The ‘Camo vs. No Camo’ debate continues to rage on internet forums, Facebook groups and forlorn watering holes lining state parks.
On one side there are hunters who wouldn’t step out of their homes without the swankiest new set of camo on. Scent-lock deodorants, body washes, name it and they have it.
They talk about their camo gear so much that sometimes I suspect they sleep in it all hunting season.
On the other side, you have guys who can wear a neon coverall or their rundown khaki pants and still take out a buck from less than 15-yards.
How important is camouflage while you are hunting in the woods or being hunted by a camo-obsessed, see-through alien?
‘Get to da choppa’
The fact is that you need to open up all your senses while you are in the wilderness trying to hunt or survive.
Sight, smell, sound, movement, colors, texture, everything matters when it comes to camouflage.
Blend into your surroundings & break your outline so that they see through you rather than see you.
Once you are able to do that, stay hidden and you can get to within 10-yards of big game without them even battling an eyelid.
And yes, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to do this.
There are ways to do it without spending a dime.
Today, we will demystify camouflage.
Irrespective of whether you are hunting hogs, deer, rabbits, turkeys or just get the kick out of playing John Rambo every now and then, this primer has you covered.
Understand How the Quarry Sees You
Hunters have for long undermined the amazing visual capacity that game animals possess.
Deer for example, have an astute visual sense that allow it to spot and track movement in a 310-degree arc without even twitching a muscle.
And contrary to what you believed, they aren’t color blind either. They have dichromatic vision.
So do most predators except big cats like the Cougar or the Bobcat who have trichromatic vision.
Birds on the other hand have tetra-chromatic vision which means that they can see more colors than humans can.
Coming back to the good old American Whitetail, the deer’s eyes primarily contain ‘rod cells’ and very few ‘cone cells’.
Cone cells are what allow us to differentiate between color. Whereas rod cells in humans are covered by a UV filter that protects us from Ultraviolet radiation.
In deer, this UV filter is absent.
The cone cells allow them to spot the shorter and mid wavelengths, blue and green, while remaining oblivious to the longer wavelength, red.
But the rod cells WITHOUT the UV filter allow them to spot the UV radiance of just about any wavelength. That includes camo colors like green, brown, black et al.
So, while a deer might view that orange or red coverall as muted gray, you are still a dead giveaway if the fabric has a UV radiant dye. You will be like a glow-in-the-dark lamp even in pitch darkness.
Most camo fabrics use a cotton/polyester blend and are pre-brightened with UV brighteners.
For the deer, that’s a glowing white shape with the clear outline of a predator on two legs.
If you are trying to evade or ambush the enemy (humans), then your task just got easier. For humans, especially those who aren’t trained for survival in the wilderness are at a clear disadvantage. If you follow the basic set of rules laid out here, you should easily be able to stay one step ahead of the enemy.
How to Blend Into Your Surroundings
There’s two ways to do this.
- You pick camo clothes (without UV brighteners) that best match the terrain that you are going to be hunting in. This is the easier option.
- You strip down buck naked and use whatever is available in the woods to blend into it. Please keep in mind that this isn’t as easy as it sounds nor is it fun. Not everybody likes the feel of clay or mud on their bare skin. And if it’s cold, all bets are off. But if you can pull it off, there’s no better way to camouflage yourself. Also, it has some extra perks which we will discuss in just a bit.
Using Camo Clothing
It is crucial to pick the right camo clothing that can break your familiar outline into one or more irregular shapes.
That’s why military pattern camo is so effective. It uses a blend of blurred and sharp patterns.
Be it the Multi terrain pattern (British) or the US Woodland Camo or the Cyre Multicam, all of these patterns will help you turn into a bunch of irregular shapes that blend into the background.
Picture yourself sitting on a hillside for example, in the open.
You’d rather look like a bunch of rocks than an outline that an animal fears or cannot identify.
Always remember though, that you are using a fabric, which is two dimensional to mimic a three dimensional world.
Select the right color according to the terrain and you should be good to go.
If you are hunting in a terrain with ample vegetation, go for military green camo.
In a desert or dry set up, tan or brown camo works best.
In the arctic, white is the only option you have.
Black camo is the most ineffective clothing to wear in the woods as it stands out against the background. Nothing is naturally black.
So that swanky SWAT Tactical suit only looks good in the movies.
Concealing Your Body
- Twigs, leaves, grass and foliage can be used effectively with your camo clothes. Particularly for breaking the outline of a backpack or your headgear. Tuck these into the straps and loops wherever possible.
