Disclaimer: Just so we are all clear, I’m not endorsed by any particular camo brand. These are just my opinions based on the fact I’ve used different patterns for different hunts.
Typically when people hunt in the field, there is quite a bit of movement happening. Hiking, stalking and re-positioning all run the risk of being spotted as you are searching or stalking game. Often we hunt when the weather is optimal for us, which usually means it’s also optimal to be spotted. Hunting in clear, low wind conditions spells trouble to being spotted; many shadows with low environmental movement. By that I mean, branches on trees aren’t moving as much; same with tall grass and low shrubs. Some environmental movement can be a good thing to help mask your movement. Animals are very aware of their surroundings. Any quick movements, that are out of pace with the surrounding environment, is a red flag and puts everyone on edge.
In my opinion, I think it is unwise to wear a static type of camo pattern like realtree or mossy oak. Although these camo patterns provide a likeness to their surroundings, unless you’re hunting in a bit of a higher wind and plan on only staying in your pattern’s environment, they tend to reveal your position quickly. This comes back to environmental movement. If the branches on your clothing are moving differently than your surroundings, now you have a situation where movement can be detected.
So, I would prefer to use a digital camo pattern in the field. Sitka and Krypetk both provide top quality digital type camo pattern. And if you’re a budget hunter, like myself, Kryptek tends to be a bit easier on the wallet.
I was bow hunting mule deer last fall, in September, as this is our ‘bow only’ mule deer season. Most of the bucks are still in velvet or starting to lose it towards the end of the month. I had been scouting this bachelor group of 4 bucks for a couple of weeks on some land I had permission to hunt on. I had a pretty good idea of where they did their day bedding and I was able to get off work early on a weekday, and arrived at my spot with about 4.5 hours of shooting light left. Sure enough I spotted a few pairs of antlers poking out of the pea crop. I had my pair of Kryptek rain shells as the weather looked like it was turning. Luckily these shells are incredibly breathable so I didn’t sweat to death. As I was approaching from a downwind position, the bucks got up and began feeding a bit and moved to a field to the north. My wind was still good, but my stalk strategy drastically changed. As my cover was about to be blown, I had no choice but to lie on belly and re-group. I was originally creeping slowly along a tree fence that was separating the north field from the pea field, but since the bucks moved north, I was now on the wrong side of the trees and had to belly crawl on a trail between the wheat field (north field) and the trees. The bucks bedded back down, this time in the wheat field and I began my stalk. Fast forward, it took me 3 hours to stalk the remaining 300 yards to the bedded bucks. I was now 40 yards out and in range. Just as I was about to draw, a doe came out of nowhere and spooked the bucks! It wasn’t me because I was still downwind of everything. But the bucks were now on full alert mode and moved off into the trees and onto a field west of my position. I decided to follow since I still had the wind in my favor. As I was exiting the trees onto the west field, the bucks decided to double back and I felt like I got caught with my pants down. All 4 bucks had me dead to rights. I was completely exposed.
Here’s where the camo pattern part comes in.
I froze. They froze. It was a chess game between who would move first. But as they looked in my direction, it was like they were looking through me, not at me. They started walking parallel to me, I had no choice but to move with them. When they moved, I moved. They would stop, look at me and keep going. I was about 30 yards away at this point. All of a sudden, a coyote came of the bush and started walking at me, seeming like he didn’t notice me. It was the same reaction I was getting from the deer. I started to notice that it was like my camo pattern was somehow moving along with them and blending at the same time. These few valuable minutes gave me the opportunity to get the shot off.
The digital camo patterns, in my experience, seem to blend while in movement. I believe this is in part with the fact that they don’t have any distinctive shapes on them. The off kilter placement of the shapes and shades of color give a dynamic aspect that is great to have in the field where it may give you those extra precious seconds or a minute to make it a successful hunt.
The Stand or Blind:
Hunting from a stand or ground blind also presents its own type of camo pattern challenges. Because hunting from a stand or blind is a static type of hunting, this is where I feel the realtree and mossy oak patterns come into play. In these instances, movement isn’t necessarily the most important aspect, rather than the attempting to exactly match your surroundings.
Hunting in a stand, because of you’re elevation, most likely you’ll be surrounded by green or slightly fall colored leaves. Keep in mind that the animal you’re hunting may not be looking up often, it’s still important to match the shading so when you need to adjust to a shooting position, you’re not drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
Hunting in a blind can be a bit of a different story depending if your stand is open or enclosed. An open blind, like in a turkey hunt, you may only have a small height blind wall vs an enclosed structure. Matching your surroundings would be very critical in this circumstance. An enclosed blind, you may just be better off wearing dark clothing to match the interior of the blind. It isn’t overly necessary to be all camo sitting inside a blind. You want to match your surrounding, and a blind is dark.
So just to run it back really quick. Static vs a dynamic approach to your hunt is important when selecting a camo pattern. In a static hunting environment, a camo pattern which matches the shapes and shades of your surroundings will give you advantage. With a dynamic, move and hunt plan, more digital off set patterns would be better as this pattern seems to have a continuous ‘blend as you move’ feature.