Duck Hunter Camo | The History of a Legendary Camouflage

Duck Hunter Camo or “Duck Camo” has seemed to come into fashion recently. From Topo Designs' Klettersack to a collaboration jacket between The North Face and Supreme, much bigger and hipper brands than WAZOO, have flocked to this pattern.


But before you think we’re just being fashionably late to the party. Let’s take a look at who wore it better.

Here’s a quick and dirty history of Duck Hunter camouflage.

During WWII it became clear that the standard solid-colored US military uniforms, both functionally and visually, did not perform well in jungle environments.

In 1942, General Douglas MacArthur ordered 12 specialized pieces of equipment for the challenging jungle environment of New Guinea. This included a “jungle uniform.”

Notably, the other requested equipment and tools are also pretty interesting to us gearheads and can't help but list below.

12 pieces of jungle equipment for use in anticipation of ground operations in the difficult terrain of New Guinea

  1. Helmet liner with a band for attaching foliage
  2. Jungle uniform
  3. Jungle boots
  4. Cushion sole socks
  5. Floatation bladder
  6. 18-inch machete
  7. Machete sheath
  8. Jungle pack
  9. Waterproof clothing bag
  10. Jungle hammock
  11. Light-weight jungle flashlight
  12. Waterproof matchbox with compass

Since 1940, the US Army Corps of Engineers had been working on a disruptive dappled camouflage pattern instead of a solid color. Their "Frog Skin" camo pattern was, perhaps hastily, adopted for jungle uniform request.

In August 1942, the reversible one-piece jungle suit was developed and declared standard issue. One side was 5-colored green toned for vegetative environments and the other 3-colored tan toned for more desert environments. Both had dappled patterning.

As an alternative to a one-piece jungle design, a two-piece version was created and issued by the U.S. Marines

Left: US Army one-piece jungle suit

Right: Marine wears the USMC 1942 pattern two-piece camouflage utility uniform

 

The camouflage was adapted to other pieces of equipment.

 

Unfortunately, feedback from the field was that the lighter base color stood out while moving in the darker jungle. In was concluded that a uniform in a single shade of dark grayish green would provide the most concealment in the most environments, for both static and moving positions.

In January 1944, production for the the camouflage jungle uniform was halted and it's issuing toward the end of WWII became limited.

In the subsequent 1950s and 1960s, surplus camouflage uniforms were abundant after the war and the after-market found opportunities to market the camo pattern to sportsman, and in particular duck hunters.

No standard military uniform existed as the involvement in the Vietnam war escalated in the 1960s, and early troops including US Army Rangers and Navy SEALs utilized the uniforms and camouflage. The Vietnamese called it "Beo Gam" meaning "leopard."

 Navy SEALs wearing commercial Duck Hunter Camo

The pattern found use in the southern Mekong Delta area that is least forested, but was less appropriate for the vegetative jungle environments of the north. Consequently, the better suited Tiger Stripe pattern was custom developed by Special Forces troops.

Duck Hunter Camo appreciated several decades of success within the commercial scene.

When the author was born in 1987, to a duck hunting Arkansas native, who came from multiple generations of duck hunters, the Duck Hunter pattern was unofficial official duck hunting dress.

The pattern became so well associated with the duck hunter community, that hopeful presidential candidates wore it to try to demonstrate their authenticity to the very authentically Arkansas sport.

For this author, Duck Hunter camo is associated with his youth, and in particular duck hunting with his father.

ABOVE: The author with one of his trophies, shot with a shotgun fitted with Duck Hunter camo.

ABOVE: The author coming back from a duck hunt equipped with a Duck Hunter camo PFD and a shotgun in a Duck Hunter camo case. Note, the arm of the author's dad in Duck Hunter cam jacket.

However, Duck Hunter camo's commercial success continued into the 1990s and the iconic pattern spread beyond the use of hunting garments and equipment.

From stylish activewear for dads building "playhouses" for their daughters.

 Circa 1994

To button-down shirt formalwear that were Sunday Church appropriate.

 Circa 1996

Even after far more technical camouflages have been introduced, Duck Hunter camo can still be found any many closets.

ABOVE: The author coming back from a deer hunt with his Dad. Note his dad's Duck Hunter camo pants. Circa 2017

The Duck Hunter pattern has had a long, adventurous life. No doubt it has touched many lives all over the world and it will live into the future in the hearts and memory of many.

ABOVE: The author, Dustin, with his dad, Wayne. Duck Hunter camo jacket, 1993.

ABOVE: The author, with the same jacket, and the Legacy Wallet, 2021.

 

The above article is dedicated to my Dad, Wayne Hogard, on this Father's Day, June 20, 2021.

Thanks to my mother, Cheryl, for tracking down these photos, proving we were rocking the Duck Hunter camo BEFORE it was cool.

Information and photos for this blog have been assembled and sourced from the sites below. The author does not make claims to the factual credibility of the information sourced as he was not there.

  • http://usww2uniforms.com/PE2EarlyPacificCamo.html#thumb
  • https://camopedia.org/index.php?title=Duck_hunter
  • http://www.vietnamgear.com/kit.aspx?kit=221
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frog_Skin
  • https://www.atthefront.com/category-s/490.htm
  • https://nydovehunting.weebly.com/our-elected-officials-in-the-field.html
  • https://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/308418-vietnam-camoduck-hunter/
  • https://woodandfaulk.com/blogs/journal/a-brief-history-of-duck-camouflage

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