“Camouflage”. The word even sounds vague and hazy. It comes from the French word “camoufler” meaning to hide or veil. Abbot H. Thayer, an American nature artist around the turn of the century, formed a concealment theory based on animals’ ability to hide in plain sight. He theorized that they hid by two methods; blending in or disruption of their outline. In WWI his ideas were adopted by the Allies to protect soldiers, equipment and ships. The first military unit to use camouflage was the French “section de camouflage” established in 1915. Dazzle painting was the term for the radical camo designs on the Allies’ warships which broke up their outline protecting them from U-boat attack.
WWII brought more innovations to the art of concealment but no camouflage clothing had been developed specifically for the North American landscape because all the conflicts had been elsewhere. Hunters used military camo and for thirty- five years after WWII because it was their only option.
Then came Jim Crumley of Roanoke, Virginia. In the1970’s he was a close encounter hunter who loved bow hunting spring gobblers. Since he always hunted with his back against a tree, he wanted hunting specific camouflage. He used felt pens to create a tree bark pattern on gray work clothes. His hunting success increased in his homemade outfit and other hunters began asking him for camo suits. In 1980 he began a sideline mail order business to offset his hunting expenses and the Trebark Company was launched. His business flourished and gave rise to an industry that, two decades later, has over a thousand manufactures and distributers.
Throw in silent fabrics, scent control, water resistance, 3D leafy and high definition patterns for every setting and season and the modern hunter has more options for camo gear than a goose has feathers. The hunter has to wear something. And if the right pattern will fool an old mossy horns or a long beard into taking one more step, it may mean the difference between a grand outing and just another day in the woods.