I’ve learned a lot about camouflage while hunting turkeys with guys such as Bill Jordan (founder of Realtree Camouflage) , Toxey Haas (founder of Mossy Oak Camouflage), Jim Crumley (Trebark, Outfitter Tough), and Minnesota’s own, Scott Anderson (BackLand Outdoors). Guys who make their living selling you and I camouflage.
But the most valuable lessons I ever learned about the effectiveness of camouflage, were taught to me during the 14 months I spent fighting in the varied terrain and habitats of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA), and to a lesser extent the Viet Cong, were masters at the art of camouflage, even though I never saw any of them wearing camouflage clothing. Most of them were dressed in either black or dark green fatigues or what we called pajamas. Quite often soldiers would add grass or small branches to their clothing, most commonly around the bands of their helmets, but sometimes sewn to their shirts as well.
They hugged the ground, staying prone and sometimes digging into what we would call a foxhole, although their holes were not as deep as our foxholes. Sometimes they would dig long, shallow trenches where a couple dozen of them would lay side by side. They also took good advantage of natural depressions, ditches and creeks. Without exception, the NVA soldiers were masters at using natural vegetation to their advantage. I swear a soldier and his rifle could disappear in a tuft of grass, which you would not think could conceal a cottontail. They also made excellent use of shade and shadows.
And probably most importantly of all, to the man they seemed to have nerves of steel. Once in position for the ambush, they did not move. Period. Camouflage without camouflage.
NVA: Masters Of Camouflage
And I’m not talking about just a handful of NVA soldiers escaping detection by us grunts. I’m talking about an entire regiment of NVA! The NVA never sprang an ambush unless they had us vastly out-numbered. They knew that they had only 10 or 15 minutes, maybe an hour tops, to inflict all of the damage they could. Then the artillery and/or air support would come raining down on them. Their intention when planning an ambush was to inflict the maximum number of casualties in the shortest time possible and then, like magic, melt away into the jungle.
So how do you hide 200-plus NVA soldiers, all of them within 100 yards and many within only 20- to 30 yards of U.S troops? You do it using the “camouflage” I have just described. And you, my friend, can do the same thing when hunting turkeys this spring.
Go ahead and wear your favorite camo. It can only help. But more importantly incorporate all of the “tricks” the NVA used to camouflage themselves. Make full use of natural vegetation. Stay low. Use shadows and shade to your advantage. And perhaps most important of all, keep your cool and do not move until you are ready to shoot.
Yes, you will want camouflage pants, shirt and a jacket for those cold mornings. But the most important camouflage in order of importance are a facemask, gloves and cap. Your head and your hands are the two parts of your body most likely to be moving, so camo is essential for head, face and hands. So critical are these three items, that I carry extras of each in my vest.
Yes, like you, I’ll be wearing camouflage out there this spring. But I’ll also take full advantage of the lessons in camouflage I learned in a far away land way back in ’69.
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Gary Clancy writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Gary has hunted whitetail deer in 20 different states and provinces. He has harvested many record-book animals, and presented hunting seminars from Tennessee to Wisconsin. Gary also has authored or co-authored six hunting books, four on whitetail hunting.