|The Cornstalker Jacket|
A Ventile jacket perfect for upland and waterfowl hunting
I’m a traditionalist particularly when it comes to upland and waterfowl hunting. I love a side by side for upland hunting and I’m not ashamed to admit to loving an old Browning A5 for waterfowling. They just seem right. I feel the same way about the clothes I wear hunting, but while I would probably never switch guns, if I found something that made me more comfortable in the field, I wouldn’t hesitate to set aside the old and simply make the new gear my new tradition.
I happen to love upland hunting in my old waxed-canvas hunting jacket. Not only does it repel water, briars and big ugly thorns, but it shows its age and patina with the rugged grace of a veteran that’s seen a lot of miles in the brush. If there’s a drawback, it’s the weight. I’d never considered it much until asked to try the new Orvis Ventile Cornstalker Jacket. The difference was startling and while the old coat will always hang by the back door for out-the-door hunts near the house, I am now inclined to grab the Cornstalker, particularly when I plan to hunt for an extended period of time.
I recently went pheasant hunting in Virginia at Primland Lodge. The hunting grounds and shooting operation are in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge, literally at the base of the main ridge. In fact, the main lodge sits on top of the main ridge, some four or five miles up a dizzying switchback road. Hunting there involves a lot of up, down, and sidehill terrain, unquestionably great shooting, but a good day’s work in the process. I threw the two jackets on the postal scale just out of curiosity. The Cornstalker weighs just under a pound less than my old jacket and while that doesn’t seem like much, the cumulative effect over a day of hillside hunting was pretty remarkable. It was blustery and rainy during the hunt, but the Cornstalker brushed aside the elements with the same efficiency as my old jacket even though it felt like I was wearing a shirt instead of a hunting coat. It’s pretty interesting what a pound of weight taken off your shoulders will do for you. I would have never thought it to be so noticeable, but then I’m getting older and every little bit helps.
The secret is Ventile. Ventile cloth is perhaps one of the most remarkable accomplishments in man’s long history of weaving. It uses only long staple cotton fibers, which account for only 2% of the available fibers, doubles the yarn for strength and then weaves it using 30% more yarn than any other cotton fabric. The result is a pure cotton fabric that by its construction accomplishes the same results as complex performance fabrics and membranes. It’s breathable because it’s cotton, it’s waterproof because the instant it’s touched by moisture it swells and locks moisture out, windproof because of the tightness of the weave, and thornproof for the same reason.
Using Ventile, Orvis designed the Cornstalker as the ultimate upland hunting jacket. It simply does everything a solid waxed cotton canvas or tin cloth jacket does with less weight, significantly less stiffness and more comfort.
The unique front design has a half zipper on top and a two-button closure on the bottom that allows the jacket to move freely when mounting the gun. The rear game bag is accessible by two large front-loading pockets and unbuttons for easy cleaning, not that I’ve ever cleaned one. There are two standard bellows pockets with shell loops and two more zippered exterior pockets as well as two interior pockets. Both front yokes are blaze orange for safety and the cuff and collar are lined in traditional moleskin for a traditional look and comfort. One of the best features and perhaps the most overlooked is the entire jacket has a hung nylon liner which completely eliminates pulling, friction, and hang-ups when mounting and swinging the gun for a shot.
There is something to be said for innovation, even in the most traditional of venues such as upland hunting. Though we cherish our traditions, the ability to hunt longer in greater comfort, gives rise to the premise that change is not a bad thing, just the beginning of a new tradition. It remains to be seen if the Cornstalker carries the scars of the hunt as well as the old jacket, and I would never wear it on the street like my older hunting coat as the Cornstalker is far too technical looking, but based on its performance, it will certainly now become part of my hunting tradition.
By Paul Ferson, editor of The Orvis News