View Full Version : An interesting read on Camouflage (to deer and men)

09-23-2008, 11:22 AM
Courtesy of NY-time,

Approximately 30,000 years after hunters took to adorning cave walls with their image of a deer, it occurred to them it might be more productive to consider the deer’s image of a hunter. This was not an easy task. Deer have not left cave paintings of any humans, much less of hunters in camouflage. Those manly overalls and caps splotched with green leaves and brown branches may have looked invisible in the catalogue and impressed the other humans back at the lodge, but what did the deer think of it? Were they just rolling their eyes at each other?

Eventually, though, a few deer were bribed to reveal their secrets. They were given food pellets in return for taking vision tests. The results were not good news for the camo-clad hunters — but ultimately not really good news for the deer either.

For now, thanks to decades of research into ungulate vision combined with the latest in military concealment technology, hunters can don a computer-generated camouflage with fractal designs that look nothing like a shrub or a tree, at least not to the human eye. Named Optifade, it’s being introduced this fall by W.L. Gore (the makers of the breathable Gore-Tex rain gear) and promoted as the first camouflage scientifically designed to make hunters invisible to deer.

The deer, as usual, are not available for comment, so these claims of invisibility cannot be directly verified. But the psychologists who worked with Gore to develop it — Jay Neitz, an animal-vision expert at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Timothy O’Neill, who pioneered the United States Army’s digital camouflage as a researcher at West Point — say they’re confident the deer will be fooled.

“A camouflage that makes a person look like a tree can work if you’re in a place where other trees look like that,” Dr. Neitz says. “But what if you’re somewhere else, or if the deer sees you move? This new camouflage is a totally different approach. It fools the deer’s vision system at its roots, so that it doesn’t recognize the person as anything.”

At Dr. Neitz’s laboratory, he tests some animals’ vision by training them to press touch screens, but the deer weren’t quite ready for the computer age. He and researchers at the University of Georgia showed them three cards at a time and rewarded them with food pellets when they picked out the right pattern by pushing a button with their noses.

“We can measure in animals anything you can measure in a human being and every bit as accurate,” Dr. Neitz says. “The difference is that a vision test that might take 10 minutes in a human can take six months.” The research revealed that deer vision is a little blurrier than human vision — about 20/40 — and that deer see the world roughly like a human with red-green colorblindness. Their eyes have only two color receptors (unlike the three in the human eye). Fortunately for hunters, they have a hard time seeing blaze orange.

But they’re more sensitive than humans to light at the blue end of the spectrum. And thanks to the eyes on either side of the head, they can see a field of vision covering 270 degrees.

Once they had assessed the deer’s visual strengths and weaknesses, Dr. Neitz and Dr. O’Neill worked out colors, textures and shapes with Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnology, a company that designs military camouflage. Mr. Cramer’s computer algorithms create fractal patterns that exploit a couple of ancient tricks used by animal predators.

The first and most obvious trick is to fade into the background, as a leopard’s spots enable it to do while it’s patiently waiting to ambush a prey. The spots aren’t shaped like leaves or branches, but they form an overall “micropattern” matching the colors and overall texture of the woodland background.

That trick, though, won’t work for a predator on the move, which is why a tiger doesn’t have spots. It has a “macropattern” of stripes that break up the shape of its body as it’s stalking or running.

“The prey can detect the tiger’s movement,” Dr. Neitz says, “but if the shape isn’t recognized as the outline of a tiger, nothing registers in the higher center of the prey’s brain.”

After 19th-century naturalists and 20th-century psychologists analyzed these camouflage techniques, military researchers worked out formulas for the optimum patterns. Before he retired from the engineering psychology department at the United States Military Academy, Dr. O’Neill developed the type of pixelated digital camouflage — made up of tiny colored squares — adopted in the past decade by many armies.

“The essence of digital camouflage goes back to the old question: Is the purpose of camouflage to match the background or to break up the shape of the target?” Dr. O’Neill says. “The answer is yes — you do both. You create a micropattern that matches the ‘busyness’ of the background and makes it harder to detect the target, and you overlay it with a macropattern that makes it harder to recognize the shape of the target once you’ve detected it.” (For a look at these patterns, go to TierneyLab.)

