Growing up in suburban Massachusetts, I had never touched a bow or gun until I was in my early 20s. My knowledge of hunting weapons was extremely limited. When I became serious about learning how to hunt, I quickly discovered that I had to make a choice — was I going to learn to hunt with a gun or with a bow? Was one type of weapon going to be more effective for a new hunter like me?
I bet I look ridiculous right now, I thought to myself. Nick and I were sitting in full camouflage in the middle of an open pasture of National Forest. A herd of cows was approaching from the west, and they didn’t seem to see us. Eventually, the cows started to surround the rocks we were sitting on top of, just ten yards away, many of them looking straight at us. They must see us, I reasoned. We stayed still and they carried on with their grazing. Were they indifferent, or just unaware? To find out, Nick stood up. The cows immediately reacted with mild panic, scattering away with great haste.
Was it the brand new camo I was wearing? Had my new outfit turned me into a backcountry ninja? Or just a (much less impressive) cow ninja?
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about hunting camouflage over the last few years. I’ll examine how animal vision and perception inform camo selection, outline the pros and cons of different camo styles, and share my favorite camo tips.
Small game hunting most commonly refers to the pursuit of animals the size of rabbits or squirrels. And while bringing home a cottontail for dinner isn’t as noteworthy as hauling back a deer, small game hunting can be rewarding and delicious. In addition, small game hunting can be a good place for a first timer to begin their journey toward becoming a competent hunter. Small game tends to be relatively plentiful, easy to find, and require very little specialized gear, thus providing excellent opportunities to hone skills without having to make a huge investment in equipment or travel. Small game hunting is where Robyn and I started when we decided to learn to hunt, and we’re glad that we did.
The one piece of gear that is not optional in small game hunting is some sort of weapon. For new hunters like us, this meant either a rifle or shotgun. After Robyn and I learned basic gun safety and how to use a rifle, we faced the hurdle of figuring out what guns we should buy. We quickly found dizzying array of small game gun options to choose from. The wide selection was intimidating at first — we simply had too many choices.
An assemblage of optics, some ideal, some less so.
Seeing well is vital to hunting well. If you can’t see it, you won’t kill it, and most importantly you won’t eat it. There are lots of variables that go into successfully spotting game animals, but one of the biggest sets of variables in this equation are the optical tools hunters use. Prescription eyewear, sunglasses, binoculars, spotting scopes, riflescopes, and rangefinders each enable (or disable) a successful hunt.1 In a earlier post I mentioned that the choice of optics for hunting is worth its own post. So, in this post I break down our experience with optics, what we wish we had known when we started, and what we think are the best strategies for purchasing optical equipment. The advice can be summed up succinctly: buy once, cry once.
Most of our hunting occurs in the desert. Our hunting areas are characterized primarily by sagebrush, creosote brush, and cholla cacti. It’s pretty rough terrain subject to very harsh weather extremes. From foot scorching, mouth parching heat in the summer to bone chilling nights in the winter, the desert has a range of temperatures. It also has monsoons, flash floods, wicked lightning, and sand storms. Oh yeah, and it’s a desert. So all the water I have to drink to stay hydrated is packed in on my back. The desert is a challenging place to hunt and an even more challenging place to backpack hunt.