By Zach Lazzari | Photo by Ryan McSparran
Elk hunting is hard on the feet and a good pair of boots will save your butt in the woods. Walking into a hunt with brand new or unfit boots will create a nightmare of blisters of discomfort. Personally, I prefer boots that are very light with a mid to low top. Most of my hunting partners wear more heavy-duty boots with solid upper ankle support. Ultimately, the decision comes down to person preference and your ability to perform in the chosen boots.
By the Season
The season makes a big difference for boot selection. My ultra-light low tops are great for covering miles during archery and early rifle seasons here in Montana, but they are non-insulating and pretty useless when the snow flies. Cold, wet feet do not last long in the field. I keep a pair of insulting boots and gaiters for the late season. Keep both pairs in the truck or at camp when the conditions are unpredictable.
Balance Weight and Support
Most hunters like to strike a balance between support and weight. Elk hunting often means miles of hiking on uneven terrain. You might scramble up scree slopes, slide down steep timbered terrain and walk out trails for long distances. Mid to high ankle support is ideal for uneven terrain. Numerous hunting-specific models exist along with hiking-specific brands as well. There is no shortage of options available.
The uneven terrain aspect of elk hunting makes sole choice a critical decision. There are essentially two options – flexible rubberized soles or stiff, thick soles. I like flexible soles similar to those found on the Irish Setter Vaprtrek. The allow you to push off the ball of your foot and flex your foot in a nimble manner. If you are heavy footed and prefer busting through loose rock, choose a heavy sole with toe protection.
Test and Break-in Period
Boots are one item worth buying in-person. At the very least, head to the nearest retail store and try a few pairs. Testing is the key to finding a pair you will love. Put on both boots and walk around the store. Pay attention to overall fit and comfort but try to ignore stiffness. Take your time with this process and find a pair you really enjoy.
After making the purchase, start the break-in period by wearing them around the house, then advance to walks around the neighborhood and short hikes. Start this process at least a few months before the hunting season. Gradually, you will be able to add miles in comfort while training yourself and your boots for hunting season. If they do not feel right, make an exchange or buy a different pair. On the contrary, if they are great, considering buying an extra pair for the future.
Lazy J Bar O Outfitters provides horseback hunting adventures in remote, wilderness areas in Montana and Alaska. For more information, check out the rest of our website at LazyJBarO.com. Call us at 406-932-5687 or send us a message.