Published December 10, 2010, 06:49 AM

Good boots key while hunting

About 20 years ago Ferdinand Marcos was the president of the Phillipines, and his nutty wife, Imelda, was said to have 10,000 pairs of shoes. It was at about that time when friends and associates called me “the Imelda Marcos of hunting boots.” They exaggerated of course. But I always have been a fan of boots, I have worn out many pairs of them and still keep a closet of quality boots that probably cost more than most hunters’ gun collections.

By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun

About 20 years ago Ferdinand Marcos was the president of the Phillipines, and his nutty wife, Imelda, was said to have 10,000 pairs of shoes. It was at about that time when friends and associates called me “the Imelda Marcos of hunting boots.”

They exaggerated of course. But I always have been a fan of boots, I have worn out many pairs of them and still keep a closet of quality boots that probably cost more than most hunters’ gun collections.

Now, if you are the kind of hunter who gets out a weekend or two each year, you really don’t need to worry about good boots. You can get by with the latest Chinese-made junk that one can buy through any catalog in the U.S.

But if you are a serious hunter, one who hunts a variety of game in many different types of terrain, you need good boots, and preferably two or three pairs.

If you never hunt anything more than upland birds, deer and antelope in North Dakota, you will be well served with a good upland bird boot like the Redwing Irish Setter or the incomparable Russell Birdshooter.

But don’t expect to go on a western hunt for elk, grizzly bears, moose or mountain sheep in a pair of bird boots!

Each type of hunting requires its own footwear. If you are hunting in rocky, mountainous terrain you need a lugged sole, and the best I ever have used is the Vibram Montagna (3/8” lug) or the Vibram Roccia (1/4” lug). They are unbeatable for scrambling about in rough country, but they need to be attached to a quality boot!

Almost 40 years ago I bought a pair of Redwing mountain boots in Bismarck, and used them for 13 years on mountain hunts, backpacking trips and the like. I finally left them sitting on a rock in the Chugach Mountains in Alaska in 1984 after a Dall sheep hunt. I had worn out the third set of soles on those boots and they were falling apart.

More than 25 years ago I ordered several pairs of Russell boots from the W. C. Russell Mocassin Co. in Berlin, Wis., including two pairs for my wife, Laurie. Other than buying a pair of Danner Canadians one time at a ridiculously low close-out price, I haven’t bought anything but Russells since then. They are THAT good!

Russell boots have been made since 1898, and there is nothing else quite like them. Their catalog includes a “custom fit form” where you take measurements of your own foot with the socks that you will use with the boots. Russell will custom make any boot in its catalog, and believe me, they fit perfectly! You will never be “pinched” by a Russell boot, nor will your foot slide around in the boot and cause a blister.

I have worn out a couple pairs of Birdshooters, a pair of Mountain Climbers, and several other Russells. I still own a half dozen pairs, including Vibram-soled Imperials that I was wearing when I took my last three mountain sheep and my biggest bull elk, and Russell’s excellent Toe-laced Hunter that I wore a few weeks ago when I shot a bull elk. I wore Russell’s “PHs” to Africa, and have Russell’s “High Country Hunter” complete with thinsulate lining and Gortex that I bought more than 20 years ago. I wore the air-bob soles down to the nubbins, so half dozen years ago had new soles put on at the cost of about $60. Nothing is better for walking and climbing in snow than the air bob sole.

Russells are not cheap, running $250 to $450 and more. But most hunters probably will never wear them out. And I predict that if you ever buy a pair of Russells you are unlikely to wear anything else.

Other good boot brands I have owned are Vasque from Italy, Lowa made in Slovenia, and Schnees from Bozeman, Mont. Friends speak highly of Meindl mountain boots from Germany and Kenetrek from Montana, but I have never worn either brand myself. Neither have I worn a Gokey boot from New England but they are said to be of fine quality.

Next week: Stories of hunting trips and the right and wrong boots!

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