- If there’s any shiny object in your gear, then conceal it in the best possible way so that it does not hamper the functionality. A riflescope lens, for example, can give off a very visible reflection if it catches light. A simple military scrim scarf tied around it is an easy solution. Not only does it cut the reflection, it allows you to see through the lens. Ditto for any other metallic object.
- Be aware of the position of the sun. Most hunters don’t account for their shadows nor try to conceal it. But if you are moving and not making an attempt to conceal your shadow, then you are a dead giveaway.
- Be aware of your background. Always stick to backgrounds that blend with your camo. You do not want your silhouette to stand out. And it’s not just the bright blue sky that can make a silhouette. Just about any light background can.
- Use camo paint/spray or mud to cover the exposed parts of your skin. Once again, the type of patterns that you make on the face have to be in sync with the surroundings. Blotches work best in deciduous forests whereas broad diagonal slashes are better suited for the wilderness, deserts and in open grasslands. Always use random shapes and use contrast to break the outline of your facial features. Use a mix of light and dark colors.
- On a hot and humid day, your skin will start to shine after a while, especially if you have an oil-slick for skin to begin with. Wipe it off every now and then and reapply camo paint if needed.
If you ever find yourself in a survival scenario where you do not have access to your camo clothes or scent blockers, you have to rely on nature’s ammo to evade the enemy.
The perfect camouflage is multilayered and you need to begin with a dense base layer that allows you to pile the secondary layers easily.
Look for a water source, like a pond or a river.
You should find clay or mud near the edges. Scoop out a big chunk, check them for bugs and other critters.
Now strip down to your skivvies and apply a generous coat of the mud all over your body. Ensure that you cover every inch.
While the mud is still wet, grab leaves, twigs, duff and whatever else that you can find on the forest floor and slap it on. Why, you can just roll on the forest floor until you resemble it yourself.
It might prick a little or even itch until the mud dries. But that’s about it.
Once it’s dried, you can just disappear into the surroundings. You are as lethal as a badass green beret now.
‘Don’t push it. Let it go’ – John Rambo
Animals have an excellent olfactory sense that allows them to pick up scents from a long distance.
Bears for example, can pick up animal carcass smells from up to 20 miles away.
If you are looking to hunt big game or even predator species like coyotes, you’ve got to be extremely careful about any potential odors that you might be giving off.
Keep an eye on wind currents and how you can use them to your advantage.
Avoid showering on the day of the hunt. If you absolutely must shower, then avoid using soaps and deodorants. Some prefer using scent-killing soap. But I personally find them to be gimmicky.
While washing the fabrics, do not use scented detergent like.
If your camo clothes have been dyed with UV brighteners, use a UV killer detergent to neutralize the color. Always air dry the fabric in the sun.
There are some brands offering what they call ‘Scent-proof’ camo clothing. I’ve never used it. So, wouldn’t be able to recommend it. You are free to check it out if you have deep pockets.
Some hunters store their hunting clothes in the barn or the garage with wood shavings collected from the woods. This, they claim, helps dissipate any ‘human’ smell that the clothes may have.
Well, whatever it takes.
While evading enemy, keep an eye out for human smells. Candy, cigarette, food, gasoline, fire, alcohol, human feces are all indicators of human presence close by.
Movement discipline is crucial in the wild.
It’s a rather in depth topic which you can learn everything about here.
More often than not, it’s movement that gives your position away rather than clothing and gear.
Always avoid movement when possible. If you absolutely must move, then do it in a measured fashion.
Move your feet ahead first and test the surface before you transfer your weight. This will allow you to find leaves and other noisy debris that must be avoided.
Take a pause every few steps to listen to sounds. Reanalyze and move.
A twig snapping or the rustle of leaves as it whips back when you are moving too fast, coughing, opening Velcro and mechanical noises made by the weapon are some of the most common audible disruptions that you must avoid.
While moving over obstacles, ensure that your body is at level with its top surface. Else, you risk silhouetting.
My Two Cents About Camo
Irrespective of what you read on the internet or what you hear from fellow hunters, the fact is that when done right, Camouflage can give you the extra advantage.
And in a hunt or in a survival scenario, I’d take even the slightest advantage that I can get.
Maintain movement discipline, keep your scents to the minimum and use pattern camouflage to disguise your outline.
You will do just fine and certainly better than the ones who wear bright clothes.