CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's fun to disappear. In a manner of speaking, we hunters do it all the time.
We dress in clothing that blends into the surroundings. We climb into tree stands perched high above the forest floor. We mask our scents.
And there we sit, silent and still, our eyes taking in what takes place before us. We watch deer, unaware of our presence, browse slowly toward us. Birds perch on branches just inches away. Squirrels scurry up and down the very trees we inhabit.
It's as if we're invisible.
Our invisibility allows us to witness nature's little-seen behaviors. Rutting bucks spar for dominance before our very eyes. Tom turkeys breed hens in our presence. Bears turn over rotting logs and browse on beetle larvae.
An ever-growing industry supports our woodland voyeurism. In research-and-development suites scattered far and wide, scientists and engineers toil to create the latest and greatest in concealment technology.
Camouflage, you've come a long way.
What began with soldiers and hunters dressing in earth tones and festooning their clothes with leaves and twigs has become sophisticated almost beyond belief.
For a while, camo innovations were driven by the military. The U.S. Marines' island-hopping campaign in World War II's Pacific theater led to development of the simple pattern of earth-tone splotches that became known as U.S. Woodland camo. For more than three decades, U.S. Woodland was the industry standard, concealing the movements of soldiers and sportsmen alike. Seeking alternatives, men such as Trebark's Jim Crumley, Realtree's Bill Jordan and Mossy Oak's Toxey Haas drew up new, innovative camouflage patterns, marketed them and triggered a "designer camouflage" craze that began in the 1980s and hasn't slowed down since.