Comfort, protection and durability…all with style.
In most part of the country, including mine (central California), upland hunting is done in conditions I would describe as “mild.” Temperatures are above freezing but below 70°, it’s usually dry from the ankles up, and winds are low. You’re also out in a field or in sparse woodland, rather than hidden deep in a cold, damp forest or out on a freezing blind. When hunting in these favorable conditions, you have a lot of latitude with respect to your clothing, but the right choices still can make a difference.
For this genre of hunting clothing, I went with Filson as my supplier of choice. The company’s founder, C. C. Filson began in 1897, equipping miners for the extreme conditions of the Klondike winters, and has been outfitting hunters and other outdoorsmen for over a century. Today, Filson is widely regarded as a premium line of clothing for a variety of outdoor activities, but they especially excel in their apparel for upland bird hunting. Filson creates some of their own fabrics for their apparel as well, so some of their offerings can’t be found anywhere else.
Filson offers a vast array of shirting (I can’t believe I just used the word “shirting”) options in various materials, weights, and styles. You’re sure to find something that suits you. Of special noteworthiness is that they offer an extra-tall option in several of their styles. This is great for people like me who are a size large in the body, but extra-large in the arms. Where ordinarily I’d be forced to go with an XL size, with Filson I can go with a L-long. There’s less billowy material around the middle, which helps outer layers fit better, and I’m sure somehow helps the hunting effort. Seriously, to people of unusual size (like me) this option is a true luxury.
For the upland hunt, I chose a long-sleeved shirt in their “feather cloth” fabric, which is their lightest weight. Those of you in areas that get colder during the upland hunting season may wish to go with a heavier shirt. Just remember that you’ll be moving around a lot, whatever sun there is will be shining on you, and that bird bag’s gonna get awfully heavy. This shirt gives me ample freedom of movement, and is comfortable enough that I’m not really aware of it while wearing it (the true acid test of a garment, in my opinion).
The vest is, in my mind, a greatly under-appreciated part of upland hunting attire. First of all, remember that you’re probably going to carry a lot of stuff (ammo, gloves, calls, food, water, plus the birds you bag). The vest needs to store and protect all of this, and still give you room to move, and be durable enough to stand up to abuse, and be as light as possible. Plus, it might be your only piece of blaze clothing.
The Filson game bags are available in a few different styles; I chose the Tin Cloth model. Tin Cloth is Filson’s heaviest fabric, made of 12.5 oz. cotton duck that has been paraffin treated for water resistance. This vest is built like a Sherman tank, and should outlast me. The pockets are roomy and plentiful, the straps are adjustable at the shoulders, and you can get it with blaze if you so desire. It could well be the only game bag you’ll ever need.
Filson also offers a more conventionally-cut vest with similar features for those who favor a traditional look.
Even though upland game hunting tends to be less rigorous than other forms of hunting, your pants can still take a beating. You’ll find yourself occasionally wading through ankle-deep water, slogging through knee-high brush or climbing over a rock or hill. It’s advisable to wear something that can stand up to the abuse. And while denims would probably survive, I really dislike wearing denim pants for hunting — the cut isn’t really right for physical activity, and the tight pockets are a major nuisance. That’s why I prefer the traditional slacks cut.
Again, Filson offers a wide array of pants to choose from. I own more than one pair, and for upland game, I like the ones made of Cover Cloth. Cover Cloth is a 6 oz. cotton fabric, considerably lighter than the Tin Cloth, but still sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of an all-day trip to the field. Filson’s brush pants are “faced” with a second layer of fabric on the front and the lower back of the legs. This enhances water repellency as well as durability.
Those wishing an even more durable pair of pants for hunting might want to look at the same style cut from the Tin Cloth. These will allow you to walk through pretty much anything short of concertina wire.
In recent years, Filson has greatly expanded their product line, and now offers several clothing collections for variety of activities, and in a wide range of weather conditions. In my experience, all of their products are entirely first-rate. As mentioned above, upland game hunting in mild climates really isn’t all that taxing on your clothes, but having some high-quality, well fitting apparel is sure to enhance the pleasure of the experience. After all, life’s short, and as Filson’s motto says, “might as well have the best.”