May 11, 2016
By Randy Ulmer
I do a great deal of my hunting in the West where it's sunny most of the time. The type of hunting we usually do is spot-and-stalk, where one of us stays back to watch and help the other guy as he sneaks up on the deer. So, I get to spend a lot of time looking through binoculars watching bowhunters in action.
I always consider my time watching and helping as a great learning opportunity. I try to pay close attention to what the hunter is doing right and what he's doing wrong.
One of the things I've noticed consistently through the years is that the easiest way to find a bowhunter in camouflage on a sunny day is to look for something shiny. It is the single thing that most often allows me to spot a camo-clad bowhunter sneaking around. Almost every one of them will carry or wear something that shines in the sun. If you want to be invisible to game, you need to eliminate this glare.
I'm just as guilty as everyone else. On a several occasions, I've had bucks spot me for no apparent reason, even when I was holding perfectly still and buried in the brush. It took me several years to realize what was happening. I'm fairly certain those bucks were seeing something shiny — something unnatural. On every one of those occasions, I was in direct sunlight. Since I've become aware of the problem, I've worked hard trying to prevent it from happening again.
Success Trumps Style
When glassing, the thing I spot most frequently is the hunter's bow. It is consistently the shiniest thing in the field. To make matters worse, it moves around more than anything else. The way a bow is designed gives the sun plenty of flat, reflective surfaces to bounce off of. To make matters worse, the arrows in the quiver are round and have polished surfaces that can glint at almost any angle.
"It's up to you to fully camouflage your bow — after you've purchased it."
I've yet to see a bow on a retail store rack that isn't shiny. I understand why the bows look the way they do. If you were to put my smudged-up bow on the shelf, next to the shiny ones, it would never sell. Even I think it's ugly! Shiny bows look better to the consuming public. Everyone seems to want a new bow in the latest camo patterns. These patterns are very well defined and they look great in magazine photos and in the store, but their finish tends to shine. Bow manufacturers are in business to sell bows, not outsmart deer. It's up to you to fully camouflage your bow — after you've purchased it.
Besides the riser, the limbs and the arrows, there are other parts of the bow that shine. So, here's what I do: at least a month before hunting season starts, I paint my bow. Actually, I just lightly mist it with spray paint. I do it a month ahead of time to let the smell of the paint diminish.
There are specialty camo spray paints designed just for hunters, but you can do just as well by using ultra-flat green, tan, brown or black paint from the local hardware store. I mist any part of the bow that has the potential to shine.
When I'm done, my bow isn't very pretty, but it doesn't shine. To be honest, I couldn't care less what camouflage pattern is used on my bow. It is irrelevant, because it won't affect the outcome of the hunt. The bow is such a small, thin, irregularly shaped item that it could be painted a solid earth-tone color and still be fairly hard to see in the woods. The important thing is that it doesn't reflect light.
I do the same thing with my binoculars, my rangefinder, my arrows and even my hats. I take any new clothes I get and I hang them from bushes about 100 yards from my office window and then I watch them throughout the day to see how they look with the sun at different angles. If the clothes are too shiny, I simply won't use them.