This is the final posting in a series on Gore-Tex® and one of the newest products the W.L. Gore Company has developed for their Hunting Category—GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Concealment. The camouflage pattern is widely marketed by Sitka Gear, but with several other companies licensing the pattern to appear on their respective products.
Disclaimer: I took part in the Gore™ Labs2Woods Blogger Summit last November to learn more about Gore™ and to test various articles of clothing in the Sitka Gear line. The three day experience was as a guest of W.L. Gore & Associates where product samples were provided to me for further at-home testing and evaluation.
Prior to arriving in Delaware for the Gore™ Labs2Woods Blogger Summit last November, I was sent a brief questionnaire to complete pertaining to my personal beliefs on the importance of camouflage in the deer woods. I know I didn’t answer it the way the good folks at Gore™ wanted. In fact, many of the readers of this blog will probably disagree with my position on this topic.
You see…I answered the question just days after the Minnesota firearms deer season where I was decked out in full blaze orange, sitting on a pail next to a tree, and had no less than three deer walk within 8 yards of me—thankfully, upwind. They were oblivious to my existence despite the big orange glow.
I stated in that questionnaire that camouflage (or any specific pattern) was far less important than hunter movement and odor elimination. In fact, I have sometimes been left to wonder if camo is really all that important at all.
Then I met Lt. Col. Tim O’Neill (ret.) who is considered the father of digital camouflage for the U.S. Armed Services. O’Neill now works with Gore™ to develop some of the most innovative, science intensive camouflage that hunters have ever worn. Several years of research has gone into studying what ungulates (animals with cloven hooves) see—or should I more correctly say—don’t see. Watch this quick video for an explanation on what I’m talking about:
For years companies have been designing camouflage with the wrong emphasis. Consider this, when you’ve gone to the store did you purchase camo based on what looked good to your eye? Did you pick a pattern and color that you believe tends to blend into the woods where you hunt?
In the past these decision factors have made sense…but if you’re trying to avoid detection don’t you want to know what the animal sees and not your hunting buddy? After all, the eyes for most animals—whether predator or prey—are vastly different and failure to recognize this concept overlooks an important rule in camouflage design. Check this out:
Of course, not all environments are the same. Gore recognizes that factors present in the forest will not be the same in open country…hence, there are options for the hunter to suit the proper environment. Here’s another great video delving further into the camo science:
Gore’s objectives in this category are all outcome based. By using these products, they want hunters to achieve:
- More enjoyment while hunting
- Get closer to the prey
- Be more comfortable to enable better decisions (lessen the loss of mental acuity to stay focused on task)
- Ability to spend more time seeking prey
- Increased survival during inclement weather
- Basically, just to have more fun knowing a hunter has the best gear available
Mark Seacat, one of Sitka Gear’s Athletes and noted outdoors photographer, showed us the gear he often packs in his bag to cover various hunting situations. The big key to comfort with the OPTIFADE™ Concealment is to dress in layers and to understand why you do or don’t want to be wearing a specific clothing item from the Sitka line.
During this demonstration I asked the one question about Sitka Gear that others seemed to avoid—probably because they already knew. How expensive is it? I heard a gasp with a pregnant pause in conversation… Finally, Mark admitted that with all the gear strewn out on the floor there was probably close to $4,500 worth of clothing.
Yup, that’s right…there’s a price to be paid for science and high-quality equipment.
Of course, the true test for any sort of hunting gear is to put it to work in the field. And that’s what this group of bloggers did after viewing all the factory tours and testing in the lab.
The entire group struck out for Maryland where we were guests at the Quakerneck Gun Club near Chestertown. This superb hunting club, run by Tyler and Carla Johnson, proved to be the perfect testing ground for our group of hunting bloggers.
This quaint property with a house originally built in 1750 looked like a set right out of an old movie. Honestly, hunting on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has long been something I had envisioned myself doing, and this setting only added to the overall experience.
That first afternoon as hunters donned their Gore™ OPTIFADE™ Concealment to get ready for the evening hunt…anticipation was heightened for a great evening in the woods.
Last minute plans were discussed…
and soon the hunters were being taxied to the stands by Tyler.
Here, bloggers Christian Lowe and Tracy Breen discuss their hunt experiences wearing OPTIFADE™ after the next morning’s hunt.
Finally, both of these nice Maryland bucks were taken by members of our blogger crew just after a few hours spent in the woods. John Colenda(L), one of Gore’s product managers and Tracy Breen(R), pose for pictures with their deer. Tracy was hunting a ground blind, in fact, and shot his deer at a distance of less than 10 yards.
Conclusion: No matter what product you purchase, Gore™ makes some of the highest quality products for the outdoors enthusiast. I hope this series has provided some background into why Gore™ products has one of the highest repurchase rates of any wearable garment. Approximately 98% of all first-time Gore™ product owners will repeat with another Gore™ product purchase based on a high level of satisfaction.
Now, back to my theory on camouflage for hunting deer. I understand the science behind it and certainly have a greater appreciation for all the research that has gone into the product design. No doubt about it the Sitka Gear line of Gore’s OPTIFADE™ Concealment is the highest quality clothes currently available to the bowhunter. I have no doubts about that.
Still, I am somewhat reluctant to endorse the gear as being essential for every hunter. It’s nice stuff…but it’s not for most hunters’ pocketbooks. If you live in a world surrounded by $1,000 bows, expensive hunting leases, elaborate food plots, etc., etc. then spend the money to go all out on buying the very best bowhunting clothing available.
Mind you…I’m not saying anything disparaging about the product or discouraging hunters away from buying it. Nope…instead, you need to know that Sitka Gear is not for the average hunter on the streets. Oh, sure, any hunter would be well served owning it for comfort and performance…but when budgets get tight and hunting is more of a recreation than an extreme passion in life…perhaps those dollars are better spent elsewhere.
Nevertheless, all hunters can still benefit from the science by better understanding how deer see differently than us humans. Even if OPTIFADE™ Concealment isn’t right for you—at least not yet in life—that doesn’t mean the science behind its design is any less important to understand. Even for those of us who once proudly claimed to be camouflage skeptics.
©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.
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