For any serious hunter, boots are a lot like golf clubs — there is one for every occasion. Personally, my hunting season never really ends. The early season begins with Northern California blacktails in unbarably hot temperatures, continuing to out of state trips in anything from warm to subzero temps. After that, my winters are spent chasing wild pigs in cold wet California “jungles”. And that’ll bring me right up to spring turkey season, when the air is beginning to warm, but the grass is still muddy and wet. Then I do it all over again. Needless to say, if you’re a hunter who likes to get after it all year long, you’re going to need a wide variety of footwear. So let’s jump right into it with my top four styles that every jack-of-all-trades-hunter needs! — unless you just have feet of steel and don’t care about how your they feel, which certainly is not me.
Hikers – This is a boot that is often overlooked. So many guys and gals out there are just using uninsulated mountain boots during those hot early season months, like July, August, and September — I was this way once too. But when I finally broke down and bought soe lightweight hiking boots, it totally changed my early season game. I know that some folks live in country where a stiff mountain boot is needed year round, but whenever the chance presents itself, a hiking boot can be a game-changer — especially on archery hunts. The reason I’m so adamant about this is simply because of the level of stealth and speed that can be achieved. With big clunky boots, the hunter is going to be much more reluctant to remove his or her boots when getting in close on an animal. In lightweight hikers, taking them on and off and stuffing them in a backpack is not a chore. As a matter of fact, it’s extremely easy. Not to mention that the soles of hiking boots are typically a lot softer that mountain boots, offering much quiter movements. You may have to sacrifice ankle support, but I have found that the Kenetrek Bridger Hikers offer ample support for any warm weather hunt that I find myself in. I use these for early season archery and rifle hunts, as well as some turkey hunts.
Uninsulated Boots – Moving on to something that every hunter has in his or her closet, a pair of classic uninsulted hunting boots. These may take the form of a high-quality mountain boot, or even a basic leather hunting boot, but they adequately do the same job — provide great support for both the anke and the sole, and they keep the foot warm without overheating it. Often times a boot like this one is waterproof, though some folks prefer to sacrifice water resistance for high-breathability. Regardless, I think this boot is a keystone feature of any big game hunter’s closet. Personally, my feet get very cold very easily, so I’ll use a boot like this in the late Summer and all Fall, so long as I’m in California. When it’s time to bump over to hunt other western states, I may be a little more choosey with them. As long as there’s not a ton of snow or frost on the ground, I’ll keep running a boot like this. My favorites are various styles from Danner, such as the Grouse, or the Mountain Assaults. Kenetrek even makes some great options in both uninsulted and insulated.
Insulated Boots – Same boots as before, but with a little more ‘umph’ to keep those toes warm. Like I said before, I get cold feet. So a pair of boots like these will come in handy all the time. There might be snow on the ground, or it might be 90 degrees, but I’m being a wimp. Regardless, no one will ever know if I just buy the same style of boot as the uninsulated ones, right? Consider that a pro-tip. Many popular boots on the market come in both an insulted and uninsulated version, but when it comes to grams of insulation, things can get a little confusing. I would just stick with something around 200 to 400 grams. Anything above that will be covered by your snow-pacs. If you don’t like pac boots, then buy that pair with 1,000 grams of insulation and enjoy the extra warmth.
Snow-Pacs – The big Kahuna of your boot collection is your pair of snow-pacs. You may not be into the snow-pac scene. You may be like my dad, and never get cold feet in a pair of 400 gram insulated boots. That’s all fine and good, but for me, a guy who likes to maximize his hunting experience whether he’s on the go or huddled up under a tree, I like to have a good pair of snow-pacs for those extremely snowy pursuits. Use of these boots is a rarity, but my last late season trip to Montana was a true testament to how important these boots can be. The Kenetrek Grizzly is a great pair of pacs, for both the mountain as well as the stand, but even a pair of Sorels can get the job done on a budget.