Boots on the Ground

Bozeman, hunting, footwear, boots

Boots on the Ground

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Curt Smith

On the hunt, footwear is as critical a gear consideration as any. When looking for the best boot for the job, focus on some key areas, such as time of year, terrain type, pack weight, and the style of boot that has worked for you in the past. Most hunters choose leather or a combination of fabric and leather. A “pac” boot, with a rubber bottom and a leather upper, is another option. The warmer versions have a removeable insulated liner for colder conditions, allowing you to insert a new liner so you always have a dry boot.

One of the key components of any great boot is the insole, which is commonly confused with the footbed. The footbed is the liner that can be removed from the boot to be cleaned or replaced. The insole in many quality boots is made from plastic, nylon, or sometimes fiberglass. The insole determines how flexible or rigid the boot is and protects the foot. In steeper terrain, a more rigid boot will help you edge your way up rocky, complex slopes. A more flexible boot is beneficial in less technical terrain, allowing you to hike with a more natural gait at a faster pace. Another factor to consider is the weight of your backpack. Generally, the heavier your pack, the more rigid your boot should be for support and protection. Most lines of quality hunting boots offer up to four grades of rigidity; pick the flex best suited for your hunt.

Next, ask yourself when you’ll be hunting. There’s a broad range of insulation options, ranging from none to 1,000-gram insulation. 200- and 400-gram insulations are early season, active-weight insulations. If you hunt later into the season, into below-freezing temperatures, consider a boot with 600-gram insulation or more. This is where the pac boot comes into play. This style of boot handles colder temperatures better than leather mountain-style hunting boots. Typically, a hunter may migrate to this style of boot later in the season as the snow gets deeper and temperatures get colder.

You’ll find varying heights of boots, ranging from 7” to 16”. Obviously, taller boots offer more support and protection. If you don’t typically wear a gaiter, consider a taller boot for stream crossings, deeper snow, and tall, wet grasses.

When heading out to find your next pair of boots, make sure to wear a good-quality wool or synthetic sock with cushioning. If you wear custom orthotics, or an over-the-counter footbed like Superfeet, make sure to bring these along as well. Have your foot measured as a reference point. When being fitted, make sure to allow ample room; believe it or not, it is more common to have spots and blisters from a boot that is too tight than too loose. Finally, allow ample time for break-in before the hunting season ahead.


Curt Smith is the manager at Schnee’s in Bozeman. This article originally appeared in Stalk hunting guidean annual guide to hunting in southwest Montana.

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