Hunting Camo: Fad or Function?

How Important Is Your Camo Pattern

By Will Bowen | PUBLISHED May 23rd, 2023

Thousands upon thousands of pieces of camouflage sit on shelves at big box stores and hunting retailers across the country. The variety is hard to top in the hunting industry and creates polarizing narratives amongst America’s hunters. “I wouldn’t wear (insert your least favorite camo here) if my life depended on it” or “I owe my biggest buck to (insert your favorite camo here)” are common sentiments. But when you step back and think about it, is your camo pattern really that important? 

I’ll go ahead and spoil the ending, I say NO. However, in saying that, I do feel that camo as a whole is important, but the pattern, oftentimes is irrelevant. Let’s step back and think for a minute about what the purpose of camo is: 

  • To break up the human outline
  • To allow you to blend in with the designated environment
  • A vehicle for hunting companies to sell products

Okay, the last point was a little jab at outdoor retailing and not entirely true, but it is something to think about. Are the camo patterns that you wore in the past really not as effective as the newest and best? I guess in a research-based technical sense, maybe, but do they, in and of themselves, lead to more harvests? One of my favorite historical hunting photos is that of Mel Johnson in 1965. For those that don’t know, in this picture Mel is holding two things, a recurve bow and the world record archery typical whitetail. It is also worth noting that he is sporting his favorite camo in this picture…..a red plaid shirt and blue jeans.  

I do feel that camo is an important tool but not a complete necessity. But, camo in more recent years has evolved in more ways than one. 

Camo is Often Used as a Fad More Than a Tool

How often do you see people in public wearing camo? If you are from a rural area like I am, you can guarantee that you will encounter at least one person a day wearing it. And the funny thing is they might not even hunt! Camo has become the symbol of an outdoor lifestyle and the type of camo you wear is often a status indicator. Be honest, what is your first thought when you see a guy walking around the restaurant wearing $300 camo jacket? He’s not braving the elements or fooling a critter’s eye while eating. More than likely he’s just proud of his jacket and hopefully his passion for the outdoors, but you can’t tell me anything about that situation adds to his credibility as a hunter. 

I don’t want to sound completely negative. I love seeing camo and various outdoor brands represented in the public. It’s a lifestyle, wear it proudly, but if we as hunter’s are going to use camo as a status symbol, I say we go back to buffalo plaid. Camo is a tool and is meant to be enjoyed. Do you agree? 

Being a Successful Hunter Doesn’t Depend on Camo

I’ve killed several bucks in the last few years wearing a green plaid button up and no deer have seen me because of it. If I do my part as a hunter, the pattern of my shirt should blend just fine. Hunting requires hiding from your target. I don’t depend on camo; I depend on cover. A dense cover behind you and some outline-breaking cover in front of you is the ticket. If your cover is adequate, spooking game is a lot more difficult.

I want to finish this article by saying I’m not picking on the camo junkies. It is my personal opinion that specific camo patterns are one of the least important aspects of a successful hunt. I like a good-looking pattern just as much as the next guy but like a lot of things in hunting, it’s just not that important. Taking the time to learn patience, woodsmanship, and critical thinking skills is what will make you a successful hunter. There’s no price tag or argument about that. 


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