Published December 17, 2010, 07:55 AM

Get the best boots you can

Three of us got flown from Aniak, Alaska into the Kuskokwin Mountains about 50 miles from that ramshackle village, and deposited on the tundra in a modified Polish Wilga plane. We were to live in a tent pitched in an alder patch for the next two weeks while we hunted barren ground caribou and moose.

By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun

Three of us got flown from Aniak, Alaska into the Kuskokwin Mountains about 50 miles from that ramshackle village, and deposited on the tundra in a modified Polish Wilga plane. We were to live in a tent pitched in an alder patch for the next two weeks while we hunted barren ground caribou and moose.

Everything was fine during the first week. I sneaked up on a big caribou bull and killed it on the top of a mountain. One of my partners also shot a good bull early in the hunt. My unlined Schnees boots with rubber bottoms worked well in the soggy tundra.

Then the temperature dropped and it snowed a foot. My feet were cold every day after that. (A week after being trapped in an unheated tent, we were able to stomp a runway for a Super Cub and got pulled out one at a time and landed at an airstrip located at an abandoned mine.)

In retrospect, I wish I had worn my W. C. Russell High Country Hunters. Like the Schnees boot, they have an air bob sole, but the Russells have Thinsulate and Gore-Tex lining, and my feet would not have gotten cold once the temperature dropped.

Unfortunately, on most northern hunts one doesn’t have the luxury of bringing along a second pair of boots due to weight limitations, and as we see, that can become a sad tale.

Take sheep hunting, for example. I had been on eight mountain sheep hunts prior to my 2002 Stone sheep hunt in the Yukon Territory —hunts from Arizona to Wyoming, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Alaska. In every case, an uninsulated Vibram-soled mountain boot worked just fine.

Then I embarked on that 2002 Stone sheep hunt in the Pelly Mountains of the southeast Yukon. Three miles out of base camp on a day-long horse ride to a spike camp it began to rain, and it didn’t quit for a week. Riding a horse on scant trails through soaked willows that repeatedly brushed my boots, my feet were wet within 15 minutes of leaving camp every day. I managed to survive, killed a nice ram after a week of hunting, but wished desperately that I had worn the Schnees rubber-bottomed boots that had left my feet cold in Alaska six years earlier! Such is the peril of choosing proper boots for a hunting trip.

If bird hunting is your activity, you can’t go wrong in choosing a boot like the Red Wing Irish Setter or the Russell Birdshooter with a non-aggressive tread like the Huez or Silvato sole. (You don’t need mud building up in a lugged sole or an air bob sole, nor do you need the lugs dragging on brush and grass as you walk.)

Conversely, a mountain boot needs aggressive soles like the Vibram Montagna or Roccia. In addition, a good mountain boot will have reinforced ankle support, heel counters and be more rigid than a boot made for walking on the prairie.

Some final thoughts:

There is no such thing as a totally waterproof leather boot, but a coat of Sno-Seal, Nikwax from England, or “Boot Stuff” from Dillon, Mont., will help keep your feet dry. If you are going to be wading in water wear rubber boots but don’t expect much ankle support.

Keep your leather boots greased with Pecard treatment, Obenauf’s leather preservative, or Montana Pitch Blend. Dried out leather will crack and severely shorten the life of the boot.

Don’t dry boots in front of a fire! It is a sure way to ruin your boots.

Wear a Thorlo liner sock made of wicking polyester, nylon and spandex next to your skin, and a quality sock made from acrylic, polyster, wool and spandex over the liner. The liners will wick moisture away from your feet.

Don’t EVER wear cotton socks in a hunting boot as they become damp and are sure to cause blisters.

Buy the best boots you can afford, then take care of them. Once you wear a top quality boot you’ll never regret the expenditure and anything less will seem substandard.

Tags: