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Hunting Boots | Winter 2008 Out Here Magazine

Aim for footwear that enhances your hunt

By Teresa Odle
Photograph courtesy of Rocky Boots

Each hunting season, you renew your license and check out all of your gear. It might be easy to overlook what's right under your nose — your feet. The right hunting boot is critical to your comfort and safety and may increase your chances of returning home with more than an empty Thermos®.

When it comes to comfort, function, and selection of a hunting boot, the most important consideration is not brand or any individual feature but rather the activity you're planning, says Sam Coalson, marketing manager for the outdoor division of Rocky Boots in Nelsonville, Ohio.

The boot you wear for sitting in a tree stand all morning differs from the one you choose for stalking.

Bow hunters, for example, need an athletic-style shoe or boot with some scent control and moisture management. Because the maximum range for the average bow hunter is 30 to 40 yards, their footwear needs to help — not hinder — their efforts. An outsole with low lugs maximizes ground contact.

"They have to know what they're stepping on because if they snap a twig, then the buck of a lifetime is gone," Coalson says. A version with a wraparound ankle harness keeps the heel from slipping. "This boot was made for walking," he says.

For the gun hunter, forefront flex is more important. Geography and terrain also matter. Boots made for mountainous regions and loose terrain should have a more customized fit by lacing up closer to the toes.

But for quail hunting in the plains, a boot less like a hiking boot with more flexibility and grip will do. A stalker-type boot has more cushioning and just enough rigidity to allow a pheasant hunter to cover a lot of ground in one day but remain comfortable.

For spring turkey hunting, snake boots often are your best bet, particularly for protection, Coalson suggests. "A snake can stretch half the length of your body, so you want a high snake boot."

Check for several features when choosing boots. Top is insulation, again remembering geography and activity. Coalson needs only about 600 grams or less of fiber in the middle of the winter at his grandparents' deer camp in Georgia, but if he deer hunts in upper Minnesota, he goes with 800 to 1,000 grams. And stalkers need less insulation because they're creating heat as they walk.

Nearly all hunting boots have waterproofing, an essential feature. But you create moisture inside your boots when you sweat, so look for a boot with the technology to pull moisture away from the sock and foot and out through the membrane of the shoe.

Look for durability. Leather is a clear choice, but consider a sturdy nylon boot, keeping in mind that the higher the thread count, the tighter the fabric's weave, and the drier and warmer your feet will remain.

When you're shopping for hunting boots, wear the socks you'll wear on your hunting trip, or at the very least have a good idea of their thickness, Coalson says. "You want a snug fit all the way around; you don't want any ankle slippage," he says.

Finally, Coalson recommends making two gentle kicks against the ground with the toe of the boot. It should take two gentle kicks before your toes touch bottom.

Now, you're ready. All you need is the perfect aim.

Teresa Odle is a writer in Albuquerque, NM.