When my friends and I hunt predators or deer, we’ll usually be decked head to toe in terrain matching camouflage clothing, replete with face masks, gloves, and additional cover on our guns or bows. But often when I meet up with the same guys for a fall squirrel hunt, they’ll show in jeans and their favorite hoodie. We’ve often discussed the importance of camo for small game air gun hunting, and in this weeks blog entry I’d like to give my thoughts and see what others are thinking.
Let me first start with my answer to the question of whether camo is important or not…. in general I think it is very important …. in most cases. Obviously when hunting turkey in California or Virginia nobody argues that it makes sense to camo up, I mean that’s what you do with a shotgun or bow, and the ranges are about the same. But I also think on quarry like squirrels,woodchuck, or prairie dogs it can lead to dramatically improved results. These animals are prey to just about every meat eater in their territory, and keen vision is the primary sense that keeps them off the menu. The sense of hearing is an issue with tree squirrels and rabbits, smelling not so much, but they’ll see an unbroken outline or moving hands from a long ways off! Part of a successful camo strategy is not only to break up your outline, but also control movement.
When I moved to the Midwest and started hunting tree squirrels, my typical clothing would be jeans and a natural covered top….. I didn’t worry so much about breaking up my outline, yet still had the common sense not to dress in day glow colors that anything with eyes could pick up from a mile off. That first season I shot a few squirrels, but didn’t have the stellar success rates I heard some guys were getting using the same still hunting and ambush techniques I was applying. Then one day I was looking a photo my son had shot on one of our outings and I noticed my outline was exceedingly noticeable against the tree behind me, and my face staring up into a tree and my hands on the rifle looked like flares in the early morning daylight. This got me to thinking and I decided the following season I’d approach squirrel hunting more like I was out after coyote.
Next year I started in fall with camo, I gloved and masked myself, and was much more disciplined in my approach. Everyone of my first few hunts ranked amongst my best ever. So I switched back for a few hunts to jeans, etc without gloves or mask, and my numbers dropped. Back to camo and my success rate started climbing again…. this was enough empirical data for me!
Now the way I hunt jackrabbits in the desert is a bit different, with lots of glassing and hiking it’s more like stalking plains game in South Africa. I’ll glass the sparse hillsides looking for the glow of amber light diffusing through a rabbits ears as it lays in its scrape. Using brush and arroyos to close the distance, I’ll slowly move into a shooting position. In this situation I don’t believe full camo offers the same advantage.
But if you are out calling crows, my experience is that unless you have have very good camo in conjunction with a blind or hide, your chances of getting a crow into shooting range are about nil…. It’s a game changer! No doubt I’ve had the opportunistic shot on a crow that pops up from time to time, and I’ve sniped them in suburban or industrial areas where they don’t expect to be shot while wearing street cloths, but for serious crow hunting you are not going to be consistently successful without camo clothing, even if sitting in a blind.
When picking camo look for a pattern that blends with your surroundings, cover everything, especially the hands and face which are where most body motion occurs, and limit extraneous movement. I think that if you approach squirrel, groundhogs, or crows with the same care you’d put into predators, deer, or turkey, you’ll see the results in larger bags.