Blending In

Morning’s first gray light had disappeared hours ago as the warming sun hung overhead. Yucca and sagebrush dotted the withered yellow buffalo grass that blanketed the broken country surrounding me. Junipers and cedars filled the draws of the canyon that stretched out in front of me. Energetic mule deer raced about, zipping up and down the surrounding hills, partaking in that most magical time of a hunter’s year; the rut. Not only had I failed to connect on a buck with my bow yet, but with rifle season fast approaching I would lose access to the ranchland I hunt. Determined to seal the deal, I made up my mind that today would be the day, and with so many deer in front of me the odds appeared to be in my favor.

My eyes caught movement on the crest of the canyon in front of me. Soon a nice mule deer buck broke the horizon line and sauntered into view. He was moving left to right down the canyon side, and, with good wind and cover, I knew the buck was unaware of my presence. Once he dipped into a small ravine I rose from my hiding place and the stalk was on. While bird-dogging the buck I soon saw another deer race from the bottom of the draw. A second later, the deer I was pursuing emerged with his head down driving away the smaller buck. With his attention focused elsewhere I took a chance and used the topography to move to a point in front of the aggressive buck, hoping to set up for a successful ambush. Moving quickly, but crouched and quiet, I crested the final rise to my ambush site. What I saw on the other side stopped me in my tracks. Forked antlers bobbed directly toward me at 40 yards and within a second the body of a new buck had appeared, heading straight for me. Trapped out in the open prairie with nowhere to hide I clipped on my release and slowly came to full draw. As the buck continued forward I settled my sight on him, waiting for an ethical shot. At 20 yards the deer unexpectedly turned broadside giving me the chance I had hoped for. The wooden thunk of my bow preceded the flash of carbon that closed the distance between us at over 300 fps. Within minutes I would be standing over my bow-killed deer, celebrating the special accomplishment I had achieved.

Who doesn’t like a good hunting story? I remember as a kid sitting around my dad and uncles while listening to tales of elk hunting glory, monster bucks, and unbelievable shots. Those stories stuck with me and I knew someday I wanted to be part of the action. Of all the stories I remember hearing, most ended with the story about how the hunter was finally able to close the gap and seal the deal. Not that a good story has to end with a dead animal, but successful hunts and those stories tend to remain in our memory longer than most. Getting to that point in the story takes skill, knowledge, perseverance, usually a little luck, and the right gear. One facet of your gear list you can’t overlook is your camouflage. In my story, my camouflage played a huge role in allowing me to remain undetected on the open prairie while the buck unknowingly closed the gap for me. Here are a few tips for choosing the right camo for your next hunting adventure.

Know your area

One of the biggest mistakes hunters make when picking camouflage is not matching their hunting attire to their surroundings. I see this all the time while hunting out west. Guys who are used to hunting the eastern woodlands bring their dark green camo out west and stick out like a sore thumb in our weathered prairie. Prairie hunting, high mountain hunting, and much of the broken canyon country of the west require lighter patterns that utilize whites, yellows, and light greens. Likewise, when ascending a whitetail stand in early September for the archery opener, reach for darker patterns. Dark camo will help you blend in with the dark foliage of the trees you climb. Not to be forgotten are our groundblinds. Lots of guys wear standard camo when preparing for a hunt in a ground blind. While not a huge mistake, wearing black instead will help you blend in with the interior of your blind. Remember, the purpose of camo is to blend in with your surroundings. Do your homework and when you make a camo purchase ensure you are buying a product that will assist you rather than make your challenge more difficult.

Odds n’ Ends

After you’ve made sure the bulk of your gear will match your surroundings, it’s time to think trimming up the edges of your getup. Hats, gloves, boots, facemasks, even ghillie suits, offer options for the modern hunter. In my opinion how deep you go depends on your personality, goals, and budget. Personally on every hunt I don a brown wide brimmed hat, brown leather boots, a camo neck gaiter that doubles as a facemask and sometimes slip on my camouflage gloves. One major area of concern you should be adamant about concealing is your face. Whether you’re hunting out in the open or in a ground blind I would highly recommend face camo of some kind. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, so feel free to learn from my mistakes. Several options should hang on the shelves of your local hunting retailer. The two most common options are facemasks and face paint. Masks offer the benefit of easy sliding on and off and can be used over and over. On the other hand, face painters don’t have an extra piece of clothing to tote along and cumbersome cloth covering their face. Personally I like the versatility a neck gaiter offers, protecting my neck from intense early season sun and quickly doubling as a facemask when the moment of truth approaches.

Don’t be fooled

Finally, don’t be fooled by advertisements when purchasing your duds for the upcoming season. Camo has come a long way since the 1960’s, but some of the modern stuff looks better in the magazine than it does in the real world. To be a successful hunter you’ll need to think critically about the time of year you are going to hunt, your surroundings, and the vision of your quarry. The buck of a lifetime might require a bit more concealment than a yearling requires. Finally when choosing camouflage, like all gear, use what you believe will work. The last thing you want to be doing is second-guessing your gear in the field. Confidence in your gear will carry over to success in the field. Whatever you decide, make sure it fits your surroundings, your goals, and your budget. Follow these simple steps and you’ll have no trouble blending in.