This article has been at least three decades in the making.
Camouflage can help a hunt but is not the be-all end-all. After all, our forefathers never wore camo and they were plenty successful in the field. Here's a drilldown of what I've discovered about hunting without camo.
At age 42, I have traveled through woods, fields, and swamps for almost that long. During that time, I have worn battered camouflage fatigues, olive drab, high-tech camo patterns and square-patterned flannel shirts and wool coats. Some hunters have even gotten away with wearing blue jeans.
These three factors work for or against you no matter what hunting clothes you wear:
1. Movement. If animals see movement, they fear it. Remember, movement could be a quick pounce from a predator. Even the slightest movement could spell disaster for them. Nature has hard-wired them to fear movement.
2. Human silhouettes. Game animals are especially fearful of the human silhouette. The shape of a human chest and head outlined against vegetation is a quick way to get noticed.
3. The human face. Light complexions have it the worst. It is like waving a flag at every animal, signaling you're out there. Even darker complexions might not be much better off. This also goes for any bare skin you may be showing while in the wilds.
Sitting still will keep problem #1 to a minimum. You can correct for animals' movement sensitivity by sitting really still, and possibly using a hunting blind or treestand to hide yourself better. Every little bit helps. Every little bit helps. Especially for deer hunting or turkey hunting.
Silhouettes require matching the patterns you wear the best to your surroundings. Try not to wear clothes that reflect light or have a slight glare to the fabric. If you are wearing light-colored clothes in a dark environment or vice versa you will get noticed quickly.
The human face can be covered by a face mask, head net or by camouflage makeup. Make sure you use one or the other as a full set of camo clothing is generally worthless without covering your face. This is especially important for bowhunters.
Hiking in cold weather while wearing the all-light-brown Carhartt arctic-lined clothing has been an interesting experiment. On a few separate occasions ,while clad in light brown winter clothes with my face covered by a balaclava and wearing sunglasses, I had strange interactions with wild turkeys. They appeared to be very curious about me and actually circled around me. One gobbler walked all the way around me from just feet away when I walked up on him and his flock. This Tom then wandered off in no hurry with his flock. A big hen also was quite curious on one occasion while wearing the same outfit.
As long as I wore this outfit, the wild turkeys were unafraid. When I switched over to hunting camo of any make, they ran in fear. The only thing I can surmise is the turkeys are used to seeing deer. While dressed in my heavy clothes, I may have looked like a two-legged deer? Strange as it may sound, it might be the only explanation, as these were really wild birds. They certainly knew camouflage meant hunters and danger.
So, camouflage is a danger sign to animals? No, not exactly. If they see a shape that is moving and they cannot identify it, they fear it. In the above instance, they thought they knew what I was but were way off. Curiosity also played a big role, too.
In terms of camouflage, we must remember that animals don't see the world as we do. A pretty pattern of leaves and sicks like Realtree or Mossy Oak that blends in well to human eyes might work the opposite for animals. They may not be completely color blind, but some colors on hunting clothing stick out like a sore thumb to an animal like a whitetail deer. On the flip side, some colors that stick out to us, like blaze orange, are nearly invisible to many critters. In order to stay invisible to animals, the material must be quiet and soft to avoid noise against brush. Also the material must not have any reflective shine qualities such as U.V. dyes. The pattern must at all cost break up your outline. You want the game to look through you, not at you. Especially if you're archery hunting.
Checkered patterned flannels and wool coats have worked great for hunters in the past. They still work great in traditional bowhunting along with any wildlife viewing or hunting activity. They are soft, soundless and the patterns break up your outline.
Solid colors and earth tones like olive drab, brown or grey can be tricky. the shades must match the background. If they do not you will appear as the dreaded human silhouette. Brown and grey colors are good for snow less winter landscapes and light greens for summer. Yes white is good when lots of snow is on the ground.
So, can you hunt without camouflage this hunting season? The answer is a resounding yes. Stay away from the color blue: that seems to be really visible to deer. Keep your human outline to a minimal. Don't move at all. Full camouflage patterns will probably give you an edge, but in my experience it's not the last word in hunting wild game.
Do you like articles about the outdoors? Click here to view more articles by Eric Nestor. You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram. You can view more Nestor Photography photos at Nestor Photography.