How to Buy the Right Hunting Boots

Getting the right boots that fit, are warm and keep you comfortable are important no matter where you hunt.

Getting the right boots that fit, are warm and keep you comfortable are important no matter where you hunt.

It’s pretty simple: if your feet are wet, cold or hurting then you’re going to be a disappointed puppy trying to hunt a deer, no matter how tough you are or think you are.

That’s why buying the right hunting boots is pretty darn important. Deer seasons are open and it’s about to turn chilly-frosty-OMG Cold! pretty soon, so get ready.

Are your boots ready for another hunting season? Were they teetering on the edge last year and you managed to get in one last hurrah? Maybe it’s time for new ones. Or, if yours are in that “Ah, these are perfect” stage, then you’re good to go. It still might be good to give them a pre-season checkup for any cracks, leaks or need for waterproofing.

I’m always looking for the best hunting gear possible to make my hunts more comfortable and easier. I like to be warm. I like to be comfortable. I like to be dry. If I’m all of those things then I’m not cold, shivering and thinking, “If I can only gut it out a little longer …” and while chatt-chatt-chattering also maybe blow a chance on a deer.

Being comfortable, dry and warm is just smart. Ditto for your kids, too. Please do not give them crappy boots, worn-out hand-me-down boots and something too small while thinking you’re “going to make them tough!” That’s just horse splatter. You also don’t have to buy a 10-year-old a pair of $285 boots he’ll outgrow in a year. Be reasonable. Remember shivering your ass off in a duck or deer blind and how that didn’t make you tougher? It just made you colder and not as likely to want to go hunting next time? Yeah? Remember that? Well, don’t do that to your kids. Be smart and teach them about layering, good gear and being smart in the woods.

So if you’re looking for the best hunting boots, here are a few ideas.

Assess Your Needs
Where are you hunting? In frigid temps? Hot conditions in the Southeast? A mix of both? Swamps? Dry, arid land? Rocky terrain? Do you like pull-on boots or lace-ups? You have to figure out what kind of boots you want and need before you start shopping. Ask your buddies for their suggestions, too.

Don’t Buy Boots in the Morning
This isn’t anything new, whether it’s for hunting boots or shoes for church, running or golf. You don’t buy shoes in the morning or midday. Why? because your feet swell during the course of the day and if you buy shoes in the morning, chances are good they’ll be too tight later on. And you don’t want that.

Socks, Please
Wear the socks you will wear when you’re hunting — If you’re buying boots now to break in before the season arrives and also to get rid of that “boot smell,” don’t wear thin summer socks. Take whatever socks you wear during October and December and late January. Put them on. Walk around. Bend. Flex. Twist. Flex some more. Don’t walk 10 feet away and back, either. Walk around the store. You’re buying boots you hope will last for years.

Don’t Compromise on the Size
So, you have big dogs and need a 15 Wide boot because you wear thick socks in winter. No problem, says the helpful clerk who returns a few minutes later with a … size 14.5 and a mournful face. No size 15 boots, he says, but these are “roomy” in the toe box.

Run. Run away. Do not be tempted by the half size, because you will regret it. Don’t even try them on and think, “Ah, I’ll be OK.” because you will not be OK on that post-Christmas hunt when it’s 34 degrees, drizzling sleet, and your crammed toes are becoming cold because Jimmy the Salesman convinced you the boots are “roomy.”

Your toes, in the boot’s toebox, need room to spread out and move well. Don’t cram them in. Don’t think, “Oh, a tight boot and tight socks means I’ll be toasty warm!.” Do not compromise on the boot size and, honestly, consider going up a half-size from what you think you need. Most folks have footwear that’s at least a half-size if not full size too small because they don’t think they need bigger shoes. Get them. Be more comfortable.

All Boots Are Not Alike
Aesthetics aside, not every boot is made the same or has the same dimensions just like not every person’s feet are the same.

What might be “wide” to Rocky may not be as wide to LaCrosse. What LaCrosse deems to be “A” may be a “B” to Wood ‘n Stream. And while Wood ‘n Stream thinks XYZ is this, Wolverine may believe that XYZ is really that and do it a little differently.

Again, as with other shoes and because all our feet are different, don’t assume that the Rocky is the LaCrosse is the Danner is the Wolverine. That goes for size, style and that “ohhh, these feel good” or “Eh, that doesn’t feel good” that we all have to figure out.

So, try on boots. Don’t think that the boots you’ve had for three, six, 10 years are going to be identical today. They’re not. I have some old, knee-high Rocky lace-up boots that I really loved but they’re a bit too snug today. Rocky doesn’t make the same model; today’s is the ProLight Waterproof Snakeproof boot. I’m sure I’d like them. But I would have to try them on.

Which is what you need to do. Try on boots. Make sure they’re the right size and fit. Don’t assume. Take your hunting socks. Tuck in your pants legs. Lace and tie up, cinch up the calf gusset. Walk around … later in the evening, of course.

And then you’ll have one thing knocked off of your hunting list before the season arrives.

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