My first conscious exposure to camouflage was Vic Morrow’s helmet cover: the one which his brother, a Marine in the Pacific, sent to him. After ‘Combat’, my next earliest memory would be the Denison smocks of Second World War British paratroopers (as seen in photographs, films, and on the box of my Airfix 1/72 figures). I thought of camo as being military and somewhat modern.
When I began to be interested in hunting, camo was either army surplus or civilian copies of the same. The problem with both was that one could be quiet and wet or dry and noisy. I didn’t know it at the time, and couldn’t have afforded it even if I had, that the answer was tweed. Wet or dry, wool is quiet and warm; and it sheds a fair amount of rain before the fibres become waterlogged. The natural dyes used in manufacturing tweed make it blend with the landscape. The checked patterns break up one’s outline. It is 19th century camo; and it still works today. Youtube videos of Scottish deer stalking show the client/presenter in Realtree or Mossy Oak beside the professional guide or stalker in estate tweeds. While the camo company is the sponsor, the anonymous tweed company gets the benefit of the advertising aspect of the programme. The stalker blends in better with the landscape.
When one cannot be hidden, camo enables one to hide in plain sight. That hiding is both physical and psychological. Physical hiding involves blending into the landscape’s colours and shapes. Psychological hiding is fitting into the environment: being seen, but not noticed. For example, if we stick to our Scottish Highland location, two people are legally carrying a shotgun. One is wearing jeans and a hoodie; the other is wearing tweed plus fours and a Barbour jacket. Psychologically, the latter belongs. A passing policeman might acknowledge his presence, but he won’t stop to ask for his paperwork. When hunting, psychological camouflage is when the animals in your environment have accepted or are oblivious to your presence. One morning during deer season, I was sitting on an end of a log which crossed a drainage ditch, being as colour coordinated, scent free, and environmentally attuned as possible, when a raccoon came down the trail toward me after a hard night in the cornfields. He came right up to my boot, looked at it and slowly raised his head, looking at me, until we made eye contact. Not particularly impressed, he jumped up onto the log in front of me, crossed to the other end, and stopped. He turned and looked at me again, thought for a moment, and then bounced down and went on his way. Whatever I was, I was not a threat to him (that day) and he didn’t need to tell the whole woods that I was there. That incident made a greater impression on me than it did on him. As far as he was concerned, I was in the way, but not out of place.
To return to the physical, hunting as I do in southwestern Ontario, I wear quiet, waterproof laminated, insulated, camo clothing. This year I was able to pick up a set of Cabela’s GORE-TEX® MT050® Cold-Weather Coveralls in Zonz Woodlands camo at a choice dictating half price.
This newish camo pattern is much lighter than anything that has been in the house before. But, I like that. I remember the early Mossy Oak Break-up as being rather dark; and in low light or when wet, the camo effect was lost and the wearer became a black blob. Zonz Woodlands will work well in sparse cover or when there is a bit of snow or heavy frost on the ground. Dawn, dusk, and weather will make their own changing overlays of shadow and dappled sunshine. Indeed, the best of camo is great at matching colours and disrupting outlines; but when caught in the wrong light, a man in a ghillie-suit looks like a bear with mange. So, a lighter background to the camo pattern hopefully isn’t a problem.
The Zonz theory is that the pattern gives greater flexibility as one negotiates the woods. In a tree stand, the lighter background will break up the human form so that it will not be silhouetted against the sky. In sparse cover, the viewer will be able to see through the wearer. Against a tree, the greys, tans, browns and greens will create the visual illusion of absorbing the wearer into the trunk. This might be a bit much for one camo to do. I have always thought that the strength of Mossy Oak patterns was that they were able to lose the wearer in the middle of something and that the strength of Realtree camos was that they were able to lose the wearer on the edge of something. For example, Shadow Grass Blades is great in the middle of a cornfield or a patch of reeds; whereas, Max-4 excels in the tall mixed grasses of the no-man’s-land between the field and the bush or in the grasses of whatever fence rows modern farming methods have left. This pattern is beyond the edge, taking the wearer into the thorn, birch, and ash which fringe the oak and maple.
Fall will tell how this camo performs, or, to be more accurate, how I perform in this camo.