Picking the Right Camo

News & Tips: Picking the Right Camo

Camouflage hunting clothing is hugely popular across North America, especially among bowhunters and those who hunt waterfowl, turkeys and predators. Waterfowl and turkeys are able to see colors, while predators have very sharp vision, making effective camouflage a necessity when pursuing such quarry. Although most big game species have very limited, if any, ability to see colors, the necessity for bowhunters to get extremely close to their quarry requires camo in order to break up the hunter's silhouette or outline and blend in with the surroundings. But all camo is not the same, and it is possible to make a wrong choice in terms of your camo pattern.

PickingTheRightCamo blog
If leaves are still on the trees, wear a pattern with lots of greens and shadows. Photo courtesy of Luigi De Rose

All camo patterns are essentially either all-purpose varieties that are meant to blend in sufficiently under a wide range of conditions and situations, or those that are specialized and are meant to closely match certain specific environments.

All-purpose patterns — and there are number of very fine ones available — typically use detailed and contrasting foregrounds combined with large, open or blurred backgrounds, often in layers, to achieve a pattern that simply works under a variety of circumstances. These patterns are as useful in the turkey woods of the East as they are in the Rocky Mountains of the West. Special-purpose patterns, of which there are literally dozens of regional varieties available to match just about any environment, either mimic local terrain, such as those that utilize light colors and shadows for the Great Plains, or specific situations, such as a skyline pattern for hunting out of a late season tree stand. The differences between these two families of camo can be equated to getting by with just one fishing rod; yes, it can be done and it will suffice for just about everything, but it's not the best choice for every situation.  

But a poor choice of camo can actually make you appear quite visible. For instance, while a snow camo pattern is great for hunting in snowy conditions, it would stick out like a sore thumb in a southern duck marsh, where a pattern comprised of light colored grasses and reeds would be a far better choice for hiding from the suspicious eyes of wary mallards. Similarly, and this is a mistake that many hunters make, wearing a camo pattern that is predominantly brown for hunting turkeys in late spring or bowhunting for whitetails during the early archery season are mis-matches that can easily be avoided. Look around and you will see an abundance of green surrounding you at these times. Save the brown camo for when there are no leaves on the trees and instead wear a pattern with lots of greens and shadows.

There can also be situations when the best camouflage is a lack of it. Savvy bowhunters that hunt of out portable ground blinds have learned that the best way to hide in the dark shadows of a pop-up blind is to wear black rather than camo. Similarly, if you are hunting in complete snow cover, such as for late season waterfowl, a simple all-white coverall is the best choice.

And don't be afraid to mix-and-match. If you are hunting coyotes in winter with snow on the ground and you are sitting with you back against a tree, snow camo pants will help you blend in with the ground, but a brown-based multi-purpose camo coat will better blend with the tree than would an outfit entirely of snow camo.

A great way to check how well your camo actually blends with your surrounds is to have a friend take a photo of you in black and white (many digital cameras have this feature) to approximate the vision of many big game animals. Or you can film yourself with a video camera and then play it back on your TV in monochrome mode (many TVs have this function).

Of course, even the best camouflage still requires that movement be kept to a minimum, and while any type of camo is probably better than no camo at all in most situations, by matching your camo pattern to your surroundings as closely as possible, you will maximize its effectiveness and help ensure that you remain hidden from prying eyes.

Good hunting.


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