Gettin' Hidden: A Camouflage and Concealment Guide

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Big game hunting and camouflage go hand in hand. However, there seems to be a myth in many a hunting camp that by pulling on a pair of camouflage pants and jacket you instantly become invisible. Unfortunately, such is not the case. There's actually more to becoming totally concealed than simply wearing camouflage.

In reality, camouflage doesn't make you invisible. Instead, it creates a visual illusion that helps break up your outline or body form. Today's high-tech camouflage patterns are also designed to help you blend in and become part of the natural landscape, which further adds to the visual illusion.

Picking a Pattern
Some camouflage patterns are better at breaking up your outline and helping you blend in than others. The most effective patterns are those that feature a variety of contrasting earth tone colors and natural shapes to create an open, irregular and realistic effect. The openness of a pattern allows it to be equally effective at both close and long ranges. While tight patterns with uniform markings look good in your hand, chances are when viewed from longer ranges they'll blend together to create an obvious blob, which makes the pattern ineffective for hunting.

In the past few years, camouflage manufactures have taken camouflage to another level by adding counter shading to their patterns. This unique shading process increases the shape and color contrast of the camouflage pattern. The result is a long and short range three-dimensional illusion that is so realistic you'd think you could reach right through the pattern.

There are a number of camouflage patterns currently available. Some are designed for use in multiple terrains while others are designed for specific situations. One pattern may blend in perfectly in woodlots, hardwood forests, swamps and rocky regions, while another pattern may only be suitable for hunting the edges of corn or stubble fields. Some patterns such as snow patterns or leafy green patterns are season specific, while other patterns have neutral schemes, which allow you to hunt under an array of seasonal conditions. Therefore, when selecting a camouflage pattern, you must keep in mind where and when you'll be hunting.

Changing Patterns
In most areas of North America most big game hunting seasons are quite long. As the season unfolds, you'll find yourself hunting in a variety of situations. For example, in one season you could encounter trees in full foliage with green leaves, trees covered in colored leaves, trees without leaves and possibly snow-covered ground. Therefore, to get the most benefit from camouflage and the best visual illusion, you may need to have several different camouflage patterns in your closet.

During the early bow season, you'll need a pattern comprised mainly of green hues. Then as the leaves start to change color, you'll need to switch over to a pattern that is a mix of greens and browns. Later in the year, when you're muzzleloader or rifle hunting and all the leaves have dropped, you'll probably be wise to wear a darker pattern consisting of shades of brown. If snow falls in your area, you should go with a snow pattern.

When hunting in winter conditions, use a snow pattern to help blend in.

Prior to heading afield, evaluate the conditions. Match your camouflage pattern to the terrain and seasonal situations. When doing so, don't hesitate to mix and match various patterns. For example, after the first frost of the season when leaves are still on the trees and short bushes and grasses have wilted, you could wear a pattern with leaves on your upper body and something with tree branches and no leaves on your legs.

There is nothing in nature the same color tone as human skin. To complicate matters our skin doesn't absorb light. Instead, it reflects light and glares. This glare can be seen from long distances. Big game animals associate human skin and the tell-tail glare as danger and will go on red alert as soon as they see either one.

Since camouflage is designed to break up your outline and help you blend in, it's essential to head afield covered from head to toe. This means, not only covering your body, but also covering your hands and face.

When selecting gloves, make sure they're long enough to cover your wrists. If they aren't, your wrist area will be exposed and every time you move your hands or arms, you could be giving away your position. Full-length gloves are also perfect for hiding your watch, which can also glare and alert deer to your presence.

Another factor to consider when selecting gloves is comfort. Insulated gloves are perfect for cold days, but will make you sweat on warm outings. Lightweight cotton gloves are great for early season, but they won't protect your hands and fingers during a cold weather hunt.

A final thought to take into account when selecting hunting gloves is how they allow you to use your hands and fingers. Make sure your gloves allow you to operate binoculars, flick the safety on your gun, pull the trigger, draw your bow or operate your release. If your gloves limit or restrict such actions, you need to find a different pair of gloves. That way, you won't find yourself pulling off your gloves to reveal your hands at a critical moment, when you really need the benefits of camouflage.

When selecting a facemask, look for a style that will completely cover your face, forehead, ears and throat area. That way all skin and any jewelry will be hidden. If your facemask isn't long enough to cover your throat and neck area, you can try wearing a camouflage gaiter or make sure that your shirt or jacket collar completely cover any exposed skin.

While facemasks should cover your entire face, you must still be able to see and shoot while wearing one. I personally prefer facemasks with a single eyehole as opposed to those with two smaller eyeholes or those with mesh material over the eyes. While wearing such a mask, I'll also wear a camouflage baseball style cap and pull the brim down to help hide my eyes.

If you wear camouflage over the top of other clothing, make sure that your non-camo clothing is fully covered. If not, your shirt collar, pant leg or sock could stick out and be very obvious. Big game animals may be able to spot these non-camouflage items and quickly figure out what you are.

