Chasing big game around the steep mountains of southwest Montana is challenging, especially during general season, when every Joe Shmo with a rifle is out doing the same thing. My strategy? Walk as far as I can. Although this has provided variable success in terms of harvest, I have become very adept at placing one foot in front of the other. And to help me do that efficiently, I've been wearing the Zamberlan 980 Outfitter GTX RR boot. A classic, all weather hunting boot, they keep me going all season long.
Zamberlan has been in the game for a long time, and it shows. Turns out when a company has been making boots for 90 years, they learn a thing or two. The top-notch quality of the leather uppers provides protection from snow and brush all the way up to mid-calf—eleven inches, to be exact. Unless the snow is considerably deep, I no longer have to employ gaiters on my backcountry hunts—and when the accidental rubbing of gaiters can be the difference between sneaking in on an animal and blowing out the herd, details like this matter. Additionally, the inclusion of a 3/4” rubber rand rising out of the midsole and looping around the entire boot safeguards the most abused areas and protects the leather from deterioration. And, of course, the boots have a Gore-Tex membrane, ensuring both waterproofing and breathability.
“New boots?” my friend asked me before we went on a high-alpine death-loop. “Yup, never worn ’em,” I responded. “Don’t worry, I’ve got the blister tape ready for ya,” was his snarky reply.
I didn’t ask for that tape once. While fairly stiff out of the box, after two back-to-back big days, the boots became form-fitting slippers. While this method worked, I’d recommend going on a few smaller scouting trips pre-season to break-in the boots. They only get more comfortable as they continue to form and mold with use.
The versatility of these boots is by far my favorite thing. They proved breathable during early September archery hunts, preventing overheating even in warmer conditions. Then, as temperatures plummeted to single digits the last week of the rifle season, the boots maintained their comfort and warmth as long as I kept mobile (with a pair of thick wool socks). As far as grip goes, the Vibram outsoles are most at home on in challenging terrain and on steep mountain slopes. Surprisingly, the boots also performed well on the sagebrush plains of eastern Montana. Despite the rigidity, they are just damn comfortable to walk in on flatter ground.
The Zamberlan 980 Outfitter GTX RR boot stands out as a durable, versatile, and well-crafted hunting boot. While the initial cost may give some pause, the boot’s performance across multiple seasons and terrain makes them a great gear investment. These boots make being in the woods much more enjoyable.
Available at zamberlanusa.com; $490.