I have a good friend is spending sometime out of town, in a large city, for work. He is involved in a home construction company and there is a home show in this city that he needs to attend. With time away from the family, my friend the budding archer, took some time for himself and visited an archery range in the area. His comments made me laugh. His comments about the fellows at the range, who were shooting their compound bows, indoors, in full camo. Super geeked out about their compund bows, all the gadgets they had on these bows, their latest high tech sights, rests, releases. Poly(plastic) apparel with the latest innovations, camoflage patterns, scent elimination, and super star hunting spokesmen and women behind the awesome products. I could only imagine his dis-taste in this situation.
As someone who has witnessed the evolution of the hunting wear, I can speak to some of the insanity behind this industry. When I was young it was common to hunt with plaids, greens, tans, earth tones that could help blend a hunter in, not to make them disappear. Why would you want to disappear, you might get shot! Duck hunters would wear woodland patterns, blotchy greens, blacks and browns. You could imagine Elmer Fudd wearing such attire. Effective for sure. Lots of hunters would also don ex-military garb. Thick wool that would keep you warm, quiet and somewhat concealed. Blue jeans, work boots, and your favorite ball cap or wool toque completed the assemble. Off to the woods. Did they harvest animals? Abso-friggen-lutely! On Vancouver Island the heydays for deer hunting were in the 70's, before all this high tech business came out.
I first become aware of modern camo in the late 80's. My uncle, an avid hunter, was wearing some new innovative gear. Polar fleece was just catching on. And so was something called RealTree. It was so cool! Soon images of this new apparel was showing up in Cabela's catalogues, something also new to my eyes. I believe that Real Tree, Mossy Oak and TreBark all appeared on the scene around the same time, and lit the hunting world on fire. Along with advances in synthetic materials, hunting apparel changed very rapidly.
Years and years after these products hitting the market, there is a problem. Companies are always seeking growth. It is how our system of economics is set up. Something always must grow, or it is in decline and might go away. Because of this fact the apparel industry must up their game, and bring new products to the market. Now these fabrics and patterns are licensed for everything and anything. Vehicle accessories, bedding, dog jackets, gun stocks, cell phone cases, if you can imagine it, it probably exists in camouflage! I used to be a big fan of camouflage clothing. I liked the image of it. I could show off my passion, in the woods and the grocery store. My evolution is now coming full circle. I no longer want to be associated as a "Bubba" hunter. I feel like a jackass walking around in any camo, unless I am in the field. I visited our local Cabelas a while back and was appalled. It was my first time in a Cabelas store, the company who's catalog I used to pawn over for days and days. It was like walking into a department store, but instead of fancy clothes, it was chocked full of camouflage. Every thing you could imaging is camo, and it is mostly cotton or plastic. Not impressed at all. The marketers in the industry are flogging this very expensive "gear" with promises of bigger bucks, more ducks and easier hunts. Gear, gadgets and gizmos have replaced common sense, woodsman-ship and knowing your prey. Like most things in society, we feel like we can buy our way to success, instead of hard work, dedication and study. Sorry this just isn't the case.
I am not trying to say that camoflage apparel doesn't have a place. I do believe that it can help, especially for turkey or waterfowl hunting. Those suckers can see color and can pick out the whites of your eyes. In areas where there is crazy hunter pressure, blending in can make a difference between tag soup and back strap. As a hug fan of merino wool for all outdoor pursuits, I have to stick my neck out and say that First Lite is by far my favorite brand. They have two patterns, to my eyes, don't look too "Bubba". The ASAT and the Fusion. Fusion is a First Lite proprietary pattern, created in house. It doesn't look like a tree, but I believe it would be wonderful at removing the hunters silhouette. ASAT is a licensed pattern that reminds me of a blackberry bramble. And it looks cool! I think one could wear it around town, and it would remind people of snowboard wear instead of hunting wear. G Fred Asbell of Hunter Image Productions sells wool garments designed by his wife. They are all in plaid or solid colors and are huge in the traditional bow hunting community. One of these jackets is certainly on my list of wants. There are many other fantastic wool products out there as well, made by some of the larger companies like LL Bean, Icebreaker, Fillson, Pendelton, and Silent Predator. I am not in love with any synthetic apparel, aside from rain shells, but that is for another post.
While camouflage is here to stay and is often a nice to have, it is certainly not a necessity. I would offer that instead of spending potentially hundreds of dollars buying hunting apparel, save that money, take a day off of work with the savings and spend a it in the woods. Adding to your knowledge of your prey, practicing walking quietly, and shooting your bow will give you a leg up over the camo "Bubba" in his truck with the camo seat covers and full camo suit who never leaves his bench seat and heated cab.