Hunting Camouflage: The Ultimate Guide

Hunting Camouflage: The Ultimate Guide

Camouflage was originally in practice thanks to the military.

It gave them the ability to hide from enemies in harsh environments with plenty of foliage, and today it is used to hide from your prey while hunting.

While we primarily focus on camouflaging yourself to hide from waterfowl, it’s also applicable if you’re a whitetail hunter.

Hunting camouflage takes on a different approach.

You’re not just locking down one position (unless you’re in a tree stand): you’re going to be moving around, getting to certain vantage points, and actively tracking your prey.

The last thing you need to do is find out that your lack of camo has been sending them running before you even had a chance to get close.

Let’s get you all camouflaged up.

Does Camouflage Work for Hunting?

Wearing Camo In Hunting

Yes. Camouflage works for hunting.

If you wore your standard clothes, you’d likely attract attention from your prey.

We’ll get into what colors work for what prey later, but suffice to say that you should try to blend with your environment as much as possible.

If you scare one whitetail or one duck, they’re gone. Deer run for the hills, ducks fly aware and alert the rest of the flock.

Alerting one animal to your presence basically guarantees that everything in a half-mile radius from you is on alert. This means predatory animals and prey.

What Animals Can See Colored Camouflage?

Predatory animals, most often, can see brighter hues in your camouflage.

Humans are what is called trichromats, meaning we have the cones in our eyes to be able to see three different colors: red, blue, and green.

What this means is that while we can make out an animal-based on this blend of colors, most animals can only see two colors.

Prey doesn’t really have a need to see anything else, and so they’ve never developed the skill.

As far as predatory animals are concerned, many of them can see more colors than their prey, which gives them a biological advantage.

It’s safe to say that you’re going to have an easier time hiding from ducks and deer than you will coyotes or bears.

Camouflage Types

Think about yourself.

You’re somewhere around six feet, and you move differently to any natural predators that your prey face.

Don’t you think a bit of camouflage everywhere on your body is in order to conceal your approach?

That’s exactly right. These are the different areas of your body that you can camouflage, and how you should go about doing it.

Mask

Camo Face Mask

A hunting mask can either be one of two things: camouflage face paint, or a literal mask that you pull over your face.

We’ve done an entire buying guide on camo face masks because there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

Usually, masks will be woodland or winter camo-inspired, but it’s one of the few pieces of gear that also work in all-black.

So long as your jacket, pants, and other pieces of gear are sufficiently camouflaged, you can get away with all-black here.

Either way, it’s important to have some sort of mask or large hat on with face paint.

Imagine that you’re the whitetail or the pheasant that you’re hunting.

If you were to look up when you hear a noise, and you saw what looked like a floating head (because there’s no head camo on the hunter), it’s going to stand out and startle you.

Don’t overlook your head camo.

Jacket

Hunting Jacket With Camo Leaves

Your torso is the largest part of your body.

Most does is going to see you at about chest level, and most other prey (especially waterfowl) will be looking up towards you.

They’re going to notice the biggest part of your body moving if it isn’t camouflaged.

For this, woodland or winter camo is the way to go.

All-black would be a mistake unless you’re exclusively hunting whitetail deer before dawn.

Other than that, you’re still going to stick out like a big sore pink thumb in the middle of the marsh reeds or the woods where you’re hunting.

Go for in-depth, soft colored woodland camo on your jackets.

Make sure that the camo covers the sleeves properly, including the cuffs—you want full-body coverage.

Nets

Hunting Camo Net

There’s a marsh, you’re hunting waterfowl, but there are no reeds for you to hide behind.

There’s no dugout. Boom—instant solution.

Nets can work in a ton of different ways, whether you want to dress up your tree stand to hide that shiny aluminum construction or apply it to whatever you’re hunting.

Nets with desert camouflage were often used in conflicts in the middle east for snipers to hide in the sandy hills, and the same can be done to get the one-up on your prey.

Nets aren’t cheap, but they’re big and cover a lot of ground.

Woodland camo nets need a lot of patterns and texture to really make them look camouflaged (rule of thumb is, the larger an item is, the more it takes to camouflage it), which is why it’s recommended to just use one large net instead of two small nets. It’s more cohesive.

Gloves

Camo Gloves

These get overlooked all the time.

While both hands might be on the gun (and your gun probably isn’t camouflaged), it’s important to have camo gloves for the trek to your hunting spot.

It’s the same rule as with your face: the contrast of your skin against the camo is going to stick out, so you want to cover it up.

Even if you can’t find a pair of woodland camouflage gloves that fit well, going with an all-black pair is going to be a better idea than just letting your hands dangle by your side with no camouflage.

Bags

Camo Backpack

Woodland camo jacket, face paint, then a bright blue backpack hanging over your shoulders.

