Hiding in Plain Sight
As I scanned the vast field of prairie grass, I could almost feel his presence before I saw him. I knew the coyote was making his way toward my vocal rendition of a dying rabbit, but I didn't know where he was. I lay motionless on the small hill that I chose for my elevated view and waited for the coyote to give away his position. I could feel him coming closer and closer but the frost covered field remained still. His presence became audible as the sound of his trotting footsteps increased in volume. Then I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He had approached from behind and was standing 30 yards to my right and glared in my direction. His eyes seemed to search through every inch of the grass that I lay in, trying to locate the rabbit that lured him in. As he stood upwind of me, the gentle breeze lifted the thick fur on his back. I was close enough to see every movement of his eyes, every flaring of his nostrils and almost decipher every thought going through his canine logic, but he was completely unaware of my existence. With his fixed gaze, turning to shoot was not an option. When he had convinced himself that the previous sound of a dinner bell must have been a result of his imagination, he began to continue on his path. I remained still, waited for his shoulder to appear in my scope and squeezed the trigger. As I made my way to the coyote, I couldn't help but to admire the ghillie suit that had kept me hidden so well among the grass and wonder why I hadn't tried this before.
Ghillie suits were originally developed as a portable hunting blind by Scottish gamekeepers. Since then, they have been used throughout history for a variety of activities, including military, surveillance and have gained popularity recently for hunting. Their popularity is understandable as their ability to conceal a hunter is seldom matched by any other method. They can be customized to match almost any terrain and can be assembled at home with just a few inexpensive items.
Whether you rummage through the garage to find them or stop by the local discount store, locate the following materials to begin: light weight oversized coveralls, Boonie hat, volleyball net, three tubes of Shoe Goo and eight yards of camouflage burlap. Stores often discount their camouflage during the "off season" and the coveralls and burlap can be purchased for a fraction of the retail price.
The coveralls need to be oversized as the ghillie suit is worn over your existing clothing. I prefer to use a couple of sizes larger than normal as this allows room for insulated layers underneath on those cold morning hunts. Another option is to use a two-piece BDU suit. This has the advantage of allowing for more movement but can leave an exposed area between the two pieces as you are crawling through the brush. Either one will work fine. You should use whichever one is most comfortable.
To begin, lay the clothing of choice flat on the floor, then position the volleyball net over the top of this. Cut the net following the silhouette of the clothing so that you have a piece of volleyball net the size and shape of one side of the clothing. Then cut this piece of net into two pieces across the belt line. This will allow for a great range of motion once assembled. Remove the two pieces of net and reposition the remaining uncut net over the clothing. Repeat the procedure so that you now have two each of the top and bottom pieces. Lay the Boonie hat on the floor and cut a piece of net to cover the top of it.
To join the net to the clothing, reposition one piece of the upper portion of the net over the clothing and apply the Shoe Goo to the underside of one corner of the net squares. As you apply the glue, press the corner onto the fabric of the clothing. Repeat this procedure for each of the corners until the entire portion of net is secure. Attach the lower portion of the net in the same fashion. Once complete, turn the clothing over and continue the process for the remaining two pieces of net. Join the net to the Boonie hat in the same way.
Once you have the net attached to the clothing, the fun begins. This is where you get to choose what type and color of material that you want to attach to it. Just about anywhere that you can purchase sporting goods, you can find camouflage burlap. It often comes in many different colors and shades. Choose the one that matches the habitat and season that you intend to hunt. Begin by cutting the burlap into 12x2 inch strips. Tie these strips to the netting with a simple overhand knot.
You will need 3-4 strips on each side of each square of the netting. This is the part that makes the ghillie suit effective, so make sure to cover all areas of the clothing. One exception, is if you intend to use the suit while bowhunting. In this case, it is usually best to limit the amount of burlap on the chest, the inside of the bow-holding arm and the front of the Boonie hat. The last thing you want when pulling the release trigger on a monster whitetail is for the bowstring to catch on your clothing.
Some people prefer to apply the Shoe Goo to the burlap knots when they are finished, but I have found it is best to apply it in sections as you assemble the suit. If you wait until the end, you will undoubtedly have to struggle to keep the loose pieces of burlap from sticking to the glue. One of the best methods is to work your way across a row of the netting, tying several burlap knots and then gluing that row before working on another section.
Once complete, you can begin experimenting with adding natural vegetation to the suit. When you head to the field, grab some of the prairie grass or leaves and stuff them into the netting. They will only enhance the camouflage ability of the suit. You will also find that the more you wear the suit, the better it will work. As the burlap becomes frayed and soiled, it will transform from good to great concealment. While you are sitting around the house this spring impatiently waiting for the arrival of the fall hunting season, take the opportunity to create you own ghillie suit that could improve your success.
Larry R. Beckett Jr. is a full time freelance writer, photographer and videographer. His greatest joy is spending time fishing, hunting and hiking with his wife and son. Larry discovered his enthusiasm for the outdoors at a young age and devotes much of his time trying to instill that same enthusiasm in future generations.