How to Properly use Camouflage


Apply Camouflage Properly


© Copyright 2004, by Gary Benton

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Camouflage is much talked about and used, but rarely understood. Part of our misunderstanding of camouflage is the result of watching too many action type movies. In the movies our hero generally has a specially designed camouflage uniform, as well as a very detailed and uniquely designed face pattern. While all of that adds to the excitement of the movie, it is hardly suggested for most hunters or military members. So, what is camouflage, why is it used, and how can you use it properly?


Camouflage is the art of blending into your natural surroundings, thus giving you the ability to remain unnoticed (this is especially important for turkey hunters). Sounds easy, but it is not that simple to maintain good camouflage. Your first consideration is determining what you want to remain concealed from. If it is an animal, determine first if it is colorblind. It is easier to camouflage from an animal that is colorblind and you can actually use international orange, red, and other bright colors without any loss of concealment. This may be an important safety factor if you wish to use camouflage patterns, and yet remain seen by other hunters. But, what if you are camouflaging against animals or humans that are not colorblind?


Your concern at that point is making sure your camouflage matches your surroundings well enough that you remain unnoticed. It would, for instance, not be to your advantage to use desert camo in a woodlands environment (unless your game is colorblind perhaps). Also, if you attach plants or bushes to yourself for camo, make sure they match the area you may be in. Nothing will grab the eye more than the wrong color, or type of plant, in the wrong place, unless it would be when that object is moving. Your goal with camouflage is to blend in and become one with your surroundings. This is done effectively by simply breaking up the human form.


Additionally, take a look around you as you move with your camouflage (situational awareness the military calls it). If you have bushes attached to you and you are moving over a field, you will be noticed. Additionally, any plant life you use as part of your concealment should fit the area. By that I mean, if the area has only pine trees and you are wearing oak or long grasses as part of your camouflage, you will stand out. Many military members will stop when they enter a new area and apply fresh camo to match the area. Keep in mind also, your greenery will die after a short period and start to droop. You will have to cut and attach fresh camouflage at that point. You want to look natural, not like you have been ill.


One area that many people, including the military overlook is the proper use of camouflage paint, or makeup. We often smear a few streaks of paint on our face and call it done. This mistake is common, but isn’t effective use of camouflage. No, I am not suggesting you spent hours putting on your “makeup,” rather I am saying it should be applied properly. Poorly applied camo may draw attention to you and actually hurt your concealment efforts.


As you apply the camouflage makeup, make sure the high features of your face (nose, forehead, cheeks and chin) are covered well. It is usually a good idea to apply a light layer of baby oil or a lotion to your skin prior to applying the camouflage makeup. This tip will make it much easier to remove the camo when you need to take it off. Also, you can use a blotch or line-pattern design of camouflage as you put it on. I prefer to cover high points of my face in black or dark brown. Additionally, if may be a good idea to cover your eyelids as well. I have seen a perfectly concealed individual with his eyes closed located easily at night through the use of a high-powered light. His eyelids actually shined when the light hit them. Don’t forget to cover your ears, both front and back, as well as your neck.


Another area we frequently forget to camouflage is our hands and fingers. Your skin color will stand out on your hands, if the rest of you is well camouflaged. Take the time to cover your hands well, including the skin between your fingers (the webbed area). If you are wearing a short-sleeved shirt, do not forget to cover the arms as well. Have another hunter or member of your team check you closely for exposed skin once you have applied your camo.


Concealment efforts


Keep in mind that camouflage does not make you invisible, especially when you are moving. It just makes you harder to see. In other words, it breaks up the natural form of the human body. If you must move while wearing camo, make your movements very slowly and do not skyline (be seen against a sky background) yourself. Usually, it is a good idea to stay to low lying areas and to move in the shadows. This type of movement will make you much harder to see. If you are hunting game, and near your target, move only when the animal is feeding (and has its head down) or when it is looking away from you. Be prepared to freeze at any second. If you freeze, at times even when in clear view, you may not be spotted. Movement is what attracts the most attention when you are attempting to remain unseen. Move only when you must and then very slowly.


Other considerations with camouflage, is making sure you have nothing exposed that can flash sunlight or shine at night. Remember that eyeglasses, necklaces, bracelets, and watches can shine can give your position away. Even at night, a light shined on you may result in a shine from one of these items.


When you must move and remain unseen, as I said earlier, use shadows, but remember the sun is constantly moving so the shadows will be changing as well. Be aware of your natural surrounding and use rock formations, trees, and brush to assist in your concealment efforts. Move as little as possible, or as I stated earlier, move slowly when you do move. Remember to break up the “V” of all crotch areas, between the legs and your arms. Make any observations you have to do in the prone position. Once again, remember, if you are seen, freeze. Most of the time you will not be seen for what you are.


Concealment efforts


One last area of camouflage we often forget is scent. Humans, as well as most game, will smell us way before they ever see us. Make sure you do not use perfumed soaps, shampoos, shaving creams or shaving lotions (and we are a smell good society). Also, gum, candy, or the use of tobacco may give your position away. One aspect of scents we rarely think of is smoke (both from cigarettes and campfires). I once knew a hunter that would purposefully stand in the smoke of a campfire prior to going hunting. He claimed it masked his odor. He also claimed it was an old trick he had learned from a Native American. Well, he was correct in with this view, it would cover his odor, but he failed to realize any critter in the woods would smell the smoke way before it ever saw him. And, animals, just like humans, associate the scent of smoke with man. Use caution when around smoke from your campfire or when around smokers to avoid absorbing the smell. Oh, by the way, I never knew that man to ever bag any large game.


In the military they taught us the acronym BLISS when considering camouflage. BLISS stands for, Blend, (keep a) Low silhouette, (keep a) Irregular shape, (stay) Small, and keep to Secluded areas. Essentially, BLISS along with good camouflage makeup, situational awareness, and scent control, will do the job of assisting you in your concealment efforts.


Camouflage, now I see you, now I don’t, is simple to use but few of us use it properly. By remembering what I have suggested in this short article you too can blend into the background. Camouflage is BLISS.


Take care and stay safe in the woods.


Apply Camouflage Properly


Gary Benton has over 45 years of outdoor experience in camping, hiking, fishing, and other activities. He's no armchair survival man, he's walked the walk from the arctic to the desert and all the area in between. Gary has an associates degree in Search and Rescue, Survival Operations, a B.S. in Industrial Occupational safety, and all but his thesis completed for a M.S. in Counseling Psychology.
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