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Dressing for success; "new-age fabrics can greatly increase both the comfort and success of today's hunters."

DRESSING FOR SUCCESS "New-Age fabrics can greatly increase both the comfort and success of today's hunters."

The day before the hunt began, guide George Taulman greeted his elk hunters with a warm handshake, typical of New Mexico hospitality. The native of the Land of Enchantment was dressed in typical western clothing -- a broadbrimmed hat, blue denim jeans, and, of course, western boots.

However, the next morning Taulman looked like a model for a major sporting goods store as he prepared for the day's hunting in his "work clothes". Although he still wore cotton jeans, these were now camouflage, and the wide brim of the Stetson gave way to the quiet of a Polarfleece cap. The jacket, too, was made of the same quiet material that provides warmth and some rain protection as well. The big surprise though was in his footwear. How many elk guides begin each day in Nike sneakers? "All of mine do," says Taulman, who trades the sturdy support of heavy boots for both light weight and sensitivity which give him the ability to feel the earth under foot. Seeing his footgear truly as "sneakers", Taulman uses Gore-Tex socks underneath a pair of wool ones, to provide warmth and waterproofing for his feet.

Taulman outfits in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, under the title of United States Outfitter, and on this particular hunt there were seven men in camp hunting several nearby ranches from the central lodge. With hunters from all across the country, it was interesting to note that most had one or more pieces of the new-age materials--those designed not only for the bowhunter, but for any sportsman who wants to make less noise and be more comfortable while afield.

What are the new-age materials? How can you, as dealers, help hunters make the right choices among the various fabrics? Giving each a quick once-over should help to answer these and other questions.


Certainly this "age-old" material may be high-tech to Fred Flintstone, but not to contemporary sportsmen, can it? What's new with wool garments is the addition of camouflage patterns in both leaf and vertical patterns. After all, wool is the safest of all materials to wear in cold weather because it maintains its ability to insulate even when wet.

For the hunter who gets caught in a cold rain or wet snow, the natural coat of a sheep can save the hunter's skin. Personally, I have two heavy sets of green wool trousers that seem perfect for wilderness elk hunting. I wear one while the other dries, and can get by with just two pair of pants on a hunt. Although the touch of wool to bare skin causes no discomfort to me, it makes some folks itch just thinking of it. The solution to this dilemma is to wear something under the layer of wool, or purchase a garment that is lined. Aside from warmth, wool's other strong suit is its quietness, and a hunter wearing it can ease through brush without the threat of a single "cottony" swish to give him away.


Some new-age materials get mixed reviews from hunters, but I've never met one who didn't like "polypro" or one of its synthetic cousins. Lately, this high-tech material has become popular with bicyclists, runners, and other athletes who like the insulation and "wicking ability" of this material.

Any hunter who has ever walked to a deer stand on a cold day while he wore standard insulated underwear will appreciate this material's ability to allow perspiration to evaporate through it and not give the sportsman that wet, clammy feeling next to his skin. Polypro allows hunters to be moderately active getting to a stand, and then will keep them warm when they eventually get there. Since this fabric comes with varying degrees of insulation, it can be worn in a variety of hunting situations, and is especially effective when matched with wool, because it eliminates the "itch" when worn as an under garment. Another benefit of polypro is its use in wet weather. Although it is not waterproof, the tight fit of the fabric tends to shield the skin from the chill of wet outer garments. Even though a person may be soaked to the skin, the wet clothes don't feel as wet, thanks to the polypro.

New-Age Waterproofing

Of course, getting wet is the reason many new-age fabrics have been invented so that hunters don't have to get the way. Certainly there are several "miracle" fabrics that provide the ability for body heat to pass through them, yet not allow water in from the outside.

New-age materials have found their way into everything from hats to boots to linings in jackets. However, if you talk to a dozen fellows about the total waterproofing of these materials, responses are likely to vary, which was the case in our elk camp.

The lightweight, insulated guide boots that I wore have served me faithfully for four years, yet another hunter sent two pairs back to the manufacturer and swore he'd never use them again. Our most successful hunter bagged both a deer and an elk with his bow and wore the latest in outdoor clothing--a soft, noiseless outer material backed by a breathable, waterproof lining. It not only made for excellent camouflage and was quiet to the touch, but offered the hunter a lightweight insurance policy in case the weather got nasty.

Extremes in weather are the reasons many hunters invest in expensive new-age products. However, before sportsmen "bet their life" on a critical pair of boots or rain gear, they should be advised to test them thoroughly first. The time to find out that a left boot leaks isn't when a person is miles from camp on a cold day. Fortunately, many manufacturers guarantee their products, and the goods can be returned. Whether a buyer or a seller, taking "proof" materials with a grain of salt is always good advice.

