One of my favorite "discoveries" as a new hunter was the ghillie suit - I'd had no idea that human beings would actually want to walk around looking like Swamp Thing. It just seemed so ridiculous.
But Hank talked about wanting a ghillie jacket for a while, and two years ago, I bought one for him for Christmas. He didn't get a chance to wear it right away because his Achilles tendon popped and he couldn't even walk for a couple months, much less hunt.
When duck season began last year, though, he started wearing it all the time, and he loved it. From a distance, the jacket's shaggy outline really did make it much harder to see him hiding in cattails and tules. (Usually it's surprisingly easy to spot hunters in the marsh.)
So this year, I asked for this ghillie jacket for Christmas, and Hank obliged. Wednesday was the first chance I got to try it out, and it was amazing.
I wore it in conjunction with a black balaclava I have from my Minnesota distance running days, and though I was sitting in a tule patch that didn't afford much cover, the ducks just did not see me.
Better yet, whenever I was walking around and birds approached, I'd just hunker down over the water and disappear. Several times when I did that, I got the opportunity to stand and shoot, and the birds really didn't get that I was a hunter who was going to shoot them. What I mean is they didn't flare immediately, and I killed two or three birds this way.
It's pretty rare that a single piece of clothing makes such a noticeable difference in your hunt, but this one really did.
In fact, it works so well it makes me wonder why more duck hunters don't wear these. It is nothing but a mesh shell. If it's cold, you can wear it over a jacket. If it's warm, this is the most ventilated camo you could possibly hope to wear.
I was worried that all the flaps of fabric would catch the butt of my gun, but they didn't. Ever.
My only complaint is about the pockets, which are located in the side seams over the hips, as with a normal jacket. Because they're not deep and don't have a zipper, you wouldn't want to put anything important in them - I just used them for empty shells that I picked up while walking around.
And the pockets are hard to find, though I don't think that should be surprising with all those flaps of fabric.
If I were the designer at Cabela's (hey, wait, I've worked with them before - maybe I should mention this to them), I would add a zipped inner breast pocket for things like licenses and car keys. Hell, I know how to sew (a little) - I may just add that myself.
Regardless, I highly recommend this jacket. Mine is the "big game" version, and while I learned just yesterday that there's also a waterfowl ghillie, I think it really doesn't matter which one you use because the flaps largely obscure the camo pattern anyway. I mean, that's the whole point.
Holly A. Heyser is a former politics editor at the Orange County Register and St. Paul Pioneer Press who now teaches journalism at her alma mater, Sacramento State. She went on her first hunt at age 41 and immediately fell in love with the honesty, grace and humility of acquiring food the hard way. Click here to contact her.
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