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Camo and Small Game Hunting

Posted by on December 16, 2012

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.

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For some quarry, such as jackrabbits in the desert, I don’t find camo as important as keeping the noise down and making good use of color. Still, it does makes sense to wear neutral colors so you don’t stand out like a traffic cone!

 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.

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My success hunting squirrels sky rocketed when I got serious about camo … for both me and the gun.

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.

Muted greens for spring and early fall....

Muted greens for spring and early fall….

an whites for the winter hunts, match your camo to the surroundings. Sounds obvious, but many hunters use the sam patterns year round.

and whites for the winter hunts, match your camo to the surroundings. Sounds obvious, but many hunters use the same patterns year round.

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.

6 Responses to Camo and Small Game Hunting

  1. Dave in Maine

    I’ve always both dressed in full camo and hidden in brush for crows, but never thought much about it for squirrels. But reflecting back. I realize that I am a lot more succesful when I’m in an area where they are used to people, as in farms, or small ag businesses. but in the woods, I can get them to wander close to see, but not close enough to shoot. I’ll have to start to use full camo in the woods.

    Thanks for the tip, Dave

    • Jim Chapman

      Dave,
      Your right about squirrels that live in proximity to man (where they are not hunted)… sometimes feels like a different animal altogether than those you encounter when in the woods…… Something about being on the dinner menu that makes them very wary! Be interested to see how you do when camo’d up, but don’t forget the face mask and gloves, and let us know how it goes.

  2. Dwight

    Jim,

    This is hilarious! I remember a conversation with a couple of hunting buddies about 20 years ago during buck season. We were back at camp talking about the use of camo during a squirrel and rabbit hunt. I told them I still camo’d-up because I swore I had better luck that way. They laughed and told me I was full of s#%t, and that it really didn’t matter if you wear camo or not for small game. I never did an official experiment because what I was doing was working, but I wish I would have. Anyway, thanks for the article. If I ever see those guys again, I’m going to bring up this article. 🙂

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Dwight;
      If you think about the fact that everything in the woods that eats meat goes after squirrels, and their primary defense is sight (followed by hearing), it’s not a surprise that thwarting this defense would improve results. It’s funny the bias when it comes to small game; I know guys that camo up when we hunt hogs and a pigs sense of sight is so bad they’ll almost trip over you even if you’re outfitted in day glow (OK an exaggeration), but won’t wear camo when after squirrels that see better than the hunter. If you do some experiments, share your results with us.
      Jim

  3. Jim McKee

    hi!
    I enjoy squirrel, crow, woodchuck, etc. hunting in Ohio. My question is would you recommend the FX Royale 500 Synthetic with Three Stage Power Adjuster for hunting these critters? Is there another .25 caliber rifle that can provide better accuracy? Your comments are welcomed.
    Thanks!
    Jim

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Jim;
      I think the Royale 500 in .25 is a fine choice, you get accuracy (great accuracy), and power (lots of power) in one of the finest bottle forward guns ever built. My son and I took this gun to Kansas on a prairie dog trip a while back, and we were knock 100 yard dogs down left and right. There are a lot of good .25s out there, but I don’t think you’ll find anything with noticeably better accuracy at any price point.
      Regards,
      Jim

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