Bow Hunting Apparel

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From high-tech fabrics to scent control capabilities, warm and cold weather clothing, to ultra-quiet garments, much of today’s apparel is designed specifically for the hunting archer

Everyone who looks in my storage room stares in amazement when they see the vast inventory of clothing. At first glance, they see Under Armour, Sitka Gear, Raven Wear, King of the Mountain, ScentBlocker, Scent-Lok and a bunch more. Many ask why I need such an array of apparel, not to mention all the accessories like harnesses and muffs. My response is simple: every hunt takes place at a different place and time. From camouflage patterns to weatherproof capabilities, breathability, flexibility, heat retention properties, scent controllability and more, each item is designed for a specific application.

Over the course of a year, I may hunt black bear in the dark green boreal forest in May, pronghorn antelope on the parched prairies in September, white tails in the snow-covered aspen timber during the frigid November rut, moose or elk as the leaves turn color, or other species in far-off destinations at variable times of the year. They all require something a little different.

Canadian bow hunters face many challenges, not the least of which relate to weather. We can deal with as much as 60-degree temperature variations from early May on into December. I have bow hunted in 26-degree heat in May and during a -34-degree deep freeze in December. The simple task of drawing a bow can become monumental when you are bulked up with several layers to combat the cold. Add rain, snow or wind to the mix and depending on whether you are hiking or sitting, you have an entirely different set of variables to contend with.

Thankfully, today’s apparel manufacturers recognize that hardcore bow hunters need clothing systems designed to best suit our endeavors.


Functionality versus fashion

Contemporary bow hunting apparel is designed for performance, but it has also become a fashion statement. No doubt, functionality comes first. Our absolute priority is quietness. All layers, but especially our pants, jackets, gloves and hats must be made of fabric that is free of noise when we move. Swooshing, clicking, scratching, crackling and other less desirable noises simply don’t cut it when we’re in close proximity to game.

Similarly, our apparel must be flexible. By virtue of the movements associated with bow hunting and the places and times we are outdoors, flexibility is an equal priority. We climb trees, we hike and we draw back our bows when animals are close; these and so many other movements demand silent flexibility.

Then, of course, there are specialized features that many manufacturers incorporate into their garments. ScentBlocker, for instance, makes some of the most specialized bow hunting apparel around. They marry odour-eliminating technology with things like built-in armguards in jacket sleeves, zippers with ultra-quiet pull tabs, zipper seams that run diagonally across the chest to keep the collar out of the way of the bowstring, gloves with holes to facilitate a release and I’ve even seen slots at the collar for tree stand harnesses.

Watch any of today’s hunting shows on television and you quickly recognize that hunting apparel has also evolved in to a fashion statement. Wear anything other than a fully matched outfit and it would seem that we commit the ultimate fashion faux pas. Of course, I say this tongue in cheek, but there is no denying that bow hunting apparel in general has, at least in part, become a fashion statement.


A technological revolution

Think back 20 years: cotton, fleece and nylon were popular back then; Gore-Tex was coming on to the scene at that time and has now become a staple miracle fabric in every type of apparel, even our boots. At that time, the most advanced bow hunters wore fleece garments to allow them to move freely and quietly. Options were limited, but we made do with what we had. Today, that’s all changed. Phrases like scent control technology, moisture transport system, 4 Direction Stretch™, BodyLock Technology, lacing systems, base layers, micro fleece, antimicrobial, carbon alloy and activated carbon are now endemic in the world of bow hunting apparel. In this day and age, the hunting consumer must be at least somewhat acquainted with an entirely new language in order to make informed decisions.


Scent control technologies

Scent-Lok and ScentBlocker have been the dominant industry players in the realm of scent control technology. Both companies are well known for integrating technological advancements into their apparel to eliminate or minimize human odour from head to toe.

Forever pushing the limits, ScentBlocker, for instance, recently launched their S3 Bamboo technical cotton fabric that is ultra-lightweight with superior moisture wicking capabilities and capitalizes on the natural antimicrobial characteristics of bamboo to minimize human odour. These companies acknowledge that hunting with a bow requires us to get close to game and that human odour is our biggest enemy. Block the offensive smell of human odour from a deer or any other game animal’s nose and we have a much better chance of getting an up-close-and-personal shot opportunity.

Continually enhancing antimicrobial technologies, current trends in scent control highlight and integrate the odour-eliminating traits of activated carbon. Scent-Lok, for instance, now has a carbon alloy product integrated into their clothing systems, which combines the traits of activated carbon with treated carbon and zeolite to enhance odour absorption, keeping garments scent-free for a longer period of time. Their antimicrobial technologies include Oxy Ion technology, Silver Thread technology, and AEGIS technology, all of which work in different ways, but combining to kill human odour.

While Scent-Lok and ScentBlocker are considered to be industry leaders, other companies are jumping on the scent control bandwagon as well. Under Armour is also incorporating a scent control technology, combining the use of zeolites and silver to enhance the antimicrobial characteristics of some of their hunting garments.


Camouflage patterns

I would, of course, be remiss if I didn’t touch on the almost infinite variation of camouflage patterns available in today’s bow hunting apparel. Not that long ago, Realtree and Mossy Oak were the main players in the world of advanced camouflage. No longer is this the case. Today, bow hunters wanting to blend in and literally vanish into their surroundings need only research to find the best-suited pattern.

Today, even companies like Realtree and Mossy Oak have a wide range of options to accommodate hunters from different regions and for those hunting different seasons. Alternatively, patterns like Predator Camo, Sitka’s Optifade and Silent Predator’s Grey Ghost or Stealth Brown are great examples of neutral and ultimately more versatile camouflage that is adaptable to a variety of different environments. It would be impossible to list all of the available patterns in this column, but the important thing to remember is that there is a camouflage that will help you, as a bow hunter, blend with the surroundings you are hunting. Many traditional patterns are dark and busy. The key to making camouflage work is to have a more open and generally lighter pattern that breaks up your silhouette but also allows you to blend with your surroundings.


Seasonal requirements

Last but not least, Canadian bow hunters know that different seasons require different apparel. I tend to be a bit envious of our neighbours to the far south who can bow hunt in a lightweight outfit throughout the year. On the other hand, to be a bow hunter in this part of the world and particularly one who hunts multiple species in many locations throughout the year, this means we have made a significant investment of time, energy and resources. To my way of thinking, anyone who persists in hunting with a bow when the snow flies and temperatures drop well below freezing deserves recognition, both from their peers, but most importantly from apparel manufacturers. Several have come up with clothing systems to accommodate base layers for wicking moisture, insulating layers for heat retention and finally protective layers to block the wind.

As I alluded to at the beginning of this editorial, to be a four season hunter in Canada means having an assortment of outfits, including headwear and footwear, to accommodate the immense variation in temperature and weather extremes so prevalent in our part of the world.

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