7th In The Series Of Traditional Bowhunting:
Camouflage Ergo: Camo
David Williams, Bass Pro Archery Cabin Gurnee, IL.
Camo is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see (crypsis), or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). Examples include the leopard's spotted coat or the battledress of a modern soldier. A majority of camouflage methods today aim for crypsis this is often through a general resemblance to a common background, the background and high contrast colors, eliminating shadow, and countershading.
Wow, too much information on Camo…all we want from camo is to hide from the game. True.
But we need to understand the value of camo as hunters not, that camo is the uniform of the American hunter. To be camo’ed is to self-identify (badge) as a hunter.
A huge segment of the hunting industry is deeply committed to the necessity of camouflage. I’m going to kick the can (old man reference) I don’t believe in camouflage per say. Why? I have hunted successfully without camo! This is subversive talk Dave.
Understanding the Deer We Hunt
In fact, billions of dollars are spent on camo and its development.
If you’re a deer hunter who likes to wear blue jeans while you’re scouting or to your stand, you might as well hang a bell around your neck to let whitetails know you’re in the woods. Or if you wear camouflage with many subtle colors, it may be doing you more harm than good. At the recent QDMA conference, researchers from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources presented findings from a new study on whitetail vision.
It’s not my purpose to delve into the sciences of color and human versus deer vision. However, there are some things that in order to understand “camo or no camo” you should know…
Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors. As a result, deer likely can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red, or orange from red.
The lens in a deer’s eye also can’t adjust to objects at varying distances. These factors give deer less visual clarity than humans have. An object a deer is looking at straight on is equally in focus as something out to the side. So don’t assume that because a deer isn’t looking at you that it can’t see you. More than anything else, a deer’s eyes are designed to detect movement.
It’s been found that deer see blue colors best and red colors the worst. Deer can also see greens, yellows and UV light (wash your camo in the right detergent), but they can’t differentiate color shades to that extent that humans can. What this means to a hunter is that you should avoid wearing anything blue. You should also avoid wearing camouflage with a lot of white, because white reflects all colors, including blue. And because deer can’t perceive color shades very well, a hunter wearing camouflage containing many subtle shades of green and/or brown looks just like one big blob to deer. Instead, wear camouflage that breaks up your outline and move as little as possible to avoid being busted.
But camouflage has become highly tribal, and, it seems, mutually exclusive: If you are a Mossy Oak acolyte you can’t belong to Team Realtree. If you sport Sitka you can’t wear KUIU or ASAT.
I’ll tell you it isn’t so, but in saying that I feel a little like the candid boy who disclosed that the emperor was stark naked. But I have a few exhibits to trot out in my defense.
How many whitetails never saw my Grandfather with his Savage 99, wearing a red-checked mackinaw jacket or, many Atlantic ducks, have been shot by my Father wearing oilskin over their ragg wool sweaters? Not to mention Fred Bear the father of modern bow hunting.
The reality is that camouflage does give us an edge. But, it especially helps in close-quarters archery hunting. And it helps break up our outlines and lets us blend into our surroundings. But, I believe some hunters rely too much on the garment and not enough on our own skills.
As modern traditional bowhunters we cannot turn our backs on the improvements made to camo garments. They keep us warmer, dryer, and better concealed. But our dependence on camouflage obscures one truth it’s not the clothes that make the hunter, but rather our abilities.
How to use Camo and what have we learned?
- Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans
- A deer’s eyes are designed to detect movement.
Any more it makes more and more sense to have camo patterns that fit where you hunt.
A good camo will help keep us from silhouetting ourselves on skylines or in open fields. We see the examples in manufacturer ads all the time. But, its up to us to put the wind in our faces, our scents down, and minimized our movements or the best camo in the world will not work.
I’ll always have camo in my wardrobe, mainly because it’s my warmest, most field-friendly outerwear, and I have choices for where I will hunt and when. My patterns run from 1960’s military to and modern digitized or pixelated camo patterns and last but not least good old fashion red and black plaids. We all have our favorites, they’re our favorites based on the success they bring us and they are hard to give up on. Remembering our goal as traditional bow hunters is to get as close to our game as we can for an ethical harvest. We should always be looking and researching the best camo available. This will then bring us into the new materials and scent control materials.
I like my Viet Nam era tiger stripes for conifers and the cedar swamps because of the horizontal pattern and the open pattern of my ASAT for most everything else because of the browns. Then there’s the buffalo plaid in my wool; the big plaid breaks up your outline too and wool has the quietness…in my opinion.
But the icing on the cake (old man reference) is to do these last 2 things: Wear a brimmed boonie styled hat whenever possible and wear a leafy or ghillie suit. The point is to break up our outlines and leafy or ghillies do that and provide movement similar to Mother Nature’s slight breeze through the woods. The leafy suit works just as well as the ghillie suit does. The great thing about these suits is that its your camo…you can wear camo under them or choose not too. Its your choice. It does not trake to much time to learn how to shoot traditional bow with a 3-D suit like these. Just notice where you either trim or wear an arm guard when shooting your bow. At the end of the day the ghillie suit is a great investment for the traditional bowhunter.
What about our bows should they be camo’ed? Normally traditional bows are either brown or black which will naturally fit into the background of the woods. This changes when we hunt the plains or desert flats, you can put sleves or a camo tape on your bows limbs to break up the silhouette.
In closing, you have choices regarding camouflage today and there is no wrong on your choice, even if you choose to break up your silhouette with plaid. Always remember to wear either face paint or mask and gloves. Our skin has blue in it making us easier to see (the following photos representing what deer see.)
Remember when you shop that “Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors. As a result, deer likely can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red, or orange from red.”
1. What We See What Deer See
2. What We See What Deer See
3. What We See What Deer See
4. What We See What Deer See
5. What We See What Deer See
Next Up: The Hunt!