the record I hunt a lot of farmland on a river system. I love observing the deer I bowhunt with nightvision while they are out in the fields.

  • John

    I've walked up on them a few differant times in the pich dark 20 yards or so once I got 10 yards they stayed beded down till I put my light right on them and said something to my friend

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