Deer Anatomy – Eyes


With eyes set in the sides of their heads, whitetails have a wide field of view. A doe or buck can see some 310 degrees around, even if it appears to look straight ahead. This allows a deer to be acutely aware of its surroundings.

Deer see best at night, which is one of the reasons the animals are most active after dark. Deer have more light-detecting cells in their eyes than humans do. Like most nocturnal animals, whitetails’ eyes shine when exposed to headlights and other bright lights. This is due to a reflection off a special membrane in the eye called the tapetum.

Although their vision is not as acute in the daytime, deer still see keenly. In sunlight a deer’s pupils contract into narrow bands. This lets a buck or doe focus across a wide swath of horizon. So while grazing or bedded, a deer can look out, scan the woods and detect danger. Some scientists and hunters believe that whitetails can pick up ultraviolet rays.

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Deer do not have many of the additional visionary characteristics that humans take for granted. For example, since a deer’s eyes are on the sides of its head, it has poor depth perception. Deer also see at a lower resolution than humans, and they are believed to be mostly colorblind (that’s why you can wear Blaze Orange during gun season and still shoot a buck). However, all these features are not important to whitetails. All that is necessary is the ability to quickly detect danger, and whitetails do that very well. The whitetail’s vision, combined with its other keen senses, make it a very clever animal.


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