You see it all the time.

You need to think of every single piece of gear as being a way to either conceal yourself or make you stand out to your prey.

Camouflage backpacks are useless if you have a ton of items hanging from the outside, so always go for a backpack with enough space for your items.

Try to find a backpack with a large rifle holster to add some camo there as well.

Since you’re not going to be shooting with your backpack on, you still want it to be camouflaged when it’s in the grass or sitting by your tree stand, just to be safe.

Just, y’ know, remember where you put it.

Camouflage Patterns

So why is it different to know the different patterns?

Because I’ve thrown around the term “woodland camo” a lot so far, but there are still patterns outside of the color scheme to think about.

Different types of camouflage patterns and colors will work on different hunting grounds all over America.

After all, it’s a big country, and nature varies drastically as you travel.

You should understand camo patterns before you buy any camouflaged gear.

Look up your hunting areas, what patterns and colors are recommended based on the local foliage and what you’re hunting, and make an informed decision before you gear up.

Let’s go over the most common types of hunting camos.

Mimicry

Camo Pattern

Mimicry camo is what some animals will use to disguise themselves from predators, by camouflaging themselves as something familiar to the predator.

If you sound it out, the word mimic is right in there—it’s mimicking an animal to lead it into a false sense of security, kind of like what you do with duck calls.

Mimicry camo comes in far more variants than I can mention here.

Standard camouflage patterns help you blend into the environment, but mimicry camouflage will help you appear like whatever it is you’re hunting.

The main benefit of mimicry is to dually protect yourself from predators as well as prey.

If you’re in the middle of hunting, chances are that there’s a predator nearby that’s stalking their prey.

This can be coyotes, wolves, or any other form of predator that are also dangerous to humans.

Mimicry can be counterintuitive, though; you have to be careful when you wear it.

Wear predator mimicry camo in mating season, and it can actually make them get closer to you before they realize what you are.

If your camo registers as predatory to your prey, they might also get spooked.

It’s a balancing act, and usually only used for certain hunts.

Breakup

Mossy Oak

Most notably, Mossy Oak has a Break-Up Country pattern for their woodland gear, and it blends into trees so well that you have to play Where’s Waldo for a minute while you’re looking at their in-action sales photos.

Breakup camouflage is meant to break up your appearance and make you blend in with specific areas of the environment.

You’ll see a lot of breakup camo being used on jackets and nets for tree stand hunters, or anyone who’s going to be moving through the dense forest and wants to blend in with your environment while stalking your prey.

Breakup camo is one of the most common types of camouflage for hunters.

You can find it in tons of different patterns that emulate riverbeds, sand dunes, canyon rock, and more. The possibilities are basically endless.

If you’re interested in a read on breakup camo and how effective it is, you should see this article about Jason Hairston and how he’s been reshaping breakup camo.

Multicam

Hunting Camo

Just as you might expect, it’s meant to be used in multiple situations and areas.

Multicam isn’t the most common camo out there, and it’s because as time goes on, people are making the switch to break up camo more and more often.

Still, multicam can be excellent for seasonal transitions.

Some examples of multicam patterns are a woodland breakup blended with light patches of snow camo.

This is great during the beginning of winter and towards the end when the snow starts to melt just a bit.

Multicam can come in alpine, tropic, arid, and basically any patterns that would emulate an environment that has more than one-dimensional terrains or foliage.

You wouldn’t use multicam in the dead of summer in the backwoods of Virginia, but you might get some use out of it as the leaves change colors in New Hampshire during the fall. It’s situational.

If you ever plan an international hunting trip, it’s important to find out which type of camo you’re going to need.

In tropical locations, multicam would be one of the best you could possibly use.

Learn about the environment before you hunt anywhere outside of your normal grounds.

Tigerstripe

Vietnam Tigerstripe

Now, while we don’t have any jungles here in the United States, tigerstripe camo shouldn’t be off your radar entirely.

Tigerstripe camo mostly came out of Vietnam, giving up a way to blend in with the trees and surprise adversaries.

Nowadays, it has been used as a camo pattern in conflicts in the middle east over the past couple of decades.

It is the most effective camo?

No, I wouldn’t say so, but it does have its place.

If you’re going to be traveling internationally, this could be a good camo to pack up depending on where you’re going.

Tigerstripe is very situational.

If you even just pull up two Google images right now, one of an American woodland versus any jungle, you’re going to see different geometrical values.

There are more rigid lines and structured environments in woodlands, versus more curvy and out-of-control plants in jungles.

Then look at the difference between woodland and tigerstripe camo, and you’ll see how they blend in.

MARPAT

Marpat Camo

This one deserves a mention just so you know it. It’s not often used, but it does look pretty good.

MARPAT stands for marine patterns.

