Let me set the scene for you… It’s a miserably hot late summer day. I walk into Cabelas, greeted by the smell of roasted cinnamon cashews mixed with the fragrance of new gear. The air conditioning system hits me like a ton of bricks, immediately taking my mind off of the heat, and back to my purpose for the trip. I’m on a mission – find fall hunting clothing.
In no obvious order, I track back and forth between the isles, looking for specific items. Usually, I’m trying to locate several pairs of pants, shirts, and an outer layer or two. Though I’m looking, I might as well be blind when it comes to this. I am shopping by the senses of sound and touch. I grab several items, moving them around between my hands, checking to see what kind of noise they make. More often than not it reminds me of a bag of potato chips; loud, but looks amazing.
Learning how to find the right clothing took me a while. Growing up, I would use what was handed down to me, bought on sale, or mixed in with regular old street clothes. Looking back, I wish I would have never changed that. I bought into the typical hype of “must have” products. With my subconscious buying habits, I later in life ended up getting what I was told was a good product. To not bash them, I won’t name them, but there are quite a few companies that did not live up to the hype. Wet, cold, and topped off with buyers remorse nearly every season, it was time to start thinking harder about the clothing I was buying.
The typical hunter these days, in most high populated areas, can be found covered from head to toe in the latest camouflage pattern and gear. To me, there is nothing wrong with this. I am a firm believer in using what gets you in the woods. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the wonderfully wild world around us. Hunting public land, I can often hear these hunters coming. The sound of their synthetic materials moving through the woods often takes me back to the mid and late ’90’s. During these moments, I reminisce in the memory of the all too fashionable wind pants of my youth. I may have had the jacket too… no judging.
I’ve purchased a fair share of loud synthetic and synthetic/natural blended hunting clothing in the past. A lot of this was bought on the idea that it would conceal me. For rifle hunting it would have been fine, and served me well in that capacity. Running through the woods or slowly raising a bow on an animal at 10 yards from my tree stand with a stick bow, would prove that these loud materials would be the bane of my bow seasons.
I think the best approach to “how much to spend” is to buy the best gear you can afford. However, there is no need to spend a ton of money on new clothing. I can normally be found in cheap cotton camo and flannel from Walmart and Tractor Supply Co. Not only are the deer okay with this, so is my wife. For a typical whitetail deer tree stand hunt, I am most likely within 500 – 800 yards of my vehicle. With this limited amount of movement, sweat wicking and other perks aren’t normally needed. A quiet cotton material will typically suffice. In 80º+ weather, I have found a need for sweat wicking materials. Normally, a polyester based sports or performance style shirt works well.
Unlike treestand hunting, spot and stalk creates a whole new monster. This is when any noise whatsoever needs to be masked or eliminated. In the past, I have been able to sneak up on deer in nothing more than blue jeans, a tee-shirt, and wool socks over my boots. Coming within 8 – 10 yards of these animals and not registering as a threat, or potentially not even an animate object, quickly taught me it’s not about the camo. It’s all about being quiet, which ultimately masks movement. My go-to’s for spot and stalk, or still hunting, are articles made from natural materials. Wool, cotton, and fleece work exceedingly well and keep quiet, even when snagged by pesky thorns and branches.
Here in Northern Virginia we can feed deer during designated months outside of hunting season. I’ll typically do this to support the wintering success rate by supplementing food. It has also proved to be a good measure of “woods-worthiness” for my clothing. A deer on a food pile is far more spook easy than any deer I’ve drawn my bow on. This makes for good practice and excellent testing, especially right after rifle season when their 6th sense is on a hair trigger.
Selecting clothing in the store for quietness can be hard. Thanks to excellent customer service in the hunting industry, most unworn mistakes can be undone. I suggest grabbing the clothing or items your interesting in, and moving to a more quiet area of the store. You may look a little strange checking out a new jacket and seeing what sounds it makes near the women’s night wear, but it’s better than busting a wall mounter in that new windbreaker. Recently, I realized that my go-to store for gear and clothing played music in the dressing rooms. This is what has prompted me to go elsewhere in the store to sound check.
Don’t worry about the camo patterns or using different brands. It’s becoming more and more common to see mismatched hunters afield like years ago. I personally believe it does a better job at breaking up your pattern than a single pattern. A lot of companies have their niche. One may have a quiet and comfortable pant, while the other makes a top that is amazing. It only makes sense to use both. Don’t get wrapped up in the hype. It doesn’t matter that your camo matches, and it won’t make you a better hunter. The key here is being comfortable and quiet.
Next time you’re looking for gear be sure to take noise into consideration. You may not look the coolest, but a full freezer has no judgement. There are a lot of things we do to get the animals we pursue. Scent control, gear, and gadgets are the go to, but we often forget to keep it simple. Silence is deadly.