Booty Call

Hunting Boots, Southwest Montana, Bozeman

Booty Call

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Kurt Dehmer

Footwear for the field. 

As a hunting guide, I’m often asked about my most important piece of hunting gear. Sharing equal time in this category are quality binoculars and a damn good pair of boots. In my experience, hunting boots fall into four basic categories: hiking/mountaineering, upland, pac boots, and pull-on. Here’s a bit about each.

Hiking/Mountaineering
If your hunts take you deep into the backcountry, this is your boot. Consider how much your backpack will weigh—both on the trip in, and if you’re successful, on the pack out. Steeper, rugged terrain and heavier packs call for taller, stiffer boots, both in the footbed and the outer construction. The rigidity of the boot provides protection and support when hauling heavy loads over rough country. If your hunt happens to take place in a variety of terrain, or you use pack and saddle stock for the longer distances and heavier loads, you may want a boot in the middle range of stiffness. Archery hunters rely on speed and stealth, so they often pick a light, flexible boot for the actual hunt, and keep a more rigid pair at base camp for the pack out. 

Upland
Upland boots generally come in heights of 6-10 inches; shorter boots are lighter and cooler, and taller boots heavier and warmer. If you hunt upland game all season, snow will become a factor, so a taller, insulated boot is the better choice. Some manufacturers offer both waterproof and non-waterproof versions of the same boot. Don’t be dumb to save a few bucks—wet feet suck, especially if the weather turns cold. 

The last item for consideration is outsole and tread. Heavy-duty hunting boots like the hiking and mountaineering boots mentioned above will work in an upland situation, but because they have such aggressive traction, mud can stack up on the bottom, adding extra pounds and making them dangerous to walk on. The same dangers can also be attributed to an upland boot with a thin sole, poor traction, and bad ankle support. Your upland boot should be the perfect combo between your favorite elk-hunting boot and your everyday sneaker.

Pac Boots
As a native Montanan, I can honestly say that at least 15 of my 40 years have been spent wearing pac boots. These boots are the classic go-to boots for every mid-to-late-season hunter. The rubber bottoms and leather uppers are perfect for cold temperatures, deep snows, and long days afield. If you’re settled on a pair, get a quality removable footbed and two pairs of liners. On multi-day hunts, these liners can be swapped out so that you’re assured dry, toasty feet all day. Most pac boots come in heights of 7-16 inches; the taller the boot, the better the support and protection. 

Pull-Ons
In the last decade, great advancements have been made on the classic pull-on rubber boot. If your hunting happens to occur casually, in or around wet conditions, or on an impromptu basis, a quality pair of pull-ons is going to be right up your alley. Not only do these next-generation pull-ons offer better ankle and arch support, but the slip-on convenience makes those after-work and impromptu late-afternoon hunts much more enjoyable, as you can spend more time hunting and less time fussing with your footwear.

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