Big game hunters know how important hunting camo is when it comes to concealment. The right camouflage pattern can make you practically invisible to your prey, which allows you to get close and take the best shot possible. With so many different types of hunting camo patterns available, it can be challenging to figure out which one will help you harvest the most meat this season. In this guide, we’ll break down different types of hunting camo patterns to help you find the best deer hunting camo and best bow hunting camo based on the animal you’re hunting and your environment.
Types of Hunting Camo
Before discussing the best camo for deer hunting and big game, let’s go over some of the basics of camouflage. Popular brands like Mossy Oak and Realtree have their own proprietary camouflage names, but no matter what it’s called, all hunting camo patterns fall under one of these two types: mimicry and breakup (digital).
What Is Mimicry Camo?
As the name suggests, mimicry camo tries to mimic your surroundings to help you blend in. This could be a brown background with sticks and branches for fall hunts or white background with sticks and branches for the winter. Think of it as the type of camouflage that could fool a human, if done right. However, properly sporting mimicry camo can be quite a challenge on a hunt when seasons change, weather is fickle, and the environment you plan to hunt in may not look exactly as you planned.
What Is Breakup Camo?
Breakup camo, also known as digital camo, breaks up your outline to help you blend in with the environment. Unlike mimicry camo that uses actual elements of nature in the design, breakup camo uses colors and shapes to achieve concealment. If put to the test, humans should be able to distinguish this camouflage much easier than mimicry. However, you have to remember that you’re trying to hide from the animal you’re hunting, and animals, especially big game, do not see the world as we do.
Basic Camo Patterns
Most camouflage pattern/color combinations are designed to suit an environment as a whole. While it seems a new, innovative camo pattern enters the market every year, most hunting camouflage falls under one of these categories:
As you can see, woodland camo is suited for forests and heavily wooded areas. It is great for most deer hunting seasons except winter, which is when you’ll want a snow camo pattern if the weather calls for it. Marsh camo is mainly for waterfowl hunting and swampy areas, so it is not ideal for most deer or elk hunts. Brush camo patterns are perfect for elk hunting out west. The lighter patterns of dirt and dead grass match the arid terrain and keep you concealed even when there is no natural cover.
Do I Need Camo for Hunting Deer and Other Big Game?
Camouflage hunting clothes allow you to get closer to your target to take a better, cleaner shot. Without the right camo, you’d need to take your shot from a longer range to avoid being seen. While it is certainly possible to take down a buck in your everyday attire, it’s highly discouraged. The closer you are to your target, the more ethical of a shot you can take. Experienced hunters may be able to forgo camo clothes with a long-range rifle, but bowhunters will always need camouflage to get within range of their target.
Another point to consider is that most states require you to wear some type of blaze orange camo while hunting. Make sure to check your local and state regulations regarding this before your next hunt. If you’re concerned that the bright orange color will give away your position, continue reading to learn why that doesn’t matter for big game hunting.
Can Deer See Blaze Orange Hunting Vests?
Did you know that deer cannot see blaze orange as humans do? According to the National Deer Association, deer cannot perceive longer wavelengths of color like red and orange, which appear brown or gray to them. However, deer can easily detect movement in the distance. That’s why breakup (digital) camo patterns are the best for hunting whitetails. Breakup camo blends your outline into the environment so that sudden movement is significantly less noticeable to your prey.
How to Choose the Best Deer Hunting Camo
Even though deer can’t see color that well, the type of breakup camo you choose still matters. Deer can still see patterns, and the background of your camo needs to match your planned hunting environment. Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal camo pattern that works well in all landscapes. You need to choose a deer hunting camo pattern based on where you’ll be hunting and the time of year. While it’s difficult to nail down the perfect type of hunting camo pattern for whitetails, it’s helpful to think about how you plan to hunt.
For example, if you’re hunting up north in a treestand, you will be elevated in the treeline. That means you need to blend in with the sky and treetops. On the other hand, you’ll want a camo pattern that helps you blend in with the dark tree bark and branches if you’re on the ground. Now picture these situations reversed. If you wore darker hunting camo while in a treestand, deer will see an out-of-place dark spot in the treeline. If you wore lighter hunting camo while on the ground, deer will see you as a light blob against the darker trees. Regardless of color, these patterns impact how easily deer will see your movement.
Can You Mix and Match Camo Patterns?
The above point is a great example of why mixing and matching camo can work in the right environment. This isn’t a fashion show; it’s a hunt. You want to dress appropriately to give yourself the best chance of filling that freezer with fresh meat. Treestand hunters may want a snow or lighter woodland camo hunting jacket to match the skyline but darker woodland hunting pants to match the tree they’re sitting in.
Spot-and-stalk hunters may want snow camo pants and a woodland top for winter hunts to simultaneously match the ground and the bare tree bark behind them. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with your camo choices.
How to Choose the Best Bow Hunting Camo
The biggest difference between hunting with a rifle and hunting with a bow is the distance between you and your target. Bowhunters need to get up close to their target to effectively take it down, usually no more than 20 yards. Truth be told, there isn’t much of a difference between rifle hunting camo and bow hunting camo. If you follow the thought patterns above, your bowhunting camouflage will work just fine.
When bowhunting, your camo choice is much less of a concern than your scent and noise. A deer’s greatest defense mechanism is its sense of smell. Some brands like ScentLok manufacture hunting clothes with built-in odor control, or you could opt for some good old-fashioned scent blockers.
As for noise control, make sure to buy hunting pants that mention being quiet or silent in the description or features. Browning, TrueTimber, and other popular brands offer a large selection of silent hunting trousers that greatly reduce sounds made during movement, and of course, they come in a wide variety of hunting camos.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Big game hunting camo offers many patterns and designs to help you stay concealed. While the number of camo patterns may be overwhelming at first, the right thought exercises will lead you to the best hunting camo for your needs. Here’s a quick recap of what we covered today:
- Breakup camouflage is best for deer hunting
- Deer cannot distinguish blaze orange vests from the brown trees
- Treestand hunters will usually wear different camo than spot-and-stalk hunters to match the skyline and treetops
- You can mix and match different camo patterns on your hunting outfit as long as it makes sense
- Camo is highly recommended for bowhunting, but controlling your scent and noise is more important
We hope this guide helps you pick out the best camo pattern for deer hunting and other big game. If you want to learn more about what to wear for a hunt, check out our guide on How to Choose the Best Hunting Clothes. Also, make sure to stop by OpticsPlanet’s hunting store to gear up for your next adventure and put your camo knowledge to work!