Everyone from the United States military to various police departments discriminate against those with color blindness for numerous reasons, but do they have it backward?
Normally the lack of ability to distinguish colors of a suspect’s clothing, leading to a legal issue, is the reason police departments can’t trust people with color blindness. The military discriminates color blindness for various jobs including pilots, but also has limited combat jobs to soldiers due to a percieved inability to distinguish camouflage figures.
What is color blindness?
Without delving into the topic too extensively, the basic definition of color blindness is the inability to distinguish between certain colors. Being color blind does not necessarily mean not being able to see all color. There are various levels of disability.
Color blindness in one form or another affects about eight percent of males and .5 percent of females. Total color blindness, monochromacy, is present in 0.000001 percent of the population, according to Colour-blindness.com.
The photo above shows how people with differeing levels of color vision see the number 2 in this common color vision test.
Is there an upside for hunters?
There is a plethora of research on colorvision and its effects on people and their lives. Much of this research is conducted on other animals, usually primates, and applied to humans.
“Color blindness is not always a disadvantage, according to University of Calgary primatologist Amanda Melin and her colleagues, who found that wild color-blind capuchins in Costa Rica are better at detecting camouflaged insects than individuals with broader color vision.” – Discover Magazine, 2007
Why can a color blind hunter find prey better?
One thought is that the person with genetic color blindness adapts to the situation and becomes adept at picking up on textures and light. This allows them to see past the camouflage. Basically, they look for things besides camouflage.
The depth of an item or animal stands out due to the texture and brightness as opposed to color. This allows the hunter to locate still prey and determine its presence.
Can you pick out the mushrooms in this photo? Generally, the color-blind shroom hunter can pick these out quicker.
In a study published in “Current Biology” in 2005, it was determined that people with color blindness may even be able to see colors that those with normal color vision cannot.
What does this mean?
While there is no hard and fast evidence that color-blind hunters are better, it does mean that the disability may actually be an advantage. It still does not mean that we, as hunters, do not need to hone our skills.
What it does mean is that your choice of camouflage in the deer woods may not matter as much as you think. According to the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), deer are essentially red-gren color blind. With this being the case, it is more likely that an observant deer will see past your camouflage and pick you out anyway.
While color-blind hunters may possess a slight advantage over others, the immortal words of Fred Bear should be considered.
“The best camouflage pattern is to sit down and be quiet.”
One final request from all of us color-blind hunters–Don’t turn this into a game and try to find things your color-blind buddies can’t see.