The Digital Camo Age
I remember barely making out my brother’s silhouette in the tree. If it hadn’t been for some serious backlighting, I would’ve never seen him. He was blanketed head-to-toe in digital camo. The pattern was similar to what the military uses, but for the life of me, I couldn’t pick him out easily. That moment got me thinking about the progression of hunting camo and what is happening now. We are living in the greatest era of camouflage.
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I’m always skeptical about the many different patterns that come to the marketplace. My great grandfather killed critters in his red flannel, but I also think he’d shell out massive dough to get the stuff out there today.
Sitka leads the charge with innovative gear and highly-technical clothing, making their garments stand above the rest. But there is more than meets the eye when it comes to throwing a pattern out in the world for use. It must pass more tests than a college senior. I sat down with Chris Derrick of Sitka to get a snippet of what goes on behind closed doors when it comes to camouflage patterns. Here’s the Q & A.
(KJ): Sitka is known for innovative clothing, but they’ve left a lasting mark on camo patterns. Describe the process of developing new patterns.
(C. Derrick): The way GORE OPTIFADE was developed is different than most patterns. I imagine usually what happens in mimicry patterns involves someone going out in the woods and having another human say whether they can or cannot see the hunter. On the other hand, GORE OPTIFADE involved pairing animal vision experts with Guy Cramer and Lt. Col. Tim O’Neill, Ph.D to optimize the pattern through the use of an algorithm.
(KJ): How many different stages are there in the development process?
(C.Derrick): Sitka has a very involved piece on how animals see and a more intense view of how patterns are developed HERE.
(KJ): How does Sitka know they’ve come up with a winner?
(C.Derrick): The answer is pretty simple; it passes the science of OPTIFADE through the eyes of the prey, not just the hunter.
(KJ): Animals see things differently than we do. Does this play a role in the development in camo patterns and why? What’s the science behind it?
(C.Derrick): With OPTIFADE concealment, this is the foundational principle, not just a role.
(KJ): Explain how the military camo patterns have influenced the hunting and outdoors market. Or, has the development of hunting patterns influenced the military’s decision to go more digital.
(C.Derrick): As you can imagine, there has been a lot of resources put toward technologies within the military. Therefore, the research applied to military actually trickled down into the hunting space. It was the way that Gore paired the expertise on the military side with the animal vision expertise of Dr. Jay Neitz that was so innovative.
(KJ): As a hunting community, we’ve progressed from the red plaid camo patterns to leafy camo and now we’re shifting toward digital patterns. What are the differences in the more traditional patterns compared to the Elevated II or Optifade-type patterns that Sitka produces?
(C.Derrick): We don't refer to GORE OPTIFADE as camo. Traditional camouflage is based on mimicry of the environment from our perception (the human). I often hear people who wear OPTIFADE make statements like "the animal is looking through me." This is because factors including engagement distance, angle of engagement, environment, as well as ungulate versus waterfowl, all play a role in optimizing the pattern. Elevated II, for example, is optimized using Vertical Effect Compensation for close engagements distances within 80 yards from an elevated tree stand. Whereas, Subalpine is optimized for hunting from the ground in vegetated terrain and at engagements distances 50 yards or less.
(KJ): What should hunters look for when selecting camo patterns? What do they need to watch out for?(C.Derrick): Try to put yourself in the mind of the animal. It will change your perspective.
Far more than we think goes into the patterns we see on the store shelves. I had the privilege to hunt in Sitka gear on a recent Pronghorn hunt and will never go back. I was just another bush on the plain and not given a second thought. Amazing stuff in the works from Sitka. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma, but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter, and knows his way around a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.
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