Airgunner's Country Smallholding

Airgunner's Country Smallholding

Airgunner's Country Smallholding

20 January 2015



John Bezzant


The coat of predators is not a single colour but is made up of hairs that display many different colours and shades to form a natural camouflage. As demonstrated by one of my obliging ferretsIn this article and several to follow I am going to take a good look at a subject that has become of great interest to airgun hunters namely camouflage. My particular area of investigation is going be camo patterns that are effective in winter conditions a time of year as you well know when even in woodlands the heavy ground cover of green gives way to a much sparser environment of browns and yellows. If you are particularly observant you will also find the mix of winter colours contains in spent foliage and tree barks reds, pinks greys and silvers. It is vitally important that the hunter observes very closely the colouration of the foliage on their hunting grounds for as you will see shortly if camouflage is to work it must match that foliage very precisely. And in order to make this match you must study your surroundings very closely. Let us begin by answering the question is camouflage clothing essential for the hunter to be successful? The answer is an emphatic no. If you have copies of the Airgunner from the 80s have a flick through them and you will find that camouflage is not much in evidence and any camouflage that is in use will be ex army surplus in DPM. And you will see that the writers of those articles many dressed in jeans and sweatshirts were more than able to bag plenty of rabbits. So why bother with camouflage? Because it makes the task of bagging rabbits much easier. If we take a look at nature we see that the predators such as the fox and the stoat are actually camouflaged, the casual onlooker may contradict this statement believing the fox to have a red coat and the stoat a brown one but if like me you have ever done a painting of these animals you will soon discover that the seeming red of the fox is in fact a patch work of different coloured hairs including black, russet and brown. The winter colours in the rough are heavily influenced by drab browns

These animals then have a coat that is not dissimilar in design to tweed and as any deerstalker will tell you tweed is a supremely effective form of camouflage designed in Scotland. The tiny myriad differences in the hair colouring in the fox and stoat are what enable these animals to merge seamlessly with their surrounds. I am something of a nature observer with a particular interest in the Mustelidae that is the family to which the stoat and weasel belong as well as the otter and the badger it is also the family to which the ferret belongs. And I can tell you from my observations of these animals that the flecking in their coats makes them extremely difficult to spot and even when you do manage to find them they can simply vanish before your eyes into the undergrowth. The point I am trying to make in something of a long winded fashion is that if natures predators have been designed with camouflage to make them successful then we as hunters should take note of that fact and do our best to copy it. In fact I am quite surprised that some camouflage manufacture has not tried a pale grey background the is covered with thousands of flecks of black, russet and brown the pattern used by the rabbit which I am sure you will agree is phenomenally effective.

So to recap you do not need to wear camouflage to hunt with an air rifle but if you do wear it you will be more efficient. A lot of inexperienced hunters think that if they simply wear camouflage they become invisible to the eyes of their quarry, which is simply not the case. Camouflage just like any other piece of equipment used by the airgun hunter is only of use if you know how to use it correctly. The purpose of camouflage is to break up the outline of the human form.It is easy to hide yourself in the lush foliage of a summer woodland but try hiding on open ground like this Quarry species such as the rabbit and the pigeon recognize the human outline and when they see it they take flight. The purpose of camouflage is to remove that outline so that when quarry see the hunter they do not receive a visual reference to activate the flight response but an indistinct form that does not register. Camouflage achieves its purpose in two ways firstly it has a broken pattern and secondly it removes contrast. Contrast is the effect that occurs when one object stands out against another for example if you have a sheet of black card and you place a smaller sheet of white card on top of it the white card even from a considerable distance is easily seen because of the contrast between the two colours. But place on the black card a small piece of card that has a pattern of dark blues, greys and browns and this card will especially at any distance merge with the black card becoming almost invisible. So here is our first lesson – simply wearing a camouflage suit is not enough that suit must be appropriate to the surroundings in which you are going to hunt. For example an oak woodland of green and brown and sand dunes covered in tussocks of yellow grass are two totally different environments with entirely different sets of colouring. The hunter must therefore wear camouflage clothing that does not This American camouflage pattern contrasts with the snow therefore I can be easily seencontrast but merges with the colourings of the environment they find themselves in. Jack Pyke recognizing the fact that different environments require different camouflage solutions produce three different camouflage patterns not to mention several types of ghillie suit so that the hunter can select a livery appropriate to their environmental requirements. The UK may be a relatively little country but the diversification of flora and fauna is immense and to be able to deal with such diversity the airgun hunter really needs a selection of camouflage patterns as one single pattern will not meet all requirements. For example if you find yourself hunting in woodlands one week and the following week sees you in vast fields of ripe corn you will need two types of camouflage. Seasonal variation also produces dramatic differences. Take for example a woodland in mid summer rich in different shades of green but that green disappears in winter giving way to much duller colours so when winter comes you need a different camouflage to that used in summer. Some clever hunter may attempt to foil my argument by stating that our quarry is in fact colour blind therefore our camouflage does not have to match the colour of our surroundings it just has to provide a broken pattern. Such a line of objection is not valid for two reasons. First it is only supposed that our quarry is colour blind. Nobody really knows what an animal sees because no one has looked at the world through an animals eyes. Secondly colour blindness does not affect the perception of contrast. Let us return to our piece of black card with a small piece of white card placed upon it. Even a person with an extreme case of colour blindness will easily see that the white card stands out against the black card. Consequently for your camouflage to work effectively it must not contrast with its surroundings. So if you are wearing a camo pattern made up of bright greens and brownish yellows in a winter environment of pale browns and greys you will contrast and as a consequence be easily seen. It is amazing how may hunters wear a camouflage pattern that is environmentally incorrect.

Hiding in bare winter branches like these is not easy but it can be done when the correct camouflage pattern is utilized in this case Jack Pyke Wild Lands pattern. The photographer here is just five yards away. From ten yards I was indistinguishable

I am going to try out the Jack Pyke patterns in the sparse winter environment up here in Scotland to see how they fare. It is quite easy to hide yourself in the heavy ground cover of a lush summer woodland, even a person with no camouflage at all can make a decent fist of hiding themselves in such an environment but in large open fields like we have up here in which all the hedgerows and tress have been grubbed up it is extremely challenging to hide yourself. To succeed the camouflage pattern must match the grass colour, which changes from season to season. And it can even

The Jack Pyke ghillie suit

change from one field to the next. For example a field that is used for grazing will be short and it will be heavily fertilized with nitrogen and as a consequence will remain mostly green throughout the winter but in the rough (rough means verges, along ditches and fields of grass in set aside.) the summer green of the long tough grass will in winter give way to a rich mixture of rusty browns and pale yellows. Most camouflage patterns you will note are designed to merge with woodland environments where as I have already stated it is easy to hide when in fact the vast majority of the ground over which the airgunner hunts is going to be agricultural in nature (60% of the all the land in the UK is in agricultural use) with most of that ground being down to grazing. If camouflage is going to be of use it must therefore work well on grassland. One think to take serious note of when it comes to Jack Pyke camouflage is the fact that Jack Pyke is an English company that has designed UK camouflage patterns. Many of the camouflage patterns worn by hunters are American patterns or Scandinavian patterns or perhaps New Zealand patterns and the nature of the undergrowth in shape and colour in these countries is different to the nature of the undergrowth on this little island therefore foreign patterns are not a perfect match. Jack Pyke have studied the UK environment and designed patterns that specifically blend with it. I shall be experimenting with the Jack Pyke patterns to see how to utilize them to best effect in the winter environment and shall report back to you shortly with my findings.


 The Jack Pyke English Oak camouflage pattern