Camo Culture: What Your Camo Says About You
By PJ DelHomme
Do you know a hunter who swears by one camo pattern? Do you know how this hunting camouflage craze began? And most important, what does your camo say about you?
In recent decades, hunters have seen an explosion of camouflage patterns and companies, resulting in nearly cult-like cliques. To help lighten the mood around hunting camp, we took some liberties to make several gross generalizations and assumptions about you, me, and the rest of our camouflaged hunting brethren. Please, don’t be mad.
If you still wear plaid when you hunt, chances are you heat your house with a wood-burning stove, and you chop all that wood yourself. You swear by hanging a buck by the antlers on the meat pole, and you love a good lobster roll. After you bag a good 10-pointer, you’re back in the woodshop the next day, turning some wood handles on the lathe or getting ready to make homemade maple syrup.
Plaid is the original camo. Your grandfather and all his friends wore red buffalo-plaid Mackinaw coats because they were quiet and made from wool. They were incredibly warm, dense, and water-repellent. And red is an ideal color for hunting. To deer, red looks green. Plus, plaid has a micro and macro pattern, which breaks up solid shapes—like you creeping through the woods. All you want is something that doesn’t look like a solid blob in the woods. Plaid does that, and you can still wear it to Sunday dinner.
Vietnam-era Tiger Stripe
Give the guy his space if you see a grizzled older gentleman nursing a beer at the bar, and he’s wearing this camo. Chances are he’s got an ‘82 Ford in the parking lot held together with baling wire, and there is some sort of blue heeler mutt in the cab waiting to eat your face if you park next to it. He chain-smokes Camels while pulling a tank of oxygen around behind him.
This camo pattern was never designed for hunting ungulates. It was made to hunt people. During the Vietnam War, it was adopted by American Special Forces units. The striped pattern works for tigers in the jungle, so why wouldn’t it work for humans? It’s not mainstream, but it’s pretty darn cool, and it’s certain to keep people out of your business.
The Original: Trebark
This pattern says one of two things. One, you’re too stubborn (or cheap) to update any of the hunting gear you bought 40 years ago—neither of which is bad. Or two, you’re an adult-onset hunter who keeps mustache wax in the glove box of your Sprinter van. You love looking, feeling, and acting as vintage as possible. You’ve done your homework, and you know who started the camo craze because you’re wearing it.
Jim Crumley was a schoolteacher who started selling his Trebark clothing in 1980. His pattern was the first camo designed for hunting animals instead of people. With his first 10 yards of material, Crumley made a two-piece suit to wear for advertisements, which he placed in Bowhunter magazine. Orders came in, and Crumley found investors. Business boomed and caught the eye of the folks at Mossy Oak, who eventually bought Trebark around 2000.
You shop at Walmart for tires, diapers, light bulbs, milk, and tube socks. You live two hours away from the closest Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s and don’t have time to mess with buying other clothes for hunting. Plus, you know that the camo pattern on your jacket matches the camo pattern on the couch at hunting camp. And you’d get the same pattern on your home furniture if your wife let you.
On the heels of Trebark, Bill Jordan was just getting his company up and running. This time, though, Jordan had a twist to the camo business model. He wasn’t going to sell clothes, he was going to sell licenses to his camo patterns. That wasn’t his plan all along, but that’s how it worked out. I’d say it worked rather well.
Your drawl is so thick after a couple of cold ones that only your closest friends and three-year-old can understand you. You don’t think sucking crawfish heads is gross, nor do you mind pulling ticks out of your dog’s ears—or your own. You refuse to hunt during an Ole Miss game, and your collection of bass lures is worth more than the GDP of a small African nation.
If you haven’t guessed, Mossy Oak was born in Mississippi—right after Bill Jordan was discovering the joys of camo licensing. Now, Mossy Oak dabbles in everything from real estate to fishing to golf—and hunting. You can still see the remnants of Trebark camo in many of their patterns.
Sitka, KUIU Crowd
You recently sold your tech start-up, bought a second home in Boise, Idaho, and thought hunting elk seemed like the “local” thing to do. You were the highest bidder on a Stone’s sheep hunt, and you’ll need $8,000 worth of clothes to sleep above timberline for a week. Or you’re single, drive a Tacoma with a rooftop tent, and bowhunt elk for three weeks every September. You’ve got more time than money, but you’re okay with eating ramen for a month if that means you get some new rain gear.
Sitka Gear started with two young guys wearing sub-par gear on an Idaho elk hunt. They were downright miserable in the wind and rain. Their technical mountaineering and skiing gear kept them warm and dry, so why couldn’t their camouflaged hunting gear do the same? With that in mind, they launched the first technical clothing line for hunters. Years later, one partner split and created his own line, naming it KUIU. The use of performance fabrics and “turning clothing into gear” spawned a camo renaissance in the hunting industry. The new generation of gear is good, but it comes with a price.
That One Guy With a Hoodie and Carharts
One of the guys on the job site invites you to his hunting camp over the weekend. You’ve never hunted before, but you throw on a hoody and some Carhart coveralls. You borrow the camp’s .30-06 loaner and get dealt the crappiest stand on the hunting lease. While playing Candy Crush on your phone, a buck walks out of the woods and you shoot it. You text a buddy, “I think I got a buck.” When they show up, you can’t understand why they’re all excited. Apparently, you shot the biggest deer that camp has seen in years.
Hunting isn’t about matching your camo pattern with the terrain or spending a mortgage payment on new camo each and every year. It’s about getting out there as much as you can. Besides, you’re never going to fill your freezer if you’re sitting on the couch—even if it is covered in camo.