Nothing ruins a hunt faster than cold, wet feet. Therefore, matching footwear to your hunting style is critical in prehunt preparations. Finding the right boots can seem overwhelming, but you’ll quickly narrow your search once you understand the function of different boot styles.
Insulated vs. Uninsulated
Insulated boots work best in cold weather while uninsulated boots shine in mild weather, right? Usually, but not always. Active bowhunters who spend most of the day spotting and stalking game might prefer uninsulated boots no matter the temperature. The more energy you need, the more your heart works, which cycles more blood to your feet and other extremities. That increased flow keeps your feet warm in lightweight boots, even in subfreezing temperatures. In those conditions, insulation adds bulk and weight while blocking the cold, which can cause sweaty feet. That can chill you worse as sweat-soaked socks cool.
That’s not a problem for stationary hunters who endure long, motionless hours in blinds or treestands. They wear insulated boots because this hunting style requires warmth, not light weight. Thick soles and insulated boot liners add valuable protection between your feet, cold air and the chilled metals of treestand platforms.
Lightweight hiking boots are ideal for active bowhunters who demand versatility and breathability in footwear. Hiking boots are usually made of lightweight leather or synthetics. They’re not ideal for hunting wet environments and frequent creek crossings, but they have wide application.
Whether you’re scouting for whitetails in midsummer, hunting from treestands in September, or stalking mule deer in November, hiking boots can do virtually anything when paired with good socks. Hiking boots also provide a firm, athletic fit for minimal slop, which prevents blisters during long walks.
Whether you’re a scent-conscious whitetail hunter or simply need to keep your feet dry in boggy areas, rubber boots will be your best friend. Although rubber boots are comfortable and capable of making rugged walks to distant blinds or treestands, they’re not intended for multi-mile walks when hunting sheds, or chasing elk or pronghorns.
Unlike leather and synthetics, rubber doesn’t absorb odors, which makes them a great choice for whitetail hunters trying to dupe wary bucks. They’re also more waterproof than hiking boots, and their tall uppers let you tuck your pants inside. That keeps your lower legs dry when hiking through creeks or dew-drenched grass.
Pac boots are the ultimate cold-weather footwear for enduring long sits. Loaded with insulation and thick rubber soles, these boots are great when extending your archery season deep into winter. The extra insulation makes them heavier and bulkier than other boots, but they keep you afield long after subzero temperatures would send you home.
Socks are vital to comfortable feet. Polypropylene liners wick moisture from your feet, helping them stay dry when sweating. Merino wool is a unique material that maintains warmth even when wet. Try adding merino socks over polypropylene liners to add insulation and stay dry.
No exaggeration: Footwear makes or breaks a hunt. Cold, wet or blistered feet cause bowhunters to lose focus and leave the woods. By keeping your feet dry, warm and comfortable, you’ll spend less time fretting over chilly toes and more time centering your pin on your quarry’s vitals.