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How to choose the right camouflage for deer stalking

Making sure you won't be seen in stalking territory

Deer stalking

Graham takes aim with his rifle

Guests preparing for deer stalking often ask what kit they need, especially clothing. They ask whether they can wear camouflage. Usually the answer is yes, however some of the ground we stalk is on estates where the manager prefers us not to wear camouflage. (Read more on what to wear deer stalking.)

When camouflage is incorrect

The sight of a fully camouflaged stalker with a rifle and a face veil could frighten, or at the least unnerve, some people, particularly in sensitive areas. As responsible stalkers we must be careful not to frighten people where they have open access. So always bear that in mind when you are dressing in readiness for a stalk.

camouflage tree

Stalkers try to remain hidden and avoid being spotted by deer, which are not capable of seeing in the same level of detail as we are

What makes effective camouflage?

There are many different types of camouflage, ranging from the standard military disruptive-pattern material (DPM), which can be bought very cheaply, up to the digital-pattern camouflage that is more expensive. (Read our list of best camouflage jackets, in different price ranges.)

no camouflage

Plain stalking gear

How deer see

Deer have eyes either side of their head and can see around nearly 360 degrees.

It is said that deer also see in monochrome, though some recent research suggests that they can see in colour, but not in the same way that a primate does. Some research suggests that they are able to see blues and greens and into the ultraviolet spectrum. Deer are certainly able to spot hi-viz orange – not due to the colour, but principally because of its reflective quality. They do not have the full spectrum of colour that we do, which is red, green and blue because the construction of their eyes is different from that of humans and they do not see red. So we have to ask the question, does wearing camouflage aid the stalker in his or her never-ending quest to remain invisible?

camouflage hat

Full camouflage that fits the habitat and a lack of movement helps this stalker remain invisible to deer

Breaking up a stalker’s outline

Camouflage is really all about breaking up a stalker’s outline. Deer have no focused central vision and sight is not their strongest sense. They are, however, experts at spotting movement. One scratch of your nose through that face veil and they will spot it. Keep still and camo certainly does give you properties similar to those of the invisible man.

However, the shades of camouflage do have to fit the habitat in which you are hunting – a wildfowling pattern doesn’t fit well in conifers and at times a simple dark green fits in well.

Given that deer can’t distinguish colour very well, most types of camouflage will break up your outline successfully enough, some better than others. You don’t have to use camouflage to be successful but choosing the right choice of camouflage for the territory in which you are stalking helps.

Good fieldcraft is essential of course – ensuring we are not scented, heard or seen. But that is more easily said that done.

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.