Camouflage Patterns: How Do They Look to Animals?



First, camouflage patterns will do you no good if you’re moving. Animals pick up movement very easily, especially elk. They quickly process human movement as a risk and flee.



For another innovative product that severely hampers game animals' ability to sense your presence, check out our discussion of the HECS Stealthscreen suit.


Elk can see very well a long ways off, even a half mile or more. However, what they have trouble with is “processing” what they are seeing. They have trouble deciding what is living and what isn’t without seeing movement, smelling scent, or last and least, hearing some kind of evidence, like a human voice, unnatural sounds, etc.

Sometimes you might get away with very slow, slight movements, but it’s best to play statue when you’re being stared at by an elk or deer. There are times when a hunter might get away with looking non-human while moving. I know of one author who claims to be able to “duck walk” bent over, as he moves slowly by elk and sometimes gets away with it. I actually drew an arrow and shot a cow elk once while she stood there and stared at me, but who knows why those rare moments happen.

It is possible, even while donned in the “perfect” camouflage pattern, that two legs, a face, and an upright torso are all elk and deer need to put “HUMAN!” together in their brains and panic.

Elk are not “smart” or “intelligent” in the true sense of the words. They do have incredible senses and very protective instinctive actions and reactions, however. They are well equipped by the Creator to thrive and survive.

No Matter How You Spell It

Camoflauge, camo, camouflage; How is that spelled, anyway? The third spelling is actually correct, but “camo” will do!

Cervidae, the deer family including elk, do not see colors the same way we do. So it’s a mistake to look at camouflage patterns to determine how good it might look to us humans.

The word “camouflage” means to use devices to blend into the environment in order to avoid being detected by predators or prey. An important device is camouflage clothing, but scent control , silence (or elk sounds ), background colors and stillness are vital camouflage devices, too.

Lots to Choose From

Camoflauge patterns vary widely by manufacturers, depending on what natural surroundings their potential customers hunt in. They are designed to make the hunters think they will blend in better with their particular camo pattern. (ASAT is the most effective! See below.)

The names appeal to hunters around the nation: Seclusion3D, Mossy Oak Break Up, Shadowgrass, TreBark, TrueTimber, RealTree camouflage, etc. In most elk habitat we find ourselves hunting among evergreens, but Mossy Oak probably works just as well because it breaks up the human form.

Do we need to buy camouflage clothing with pine tree needles or Douglas fir trunks splashed all over them? Whenever we walk through aspens do we need to change to camo clothing with some aspen-tree-trunk-white? How many animals do you see that look like trees and bushes?

What color are most animals? They aren’t expected to stay next to trees all their lives, so they don’t look like pine or oak trees. Although I’ve seen a few bears that I thought were burned out stumps! Maybe we don’t need to look like trees either, in order to keep animals from “seeing” us.

Obliterate the Human Form

The ultimate goal of any camouflage pattern is to simply conceal the human form. Hunters through the ages have been successful using simple earth color plaid or even buckskin colored shirts. The lines and earth tones are somewhat successful at blurring the shape of the human form.

Many of us have successfully killed elk up close with archery equipment while donned in any of the expensive and even inexpensive camouflage patterns on the market today. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on hunting camouflage to avoid standing out as a human being when elk or deer look your way.

Is There a Best Camo Pattern?

In our opinion, there are two camouflage patterns that are made to more effectively fool animals in any environment, instead of impressing the human eye. Those are ( ASAT: All Season All Terrain)and Predator camo. I now use only ASAT camo after several years of proving its effectiveness to myself.

ASAT camo patterns are designed to make the animal look right past you, right through you, to distract them from your ominous human form. (Predator is to some degree, but they are starting to cater more to the human eye.) ASAT camo isn't designed to look like a tree. When I first saw ASAT I thought, "That's cheap and hokey looking!" 

The light background colors not only blend in with most natural backgrounds, they keep the animal from being able to put together into one unit, the dreaded human form they are actually looking at. That is, if you aren’t moving!

I have bought both Predator and ASAT camouflage patterns and hunted with both for extended periods. I used Predator for two years, then used ASAT for the first time starting in September of 2009.

You can read about some personal ASAT hunting stories here. Perhaps I suddenly became a much better hunter (not), but I have been undetected by elk that were "looking at" me more often while wearing ASAT camouflage patterns than in previous years of wearing the tree design patterns.

The light background on ASAT and Predator camouflage patterns are designed to create an illusion of depth and other natural “busyness”. Hence, an animal has trouble telling where the human form begins and stops.

It seems to me from personal experience, the longer an animal stares at it, the more it blends into the background. Maybe it creates an optical illusion, like one of those puzzle patterns two people can look at and see two different things. The pattern is too "busy" to make it obvious what is right before their eyes.

(My personal ASAT hunting stories are here.)

Behind Predator and ASAT

Predator camo has been around since the summer of 1991. Their various patterns seem to be evolving into more human pleasing patterns.

I do believe the light background of both of these two patterns is an improvement over the greener, artistic camouflage patterns that probably just look like a dark form to an elk or deer’s mind/eye perception. Predator patterns do have some tree branch images, though, for human marketing purposes.

ASAT Camo has stuck with the same camouflage pattern they decided on after “twenty years of testing” prior to manufacturing it.

The ASAT camouflage company began back in 1986. To quote from their website the goal “was (to) develop a camo pattern that would be good at all times, in any environment, to fool any game animal or bird.” The “light khaki tan background and contrasting, curved striped shapes” is still the same today. The yellow-based tan is supposedly the only color that reflects all other colors.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but when I wore out my Predator camouflage clothing I decided to try ASAT next. The manufacturer offers a money-back guarantee that "you will see more animals" while wearing their pattern exclusively for one year.

I have to disagree and would change that to, "fewer animals will see you" while wearing ASAT camo. You still have to get yourself among the elk and deer to see them, but ASAT camo makes them look right through you without figuring out you're a human. Let’s just say, I’m not asking for my money back from ASAT!

It's hard to find ASAT in retail sporting goods stores in some areas. Cabela's, Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops don't carry it. Some retail stores carry it, but not in their online offerings.

For that reason, I called Rob at ASAT (they're just down the road from me) and asked them if they wanted to make their camo available for purchase on Elk-Hunting-Tips.net . I'm THAT sold on ASAT! I don't put that kind of approval on any product unless I feel very strongly about it.

Any Camo Can Work

Use any camouflage pattern you want to, but avoid moving when elk are looking at you. Work the wind to keep it in your favor and avoid sounding like a human. In fact, sometimes you might want to sound like an elk walking, especially if you’re making elk calls.

Consider the more basic, light background camo patterns of Predator or ASAT. We would love to hear your feedback about camouflage patterns. Have you tried Predator or ASAT? 

Read my personal ASAT hunting experiences here.


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