Hunting Boots

Jay Park
September 1, 2020

When I started getting into hunting seriously, or what I thought was seriously in 2006, I drove myself to the local Sportsman’s [Out]house and chose a pair of mid-calf high huntin’ boots. My selection criteria: they were camouflage. Not only were they Mossy Oak, they also had a thick layer of Thinsulate insulation. Not exactly the best choice for hunting in Arizona.

In the 14 years since then, my experience outside and especially hunting has increased considerably. In addition to hunting, I’m also a trail runner, and I spend a good amount of time in the off-season hiking around and walking off-trail in the woods.

Somewhere along the way I decided that I didn’t like boots at all – including for hunting. Boots decrease range of motion in your ankle joint and decrease proprioception in the bottom of your foot. Hard rubber soles with aggressive treading makes them stick to rocks, but also means you’re going to move and turn loose rocks beneath you making noise as you walk. And finally, I hate how heavy they are – which leads to worn out psoas muscles from having to pick my boot clad feet up over long distances.

I was determined not to wear boots on my first hunting trip to Alaska – a Dall sheep hunt in the Brooks range. The guy that hired me to go on that hunt insisted I have them, however, so I bought a pair of Lowa Tibet GTX boots. They were heavy but fit me well. It wasn’t the boots that made that hunt difficult for me, though, it was the sheer number of miles under load. I wasn’t ready for it. After the first sheep was shot, I was to head back to the river. So I loaded my backpack, strapped my boots to it, and walked down the mountain barefoot. I did just fine, but was never up in the shale.

I kept those boots for a few more years, wearing them once or twice per year is all. And then wore them in 2017 when Chase and I went to the Alaska Range on our own Dall sheep hunt. Chase had the same boots. And both of our feet got soaked. The waterproof membrane wasn’t up to snuff on that trip. We both replaced the Lowas later that year.

Chase got La Sportiva Trango Cubes, and I went with the Scarpa Rebel K from Kuiu. Chase wore his boots to the Northwest Territories. And I wore mine around everything we did in the Southwest. I like the Rebel K boots. They’re light, and have a full shank for a rigid sole (an important feature all of my mountain hunts have taught me in the last 13 years). But two things left me unsatisfied. My feet got wet on the one hunt I wore them on where they might get wet. And when packing out Chase’s New Mexico bull – so under heavy load for a mile or two – my feet went completely numb. Chase and Kevin both complained of the same problem with the Trango Cubes while in the Northwest territories. So the search for a boot continued into 2019.

Which brings us to our trip to Azerbaijan and Crispi USA. Leading up to the trip was chaotic for me. I was trying to move to New Zealand to live near my kids, and so spent most of April, May, June, and July there. Meanwhile, Chase mentioned checking out the Crispi boots. My initial reaction was, ‘mehhh’. They looked bulky and heavy, and I don’t like insulated boots. But I got a pair of Briksdals anyway, and gave them a try. We put them on the scale next to my Rebel Ks, and they were only an ounce or two lighter. They have a full shank for rigidity and a rubber rand for protection from the rocks. I started to wear them around town for the week or so I was back in Arizona prior to leaving for Azerbaijan. Needless to say, I’d be breaking them in on the hunt.

A lot of people cringe at that thought. It’s not well thought out I admit. But I’d had good luck with easy break in with the Scarpas, so I took the chance.

Azerbaijan kicked my ass. I wasn’t ready for the load on my back despite my gym schedule leading up to the hunt. And having lived at near sea level for a few months leading up to the hunt, the 13,000 feet in elevation made delivering oxygen to exhausted muscles difficult.

When the hunt was over, my boots looked well worn. They were finally broken in. My feet were completely free of blisters and never once got wet, despite walking through knee high wet grass almost constantly while on the mountain.

Azerbaijan hunting

Wading through knee high soaked grass in the Caucasus Mountains

When we got back to the base camp, we recorded a video of Chase talking about how much he liked them. I decided that instead of a video, I’d write a post.

But that was my one mountain hunt of 2019. Most of what I was planning to do was not a major mountain trip, but rather shorter forays into less intense country. I had an archery elk tag in a pretty flat unit, and I’d be filming other hunts, but nothing too crazy.

I didn’t want to wear the big boots for that elk hunt. Again, because boots decrease ankle range of motion (this to me is not ankle support), decrease proprioception on the bottom of your feet, and heavy and are loud. Instead, I wanted something light weight that would help me move more nimbly through the woods.

For this purpose, I picked the Crispi Crossover Pro. And they were great. But like all soft-soled outdoor shoes, just couldn’t hold up against the jagged volcanic rock of Northern Arizona. They lasted just the one season, as I left them in Sonora when we finished our Coues deer hunts. I liked them, a lot otherwise.

As with almost everything, it’s a trade-off. Decreased proprioception and ankle range of motion for increased durability and suitability in steep rocky terrain. Or increased feel with a shorter season life. Most hunts we go on, I choose the light option. But for anything on a mountain, or with a heavy packout, I go heavy and durable.

Hunting Azerbaijan

Recent Posts