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Undercover: Camo-ing up for hunting season

Posted: Thursday, September 05, 2002

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) -- Camouflage gear has gone from Army issue clothing to uptown fashion, from children's playwear to weekend warrior outfits for playing paint ball. But to hunters it is a needed tool.

Archery hunters are among the most dependent on the clothing, concealing themselves from the wary eyes of game animals as they try to move within bow range.

''It's not completely clear whether animals can see color or not,'' says Carl Anderson, Fish and Game regional biologist. ''But without a doubt they can see shades and shapes. The whole key to staying unseen is to break up contours, the shape of the face, and limit movement.''

The main goal of the bowhunter is to stay undetected and get in range.

Prey have three senses to detect danger -- sight, sound and scent. Using the correct gear and moving carefully can increase the hunter's chances dramatically. Having Lady Luck on their side helps.

''When I pick camo to hunt in, I pick soft colors that blend into the surroundings,'' says Steve Chikato, owner of Bighorn Archery in Pocatello. ''I like a lot of detail that blends in really well.

''They say the larger the pattern, the better you will blend in at long range, but I don't care what I look like at 200 yards. I care what I look like at 15 yards.''

Chikato's first tip: Pick camo that matches the cover you will be hunting in.

''I like lots of highlights,'' Chikato says. ''It helps break up your image and your outline. Not enough highlights make you look too dark, and if you're too dark for the background they will be able to see you.''

''I think most people probably have too much dark in their camo,'' says Anderson. ''You're trying to make your face and body the same shades as the surroundings and not for a commando mission at night.''

Along with the body camo, hunters need to remember faces and hands before stalking their next big bull.

''I like face nets a lot more than the paints,'' says Chikato. ''With paint, I've had elk look at me at 10 yards and run away. With paint, they can still make out the contours of my face. But a face net is total concealment. It's soft and leaves no head outline.

''Along with their faces, hunters need to remember their hands,'' he says. ''Gloves or paint are a must. That is one of the first things you spot, when you see a hunter moving through the timber, because the hands look like a flag when you're moving. Unpainted hands are like waving two little white flags out there.''

After the body cover is in place, remember the odor. Along with acute sight comes a highly sensitive nose.

''The next biggest thing people can use for concealment is ScentLok or ScentBlocker type clothing,'' says Chikato. ''People think it is a gimmick, but it's not. The stuff really works and more people are beginning to realize it.''

ScentLok type clothing masks human scent with a charcoal lining placed between the fabrics. The charcoal absorbs odors coming from the body, making the hunter nearly invisible for scent detection.

''When you've been stalking an animal and the wind direction shifts, once they smell you it's over. With this stuff you have total concealment.''

Even though the clothing blocks odor, it has its limitations.

''Don't wear it around the camp fire or around the house, or in the truck on your way to hunt,'' he says. ''Place it in an airtight bag and pack it into where you are going to hunt before you put it on.

''Its works basically on the same principle as filling a glass of water,'' say Chikato. ''The glass will hold only so much water and so will the charcoal in the suit. It will absorb scent until it runs over.

''I really believe in it. When you have bears climb a tree toward your stand and sniff you and then just walk away, or an elk comes in downwind of you 10 yards and never spooks -- you start believing in it.

Movement and sound Hunting ability is the final factor when it comes to filling a freezer with winter meat.

Camo, scent eliminators and all the gear and gadgets in the world cannot bring success without skill in the hunt.

''People need to remember to move slowly, and think where they are going to move next,'' Chikato says. ''Quick, jerky movements get you spotted.

''People also need to remember not to walk across open meadows, and to stay in the shadows of the timber. Your outline can be spotted easily when you are moving in the open, and shadow of trees and brush can help conceal you.''

Humans see the color of camouflage clothing. That's because humans, like wild turkeys, have color vision.

Most mammals, including deer, have little if any color vision. Deer hunters and particularly bow hunters benefit greatly from good camouflage.

Bow hunting is a close range sport. With any wild game at close quarters, remaining unseen is a must. Camo helps the bowhunter by its muted tones, contrast and the illusion of a 3-D effect built into the pattern.

All this helps break up the hunter's outline. A hard-hunted deer knows exactly what a human profile is and what it means.

In addition to camouflage clothing, bowhunters should wear camo gloves and a face mask. The face mask should be rather close fitting to avoid tangling or interfering with the bow string.

Camouflage doesn't make you invisible. You must remain still, but it is a great help in concealing your presence from sharp-eyed game.

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