Waterfowl Camouflage

The variety of camouflage possibilities in today’s waterfowl market is huge.  What to wear and what to choose are both based on what store carries what and what you can get sight unseen on the internet. For this article, I will focus on waterfowl camouflage used primarily from October to February in marsh and timber settings. As well as fabric in most of these patterns is available allowing one to make their own outer gear. 

Finding a place to hide and then staying concealed are likely the most important elements of waterfowl hunting.  I know at times it seems you could be in hunter orange in the marsh and the “X” is paying off regardless of how you hide.  On the other hand, it seems even the slightest error in camouflage will flare ducks and geese making for a long day.  So the key is finding a pattern that blends into the environment as closely as possible. 

Modern waterfowl camouflage ranges from very photo-realistic patterns to mosaics that blend colors in ways that we had never imagined.  Consider where you hunt and how you need to conceal.  Some will be in areas with greens still present and others will hunt in a barren field devoid of any colors other than browns and tans.  Find something that you feel comfortable in but be prepared to own more than one type of camouflage.

I have seen people trying to hide while wearing deer camouflage in the middle of a dark, brown, dead marsh.  There is no green in the middle of winter in the marsh or for that matter in many of the fields we hunt further north.  Brown and the variants of brown are the colors of winter. 

Let’s start with Mossy Oak – a stalwart among camouflage designers.  They offer two popular camouflage patterns for waterfowl and likely most of these are easily available.  The popularity of Shadow Grass Habitat makes this a go to for many waterfowl hunters.  It blends in well in corn, moist soil habitat and other winter covers.   Bottomland has all the elements of standing timber and water.

This is a very popular pattern and one that is readily available in retail outlets.  A lot of effort has gone into this pattern to make it work so well.
Bottomland separates itself from other timber patterns by incorporating a mosaic of surrounding trees and brush colors.

Realtree is another very popular pattern brand.  Their early version of Max 4 has been improved to Max 5 and both are very popular.  This is a dark pattern that blends in but does incorporate a few greens in the pattern.  The timber pattern is very well designed for a timber hide.

Realtree takes their name to heart with this photorealistic pattern.
Maybe, one of the most popular patterns with the introduction of the Max line up to the Max 5.  A Max 7 will be out this year.

Drake Waterfowl offers a pattern that is hard to beat and has stood the test of time. Old School is not intended to be a perfect match for the surrounding habitat, but it incorporates all the colors necessary to hide.  It also has the ability to cross over between different environments.

You just have to appreciate a pattern that can continue to work for so many years.  It has the ability to blend in many different habitats which makes it so popular even today.

Sitka moves the bar with a modern interpretation of camouflage patterns.  Know as Optifade the pattern has the ability to hunt in all kinds of habitat.  The flexibility of having one camouflage that works in many situations makes this design a good choice. 

Sitka is a leader in their designs with Optifade timber.  Again a mosaic design is meant to be useful in many different habitats.
This is Sitka’s original design a well done camouflage for all conditions and habitat.

Finally there are a few “independent” brands out there worth looking into like Natural Gear, Duck Camp, Forloh,  Kryptek, ASAT and Kuiu. The idea that a pattern can actually look like the environment it is meant to hide into is a sort of theme behind some new patterns, but others have interpreted the blend in totally different ways.  In some cases the photo-realistic idea is meant to match perfectly into wheat, corn, grass, timber and moist soil habitat.  Take the time to look into these brands as they might interest you in their development and approach to concealment. 

Natgear is one of the independents creating some great camouflage.  The Fields pattern is a photorealistic/graphic blend.
This Natgear pattern is a mosaic but is very good for those days in the field or marsh where some snow or ice might be present.
Duck Camp’s design is a slightly darker pattern that also has the ability to blend into a variety of backgrounds.
Another mosaic with great camouflage blending to most moist soil environments in the late season.
Headguide’s Midland series is a lightened version perfect for early season to mid season habitat.
Forloh is a unique mosaic for timber and early season marsh hunting. 
Kryptek is really a great pattern well worth looking into.  The mosaic is light, but provides great concealment. 
ASAT has been around a while and has it roots in big game hunting, but as a pattern it has the ability to blend in without looking like a dark spot in the marsh.
Kuiu is one more mosaic pattern, with some incorporation of green into the design making it a versatile camouflage in varying environments. 

Lots of different camouflage to look at and more will keep evolving this industry.  While some of these are not exactly designed for waterfowl, as would be ASAT, their argument for concealment makes sense and is worth trying. 

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About the author: David R. Vaught, Ph.D. began hunting waterfowl at a young age due to his father being a waterfowl biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Today he hunts both public and private waterfowl grounds and is always working on something related to waterfowl throughout the year. He loves to turkey hunt and fish for walleye and crappie in the spring. David is a university professor, holds an NRA Level II coaching certification and works with youth in trap and skeet shooting in the summer with his annual trap-shooting academy.

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