Two pieces in an upland hunter's arsenal receive most of the attention, bird dogs and shotguns. Obviously, most dogs are companions well beyond the scope of "equipment," and most shotguns are either heirlooms or expensive, or both. In that sense, there's a kinship with both.
Hunting boots aren't cracking the top two, ever. Many pairs are expensive enough, but all boots eventually deteriorate, and unique foot odors don't do their depreciation any favors. Still, some hunters manage to become attached to their boots in more than just an "I wear them" sort of way. I recently came across a hunting boot thread on an upland hunting forum in which one hunter proclaimed to have worn the same pair of leather boots for 23 years, his time-defying secret being he occasionally has them resoled. Like most relationships, he infers, you need to patch things up now and again.
I'm not looking to approach a silver anniversary with my next pair, but am currently a footwear free agent, and want more than just a fall fling. My previous two pairs lasted one and two years, respectively, which wasn't even enough time for my unique foot odor to bond.
How long should a good hunting boot last? Read forums and reviews, and most hunters - like 23 year boot guy – rate the quality of a boot by how many years or seasons they've lasted. This can be a poor account if you don't factor how many days, how many miles or what types of terrain a particular hunter is working. The guy hunting upland birds 40 days a year in
As a former distance runner, I also can't help but think about the "miles" aspect. As a general guideline, runners are encouraged to replace their shoes every 500 miles or so. Even if shoes aren't worn out, this prevents the runner from reaching a point where shoes can compromise physical condition. Upland boots are made of more durable materials and therefore should last much longer than running shoes. Still, the concept is an interesting one: hunters - who can log just as many, if not more miles than runners – measuring performance in miles rather than months. Where my boots may not be lasting me long enough – a quality issue – others may be risking injury by pushing their boots too far – a quantity issue.
I'd buy a boot that's comfortable knowing it's only going to last one season over a boot that wasn't quite as comfortable that would last multiple seasons. How important is comfort?
I definitely have some more research to do before I buy, and if you're in the market for a new pair of hunting kicks, you should too. You might not love 'em like a bird dog or collect them like guns, but it pays to make hunting boots the worthy third – they're with you every step of the way.