Camouflage clothing is as much a part of hunting in 21st Century America as rifles and arrows. But what makes good camo?
First, so many patterns have emerged in recent years that I can’t even begin to decipher them all. The basic idea behind camouflage patterns is to break up the hunters outline so that when an animal like deer or elk look in the hunters direction it is less likely to see a human form. This age old trick on the visual abilities of our prey isn’t new. And we see camouflage in nature like white spots on fawns during the first few months life. Camouflaging works, but what makes good camouflage clothing?
Patterns vary from big square blocks of red, black and green to digitized color schemes of grey and brown that make our human eyes jitter just looking a them. There is no doubt that some type of broken pattern is helpful and it makes sense to match the general tone of the surrounding environment with the clothes on your back. For example a snow-forest pattern would be less visible to a deer in winter than a solid black suit.
Likewise, that same snow-camo would stick out like a tie-dyed shirt at a trappers convention on an open hillside in September. For this reason the colors should be of the same tonal quality as the surrounding environment. But other than this attribute of your camo of choice, the pattern itself probably doesn’t matter much.
Here is a modern day camo pattern with grays and tan colors. The most important aspect here may be the material used – in this case wool.
Another example can be made by comparing a wide open pattern made of tan, black and/or gray colors to a pattern that is vegetation specific like a sage brush imprinted pattern. Which pattern would be best in sage brush versus a wooded forest? That’s a tough question and a lot of factors are involved in answering that one. One thing is for sure, the “data” is readily available by all the top camo-pattern manufacturers to defend their patterns versatility. So who’ right?
That is a question that probably can’t be answered with any authority. Recent studies have suggested that deer can’t see red but yellows and blues are easily deciphered. The problem is that other studies contradict these findings!
I think the bottom line is that if you have a favorite pattern stick with it as long as it matches the environment you are hunting in – but there is more to good camo than patterns and colors.
A photo taken of a hunter in Idaho where blaze orange is not a requirement. This photo demonstrates the qualities of an open pattern.
One of the biggest concerns I have about the camouflage on the market today is the materials that are used. More often than not I grab onto a jacket or pair of pants hanging in a store and it crinkles like a plastic bag! How can this important feature of hunting clothing be so misunderstood?
Think about a quiet morning in your tree stand or perched on your favorite rock. A buck works his way toward you and you can hear him coming for five minutes. You raise your bow or your rifle and he stops with ears perked up – he heard your coat crinkle!
“Swishy” pants probably cause more failures in the woods than any other thing next to swirly winds. Loud gators don’t help either.
So what’s the answer? Your clothing should break up your pattern AND be whisper quiet when you are walking or raising your bow. I am a fan of wool whether it is the latest top grade of merino wool or an old wool rich jacket hand down by your Grandad. Wool is quiet but it can be heavy too. Fleece is a great alternative and won’t break the bank.
After several decades spent hunting in tough conditions I still rely on my old plaid wool clothing to get the job done. I do own modern day camo patterns and I think there are good products on the market but wool is hard to beat.
One day I was sitting in my truck next to a guy who was wearing a camo hunting coat that he paid nearly $400 for. I was wearing a wool shirt that I bought at a yard sale for $15. After reaching over and scratching his coat with my finger I commented that it was pretty loud for a hunting coat. “Listen to this” I said and made the same motion on my sleeve. “Yeah, but that’s wool of course it’s quieter!” he said.
While I may not ever understand marketing like the folks at the biggest and best camouflage companies I do understand the value of a good pattern that breaks up my outline without busting deer every time I move in the woods. So what makes good camo?
A broken pattern that matches the tone of your surroundings that is whisper quiet at the moment of truth.
What’s your favorite Camo? Let us know!