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Leaf it Out!

PUBLISHED: 10:54 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:54 15 August 2013

Archant

Do ghillie suits really give you an advantage in the field? Matt Clark finds out

Note how the Leafy suit breaks up Matt's outlineNote how the Leafy suit breaks up Matt's outline

Last month, I was extolling the virtues of the Seeland Conceal oversuit. What I particularly liked about it was the fact that it was designed to go over other clothes and after your hunting session you could simply take the suit off and go about your daily business. This month, it’s time to introduce something a little bit different, the leaf or mesh suit.

Sometimes called a ghillie suit, the roots of this method of concealment go back to the Scottish gamekeepers (ghillies) who used to use a net or cloth garment covered in burlap (a hessian-type cloth), or twine to resemble dense foliage. This helped the ghillies to stalk deer and vermin, or even lie in wait for poachers.

The ghillie suit these days is used by hunters, as well as military snipers, to enable them to blend into their background and conceal themselves from their quarry or enemy soldiers. It is also no less useful to the airgun hunter.

Getting Close

Hunting with a sub 12ft.lbs air rifle means that airgunners have to be exemplary at stalking. We need to get close to our quarry to ensure a clean kill. This can be hard work, especially if the vermin you are targeting have been hunted a lot. Naturally, camouflage helps us become invisible to our quarry and the progress that has been made with camo patterns over the years has really benefitted all hunters, but the problem with camo is that it is rather two-dimensional.

Yes, manufacturers like Realtree have created patterns that are remarkably good at giving the impression of ‘depth’ to their patterns, but essentially the camo is two-dimensional. The ghillie suit with its leaf, twine or cloth strips is three-dimensional, concealing its wearer even better.

Modern ghillie suits designed specifically for hunter are much better than their predecessors. The new mesh suits are light-weight, cool, and have realistic-looking leaves made from synthetic materials that don’t fade, and move in the wind like real leaves.

The Seeland gloves have a 'grippy' palm which makes holding a rifle easierThe Seeland gloves have a 'grippy' palm which makes holding a rifle easier

Leafy

The Leafy Set from Seeland, reviewed here, is an excellent example of how ghillie suits have evolved. Made from polyester square hole mesh with polyester canvas leaf trim, this suit is lightweight, breathable, and can be put on over ordinary clothes. However, we would suggest that you can combine the Leaf Set with camo underneath for best effect.

The beauty of the leaf suit is that it can be worn in summer over a lightweight pair of trousers and T-shirt to keep you cool, or you can put it over warmer clothes in winter. This makes the Leafy suit extremely versatile.

The face veil even has a hole for your ear, because hearing is as important as sight for a hunterThe face veil even has a hole for your ear, because hearing is as important as sight for a hunter

Naturally, there is a downside to a leaf suit in that the mesh can get caught on brambles. Happily, the Seeland Leafy Set’s mesh was very tightly woven, minimising the risk of it catching on branches when you are moving through scrub.

Portable Hide

It has to be said that if you are planning to use a ghillie suit, then you will be static hunting mainly. Think of it as a portable hunting blind/hide rather than a camo suit and more important than camouflage is the ability to stay still because animals are particularly alert to movement.

The slits allow access to your pockets in your trousers under the suitThe slits allow access to your pockets in your trousers under the suit

Of course, many people decide to weave blades of grass or small branches into their ghillie suit to help them blend in. This is perfectly good practice and can be very effective, but be aware that picked grass and leaves will wilt after an hour or so, which will look unnatural and give your position away. Also, if you change location and still have green blades of grass in your suit when you are now in yellow reeds, then you will also stand out like a Belisha beacon.

To ensure that you are fully concealed, a face veil and gloves are essential, especially if you are shooting sharp-eyed avian quarry. I know I’ve said that a million times, but it is so true that I feel I need to stress it again and again, so forgive me.

Why a Hood?

A leaf suit out of context can make you look like a swamp monsterA leaf suit out of context can make you look like a swamp monster

The suit comes with an integral hood. This is not to keep the rain off because a mesh suit is never going to be weatherproof, but to conceal your head. This is particularly useful if you are as bald as a snooker ball, like me, because it keeps chrome dome shine down to a minimum.

Many mesh suits on the market are either a poncho design that you drape over yourself, or are a pullover style, like a jumper. This makes getting them on and off a bit of a struggle, but the Seeland Leafy Set has a stud button opening at the front and you put it on and off like a jacket.

Mesh suits don’t have any pockets but the Seeland suit has slits at the side of the jacket and in the trousers so that the wearer can reach the pockets in the clothes underneath the mesh suit. The cuffs of the jacket and trousers are elasticated ensuring a good fit and that your clothes underneath are concealed.

This suit is ideal if you are looking for something to give you that edge over your quarry. If you shoot over land where the vermin are used to being hunted, then the extra dimension that this Leafy Set gives you is well worth the money. You could also use it like the Conceal hunting suit I reviewed last month, as something lightweight and cool to conceal your ordinary clothes, which can then be easily removed after hunting, allowing you to go shopping etc., although unlike the Conceal suit, the Leafy Set won’t protect your ordinary clothes from mud and dirt.

The Leafy jacket also has access slitsThe Leafy jacket also has access slits

At just over £80, the Leafy Set is good value and it can be used winter or summer to keep you camouflaged, but don’t forget the face veil and gloves as well to ensure complete invisibility.

It has to be said that when you wear a ghillie suit you do look like a swamp monster, so it’s always wise to remove it as soon as you leave your permission, otherwise you will frighten small children and get strange looks from passers-by.

The Leafy Set is available in all good gunshops from Seeland and will cost £84.99 for the suit, £11.99 for the Leafy Facecover and the same for the Leafy gloves. For more information visit: www.seeland.com

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