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Make camo work better: Eliminate laundry soap brighteners for deer hunting success

deer hunting success, best camo for deer hunting, make camo effective
600 300 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

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

by Leon Pantenburg

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It’s about dusk along the edges of the timber when the 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 your scent.

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

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

You see a buck tip-toeing down the path, and you 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. But the deer may have seen you because your clothing was washed in the wrong laundry soap.

You might be shining with ultra violet light. Deer can see it. Because if you wash your clothing with a detergent that uses optical brighteners, you may actually glow!

According to “How Game Animals See and Smell,” 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. The University of Georgia did a study on this very subject. These concepts below are an excerpt from and bit of a summary of the findings.

  • Deer lack the eye cone that is responsible for seeing red color (long wave lengths). Therefore, it is safe to say that wearing such colors as red and orange allows a hunter 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. According to the data, “..the deer can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red or orange from red”. It is safe to say, the study reports, that blue colors are the worst to wear for camouflage. Green, brown, 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 brighteners. And here is one of the simplest, cheapest home made laundry recipes available. 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 unscented 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. If you don’t want to make your own soap, there are commercial versions available. Always check for optical brighteners in any soap used on hunting clothes.

For more information, check out washing deer hunting camies.

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