Marines go through tons of operations that we don’t even know about, in different environments that we can’t imagine, so it’s not really at my liberty to say that this is a useless camouflage.

You could use this in woodland or forest environments in tandem with other camouflage patterns, like break up.

MARPAT takes on a digital camo look, which can stand out in the dead of winter.

What Camouflage Pattern Should You Use?

It depends on your region and what you’re hunting.

I’m going to do my best to give you a quick breakdown of when you should be using camouflage, and what types to use.

  • Breakup camouflage is going to your best type of woodland camo. Breakup is a pattern while woodland usually refers to the color scheme. You can also use certain breakups with jungle camouflage and wetlands, though it depends on what you’re doing.
  • Tigerstripe camouflage is basically only good in jungle-like scenarios. You can’t just say “jungle” and have it apply to every situation, just like you can’t do the same with woodland camo. I would say this is very situational, and you should only use it in wetlands or jungles.
  • MARPAT camouflage doesn’t really have too much of a use. It can be used in summer and fall to blend in, but when you have the option of breakup or multicam, then you should go with them. You’ll notice that the digital style of MARPAT is mostly put in ironic military-themed civilian clothing.
  • Mimicry camouflage is best suited for specific situations and prey. It’s not necessarily an environmental camo (though it does usually contain environmental elements to help you blend in a little), so you’re going to have to research exactly what you’re hunting first and see if it would be a good fit.

Do You Really Need Full-Body Camo?

Hunter Watching

It depends on what you’re hunting. I don’t want to just throw a blanket statement over this and say “Yes, you should always have camo.”

Truth be told, if you’re specifically hunting predatory animals, camouflage is not a necessity.

It helps, it’s nice, but you’re not dealing with something that’s used to running away.

If you’re hunting prey (which is an ironic thing to say, but it fits), then camo is definitely a good thing.

You might notice that duck hunters will have a hat and no face paint, but sit in their marsh dugouts with camo nets and camouflage clothing.

It seems a bit peculiar, sure, but the goal is to have incoming ducks focusing on the decoys instead of focusing on you.

If a duck hunter is gaining a vantage point nearby and not directly in the marsh, then you will want to blend in with your environment, and full-body camo will be helpful.

If you’re hunting whitetail, which is among the most common prey in America, then full-body camo is an absolute must.

Whitetail is classified as ungulates, which commonly have dichromatic vision.

This means that they have fewer cones in their eyes, which is where we perceive light and color.

Instead of seeing us for what we are, they see us as threatening blobs.

Their vision is terrible. This goes for goats, pigs, sheep, antelope, and a ton of other ungulates. They just can’t see well.

They see two main colors: blue, and a tint of yellowish-green.

When your full-body camo covers your hands and your face, you blend in better with the trees, in the eyes of a deer, than you can even imagine.

It’s also important to note that they can’t really see reds, pinks, or orange.

While some states have laws that require you to wear 500 square inches of hunter orange (which can be a bit of a downer), it’s okay: deer can’t see it very well at all.

It just kind of blends into the other colors of your camo because of the way their eyes work.

Hazard orange isn’t going to completely ruin you, however, the light that reflects off of an aluminum tree stand might give you away.

That’s why it’s always good to use a camo net on your stand. Put your best foot forward.

I won’t drag the subject out too much, one type of hunting that doesn’t get enough credit is plains hunting.

Colorado, Kansas, other states with wide-open plains: they’re all great for hunting.

Problem is, how do you camouflage yourself for environments like that?

You want to use a lot of solid greens that can blend in with the grass, particularly if you’re going to sit in one position for a while or use a camo net.

If your prey sees you walk out into the middle of the field, they’re likely to avoid it for hours to come.

Camo is arguably more important here than anywhere else.

Which Brands Make the Best Camouflage?

Sitka Logo

I’ve tried tons of different brands for various pieces of hunting gear, and I can say confidently that brands matter.

We’re not talking about a countertop coffee maker here; we’re talking about gear that you need to rely on for the success of your hunt.

For that, these are some of the best camouflage brands out there.

