Why even go hunting if you're going to freeze out or be picked off by your quarry? These garments can improve your results.
By Bill Winke
One of my early memories is of a television commercial that delivered a clear message: "You are what you wear." That meant I was a tattered T-shirt. I owned one pair of jeans and seven nearly threadbare shirts.
Well, whether you like it or not, you are what you wear -- and it's as true of deer hunters as anyone else.
STAYING WARM & DRY
Wearing windproof materials is one of the smartest things you can do if you want to stay warm. Any-thing you can do to cut the wind and humidity while on stand will help you enjoy hunting more and keep you on stand longer.
You've likely worn products incorporating Gore-Tex, the remarkable product from W.L. Gore. It's actually a super-thin layer of Teflon that is specially made so that it has tiny openings in it. These are small enough to prevent water droplets from entering the garment but large enough that water vapor molecules from the inside can escape. This allows natural body moisture to move through the garment quickly, so the wearer doesn't feel clammy.
W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. began in Bill and Vieve Gore's basement in 1958, when Bill began making wires and cables insulated with PTFE (the fancy name for Teflon). W.L. Gore added a second product category in 1969, when Bill and Vieve's son, Bob, found that a thin layer of rapidly expanded Teflon would repel water while still remaining breathable. Gore-Tex was born.
Browning 4-in-1 Parka with Gore-Tex
The membrane wasn't laminated to fabric until 1976, because Bob was not willing to release his invention commercially until he had ideally formulated and thoroughly tested it for the application. Such exhaustive research and development remains a Gore trademark.
Gore's Windstopper is another product with which every deer hunter should become familiar. Like Gore-Tex, it is a thin, breathable membrane, but it is not 100 percent waterproof. As the name implies, Windstopper's job is to keep wind from penetrating outer clothing so you feel warmer with less bulk.
Many companies making hunting apparel use Gore membranes in their products. I've worn them extensively in all parts of the U.S. and in every weather condition, and they work well.
Game Hide makes a range of hunting garments. Its Hush-Hide series features silent, burr-proof performance.
Game Hide is another company that understands the demands of tree stand hunting. The company makes several styles of outerwear for deer hunting, including a down jacket and vest, insulated and non-insulated scent-eliminaing outerwear, fleece wind-blocking outerwear and traditional poly/cotton garments.
Game Hide's best system is its Ultimate Sportsman Hush-Hide series, which is made with a micro-fiber outer shell (called Hush Hide) for silent, burr-proof performance. Game Hide combines this shell with a membrane called Tech Plus, which is both waterproof and breathable. Tech Plus also stops the wind.
For tree stand hunting, here is what I'd choose from this line. First, I'd want the parka. The Extreme Parka is top of the line, with such great features as a comfortable micro-fleece lining in the hand-warmer pockets and in the detachable hood. You can zip a removable liner jacket out of the garment if your activity level increases or the temperature warms.
Game Hide's Chase insulated waterproof breathable bibs complement the Ex-treme parka. They are also made of Hush Hide and Tech Plus for the ultimate in all-weather protection and warmth. The front pockets are micro-fleece-lined. The legs are zippered, so you can put your bibs on after reaching your stand.
There are several very practical garments in Game Hide's Scent Eliminating series. The best piece is the Full Draw Jacket. You can purchase this waist-length jacket with either Scent-Lok or Ab-Scent lining. The outer shell is Game Hide's Hush Hide micro fiber, and the jacket is unlined. It's a great early-season choice when worn over a light shirt. Later in the season, layer it over a fleece sweater. The jacket also has a vented back for early-season comfort. Hush Hide Scrape Pants go with this jacket to create a great scent-reducing system.
THE VALUE OF GOOD CAMOUFLAGE
Properly chosen, modern camouflage patterns can make a motionless hunter vanish. In the past, hunters have always felt the need to hide behind something to break up their profile, so they'd hunker behind bushes or in ground blinds. Today's camouflage patterns allow a well-outfitted hunter to hide in front of the cover.
Some of today's patterns are so effective they actually create an optical illusion. Camouflage experts say that when a deer (or a human) looks at a combination of blurred background and detailed foreground images, it has a hard time focusing on both at once. This creates a three-dimensional effect. Every good camo pattern is designed to achieve this effect.
Realtree no longer manufactures its own garments. The company licenses its camouflage patterns to other companies and promotes the patterns to the public. This lets the team focus on their two largest efforts each year: producing new patterns, along with television shows and videos.
While the Max-4 camouflage pattern imitates grasslands, marshes and cornfields, it also works quite well in trees.