Quiet Synthetics

Of all the new materials that have become available, the ones that seem to have the greatest potential are the quiet synthetics (especially for bowhunters). Usually these are tightly-woven materials that soak up very little water, are quiet to the touch, and offer fairly good insulation. Walking quietly in the woods is every hunter's goal, and it can be helped along greatly with these new fabrics. They can't guarantee that twigs won't break under foot, but they can stop the scraping sound of a bush or limb as it brushes against the garment. Gone also is the "swish-swish" of cotton trousers. Furthermore, the deep loft of the fabrics makes them pleasant to the touch of the skin and provides a flat, nonreflective appearance.

Hunting Accessories

Aside from clothing, hunting accessories are also made quieter by the use of soft synthetics. On our hunt, I carried my camera gear in a "Polarfleece" day pack in Trebark camo. In the past, it has been very frustrating to try to sneak through thick brush with a day pack made of a canvas material. Although it was well made, it would make so much noise that I'd take it off and leave it, despite holding my emergency supplies.

Day packs, larger backpacks, and fanny packs are portable containers that will allow hunters to take extra gear along for the hunt, without wearing it or tying up their hands. Other items such as bow slings, binoculars, fletching covers, et cetera are just a few of the items that can make a successful difference for hunters.

One glitch in the construction of my backpack was the shoulder straps that were made of nylon. Occasionally, I'd be moving through thick undergrowth, and I'd hear that old familiar "ceeet" as a twig would brush against the nylon padding. The ideal pack would have the soft material cover the strap on the outside.

Wash Before You Wear

Whether it is an accessory or a full-fledged hunting outfit, one item is frequently overlooked by sportsmen who purchase new-age products, and then, understandably, can't wait to try them out. For example, a fellow last year (a recreational hunter for the past two years) decided he was going to take his hunting seriously and plunked down more than $300 for new equipment, including a new vertical camo coverall, matching accessories, face paint, elk scent, and even a few "how-to" videos.

Conditions on his first day in the field couldn't have been better, yet at the end of the day, he returned home empty-handed and disappointed--not a single bull had been spotted.

Was all the ballyhoo he had heard about the new camo and equipment simply sales fluff?

According to Harvey Harper, sales manager for Walls Industries, most of the new camo patterns and equipment are what they promise to be and can noticeably improve your hunting. Unfortunately, this particular hunter's mistake was one that many hunters often make in their exuberance to try out new equipment: he failed to wash his coveralls and accessory garments before the hunt.

"Camouflage is more than disguising your appearance," said Harper. "It also means disguising your smell, which is why scents and skunk screens have become so prevalent. Unfortunately, these scents are often cancelled out by the many chemical and dye odors found in new garments. In spite of all your precautions, you can still 'stand out' like a sore thumb simply from your smell."

Harper should know about clothing chemicals and dyes. Walls Industries, headquartered in Cleburne, Texas, is currently the nation's leading manufacturer of hunting apparel, selling more hunting apparel each year than any other company.

"The odd smells in our sewing and cutting facilities are very distinctive," he said. "You can imagine how easily a deer is going to pick up those strange scents--and how easily all the money you just spent can become wasted dollars. A few good washings will not only eliminate the problem", Harper said, "but also improve your comfort and chances by making the garment's fabric much softer and quieter."

Washing you apparel first off has additional benefits, according to Jim Crumley, famous outdoorsman and inventor of Trebark camouflage. "It tests the garments' quality before you have to depend on them," he said. Crumley said washing also offers a good test for seams, buttons, and resistance to fading. "You also definitely want machine washable garments or you're going to be spending hours and dollars trying to get them clean."

Two machine washings, following the manufacturer's instructions, should be sufficient for a new garment, Harper commented. He also suggested that it's also a good idea to use an unscented or nonallergenic detergent--one that doesn't contain flowery or strong fragrances. There are also odorless detergents and products, such as Buck Stop, designed especially for cleaning hunting apparel. Retailers would be wise to carry a large supply of them, especially prior to hunting season.

Fortunately, for that hunter, who bought all that new equipment, his story had a happy ending. His next outing in washed new-age hunting apparel proved much more fruitful and reaffirmed his belief in his new hunting equipment and his own abilities. Now, if he can only figure out how to get four hundred pounds of elk meat into the freezer compartment of his refrigerator, he'll be happy.

PHOTO : New-age materials not only come in various patterns and fabrics but become the basis for a hunting system of other products that match them.

PHOTO : George Taulman, of Taos, New Mexico, uses Polarfleece because of its quietness and Nike sneakers for "sneaking." Gore-Tex liners are used to keep his feet dry.

PHOTO : Marv Epling, President of Golden Eagle Archery, uses a bow sling to free his hands during difficult climbing. Products such as day packs, and fletching covers are small items that can add up to success for hunters--and more "bucks" for the retailer.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Byers, Joseph W.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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