When I started stalking the only real option for clothing was army surplus or Barbour type wax jackets. Both were good and did the job of keeping the rain off and the old DPD Camouflage army jackets had lots of useful pockets.
However, times have changed and as sportsmen we are in an area where there is so much choice when it comes to clothing. We have breathable, wax, waterproof fleece, mossy oak, real tree, scent stopping fabric and silent walk trousers; the list is endless. Most of our clothing innovations have come from either continental Europe or the USA / Canada where the market for hunting clothing is huge. I dare say that if these progressive hunters hadn’t started importing this array of jackets, trousers, hats, gloves etc. we would still all be wearing DPD camouflage and quite happy in it too or even still in our Edwardian tweed. However, there are some differences between the styles and tastes of the British sportsman and our European and American cousins.
In Europe and the USA, it is common to wear a bright camouflage pattern in red / orange, yellow or a combination of both. This is so other countryside users can and other hunters can see the person who is wearing the clothing easily. It is thought that many of our prey species see in a different spectrum than the human eye so these seemingly bright clothes make little or no difference, it is the pattern that is key and to break up the image. A vet recently told me that deer are unable to see red so that is why some European hunters like to use this colour in their hunting clothes. The idea for clothing that is more visible to the human eye is to avoid accidents between two hunters and possible confrontation with members of the public who might have been startled if they come across somebody in cover and camouflage. On the whole, we do not have that problem here in England and Wales, with most of our estates and farms private apart from the odd public footpath. Having said that much of the English Uplands and the South Downs are now National Parks and Scotland is basically open to the public – with it the public have the “right to roam” so do we need to rethink our clothing choices in these areas?
In the United Kingdom, we go about our rifle shooting in a quite sensible manor that doesn’t bring us near the public or other countryside users. As a result, confrontation is very rarely a problem and the same must go for two people shooting in the same area. As we do not have uncontrolled public hunting in our country this too is not a problem.
As more people start to use our countryside as a place to get away from it all and for recreation the reality is that we might have more people straying away from where they are allowed to be and the chances for more people coming into contact with gamekeepers, stalkers or recreational shooters out and about could become more likely. So should we start to use more obvious clothing like our European and American cousins?
I stalk in some public forests in England, one very close to London and it might be useful for the public to be able to see where I am – but equally I might not want them to see me so I can move away from them without showing myself. The choice ultimately is yours but my feeling is that in the UK hunting in bright colors is fine but for safety reasons it is not needed. Yet.