By Hal Blood
The early hunters, trappers and pioneers of this country knew to wear wool clothing to protect themselves from the elements. They knew from experience that wool clothing would keep them warm even if they ended up taking a dunking in the water. If it were not for wool clothing most people would not have survived the explorations of the 19th century. When you look at old hunting photographs, most likely you will see the hunters in wool clothing whether it was a wool suit and bow tie, customary in the turn of the century or the classic wool plaid which came into favor in the 40’s. Wool clothing has always served hunters well. When I started deer hunting at age ten back in 1967, everyone wore wool checked pant and coats and so that’s what I wore. There really wasn’t much other choice except for cotton and nobody made hunting clothes from it.
Why is wool the best choice for hunting clothing? Wool has natural properties that go well beyond the most commonly stated that wool is warm even when wet. This is true and wool has saved many lives because of it. Another natural property of wool that is naturally resistant to carrying odor. Most people don’t know this because they have become conditioned to think they need a special clothing or spray to mask their odor. I can’t tell you how many times that I have had deer standing feet from me and never knew I was around. One time I had just shot a ten point buck as he ran towards me and he dropped 40 feet from me. As I stood there watching the buck, a doe ran past him and straight at me. That doe must have thought I was a tree as she ran up to me and stopped with her front feet almost standing on mine. She was looking back at the buck with the back of her head about a foot from my chest. She stood for about a minute and then bounded off, but stopped again 20 feet from me looking at the buck again. This doe stood there for another minute or so before bounding away never knowing I was around. That experience happened when I was in my twenties and I have always felt that if I wore wool I would be pretty much scent free. Wool does not burn. It may smoke or smolder a little but you cannot light it on fire. If you burn a hole in your wool socks, it is the synthetic fibers needed for stretch that burned, not the wool. What has this got to do with hunting? Not a lot except you may feel a little more comfortable huddling around a fire to warm up!
Nowadays most hunting clothes are made out of some kind of man made material. They all claim to be the best but believe me after guiding hunters for the past 25 years; I’ve seen it all in hunting clothing. I have yet to see any that can hold a candle to wool for hunting especially where there is snow, rain and cold involved. Don’t get me wrong, if a hunter is sitting in a tree stand insulated whatever material is probable a better choice, but for moving about the woods, you can’t beat wool. Wool will naturally air dry fairly quickly. If you get caught in a snow or rain shower you will stay warm not feel soggy and be dry before you know it. Wool is quiet, which for me is one of the most critical aspects of being a good hunter. Other materials may feel quiet to the touch, but they will slap and pop going through brush. The one exception is polar fleece, but it is completely useless when wet.
I feel the only reason the majority of today’s hunters do not still wear wool is because other materials were marketed better. I remember a lot of clothing was marketed as being just like wool only better. Really, I don’t believe we can make a better all around material than what God made to protected sheep for thousands of years! I guess I am just one of those dyed in the wool guy’s. I have hunted and guided in the north Maine woods long enough to know that I will never give up my wool. We have a saying in hunting camps up here; cotton is death so wear your woolies.