Want to start a discussion that will last throughout the hunting season? Start talking about camo.
Today, with more and more camouflage outerwear made by more and more companies, the choices are so much more than two generations ago when olive drab was about the only color offered and army surplus stores offered the best selection.
It’s a tough choice now, especially for Louisiana hunters.
Hunt upland game, and that’s one pattern, maybe more.
Hunt waterfowl, and there’s camo patterns, lots of patterns and lots of problems, because what works in a flooded rice field or along the coastal marshes will make you stand out like a sore thumb in flooded timber.
Price is a factor. So is weight, and it’s difficult to find, and afford, camo you can wear in a climbing stand during October’s early archery season then bear up to winter’s cold in a fixed stand in the middle of January.
And there’s more, and that “more” means you don’t think “camo,” as in clothing, you must think camouflage as in hiding.
It’s about the wearing and the concealment camo provides, and that’s just the start.
“There’s no doubt that camo increases confidence,” Bowie Outfitters manager Lee Benoit said explaining the “more.”
“If you know you’re covered, then you’re more confident in the stand or the blind, and that confidence can show through when that bucks walks out and your heart starts racing. You’re just calmer and more confident,” Benoit said speaking from firsthand experience.
An avid hunter of both upland game and wild waterfowl, Benoit said he understands both from a selling point and the use of camouflage outerwear.
“It’s more about the science of blending into the background you’re hunting in rather than matching the background,” Benoit said. “And that’s where it becomes confusing when you’re standing in front of a rack of modern camo.
“Today, camo makers are making patterns that attract a hunter’s eye,” he said. “Yeah, that pattern might work in your area or might not — but that’s your decision.”
Benoit said most hunters he talks with have a favorite pattern, and that can work for them or against them, depending on their area.
“I’ve found that camouflage clothing is like your favorite fishing lure. It’s like when I go to Big (Calcasieu) Lake to fish with (Jeff and Mary) Poe. They’ll hand me a lure they know worked on trout there, but I’m more comfortable and confident in a (Deadly Dudley) Terror Tail. And at the end of the day, I’m as likely to catch as many fish on my lure than the lure that works for them on that lake. It’s more of a confidence factor. Like I said, camouflage gives a hunter confidence.”
There’s still more to using camouflage than having success afield.
Army veterans can recall those basic and advanced training weeks when a noncom preached “cover and concealment,” a strategy in that context that meant survival, not a tactic for fooling wildlife.
But the lessons are much the same. Stealth goes hand in hand with finding the just-right camo pattern that, like Benoit said, allows you to become one with your surroundings.
Anyone who watches “Duck Dynasty” for the hunting, and not the falderal that goes with reality TV, then you know why Phil Robertson covers his face in burnt cork on his duck hunts — it’s to cover the shine. Even in dim light, faces shine.
It’s the reason the U.S. Army issues two-color camo sticks. Use the black or dark green on the high spots in your face, and the lighter green in the hollows of your cheeks. It’s the reason duck and turkey hunters, sometimes archery hunters, wear camo mesh face covers, because those can hide the whites in the eye.
What’s more, some hunters go to the max when it comes to scent, and will not put on their outerwear until after they leave the living area of their camp. That helps them avoid carrying the odor of fried bacon, even baked biscuits into the field. And they store their hunting clothes in air-tight bags to keep them from carrying “camp smells” into the woods.
Another tip is to wash camo clothing in scent-free soap and to avoid washing camo in laundry detergents that tout “brighteners and whiteners” to clean clothes, because deer and most waterfowl can see in an ultraviolet light spectrum that humans can’t, and “bright” clothes draw attention even in the dark hours.
Even after all that, Benoit said there are more bases to cover, more than what you wear that can lead to putting venison, ducks and geese on the table.
“Knowing the area you hunt, knowing the wind direction, knowing you’re hunting downwind and that you’re scent-free,” Benoit said. “There are Scent Lok suits of camo and cover scents you can spray on your clothing, and those are things a hunter can use to control his presence.”
Benoit recalled a test by a scent-producing maker that had hunters wear T-shirts and blue jeans and were as successful afield as the guys in full, and high-priced camo.
Scouting your hunting area is important, too. Putting up one stand to hunt under the ever-changing south Louisiana weather conditions is like nailing your feet to the ground.
Duck hunters with options of taking to more than one blind know, after a period of years, that one blind produces more birds on south winds while another works better on an approaching cold front.
The same holds true for deer, and that’s where Benoit’s message about wind direction enters the picture. A stand in one corner of a food plot or along a well-used path deer use to move from bedding to feeding areas will work on a south wind, but use it on a north wind and the deer can get a whiff of you a half-mile away.
So while you’re spending time looking for that perfect camouflage, remember there’s a guy in your hunting camp who’ll slip on his blue jeans, an old, soft, green chamois shirt, a Hunter Orange cap, eat a bacon biscuit and slurp two cups of coffee and come back three hours later with an 8-point buck, and you’ll show up for lunch having listened to mockingbirds and watching leaves fall during your morning hunt.