Going unnoticed in the woods is the best advantage a deer hunter can claim. All the guns, ammunition, bows, arrows, calls, scents, and other hunting accessories combined won’t put venison in the freezer if the buck of your life sees you first.
The selection of camouflage clothing is something a hunter should take seriously. Besides being critical to concealment, choosing the proper clothing allows a hunter to endure the unpleasantness Mother Nature so frequently dishes out.
Not all camouflage patterns are the same and neither are the materials hunting clothes are made of. In recent years a flood of high-tech and functional hunting clothes have hit the market designed to keep hunters concealed and comfortable. There has never been a better selection of camouflage patterns and/or functional hunting clothing than right now.
The best place to study the many different camo patterns and clothing choices is from your easy chair. Mail-order catalogs from Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Dunn’s, L.L. Bean, and other trusted outfitters are the perfect place to shop for hunting clothing.
Not only do these catalog companies feature a wide variety of hunting clothing with tall and big sizes, many offer patterns and clothing types only available through mail order.
Choosing Camo Patterns
Admittedly, the availability of so many camouflage patterns makes selecting the ideal pattern a bewildering experience. Each company claims their camo pattern provides the ultimate in concealment. The truth is most of the camo patterns available have a time and place, but no single pattern can provide adequate concealment in every situation a hunter may encounter.
Let me explain by example. Original Realtree is one of the most popular camo patterns among bow hunters. Created by a combination of black, gray, and green vertical bars broken up with a green leaf pattern that gives this camouflage a distinctive three-dimensional appearance, traditional Realtree is an excellent choice for the early-season bow hunter when green is the dominate color. Those who hunt in cedar, pine, hemlock, or spruce woods will find this pattern an excellent choice all season.
Realtree is just one of the many camo patterns that feature a high percentage of green coloration. Universal Trebark, Woodland, Vietnam Tiger Stripe, Bushlan, and Cabela’s Conifer patterns are also excellent choices for hunting in predominately green environments.
Should your hunting situation call for a camo pattern with a predominately brown coloration, I’d suggest Brown Realtree, Brown All Purpose Realtree, Skyline Ultimate, Mossy Oak, Mossy Oak Tree Stand, Cabela’s Branch Bark, Brown Woodland, or Advantage camo patterns.
Those hunters who spend most of their time hunting from tree stands might want to consider one of the many patterns designed especially to blend into the tree tops. Excellent tree stand camo patterns include Mossy Oak Tree Stand, Original Trebark, Timber Ghost, Skyline Ultimate, and Cabela’s Horizon late in the season when there’s snow on the ground.
Admittedly there are more camo patterns on the market than you can shake an arrow at. Not surprisingly, there are almost as many fabrics in use for the outer garments hunters depend on.
Wool is the traditional material used in hunting garments and even with all the miracle fabrics of today, wool is still tough to beat for function and value. Tightly woven wool is warm, quiet, and water repellent. These natural qualities make wool one of the best choices for hunting clothing.
Until recently, wool hunting clothing was only available in the traditional red/black plaid pattern. Today wool clothing can be found in a wide variety of camouflage patterns for the archery hunter and blaze orange for the firearm enthusiast.
Cabela’s has been a leader in bringing quality wool hunting clothes into the modern market. Their popular Whitetail Series Silent-Stalk clothing line includes parkas, jackets, pants and bib overalls in five camo patterns plus blaze orange. Available in insulated, non-insulated, and Gore-Tex waterproof versions, these functional garments provide all the features of quality hunting clothing.
Woolrich, also manufacturers wool camouflage clothing under the trade name CamWoolflage. Available in the popular Brown All Purpose Realtree pattern, CamWoolflage clothing is offered in a parka, jacket, pants, bib overalls, shirt, and cap.
For all its function, wool has a couple drawbacks; it must be dry cleaned and wool irritates the skin of many people. Enter synthetic wool, stage left.
Known under a variety of trade names, including Worsterlon and Wool-Dura, these fabrics are made from polyester and a combination of wool and Cordura nylon respectively. Both fabrics have the feel, look, and insulating properties of real wool without the skin irritation or laundering problems.
I’ve owned two Worsterlon hunting shirts for several years. The shirts have seen heavy use in bow, firearm, and waterfowl seasons plus double duty during spring and fall fishing outings. More durable and longer lasting than traditional chamois cloth shirts, simply throw them in the washer and dryer and they come out wrinkle free and ready to go every time.
The Worsterlon fabric is available in a wide variety of colors including the popular camo patterns. Shirts, pants, jackets, and parkas are all available in insulated and non-insulated versions.