  • Mossy Oak: Arguably the best camouflage brand in the world. Between woodland, winter and their own breakup camo patterns (like the Obsession lineup), they just know what works. Instead of just printing out more of the same, they work on developing new camouflage patterns to meet the demand of our fellow hunters. As innovators, they’re among the best camo brands.
  • Sitka: Sitka makes some of the best ultralight camo gear. There’s something to be said for lightweight camo clothing that offers good mobility; it can make your movements appear more natural since there isn’t a bulky exterior layer constantly being scrunched up.
  • Treezyn: Treezyn has two separate generations of camo, and they’re both worth a look. While I wouldn’t say that they’re the number one choice for camo, they definitely know how to make some fall and winter woodland camo that keeps you very concealed. A solid choice.
  • RealTree: With a heavy focus on duck hunting, RealTree is one of my personal favorites. They offer a narrow number of patterns, but each of them has been molded into something truly fantastic, with excellent shading and color combinations to look as close to the real thing as you can get. If you have the chance, their Timber camo will blow your socks off, particularly if you’re a tree stand hunter.
  • ScentLok: Another brand that makes fantastic, but limited numbers of camouflage patterns. Regardless of how much camo you need, ScentLok’s patterns all blend in with one another. Ideally, they’re best for woodland camo, but if you want to browse their camo patterns, you might be surprised by what you find.
  • Badlands: While the good folks at Badlands tend to focus on more fall and winter-type woodland camo, there are a few hidden gems here. They’re inexpensive, and I would say they’re a medium-tier choice if you’re looking for the highest definition camo you can possibly find.
  • Browning: They make camo for just about everything you can think of. Notably, their Hell’s Canyon camo is one of the best. It incorporates so many different colors and shades of green while actually allowing you to blend in with your environment. Their jackets and pants are best, but they also have some pretty nice hats. Browning continues to innovate, but they already have a huge selection for you to choose from.

How to Camouflage for a Hunting Trip, the Right Way

Man In Full Body Camo

Do you want my full, uninhibited take on how to fully prepare your camo for a hunting trip?

Let’s do it.

From head to toe, this is what you should be doing. Of course, adjust for the prey you’re hunting and the hunter orange regulations for your specific state.

Start from the ground up.

Begin with your boots, and compare the camouflage patterns against your pants and your jacket.

Make sure that even if they’re not the same (one tigerstripe, one breakup) that they’re somewhat cohesive together.

Nobody is expecting you to buy every piece of camo gear from the exact same place.

Do wear gloves of some sort, whether camo or all-black. Do not wear camouflage paint on your hands.

It seems like a good idea because you aren’t inhibiting mobility on your trigger finger, but it can add extra grime to your trigger and jams up your gun.

For your face, you want a face mask or camo paint.

I tend to lean towards masks just because they’re a bit easier, but whatever works for you is fine.

If you have bright blonde or colored hair, you’re going to want to wear a cap as well.

If you have brown or black hair, you can avoid the headgear.

Boots, pants, jacket, gloves, mask, hat, and make sure your backpack is also camouflaged.

Camo doesn’t make you invisible, but it can lend you a hand when it comes to maneuvering to a new rotation spot or vantage point.

I’ve outlined some tips on effectively using your camo to work for you.

Tips to Make Your Camouflage Work for You

It wouldn’t be much of an ultimate guide if I didn’t explain how to use all this camo, now would it?

Camouflage primarily protects you from being detected while you’re sitting still.

While many animals cannot see the orange streaks on your shoulders or hat, they can tell when you’re moving and make out your silhouette.

They’re actually pretty UV-sensitive, meaning when you move, UV light reflects off of you and alerts them to your position.

Follow these tips to get the most out of your camo.

Stay Still

Hunter On Tree Stand

In a tree stand?

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s going to be a lot easier for a whitetail to see you based on your movement than if you just sit still.

Again, they can see light, so they’ll see your silhouette move.

When you shift around, it can also release your scent and take it downwind to alert your prey.

Slow Rotations

If you spot a great ridge where you can get a one-up on your prey, you should approach it slowly.

Travel at half walking speed so you don’t alert any nearby prey of your position.

That new spot isn’t going to be any good if, by reaching it, you’ve scared off the very thing you came here to hunt.

Camo helps you remain undetected; it doesn’t make you invisible.

Natural Background

If you can’t find a spot, or you can’t decide on one, consider blending in with the shape of trees and backgrounds (hills, stony mountain bases, etc.) instead of just worrying about color blending.

If you’re in a tree and you have the ability to stand or sit in the same way that the tree is naturally growing, you’re as close to invisible as you can get.

Just be sure that when you raise your arms to either pull back on your bow or squeeze the trigger, that your arms coincide with the shape of the branches.

Use Nets in Creative Ways

Camo Net

If you can’t follow that last tip because it’s fall and there’s nowhere good to plant your feet, that’s okay.

You can use a net as a false background.

It will hide your silhouette and your camo clothing will blend in with it, making your arm movements less noticeable to wandering prey.

One Step Closer to a Perfect Hunting Trip

Concealment is key, no matter what you’re hunting.

If you want to reach that new record on your hunting trip, then you’re going to have to conceal yourself properly.

While blocking scents is a whole different issue when it comes to concealment, starting with visual camo is going to work well in your favor.

You can apply camo to just about any part of your hunting gear.

Remember to stay silent, out of sight, and you’ll be out of mind like a ghost in the night.

It’s one more thing to master on your way to becoming a grand hunting champion.

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