To start with, I always live by the infantier’s mantra, “Look after your feet and you will go a long way.” Good, well-fitting and preferably breathable boots, which are capable of standing up to the variable British weather, are essential for extended stalking outings.
Hill roe will need a sturdy boot such as the Black Islander No Scratch boot and the 9in Graphite boot. These boots have a number of unique qualities – the all-leather boots are covered with a unique man-made waterproof, yet breathable, new-concept rubberised fabric, which is bonded onto the leather upper and sole, preventing water from entering the boot at the seam. They also feature a Windex waterproof and breathable liner, lightweight, rust-free eyelets, rubber toe and are shod with the time-served Vibram sole. Additionally they are surprisingly lightweight for a rugged boot, and are my personal joint for most stalking scenarios.
On the low ground, especially when foot stalking as opposed to high seat shooting, a lightweight, thin-soled boot makes all the difference when it comes to not giving away your position. A thinner sole will let you feel more with your feet. I have a pair of Danner Jackal II GTX XCR 7in tactical hiking boots from Edgar Brothers – they are superb for this kind of work.
As editor of Sporting Rifle magazine, I often test a variety of stalking clothing, and most of it is fit for purpose, but you do get what you pay for. For years I have been a big fan of Deerhunter, who supply superb, practical hunting garments at a reasonable price. I also have a Harkila Prohunter suit that is exceptionally tough, waterproof and breathable – but it is heavy. My first choice for the past two years has been the Deerhunter Recon suit. It has an innovative pixelated camo design using shades of green, brown and grey. It is superb, breathable and waterproof; the cut of the jacket and trousers is perfect for stalking and crawling without unnecessary tension on the legs or shoulders. The only small criticism I have is the slight noise it makes – though no more so than many other contenders – but Deerhunter has since produced a new version called the Cumberland that is virtually silent. This is difficult to achieve with any garment containing a membrane, but the brown fleece outer material makes it virtually silent without losing any of its breathability or water-repelling qualities. It is set to be a winner, of that I’m sure.
For a long time I used Deerhunter’s Game Stalker suit. It is a light and flexible anorak, trouser and cap, perfectly suited for traditional stalking in Realtree AP camouflage. This pattern is especially suited for the autumn and winter, but I find it perfectly acceptable for spring and summer too. The suit comes in the soft, yet durable Deer-Tex stretch membrane material, which is extremely comfortable is wind and waterproof and comes complete with Velcro-adjustable cuffs, knee-length leg zippers, elasticated waistband and plenty of pockets. The snap-pull adjustable hood is kept out of sight and in place when not in use by two discreet magnets. A hidden zippered neck pocket contains an integral and practical mosquito net facemask. Regardless of where and when you go hunting, you can rest assured that the combination of Realtree AP and manufacturing quality provides the camouflage and reliability that I have come to expect from Deerhunter. Their Ram jacket has pretty much become the industry standard in stalking circles.
I use Black Islander Deluxe gaiters, as they are simply the best on the market, a view shared by most of Scotland’s hill keepers. They are exceptional. A lightweight, waterproof but breathable soft upper shell is complemented by a hardwearing Cordura lower shell ankle piece that will defy the roughest of heather. A heavy-duty front zipper (often overlooked by other manufacturers) enables simplicity of use with Velcro cover flap. Further features are a robust double-riveted large steel lace hook and pop-studded tie top. These gaiters have been my choice for more than a decade.
Remember, quality kit fit for purpose will not only make your stalking outings more comfortable and increase your success rates, on the hill or in other remote areas, they might make the difference between life and death.
Washing stalking clothing correctly shouldn’t be overlooked. Perfumed washing powder and fabric conditioners are of course counterproductive. I soak my bloodied clothing in cold water and then put it through the machine on a warm wash without any additional powder or conditioner. There are a number of scentless washing products on the market aimed at hunters and I have tried them. All I can say is that American bow hunters, who of course have to get very close to their game, swear by these products. I’m not against them – it’s more that I forget to buy them, and a cold soak followed by a warm wash works for me.