The current list of Realtree patterns includes four options: Hardwoods, Hardwoods Green, Hardwoods Blaze and Hard-woods Snow. All are characterized by their very sharp detail, and that's why they carry the HD (High Definition) name. The overlying bark, branch and leaf patterns are incredibly sharp and intricate, but the background images are muted and blurred.
Each of the Hardwoods patterns has a
niche. Standard Hardwoods works great in autumn trees. It has the same basic color tones as the bark of hardwood trees from which it derives its name. Hardwoods Green includes a scattering of green leaves to help it blend more completely with trees and brush that still have growing foliage. It's also great for spring turkeys.
The other patterns in this line focus on narrow applications. Hardwoods Snow is, as the name suggests, a winter pattern. Hard-woods Blaze is useful when hunting where blaze orange is required, but where the use of some camouflage effects in the garment is permitted.
Advantage, also owned by Bill Jordan, features four patterns: new Max-4, Classic, Wetlands and Timber. Classic is one of the most popular camo patterns ever created. Max-4 mimics grasslands, marshes and cornfields, but it also looks great in trees. Timber is ideal for tree stand hunting, and Wetlands is the original Advantage waterfowl pattern.
NaturalGear camouflage is based on the same color scheme as that of the whitetail, which has little trouble hiding -- even in open woods.
NaturalGear makes and sells garments of its camouflage. The pattern's background is based on earth tones and those of the whitetail itself. Ever wonder how a deer can vanish even in open timber? Its coloration matches the prevailing tones of the natural setting in which it lives. NaturalGear designers used the same color in the background of every pattern.
Over this background the designers placed a contrasting layer to break up the hunter's outline. The original NaturalGear pattern has dark browns, grays, black and light brown to mimic trees and brush. It also works well on the ground.
NaturalGear Evergreen has pine boughs in the foreground, introducing enough green to permit the pattern to blend well with pines and early-season hardwoods. NaturalGear Snow features a white background with a foreground of dark brown and black mottling.
Other garments include a wide range of insulated and non-insulated jackets and pants. For example, early-season bowhunters will like the Archer's Jacket. It is quiet with a cotton shell and has a zipper front. The Bomber Jacket is insulated for warmth. NaturalGear also makes a windshirt that provides lightweight protection from cold blasts. You'll even find insulated and non-insulated bibs and six-pocket pants, as well as leaf-cut camouflage outerwear.
Cabela's has expanded the line of Seclusion 3D camouflage it unveiled in 2003, adding Konifer (evergreen) and Open Country (self-explanatory) variations to the original pattern.
A wide array of garments, available with or without the Scent-Lok odor-control liner, make up this year's line of Silent Weave products. The poly/cotton construction is durable and quiet, and with six separate focal distances of detail, every version of the pattern mimics the depth and shadows found in nature. With a background of dissolved universal tones, Seclusion creates shading and highlights to blend the top two layers into your surroundings.
The original Seclusion pattern is made for hunting in a range of habitats, and it is right at home in most tree stand setups. For hunting whitetails in grasslands and scattered brush from the prairie provinces of Canada to northern Mexico, Open Country is the option to choose. Konifer, meanwhile, is made to blend into pines, cedars and other such cover, whether you're hunting in the Florida Panhandle or northern Idaho.
The Elimitrax system utilizes pullover booties to keep your entry trail free of human odor.
DON'T FORGET TO HIDE YOUR TRACKS
As hunters walk, they leave scent on the ground, low vegetation and anything they or their unprotected clothing items touch. Deer smelling this human scent are less inclined to use the area freely in the future.
Elimitrax came out with a product that eliminates this unwanted trail. The system consists of a pair of pullover booties extending to your upper thigh and held in place with elastic shock cord and straps that attach to your belt. These large overboots go right over any pair of regular hunting boots.
To protect the lightweight material from the foot-to-ground abrasion of walking, the system also includes a pair of strap-mounted soles or sandals you put on and take off quickly. The system is portable and easy enough to use that it can be slipped on for the last 200 yards to your stand, then removed at the base of the tree.
The pullover booties and over-boot soles are made of a specially formulated plastic that carries no odor of its own. This keeps human scent from being transferred to anything you contact from mid-thigh down. The booties are also waterproof for short periods, so you can use them for crossing streams as you move through an area.
I've used the Elimitrax system for a couple of years now, and I've been quite impressed with its ability to keep deer from detecting my trail. In fact, I haven't seen indications that a whitetail has ever been able to detect where I have walked while using this system.