Several years ago, when I started hunting in South Africa, I found that I’d usually be the only hunter in the group wearing camo. There was some good-natured ribbing about the camo clad American redneck, but my local friends would tell me that if you worked the wind and shadows properly it wasn’t necessary. As time went on I started dressing in more traditional khaki hunting cloths and using the natural cover to my favor, and had good results in the field. Ironically, on a recent trip most everyone else was wearing camo and I was the odd man out! It gave me a chuckle, but also got me thinking about “if and when” camo made a difference.
I think that while hunting with a centerfire on the Eastern Cape of South Africa for plains game, where shots are generally over 100 yards and there is plenty natural cover, working the wind and staying in the shadows is more important than clothing. That is so long as common sense prevails and you’re not marching about in colors or shades that make you stand out as a moving mass with a rifle. But for this particular type of quarry and hunting application, using the wind to your advantage has a far greater impact in my experience.
But the statement above does not hold true when the rules of engagement change: when the hunter is intent on getting in very close to their quarry for instance. This is the name of the game when it comes to airgun hunting, which like bow hunting is all about getting into 40-50 yard range. For me, the notion of hunting with an airgun is predicated on field craft, getting into the right position at the right distance and selecting the right shot. Many of the quarry we hunt as airgunners do not have a well-developed sense of smell, but rely on excellent vision and the ability to detect even slight motion. And with everything in the forest out to eat these smaller animals, survivors stay on high alert, relying on that outstanding visual acuity to avoid becoming a menu item.
The short answer to the question I opened with, does wearing camo improve an airgun hunter’s results, is that I believe it does. At least it does for certain game and in certain conditions. When squirrel hunting for instance, the quarry is often sitting in the trees with a clear line of sight from above. A hunter that is sitting at the base of a tree waiting for a squirrel to come out, will be busted if not able to meld into his surroundings. Even minor movement will be enhanced and easier to detect if the hunters outline is not broken up. Not only should camo clothing be worn in this setting, but gloves and face mask as well. From a tree dwelling squirrel’s perspective, a hunter’s face staring up from below is like a warning flag no matter how much body camouflage is being worn. And consider that the parts of the body that typically move the most are the head and hands. It stands to reason then, that covering these body parts will result in better concealment.
Next week I’ll pick up on the topic of camo clothing