A fabric known as fleece has taken the hunting scene by storm in recent years. Soft to the touch, quiet, and warm, this fabric has popped up in a wide variety of hunting clothing. Shirts, jackets, parkas, pants, bib overalls, sweaters, gloves, hats, and face masks are all available in various patterns of camo fleece.
Fleece can be worn as an outer garment or as an insulating layer under a shell. A brushed fabric, fleece simply can’t claim the insulating properties of wool. Thus, this fabric is often combined with an insulator like Thinsulate or barrier that stops wind and water such as Gore-Tex or Dry-Plus to add warmth and function.
When combined with these insulators and waterproof barriers, fleece hunting garments are outstanding products and an excellent value.
Waterproof Hunting Clothes
No one enjoys hunting when they’re wet and cold. The introduction of waterproof yet breathable barriers in hunting clothing has changed the face of hunting forever.
Two products, Gore-Tex and Dry-Plus, dominate the scene in waterproof/breathable hunting clothing. Both products are a laminate material that when attached to another fabric prevent water from passing through while allowing moisture vapor to escape. The result, waterproof clothing that doesn’t leave the wearer with that clammy or over-heated feeling during periods of activity.
Available in a wide variety of camo hunting clothing including those fashioned from wool, Worsterlon, and fleece, Gore-Tex and Dry-Plus laminates allow hunters to stay in the field comfortably in conditions that would be impossible with non-waterproof garments.
Gore-Tex and Dry-Plus also act as a wind break that dramatically improves the insulating qualities of wool, Worsterlon, and fleece fabrics. When combined with high-efficiency insulators like Thinsulate, the result is the quietest, warmest, driest, and most comfortable hunting clothing ever.
Cabela’s recently introduced a Dry-Plus rain suit they call Quiet Rainwear that features Dry-Plus laminated to a lightweight and soft outer fabric. The result is a lightweight rain suit that doesn’t rustle or make crinkling noises.
My current hunting suit is a Cabela’s Super Slam Fleece jacket and bib overalls. I purchased this outfit a size larger than normal and selected the non-insulated Dry-Plus version. As the weather dictates I can add or remove insulated clothing while remaining camouflaged from head to toe.
I ordered the suit especially for a caribou hunt where I expect to spend some time stalking on my hands and knees over wet ground, but the same suit will be ideally suited to whitetail, turkey, and waterfowl hunting back home.
What About Your Head And Hands?
No camo outfit is complete without a hat or cap and something to cover your hands. Camouflaging these extremities is critical to hunting success. Remember, your hands and head are the two parts of your body that move the most while hunting. An uncovered face or exposed hands are a warning flag that can quickly betray a hunter to approaching game.
Hat or cap choice is a personal decision. I wear a baseball style cap early in the season when an insulated cap is unnecessary. When the weather turns cold, I switch to an insulated radar or big-game style cap with ear flaps that can be pulled down over my ears and neck.
I’ve always disliked stocking caps because they tend to catch on everything in the woods and are forever riding up on my coconut. Under my cap or hat I wear a stretch face mask with holes cut for my eyes, eliminating the need for camo make-up.
Gloves are a problem because most are too thick to shoot with comfortably. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve settled on wool knit gloves with rubber grippers on the palms and fingers. Thin enough to provide feel of my release trigger, these gloves are warm enough for most hunting conditions.
When one pair of gloves gets wet, I exchange them for a dry pair. In super-cold weather my wool-clad hands stay in my handwarmer pockets most of the time or I’ll use a pair of leather chopper mittens.
A Word On Blaze Orange
For safety purposes firearm hunters are required to wear various amounts of blaze orange in most states. While I’m likely to get tons of hate mail for saying so, I blame blaze orange for many deer tags going unfilled each year.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that blaze orange is a necessity and reality of hunting, especially on public lands, but most guys go overboard on the amount of orange they wear. A hunter dressed in a full orange suit sticks out like nothing else in the deer woods.
Despite the fact that deer don’t see all the colors in the spectrum, I’m convinced they can see blaze orange clearly, especially when it’s positioned against a dark background. If a hunter moves in an orange suit, he is almost sure to be spotted by any deer in the vicinity.
Gloves and hats are the worst items to choose in the blaze orange color. These appendages move more than the torso or lower body and act as warning flags. Even a hunter screened by brush is not protected. Remember, deer can see through brush readily and focus on moving objects in an instant.
I usually hunt in a full camouflage outfit topped with an orange vest during rifle season. This combination keeps me legal and at the same time helps me blend into the environment I’m hunting. After all, going unnoticed in the deer woods is the biggest advantage a hunter has.