But no matter how carefully the patterns have been computed, no matter how precisely the new hunter’s digital camouflage is calibrated to deer’s vision, there remains one large uncertainty: Will hunters wear overalls covered with pixelated squares that look like computer-generated abstract art? Or will they stick with their traditional preference (see cave paintings) for representational art?

Getting soldiers, at least the male ones, to switch to digital camouflage wasn’t easy, Dr. O’Neill says, because for many men camouflage is less about invisibility than fashion. Some soldiers hung on to the old-fashioned designs because of what Dr. O’Neill called the C.D.I. factor: Chicks Dig It.

If male hunters feel that way about their old overalls, there may still be lots of shrubs and trees toting guns and bows during hunting season. These guys may or may not be right about women going for this look. But the deer probably appreciate it.

More Articles in Science » A version of this article appeared in print on September 23, 2008, on page F1 of the New York edition.

09-17-2010, 7:38 AM
So are we talking about the Sitka Gear optifade patterned camos here or did they just pimp the optifade name?

09-18-2010, 8:21 PM
So are we talking about the Sitka Gear optifade patterned camos here or did they just pimp the optifade name?

Judging by the www.optifade.com website and some other searches, it seems that that is exactly what they're talking about. Looks like a good pattern, maybe not great in the desert though.

09-18-2010, 8:23 PM
Hey guys with the $ for it. Do you own any sitka? If so what do you think? I see it on sale (last years patterns?) on camofire.com and it even went on sale here at Sportsmens warehouse a few months back.

09-18-2010, 9:27 PM
Maybe I'll have to try that

09-18-2010, 10:08 PM
I wear camo when hunting, but one of the more successful hunters I know does not wear camo ever. He prefers to still hunt by taking strolls in regular clothes through the woods rather than sneaking around, he swears deer and elk are most likely to bolt if they see someone/something sneaking around. But these animals are see non-threatening people out walking around the woods all the time and less likely to be on high-alert.

09-19-2010, 1:10 AM
I just use the cloaking device I got off a Klingon I killed. I also have a cloaking device from a Predator I killed one really really hot summer in the jungle. But it doesn't work as well as the Klingon device for deer hunting.

09-19-2010, 6:40 AM
Hey guys with the $ for it. Do you own any sitka? If so what do you think? I see it on sale (last years patterns?) on camofire.com and it even went on sale here at Sportsmens warehouse a few months back.

I have heard other buyers swear by Sitka gear, but their camo pattern was not the reason. I just cannot get past the $$ they charge for their gear. Being a successful hunter in the field is far more about knowledge of the game, habitat, and field craft, than any pattern you wear. In fact, you would do far better wearing an inexpensive Gullie Suit, or branches and foliage from the area you are in, than ANY one pattern clothes line, for camouflage protection.

In addition, unless their clothes are coming with a lifetime warranty for the prices they charge, I won't buy it until it has dropped into a price range I am willing to spend to see just how fantastic their clothes are.

09-19-2010, 6:45 AM
They Sitka Gear is top quality and worth every penny I paid for it. Some of my gear is 4 and 5 seasons old and I use the hell out of it, still looks near new. I'm sure to pick up a few more pieces this year. Camofire.com has it on sale this weekend.

09-19-2010, 7:17 AM
I don't see a big enough difference between this and the military designs to warrant the money. I'm not a big hunter either so I just don't think I could pay for that specific design.
Some of the Marpat designs are close enough that I think it would break up the outline very well. Nice article though, thanks for the read.

09-19-2010, 7:32 AM
All camo is cool, but if you observe a person from affar when wearing camo they appear just like brown or grey uprights. If you observe people wearing a mix of brown/tan and green they actually blend in I prefer brown /tan pant's and green shirts or jackets. Yes I do own camo but don't always wear it. I just looked at that Sitka while in Colorado it is nice well made stuff and quiet it should be good for Bow hunters.

09-19-2010, 8:34 AM
Has anyone tried the Cabela's MT50/Goretex stuff? It seems to offer the same benefits of Sitka with much better patterns for our California terrain (like Max-1 and Realtree AP). And it's priced about $50 to $100 less than the equivalent piece from Sitka.

