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Survival Skills

Eliminate optical brighteners in laundry soap for deer hunting success

Eliminate optical brighteners in laundry soap for deer hunting success

Is your camouflage design working? You may surprised – what you wash your cammo clothing in may severely reduce its effectiveness. Here’s one way to solve that problem – check out the laundry soap recipe below.

by Leon Pantenburg

Dusk has arrived and along the edges of the timber, deer start wandering down the well-used trail. You’re prepared: The tree stand is well situated and you’ve been really careful to eliminate any human scents. You wore a pair of waders to the stand to eliminate the scent of your footprints, wore rubber gloves to climb the ladder, and your camouflage matches exactly. The wind is in your favor. To top it off, all your clothing is designed to hold in scent.

Me and my brother Mike Pantenburg all cammied up to go elk hunting. (Bob Patterson photo)

Me and my brother Mike Pantenburg all cammied up for elk hunting. (Bob Patterson photo)

You see a buck tip-toeing down the path, and get ready to draw your bow. You remain motionless, but make a slight noise, and the buck looks directly at you. Before you can react, he whirls and bolts for cover.

So what went wrong?

It could have been a combination of things, including the deer seeing your clothing.

But this post has to do with ultra violet light. Deer can see it. If you wash your clothing with a detergent that uses optical brightners, you may glow!

According to “How Game Animals See and Smell,” a book by Kurt von Besser, many camouflage clothes and laundry detergents contain UV brighteners to make the clothing more appealing to our eyes. That also means deer can see the clothing easier.

For deer hunters, this is something to think about. Here is some information from a study done by the University of Georgia:

  • Deer lack the cone that is responsible for red color (long wave lengths). Therefore, it is safe to say that wearing such colors as Red and Orange do not affect a hunters ability to remain hidden from a deer’s vision. This does not mean that deer don’t see these colors, they are just perceived differently. A deer’s vision is limited to short blue and middle green wave lengths. “This means that deer can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red or orange from red”. According to this data, it is safe to say that blue colors are the worst to wear for camouflage and that green, red and orange are safe to wear from a camouflage stand point.
  • This study also found that deer are capable of seeing UV dyes and brighteners within fabrics. This study was unable to determine how bright these colors appear to the deer. Keep in mind that the UV factor will only be of concern during low light hours. Unfortunately, this is when deer are most active.

This UV issue can be solved by using an ordinary laundry detergent without the optical brightners. And here is one of the simplest, cheapest laundry recipes I’ve come across. I’ve used it extensively, and it is easy to make the soap non-scented by using regular Dawn:

Easy, Unscented Laundry Soap

3 Tablespoons Borax
3 Tablespoons Washing Soda
2 Tablespoons Dawn Dish soap

Put these ingredients in a one gallon jug. Pour 4 cups boiling water into the jug. Swirl until ingredients are dissolved in the liquid. Let liquid cool. Then fill almost to the top with cold water. The bubbles will overflow out of the bottle. (Recipe from onegoodthingbyjillee.com).

I use about one cup of soap per load, and the clothing comes out clean and smelling fine.

For more information, check out washing deer hunting cammies.


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Survival Skills

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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