When all's been said and done, you can't deny your roots. Personally, I still feel betrayed by the International Amateur Open going to all-concept fields. It's my opinion that paintball needs at least one major event in the woods every year.
And I'm not talking about extracurricular sniping here, I'm talking about a real woods game. The first lesson is about your clothing. I'm not going to tell you to wear camouflage in the woods, because as I said, I like to see bright red jerseys out there.
They're easier to see. But if you want to know what the rest of us do, you'll want to at least subdue yourself in the woods. If you go the camo route, which I don't discourage, you'll find there are dozens of clothing choices.
Most paintball takes place in the woods. I like the woods. I'm beginning to like them even more, considering that a lot of players wear these colorful jerseys out there now. Hey, if you like it, who am I to say no? But give me a nice day, a lot of leafy greens, and the right gear, and we'll have a clinic. Why wait? If you want to get out into the woods and vanish, keep reading. I'm probably metaphorically shooting myself in the foot by telling my secrets, but hey, that's what I get the big bucks for.
The first lesson is about your clothing. I'm not going to tell you to wear camouflage in the woods, because as I said, I like to see bright red jerseys out there. They're easier to see. But if you want to know what the rest of us do, you'll want to at least subdue yourself in the woods. If you go the camo route, which I don't discourage, you'll find there are dozens of clothing choices.
Camouflage comes in two flavors: aggressive and passive. Aggressive camouflage is usually made up of seemingly random colors in a blobby or mottled fashion. It works by blending into the overall background, not necessarily one area. This includes the ever-popular woodland, tiger stripe, and others. Every country has a flavor of camo, like Auscam, Belgian Dots, British DPM, and Swiss Alpenflage. But even if the camouflage has nothing to do with the country of origin, each has a unique style.
Passive camos work by representing the wearer as the terrain they are in. "Realtree," for example, looks like a tree. I mean it photo-realistically looks like a tree, down to being able to see impressions on the bark in the print. In its specific terrain, this is hands-down the best camo you can wear. However, out of its terrain, you're screwed. I wore Realtree in a desert once, in which case it worked as a color match like aggressive camo. But if you wear a brown-based passive camo in a green forest, you may as well be wearing that red jersey.
You may have noticed the glaring omission of the "ghillie" suit. This is intentional. This is the shaggy "sniper suit" made popular by many movies. It does work, yes. But for paintball, it's almost totally useless. Most fields now are too small to use them, and the games are only 20 minutes long, barely enough time to set up with a suit. Plus, they bounce paintballs like mad. All of this assumes you have the patience to sit or crawl slowly while waiting for an opportunity to present itself to you. Many fields won't even let you wear them. My advice is to save your money and buy a cool upgrade for your gun instead. Besides, with the techniques I'll talk about, you can do without one.
I'm not about to tell you what kind of camo to wear. What works best in the fall won't work best in the summer. Also, what you use in New York is not remotely close to the best you can use in California. This is where having an aggressive camo comes in handy. I can wear the same tiger stripes anywhere and get similar results.
If it's that big a deal, go to your local hunting store and ask them what they wear in the area this time of year. Keep in mind that hunters can be more fanatic about camouflage than paintball players are about paint guns. Some will swear by "Brand X" camo, regardless of how silly it looks. If the guy has a "Realtree"-covered couch in his shop, thank him for his time and leave. (I have seen them….)
The second part of your apparel choice is finding a good fit. I'm a big guy, and I have a hard time finding camos that fit me well. Uncle Sam makes BDUs in a "Long" size, but they're usually not enough. Keep in mind that you're going to be contorting your body in weird ways on the field. That small bind in your pants now can become a tourniquet to your leg later. A little loose is OK, although baggy is not the best. Overly baggy clothing can get caught on sticks and twigs as you're running..
One more decision you'll have to make regards padding. How much do you want to wear? I recommend that you wear padding under your clothing if you can, mostly for the snag principle. Extraneous gear can get caught on small twigs as you're trying to move through deep stuff. It's the main reason I don't wear a squeegee on a lanyard around my neck. The term "running garrote" has special meaning to me. Not fun. I'm also finding that I can get away with wearing almost no true camo. I have a green long-sleeved T-shirt I wear in mid-summer, and it seems to work well. I've also worn all black and gotten away with it. However, that has more to do with my techniques than the actual camo wear itself. I've had days where I could wear that red jersey and vanish. How? Glad you asked!
When you're playing in the woods, look for a few things. I like to get on the ground level when I can. The reason is that the thick stuff is down there, and you can use it. It's called "soft cover." Hard cover is the really solid stuff, like trees and rocks. Soft cover is a bit more nebulous. A single twig will not protect you from incoming paint.
Fifty sticks layered in front of you, however, will. If you can get behind stuff that will break paintballs before they reach you, you're just as protected as you would be if you were behind a rock or a tree.
But when you use soft cover, you can see your opponents. The disadvantage is that, sooner or later, soft cover breaks down. Twigs don't last forever; they break eventually. But if you can buy yourself a few moments, you can get ahead of your opponents by seeing what they're up to while still staying protected.
One of the best uses of soft cover I'd seen in a long time was by someone who got under a pine tree and sat with the barrel of his paint gun barely out of the lower ring of needles. I admire the guy's tenacity, but not the itching he more than likely had to deal with afterwards. But it's the price you pay. When you're in deep cover like this, you can be wearing a neon sign that says "shoot me" and not be seen.
