A few years back, I was playing host to a friend of mine from central Kansas. My plan was for us to spend a couple of days coyote hunting during the peak of breeding season which was towards the end of February. His plan was to see how a country boy from southern Missouri called in coyotes compared to that of hunting flatter terrain, which was mostly crop fields in Kansas.
At the beginning of the first day, I decided to wear rubber boots since there was still a bit of snow on the ground from a recent winter storm. In southern Missouri, the landscape is mostly hills, wooded timber and several cow pastures. These areas are mostly hunted in pursuit of coyotes, with the pastures being the closest thing to a crop field that one will find. The scarce open field areas mean that one must do a lot of walking in order to make several stands in one day, and that is exactly what my friend and I did throughout the day.
Unfortunately, that first day of hunting wasn’t the best for seeing coyotes. We spent most of our time covering as much land as we could trying to spark the interest of a lonesome or hungry coyote. After the sun set on the first evening, we traveled back to my home to feed our hungry stomachs and to rest up for the next day. Once I made it indoors and began to undress, I realized I had made a mistake of wearing rubber boots with my everyday white cotton socks. I knew my feet were tired, however upon closer examination, my heels sported bright red bloody blisters that had turned my white socks into white socks with red polka dots. The insides of my rubber boots had literally worn all the heel of the interior down to the outer rubber exterior. This was caused from so much friction while walking that day.
Like many other tasks in life, success comes from trial and error. Unfortunately, as with the described experience, the error is where we learn the most. That day I learned that paying attention to specific details such as wearing the proper socks along with the proper footwear can make or break a successful hunt. Below are a few suggestions as to how to choose the proper combination of footwear in order to be more comfortable while hunting, which in turn keeps the hunter in the field longer raising the chance of a successful harvest.
Rubber Boots/ Snake Boots
For several years, rubber boots have been a favorite choice of mine when hunting. However, as described above, there is a time to wear them and there is also a time when one should choose differently. The benefits of wearing rubber boots can be rewarding. For a turkey hunter, they can provide protection from the wet grass, creeks that sometimes must be crossed in order to get to a gobbling tom, and sometimes protection from snakes when wearing certain models. For deer hunters, the popularity of rubber boots has gained attention over the last decade due to the ease of eliminating scent. Rubber boots are much easier to spray down with a scent-eliminating spray to wash away any unwanted odors that normal hunting boots can sometimes hold.
The time in which wearing rubber boots is not ideal is when the hunter is going to be walking more than normal. For example, while hunting elk in the mountains or as I found, when walking all day while coyote hunting. The other important factor is to wear the proper socks when wearing taller rubber boots. The right sock needs to be breathable, so that one’s feet doesn’t sweat, which can make feet hot or cold. The socks also need to be an over-the-calf sock such as LaCrosse’s UltraSpun Midweight sock, which has been designed specifically for wearing with rubber boots. They are made to support the heel, which makes them more comfortable. As a bonus, they are made with moisture-wicking materials to keep feet dry, which again, keeps feet more comfortable for a longer period. I have learned from past experiences that wearing regular everyday cotton socks does not work. They fall to one’s ankles when walking, they sweat, and they don’t provide the protection from friction between the foot and the rubber boot.
Lace-Up Hunting Boots/ Hiking Boots
The classic lace-up style hunting boot is arguably the most popular style of boot that hunters wear. This is because they truly are the most all-around boot that hunters use. However, with its versatility, there are still a few details that need to be considered when wearing them. The time to wear this style of boot is when walking for an extended period or while traveling on rough terrain. The lace-up style boot provides support on the ankles, gives better traction and can take the most abuse. One important factor to consider is insulation. If walking a lot, one will want non-insulated or a low amount of insulation, otherwise sweating will occur which makes feet uncomfortable fast. The time of year in which I prefer this type of boot is during the fall (October and November) when temperatures are cooler but not necessarily freezing, as when deer hunting.
When walking to and from a tree stand or blind is required, while making a deer drive, and when time is spent sitting still in the tree or blind, is when I prefer a boot such as LaCrosse’s NEW Navigator Series. In this series, LaCrosse offers the Atlas in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country. This boot features 400 grams of insulation which is enough to keep feet warm when sitting. This boot is made to be able to walk the toughest terrain as well and it features rubber heel and toes for extra protection when walking wherever the hunt takes you. With the added rubber, spraying down with scent-eliminating spray is easier than normal hunting boots.
As for the proper socks to pair with this style of boot, I prefer a mid-length sock such as ScentLok’s Merino Thermal Crewmax sock.
This sock is made with a cushioned sole, toe and ankle to keep feet comfortable all day whether the wearer is walking or sitting. They are also made with moisture-wicking materials to keep feet dry. My favorite feature with these socks is the Silver Alloy Technology that prohibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria as well as carbon fiber technology which provides additional odor protection. This type of boot/sock combo is one that can be worn for days in a row when hunting on a several-day hunt or while staying at deer camp, all due to their ability to keep feet dry and comfortable in all conditions.
Insulated Boots/ Wool Socks
There is nothing worse than cutting a hunt short due to having cold feet. It is common for a lot of hunters to become too cold for comfort when sitting in a tree stand or blind. When walking or movement is kept minimal, the risk of getting cold increases dramatically. Over the past several years, technology advancements in clothing and gear made specifically for cold weather has improved a great deal. This is no different when it comes to footwear and socks that are made for sitting. For example, many late season deer hunters know that some of the best movement for white-tailed deer is when temperatures begin to fall. Deer begin going into a survival mode and showing up at food sources trying to eat to stay warm. It takes patience as a hunter to be able to “sit it out” all while trying to remain warm and comfortable. This is when high-insulated boots such as a 1,000 to 1,200 grams of insulation make a huge difference.
The Danner Vital boots in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country features 1200 grams of lightweight Thinsulate insulation that keep the hunter’s feet warm without feeling like dumbbells on the feet. I like to pair this insulated boot with RedHead’s Lifetime Wool socks. The wool-lined socks provide extra warmth when sitting and are extremely comfortable as well. It is important to get a well-insulated boot while being immersed in extremely cold temperatures. However, I have had extreme insulated boots in the past that were definitely warm, yet I felt and looked like Frankenstein walking through woods. The end game with thick boots is to able to keep one’s feet warm while not moving, but keep in mind that you must also be able to walk to and from where you will be sitting.
As for whether socks and boots make a hunter more successful, the answer is absolutely! One of the most common reasons that hunters end a hunt too early or don’t go back for a second time, is that of not having the proper equipment to keep them comfortable. Socks and boots are the number-one culprit that leads to hunters becoming uncomfortable. If one is comfortable, warm, dry and able to tackle what Mother Nature tends to hit us with, then the hunt will last longer, which means more time for success.