My problem is I don't think of camo as only something to wear for hunting. I think of it as dual use - hunting and SHTF. Since humans don't see things the same as deer, I would be afraid of some of the digital stuff. How many stories have we read during war where the enemy was literally a couple feet away from our guys hidden away in the brush? My fear is digital up close would give you away. The curvy lines of traditional camo would conceal you better up close. Both digital and traditional work from far away.

Unicorn food
09-19-2010, 6:09 PM
I wear camo more often then not but what I have always herd from the old timers I know is that old worn clothes always worked the best for them. But for me.... Ill stick with my seclusion 3d from cabela's!!

09-19-2010, 7:34 PM
Doesn't seem that good.
I played their "deer vision" games and out of the 20 images, I spotted the hunter on all but 3. Out of the 17 where I spotted him, I only had to move the slider to "human vision" twice.

11-09-2010, 2:24 PM
I will say this, having just purchased a bunch of SG camo gear from camofire.com (placed a custom order rather than waiting for items to post)...the gear is very light and comfortable. It is silent, well manufactured and the articulated arms and legs fit nicely. i slipped and fell forward, my knee landed on a sharp rock. My hunt should have ended right then and there but the KNEEPADS in my mountain pants saved the day. I was uninjured. The rain gear is ridiculously loud though and I had to peel it off in a light rain because of this.

11-09-2010, 2:53 PM

Fun little game

11-09-2010, 3:16 PM
I believe I'll just stick with my surplus woodland and tri color desert camo. The deer and pig I've taken over the years were just as dead. (hell I've probably killed just as many wearing blue jeans and an old flannel shirt). The key thing is smell - a deer and especially a pig will scent you long before they see you so no matter how invisable you think you are if you smell like a human you're done.

11-09-2010, 4:03 PM

If I'm wearing a camo jacket it's because it's cold out.

Camo patterns are a lot like fishing lure designs. Only has to work in the store.

11-11-2010, 2:34 AM

can anyone pick out the guy in this screen shot from the game?

11-11-2010, 12:43 PM
I was bow hunting in full camo, face paint and wind was in my favor I jumped a 2 does with fawns, I laid down half underneath a fallen tree. The biggest doe sent the others off and came back to where I was, I swear she didn't know what I was, as my profile was merged with a fallen tree and I was on the ground on my side. She came within 10' and started snorting and stomping the ground trying to get me to move, I laid still.
Deer stomped for a few minutes then ran off, if she recognized me as a human she would never have approached me on her own initiative.

11-11-2010, 3:19 PM
Looks like nice product but I'm not sure if that will make or break your hunt. I've had a bunch of successful hunts and didn't have to spend a monthly rent check for a jacket.

11-11-2010, 10:41 PM
I want to get some multicam but I can't find it locally.

11-12-2010, 2:38 AM
can i find it at my local thrift store? these are tough times for me.... :)

11-12-2010, 5:10 PM
I have just started building my Sitka Optifade Big Game Open County pattern gear. Yes it is more expensive than most camo. I do a lot of snowboarding and backpacking. I use technical gear like North Face and Mountain Hard Wear. They are the same prices as Sitka. Sitka is built like technical mountaineering attire. Hence why I went with it. It has features you find in NF or MHW gear. It works well for layering. Has zippers for underarm ventilation. Its does blend well into the environment. I will try and get some better pics in the brush.


11-13-2010, 6:34 PM
Update with pic in the field.

Owens Valley brush @ 20 feet from camera

Lets play find Synergy...


Less cover


11-13-2010, 6:42 PM
Wow man, good lookin stuff. I'd like to see a shot a bit more in front of it so the brush doesn't hide you quite so much. My goal is not to have to get too thick into things and still be hidden but that is a really good lookin camo.

11-13-2010, 6:55 PM
Wow man, good lookin stuff. I'd like to see a shot a bit more in front of it so the brush doesn't hide you quite so much. My goal is not to have to get too thick into things and still be hidden but that is a really good lookin camo.

I just added a open pic. Though when I was behind cover I had a clear open view of the field. Those pics were all taken at about 20-25 feet away