This is what I mean. Look for things like that tree. One field I've played had a hole in the brush about three feet tall that, once you crawled through it, led to the backside of the other team. And you can get there unseen by 80 percent of the field! Once you know this spot exists, go for it! Look for tall grass that prevents your opponents from seeing you crawl. Look for ditches and depressions in the ground that you can lie in and not be seen from normal ground level.
Speaking of tall grass, there's something I want to talk about here: movement. Stealthy movement, and how you can move up the field without being seen or heard, deserves its own article. That being said, here's something to look for, and a good old-school trick. While crawling or moving in light cover like grass or trees, be mindful of how much impact you have on the environment. More simply, how much stuff you disturb when you move.
While watching a grassy field for opponents, I'll look for a few things. First is grass that's been bent or knocked over. It's like how crop circles look. I'll also look for twigs on trees or the tips of grass that move with no help from the wind.
If I see a shrub moving, odds are it's not due to telekinesis, nor is it a collection of mole rats playing with my head. Now for the old-school trick. Knowing that my movement will cause other things around me to move, I'll use that fact to play with my opponents' heads. Last year at a big game, I was crawling the left wire through some really thick stuff. I had reached great position, and the other team thought they saw me. With my left foot outstretched, I kicked a shrub a few times, just in bounds.
"He's over there!" I heard them yell, and paint went zinging four feet to my left. It's only four feet, but it was enough to keep them looking in the wrong place. I made a few more moves on my belly before taking out a few of them. Now that's old school.
Eventually, you're going to want to shoot someone. It's inevitable; a part of the game, I suppose. On one hand, you can just start to pull the trigger and let the paint fly as it will. But you can do a lot with skilled shooting. For starters, you can dictate your opponents' actions by how you shoot.
Let's say for a moment that you're in the woods playing paintball. You're minding your own business, trying to shoot someone on the other team. Suddenly, a flurry of paintballs explodes next to your head from an angle you weren't anticipating. What do you do? If you're a normal person, you duck! Knowing this, I can turn up the heat by shooting a LOT of paint at you, keeping your head down. On the other hand, let's say you're moving up with a group of friends through the woods. A single shot is fired, and one of your friends is hit. You don't know where the ball came from, or even the general direction it came from. You will most likely duck, and try to figure out where the shooter is and try to eliminate him. Knowing this, I can dictate what you do as the shooter. I can let you get back up, and shoot you in another location. I can let you try to look for me, and shoot you then. I can keep you guessing the whole game if I want to.
Both times, how I decide to shoot is based on what I want my opponents to do. A lone shot can demoralize opponents because nobody wants to be the next guy plinked off.
A flurry of shots can stop even the most aggressive player, causing them to go to ground. It's all a matter of the desired effect, and the situation I want to create. It also depends on how I'd like to exit the situation. I'll shoot a lot of paint if I'm coming out of concealment. I'll only fire one shot if I'm still going to be "Bob the Ninja" for awhile (Specifically, the "Where's Bob?" effect).
Also, in both cases, accurate shooting is as important as the shooting technique. I've fallen into the bad habit of assuming that nobody can aim anymore, and walk down trails knowing that the first shot anyone takes will miss me. This is assuming they even have the patience to wait for the best shot. The sad part is that I never get burned on it. In the last three years, I can count the number of times I've been "bingoed" on one hand and still shot open a bottle of soda.
There are times that you need volume shooting from concealment for other reasons. Remember what I said earlier about soft cover? Keep in mind that soft cover can, and will, break down when it takes paint. Last October I eliminated a guy who was hiding in some tall, dead grass. He even taunted me, saying that I could never get a ball through to him.
Unfortunately for him, I was shooting a semi at the time. For a moment, think of a paintball gun as a 300fps buzz saw. I put 20 shots through the grass before tagging him. I did it using accurate shooting and a little bit of volume shooting. Each ball broke on the grass, yes, but each ball also broke or bent the grass as well. With each shot I poked a deeper hole for the next ball. By the time I tagged him, I had put a one-inch hole in the grass he was hiding behind, right at his goggle level.
Tenacity pays off sometimes. After 30 shots, however, odds are that you're not going to get paint through any given piece of cover. Even if you kept shooting, by the time you shot that many rounds, the guy would have changed position. Don't bother emptying hopper after hopper on someone if the first 50 didn't touch them. Save yourself the headaches and flank him.
Grand defenses have one fatal flaw: If it's impossible for the attacker to get in, odds are it's almost just as impossible for the defender to get out.
A lot of what I'm talking about here revolves around individual skills. Getting teammates to go with you does not radically change things, but it can make it more difficult or easier, depending on what you're doing.
When moving through a larger wooded terrain, try to stay at least 20 feet apart. If I'm in concealment, and I see a group of guys, I'll open up and take them all out. If the opponents are spread apart, I may get one, but there's no way I can get them all. It's also important to keep communications going at all times. Hand signals work if you're being stealthy,
or just saying "What's in front of you?" can be helpful. A person you can't see may be someone that your teammates can see, especially in the woods. It's all basic paintball at this point. Once you get it, you can carry that skill anywhere you want to play.
Well, it's time to wind down yet another article chock full of ideas, concepts, and mind-boggling methods of mayhem. That seems like a lot of information to digest in one shot, and I guess it is. The fun part is that I've only touched on a few aspects of the fieldcraft you can use when you play. And there are some things I'm not telling, either. Hey, I'm getting old here. I'm shooting paintball guns older than some of the kids I'm playing against. You better believe I'm keeping some of my tricks secret!