Scent Management
Even with the best camouflage and hunting tactics, hunters need to realize that big game animals can readily detect human odor and associate that odor with danger. Thus, it's wise to use scent eliminating products or cover scents in conjunction with your camouflage.

There are countless products available that are designed to eliminate human odor. The idea behind these products is that they neutralize and eliminate human odors. For best results, apply these products liberally to all your clothing prior to heading into your hunting spot. While doing so, make sure to apply cover scent to your arm-pits, crotch and back of your knees. As well, spray some cover scent onto your hands and rub it into your face, neck, ears and hair. You should also reapply cover scent at your hunting area if you worked up a sweat getting there.

Instead of eliminating odors, masking scents such as fox urine, skunk, earth and pine scents are used to mask human odors. Since these products are quite strong, it's wise to only apply small doses to your clothing. Better yet, fill a couple of scent canisters with cover scent and then pin the canisters directly to your clothing.

There's a fine line when using cover scents. If you don't use enough scent, the products are not effective in covering up human odors. If you use too much, the scent becomes overpowering, which is unnatural and can be alarming to big game animals.

Personally, I avoid using skunk scent. I feel it emits a negative odor that portrays danger. As well, I know my wife wouldn't let me in the house if I came home smelling like a skunk. Instead, I try to use earth scent or pine cover scents whenever possible and never use a cover scent that is not natural to the area where I'm hunting.

Although they're not actually scents, there are a number of scent eliminating soaps and shampoos available on the market. These products can be used to wash both your body and clothes. They can be used alone, but are more effective when used in conjunction with odor eliminators and cover scents.

Camouflage and cover scents are simply tools to help you fool big game animals. As previously stated, it just isn't enough to wear camouflage and cover scents.

Eliminating Motion
Camouflage works the best when you are motionless. Most big game animals have such keen eyesight that each time you move you run the risk of them seeing your motion and pinpointing your camo-clad body.

When moving in the woods, stay out of wide-open spaces, where animals can easily spot you and your motion. Stay as close to cover as you possibly can, so that you blend in. When walking down a wide trail, stick to one side or the other. Always make an effort to avoid or go around areas where you'll be exposed. Whenever you can, walk in the shadows.

If hunting in hilly terrain, avoid walking on hilltops. Instead, stay low and travel along the sides of hills. If you have to cross from one hill to another, cross in the low spot where two hills meet as opposed to crossing a hill top.

When sitting in a tree stand or a ground blind, don't fidget or continually twist and turn. Limit your movements. When you do move, do so slowly and smoothly. If an animal is within eyesight, move only when it's looking away or has its head down.

A trick to reduce motion is to hunt with your eyes and not your head. You simply hold your head still, while only moving your eyes. If you need to look outside of your line of vision, move your eyes as far as they'll go, then slowly pivot your head and then continue searching with your eyes.

Move slowly. Hunt with your eyes.

While stalking or moving to and from your stand site, you should try to move in such a manner that your motions are concealed. As well, you should always move into the wind and if a deer gets in behind you, try to circle back behind it or if possible, harvest the deer (providing it's what you're after) before it figures out what you are.

Utilizing Natural Cover
When building a ground blind, try to incorporate as much natural cover into your blind as possible. The combination of natural cover and a matching camouflage pattern will work together to conceal you. An excellent natural blind occurs when you can sit with your back against a tree and have a fallen log directly in front of you. The trees help break up your outline and the fallen log doubles as a gun rest.

When building a ground blind, try to incorporate as much natural vegetation into your blind as possible.

Before rushing in and setting up your tree stand take a good look at the potential location. While looking at the area ask yourself if you'll be sky lighted or if you'll blend in and disappear. Also, determine if there is enough cover around and behind the stand location to help hide your motions. If there's any chance of being sky lighted or the area not having enough cover to absorb your movements, look for another stand location.

Direction of Sun and Wind
Another point to take into consideration before erecting tree stands or building ground blinds is the direction of the sun. Keep in mind that the sun will act as a spotlight. If it will shine right on your location, your odds of being busted by a deer increase dramatically. In addition, any movements you make will be more obvious. If possible, set up in a shady area that will help you blend in, absorb your movements and reduce glare.

A final thing to take into consideration is wind direction. Cover scents simply buy you a little extra time in the event that big game animals circle down wind of you or the wind swirls and blows your scent towards them. How much time they buy you varies from situation to situation and the type of over cover scent product being used. Thus for best results, always try to keep downwind of the game you are pursuing and set up tree stands and blinds in positions that don't allow an animal to get down wind of you.

Next time you head out hunting, cover up with camouflage from head to toe and make sure you put on some cover scent. Then think about where you will set up and how you will get from place to place. With a little effort on your part, you can completely disappear and become part of the woods.

Staying still and head to toe camo helped in the harvesting of this keen eyed antelope.

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