Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

August 10, 2013

Keep your head (warm)

I am very particular about caps or hats, whichever term you choose.

For one thing, it seems nowadays that a lot of baseball-style hunting caps sit on top of the head rather than reach down far enough in the back to be beneath the occipital bone of the skull.

I found that word (occipital) on the Information Superhighway. I was just going to call it the back of the noggin.

Anyway, the occipital bone acts as a sort of an anchor for a cap, keeping it on the head during a high wind or even during a quick twist of the cranium, such as happens when a grouse flushes to the left or the right.

During cold weather, I like a substantial hat. I have numerous hunting buddies who can hunt during cold weather wearing a standard twill ballcap.

Can’t do it. That would run me back to the truck or the cabin or even home because my head gets cold very easily and that, to me, is not a bearable situation.

Former newsroom colleague/reporter/ friend Alison Bunting used to frequently comment about, and, I believe, covet my various winter hats.

I am a Stormy Kromer fan and have three of those caps, my current favorite being the one in Partridge Plaid. Any camo good enough for a partridge is good enough for me. I think, too, that it provides a bit of a debonair and upscale touch to the hunter, though I don’t have an L. C. Smith side-by-side to crook in my arm to complete that picture.

I had a Columbia wool boonie camo cap that I liked a lot because every time it was squished it would take on a new form and still look good.

When a cap is like an amoeba, it looks good no matter the configuration. It was warm, too. And it had a bill.

I use the past tense because I haven’t been able to find that headgear for about three years. It’s probably not lost, just in a holding pattern somewhere that I haven’t looked.

This happens with many of my hunting items, such as calls and knives.

Eventually, I find them, and it is always in the last place I look. Get it?

In the 1960s, I bought a red, warm hunting cap at G.C. Murphy in downtown Cumberland.

Blaze orange was not invented then, let alone required. It was a bomber-style. You know, individual flaps front-back-left-right. Each of them would snap tight in the up position or unsnap and drop when more protection from the elements was needed.

I wore that cap for years while hunting big game in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest.

A year ago I bought via the Internet a Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, camouflaged cap with ear flaps. This cap failed the first test in that it didn’t reach beneath the occipital bone unless the ear flaps were deployed. But, when the ear flaps were deployed it made terrible noises when the head was turned and the ears moved against the inside of the flaps.

I know. The animals won’t hear that noise, but it is simply too distracting to the wearer.

In some situations, it’s tough to beat a stocking cap. People in the Cumberland area have always used the term toboggan. The beanie cap and watch cap are of the same style.

I like these caps when I am in a ground blind, but not when I am out in the open. In the open woods, I prefer a cap with a bill because I see better without that glare of light coming straight down onto my eyes.

For years, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, I wore the Jones-style hunting cap. Those are good caps, providing a short bill in the front and, if needed, a small back flap that can be lowered. I don’t see hunters wearing those much any more.

In the late 1980s I was in Kmart at the Country Club Mall and saw a bin of camouflage baseball-style caps. They were insulated with a layer of  foam, which is a very good insulator, though I don’t think it is used much now.

The pattern on the caps was what I always saw referred to as brown camo. The sign at Kmart said they cost $3 apiece, and they weren’t even the Blue Light Special. I bought three; one for me, one for my father and one for his best hunting buddy.

I wore mine into a frazzle and eventually inherited Dad’s, which I still wear. It is among my all-time favorite top-five pieces of headgear. A photograph of it accompanies this column.

The one form of hunting for which I keep detailed records is spring gobbler. I record date, place, shotshell, distance of shot and physical characteristics of the gobbler among other things.

Ten years or so ago, I began chronicling the lucky hat I was wearing on the day of success.

That’s more for fun than utility. In recent years I have been hunting from the PHT (Pappy’s Hunting Tent) when I bagged gobblers. Inside that blind you could probably wear a flashing, neon cap and still kill turkeys.

My hunting for turkey and deer now is 99 percent from a stationary position. However, if you like to slip through the woods as you hunt, I’m sure you have already noticed that your headgear often scrapes against branches.

If you are wearing a wool or fleece cap, that will be a silent experience.

My all-time favorite cap was a Stetson, a very, very worn Stetson, along U.S. Route 12 between Walla Walla and Waitsburg, Wash., in the 1970s.

I didn’t have to wear it a long time to get some creases and holes. They were already there.

Like I said at the time, anybody can find a hat, but how many people can find a hat that fits perfectly?

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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