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Turkey – The Eyes Have it
By Wade Nolan – Bowhunting Biologist
Jun 10, 2010 – 6:20:43 AM
Butch Mullet of Myakka Florida took this Osceola tom because his camo didn’t glow. He is also a great turkey hunter but allowing his camo pattern, which perfectly matches the Florida landscape to do it’s job played a big part in his hunt.
“Sit against a tree, cluck three times and get your bow up”. Actually it’s not that easy. Ask any turkey hunter and you will get a 30 minute to one hour story on what it takes to tag a gobbler. Somewhere in the story he will say these words, “If turkeys could smell you we couldn’t kill them”. But most of his how-to instruction would relate directly to avoiding the turkeys incredible eye sight. Fact is we have most of it right and what I’m about to tell you will cause a lot of gobblers to get tipped over. I’m feeling a little guilty, but here we go.
While most birds have little if any sense of smell, they are amply compensated by amazing visual acuity…and turkeys are at the head of the class. First of all they have all three cone classes that humans possess for full color vision. This means that your camo pattern and the colors in your pattern matter when you’re hunting turkeys. This is in stark contrast to deer that see all camo as shades of yellow.
Turkeys visual acuity exceeds ours, and, having no UV filter, (we have one), they are sensitive to all UV and short Blue light waves that a deer sees. This means that turkeys can see UV brighteners in our clothes. While we humans can’t see the UV Blue, turkeys can. Just like deer, a gobbler will see you as a glowing blue blob, regardless of your camo pattern, if you are UV hot. This means we need to rethink this entire camo issue in regard to UV. To a deer or Turkey, camo with UV brighteners in it is seen as glowing blue.
We know that deer have learned to recognize humans and more importantly, hunters, as Blue Glow Dopes in their woods. Deer routinely look up because we have taught them that Blue guys are predators and we are sometimes in trees. But can the same thing be happening with turkeys? I say absolutely with a few differences.
We know that deer with their matriarchal family life have school in session for at least a year and a half. Mama does train their fawns about the predators they need to avoid…and hunters are the most important one. If you think about it, the same tried system is employed by turkeys. The hens travel with their poults for more than a year. Although the jakes break off at their one year anniversary the flock is intact and led by the old hens. Avoiding danger is job one. And it is my belief that some of the lessons of predator detection are passed on. With turkeys these learning episodes are announced with putts.
This is what you look like to a turkey if your camo is UV hot. the blue shift is what the UV brighteners do to your camo in the eyes of a turkey. Only the shirt and gloves are UV hot and the pants are not. If you are a serious turkey hunter you won’t be glowing Blue.
Now if humans Glow Blue due to the presence of UV brighteners in our clothes then turkeys with their incredible vision see us as Bright Bluish White if our camo is loaded with UV Brighteners. And hear this…our camo is loaded with brighteners. Go buy a black light and check for yourself. I recently took a portable black light into a few big hunting stores and was amazed. Now that all of our camo is made in China we are in trouble. UV brighteners are commonly added to the base cloth that our camo is printed on. We can’t see it without a black light. Once it is there no amount of washing can take it out.
The only fix is to wash it in Atsko SPORT-WASH to open the dye sites and then dry it and spray it with UV-KILLER (www.atsko.com). There is no other fix. The good news is that once you wash it and treat it the camo is UV dead for the life of the camo provided you keep washing it in SPORT-WASH.
I took some pictures with a UV light to show the effect UV would have on turkey hunting camo. I was surprised that the store bought camo, that looked so good to my eyes… shined like a Blue ghost under a UV light. Even after your camo is treated and UV dead don’t forget to check and then treat your vest, face mask, hat and gloves.
This turkey hunter, Mike Jordan, has treated his camo with UV Killer. The patterns and colors are a great fit for a spring hunt in these hardwoods. The big question…is your camo working or are you UV-Blue?
Turkeys can’t smell but they can sure see. They can see colors and patterns and they can see UV. So now you know the rest of the story. Be UV dead, sit against a tree, cluck three times and get your gun up…and if you’re lucky you’ll fill that tag this year.