Monday, September 12, 2011

A Successful Hunt versus. . . .

Camouflage - FAIL.

Camouflage is a method of crypsis (hiding). It allows an otherwise visible organism or object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a tiger's stripes, the battledress of a modern soldier and an insect camouflaging itself as a leaf.

Camouflage was not widely used in early western civilization based warfare. 18th and 19th century armies tended to use bright colors and bold, impressive designs. I'm part Scot and trust me when I say there was one day in an office job during school where a fellow employee used to listen to this Paul Abdul tape over and over, loud, no earphones. There was more than once I was tempted to paint my face blue and come over and smash that CD to pieces.

But in military units those colors were intended to daunt the enemy, attract recruits, foster unit cohesion, or allow easier identification of units in the fog of war common to the battlefield before the invention of smokeless gun powder. Jäger riflemen in the 18th century were the first to adopt colors in relatively drab shades of green or grey. Major armies retained their bright colors until battle loses convinced them otherwise. In 1857, the British in India, likely due to early casualties, dyed their white hot-weather uniforms to neutral tones, initially a muddy tan called khaki (from the Urdu word for 'dust'). Later, after the Second Boer war, the non-tropical field uniforms of the whole of the British army came out in a darker shake of khaki serge as other countries were doing, colors more suitable for the environment.

Camouflage netting, natural materials, disruptive color patterns, and paint with special infrared, thermal, and radar qualities have also been used on military vehicles, ships, aircraft, installations and buildings. The dazzle camouflage used on ships during WW I was said to have been intended NOT to make vessels hard to see but rather to make their speed difficult to ascertain by an observer. Ghillie suits are worn by snipers and their spotters take camouflage to a higher level, combining not just colors, but twigs, leaves and other foliage. By replacing the printed patterns of their uniform with colors and materials from the immediate environment they can better remain inconspicuous even while being directly observed through binoculars or from above by aircraft.

Just how important is camouflage? After all, weren't hunters taking deer long before fancy camouflage became all the rage?

The answer is that camouflage is very important to today's hunters. Shrinking woodlands in many areas result in more nervous deer and many hunters as well, use fairly short range weapons (such as a bow). Especially if you're bowhunting, you need to get without 20 or so yards of a deer and stay well hidden from the deer that have heard all your breathren tramping around the area and are skittish to say the least.

If you understand how deer look at the world, you can avoid the simple mistakes that send deer running (camouflage yes, naked jumping jacks NO). For decades hunters believed that deer saw in black and white, but scientists have dissected every aspect of a deer's life, and it turns out a deer's universe doesn't resemble the movie frames of Maltese Falcon.

Light and Color
Mammal eyes contain two different types of cells that receive light: rods and cones. Rods are sensitive to low light but don't register colors. Cones pick up color in daylight. Human eyes contain more cones, so we distinguish color well. But, because we have relatively few rods, our night vision is not the best. Deer eyes are heavy on rods and light on cones, so whitetails and muleys are quite adept and stealthy in the dark. Recent research also shows that deer see some colors fairly well, even in darkening evening light.

"Color" is how we perceive light of various wavelengths and frequencies, making up the visible spectrum, (what we see in a rainbow or most Nascar vehicles). On one end of the spectrum is red, with the longest wavelengths apparent to the human eye; at the other end is violet, with the shortest.

However, other light wavelengths exist. Just as human ears can't hear some sounds, human eyes can't see some light. These invisible wavelengths include ultraviolet (beyond violet) and infrared (below red). Some studies have indicated that deer sense colors toward the violet end of the spectrum, so they can see blues and probably even ultraviolet (UV) light. Studies have stated that deer show only a slight sensitivity to yellow, and that green, orange, and red appear to them as shades of gray.

Exactly how well deer see UV light is debatable. Clothing can contain UV brighteners, additives incorporated in some fabrics and detergents that supposedly make the clothes appear brighter. According to one theory, such clothing makes hunters glow in the dark to a deer's eyes. I know others, including myself, who hunted for years without any UV dampener, with no problem short of sudden movements.

Gear - Unlike whitetails, turkeys have been found to see and assimilate some colors. Both the females and the subordinate toms react to the changing blues, reds and whites of a dominant gobbler’s head and neck during the Spring breeding season. For the female turkeys (hens) the color-pulsing head stimulates them for mating, for the beta toms, it suppresses the breeding urge (no thanks, you take the pretty one. ) Even so, laws are such that you must wear some hunters orange on your person when hunting turkeys. I've known people that turkey hunted in "street clothes" but if your clothes are not patterned to be in harmony with the local environment and you stick out like an elephant at a steel plate shoot, you might as well say goodbye to the hunt and go home.

