Tools & Gear
Hunt With Your Boots On – Part 1
By Ron Spomer
A version of this article appeared in Wyoming Wildlife magazine
Humans love boots.
We prefer to “die with our boots on,” give bad employees “the boot.” We play “Boots and Saddles” and dance the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” We even boot up our computers.
Ordinary though they seem, boots have played a major role in history. Without them it is doubtful we soft-soled humans could have exploited rocky terrain. We certainly wouldn’t be living in snow country. While an army marches ON its stomach, it marches IN its boots, and when forced to stand in mud and water, thousands of soldiers in WWI were taken out of the fight by trenchfoot. Good boots might have prevented that.
Hunters know they depend on boots to hump over hill and mountain – especially mountain – but few hunters know a good boot when they see one. I’m certainly not the first hunter who donned a fresh pair of boots in September only to see them or my feet in tatters by December. Dr. Scholls sells insoles and moleskin for good reason.
We know we need good boots. Perhaps we should investigate how to identify them.
By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them
No boot works perfectly in all circumstances. A stiff, supportive mountain boot might be a hindrance on rolling plains. A flexible, comfortable upland bird boot could be chewed to tatters by jagged rocks. A cool, summer desert boot will give your feet the cold shoulder in snowy November mountains.
Before buying, clearly identify the use to which you’ll put your boots. Define by terrain (steep or flat), habitat (rocks, sand, dirt, snow, mud, grass, brush), and weather (cold, hot, wet, dry.) For summer hiking in dry deserts with gently rolling terrain, something with a flexible sole, light leather, no insulation and no waterproofing would be perfect. If cheat grass seeds and sand are likely to fly up and into boot tops, choose an 8″ to 10″ upper rather than a 6″. Or go with the 6″ inch and add light gaiters to hold out debris. For walking on easy, open trails, a 5″ chukka-style is adequate while minimizing weight.
If you anticipate hiking high mountain meadows in summer or any vegetated areas in fall when morning dew, soggy ground or melting snow are likely, you’ll appreciate a waterproof boot. Too many folks only think of rain or melting snow before considering waterproofing, but dew on grass will soak a leather boot quickly, leaving your feet feeling wet and clammy for hours.
The steeper the terrain, the stiffer should be the boot. Relatively inflexible, tall uppers support ankles and prevent feet from rolling or twisting off the soles. Stiff soles with slightly projecting toes and sharp edges that extend beyond the foot itself function like small planks.