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Going crazy with camo

In my home office are bookshelves that encompass about 25 feet of outdoor books of all types, some dating back to the 1960s, and many on the subjects of upland bird hunting, waterfowling and big game hunting.

Looking through those books it is interesting to note the clothing worn by hunters in decades past. The bird hunters wore tan poplin trousers, tan bird vests and coats. The waterfowlers wore light brown Filson coats and tan “Jones” type caps. Once in a while I can find someone wearing a cap in a primitive camouflage pattern. Big game hunters wore felt hats — “cowboy hats” as some call them — cotton poplin pants in mild weather, wool in cold, snowy conditions. Somehow they all were able to shoot upland birds, waterfowl and big game without being decked out in camo like commandos.

Not so today. We have camo from head to foot to the point of absurdity — camo caps, shirts, jackets, pants, boots, gloves … even shotguns, rifles, scopes, binoculars, knives, billfolds, bows, arrows … Some auto makers will even deliver a pickup to you in full camouflage!

Camo clothing has become a “de-rigor” fashion statement that I find unsettling. I certainly make no apologies for being a hunter, but I somehow find it disturbing to see guys walking around the supermarket in camo, or at a pizza joint, restaurant, or heaven forbid, in church.

I should admit that for the last four decades or more, my favorite mild weather trouser/pant has been the same cotton jungle utility bottoms that we wore in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. I used to buy them at surplus stores dirt cheap, and wear them not for the camouflage but because they are comfortable, they dry quickly (unlike denims!) and they have a button fly and sturdy buttons on the pockets — no zippers to break or become frozen.

I don’t know if one can still buy them. I shot my last bull elk in November 2012 while wearing the jungle utility bottoms and a desert bighorn sheep a month later … same utility bottoms.

I never bought the tops because they get in the way of my cartridge pouch and knife, and well … that is just too much camouflage to suit me.

In cold, snowy weather I wear solid green colored Filson wool trousers, a Pendleton wool shirt over long johns, a wool mackinaw of some sort and a hunter orange fleece vest. If the temperature drops much below freezing I wear a wool cap with fleece lining; if it is warmer I wear a western hat.

For bird hunting nothing beats cotton poplin trousers. Mine are all made by Filson and Orvis. My shell vests are tan in color and made by the same two companies. I wear old flannel shirts when the weather is chilly, light cotton when it is warm. I am not fussy as long as they are 100 percent cotton with NO camouflage! The same goes for my caps.

I also should confess that almost 20 years ago I bought a Thinsulate one-piece suit that is a “snow camouflage” pattern. I wore it several times during late season goose hunts and liked it a great deal as I could lie right in a snowbank, stay warm and be concealed. I often have wondered if the suit would be a good choice for winter fox and coyote hunting, but have never tried it. I am afraid that with all the walking involved it might be too warm.

Back in the early ‘90s I went bowhunting a few times, managed to sneak to within 20 yards of a bedded four-point mule deer buck, and killed it with one arrow. I was wearing the old Vietnam utility trousers and a tan cotton shirt. No face camo, no head net.

I suppose wild turkey hunters indeed need full camouflage, painted faces and the like. I am not much of a turkey hunter but did shoot seven turkeys in my lifetime, and wasn’t wearing camouflage a single time.

Call me an old throwback, but I think we hunters have gone overboard with camouflage these days. OK, go ahead and ask me, “What sound does a dinosaur make?”

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been                             an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974