"Please take me Mom, I can wear camouflage."

Since deer don't see colors the way we do, the key to staying invisible is to break up your outline. In other words, it's not so much the color of your camouflage that is important, but how well it blends in to your surroundings. Modern camouflage, with its high definition capability, adds visual layers. 3-D camo takes that concept even farther. But the key is to choose a pattern that fits well with the surroundings you hunt most often.

Think like a sniper - To really make your setups effective, give your camouflage some help. Use existing branches and leaves to help break up your outline, or add some if there aren't any there. Your goal is a lack of any human outline, making it harder for the deer to lock on to you, even if it's in fighter mode. Make use of natural cover available whether ground or tree stand hunting, positioning you stand in trees that provide limbs or leaves for additional cover, but not enough to block your shot. Pay attention to light. Position the stand or hunting spot so you don't have a big sun beam saying "look, I'm here!" Don't hunt in direct sunlight, and stay to the shadows.

Remember to camouflage everything. The most expensive camo in the world won't matter if you have a reflective-steel rifle blazing in the sun like a lighthouse. Remember to camouflage your weapon and face as well, making sure to cover all visible signs of the skin. This includes the neck, face, hands, wrist, and ankles. If possible, tuck your pants leg into the boots. Any under garments that will be exposed such as socks or t-shirts should be dark in color (a blaze orange bra could also be a good signal device, just saying).

As in shot placement and real estate it's "location, location, location". Go to the area in which you plan to hunt, and note the color schemes. Look at the range of color, just not the overall perception of color. "Woods with green and brown" is not the same as "woods with green and yellow". Take into consideration the time of year when you will be hunting and what that will do to the surrounding colors. What is green in the spring may be yellow in the summer or white in the winter.

Care of your hunting attire is also essential. Use cleaning products free of scent. The turkey's sense of smell is nothing like a whitetails (it's their hearing,not smell, that is acute) but a deer can smell you a mile away if you go into the forest wearing Brut (most women will be running as well) or even some day to day toiletries. Use unscented toiletry products. I have a big tub of Cetaphil cream which is "unscented" and have worn that on my very tender skin, face, hands, legs in the winter and the deer showed no aversion to me or my stand.

Scent is the "Danger Will Robinson" of the animal kingdom. So you don't want to wash your hunting clothes in any product with a snuggly little bear on it or any product that smalls like Unicorn farts.

If UV brighteners are utilized, the dyes present in some fabrics make the UV wavelengths stand out or "bounce" to some critter. (look at me Mr. Turkey!), making them more visible to game.

There are specific detergents that prevent this from happening; absorbing the UV so the clothes do not fade easily. When not in use, store your hunting clothes in airtight bags after thoroughly drying (I dry outside on a line) to keep them safe from dust, insects and household "man-like" odors.

These products are a favorite in my house, for both turkey and whitetail and can usually be had at a reasonable price.

These are just some tips from myself and others who hunt. I hope you will find them useful. As for brands, I do really like RealTree products, but I have also hunted in some generic brands from Big Box Mart with equal success. But whomever the manufacturer is, you want clothing that becomes part of the environment you are in that day.

Hey, where'd Barkley go???


  1. Red is more visible ate night.

    As proof, I have never lost a redhead in the dark.

  2. Brigid,

    No naked jumping jacks? No wonder I can't get a deer!


  3. Hey, where'd Barkley go? Ohh, there he is... almost didn't see him...

    Dann in Ohio

  4. I have perfectly effective camoflage, but not for deer. Fat, ugly old men like myself are completely invisible to women under 50, and that's as should be.

  5. I'm with 66. Thanks Brigid, for taking all the fun out of deer hunting!

  6. Is Barkley trying to copy Montana the Camo dog? He would have a difficult time catching her all bundled up like that.

    "Most women will run from Brut" Good one!

    Thanks for the pointers, most of our stuff here is unscented already because of my allergies. The only thing that I have not found is a good unscented shampoo and conditioner. Even Dove and Aveeno stick perfume in their products. Unscented toiletries specifically for hunting have proved to be less than satisfactory on fine, long hair.

    Poor Og, guess he will just have to find himself a hot widows over 50.


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