We may not think a whole lot of it, but our footwear can make all the difference between an enjoyable hunt and a miserable experience – depending on the cover and terrain that we are tackling.
Upland hunting, being one of the most rugged and challenging pursuits, warrants a truly outstanding hunting boot, one that is up to the challenge of wear and tear as well as providing optimal comfort and support as we navigate some of the most unforgiving terrain. Thankfully, many companies have designed boots specifically for upland hunters.
Boots for the Uplands
Upland hunting is an elite endeavor and not for the faint of heart. Make no mistake, the pursuit of upland game birds requires you to transverse some of the most beautiful yet challenging terrain you’ll ever encounter.
Whether you’re chasing roosters in the swales of North Dakota, grouse, and woodcock in the north woods, or on a quest for mountain chukar, you’re going to want a pair of boots that are worth the wear. After all, you’re going to be putting plenty of miles on them.
While all hunting boots are generally made to withstand at least a little bit of abuse, upland hunting boots are called up to a higher league.
Some hunting boots are focused on insulation and are marketed for hunters who spend a lot of time idle in blinds or tree stands where warmth is a major concern.
Upland boots, on the other hand, are much more concerned about support, durability, and in many cases being water-resistant.
Let’s compare and contrast three contemporary models.
Three Boot Models
L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Boot
One of the most iconic outdoor brands in North America is L.L. Bean, and so it is natural that they would have produced an excellent staple in our lineup.
Their Maine Hunting Boot is an excellent addition to any hunter’s wardrobe, and is especially good for grouse and woodcock hunters who spend a significant amount of time in boggy and wet low areas where getting your feet wet is just a given.
Moreover, their lightweight and minimalist design are great for the hunter who doesn’t want to have to put too much thought into his footwear and just wants brute reliability.
The Maine Hunting boot has the distinctive “bean boot” look that is so prominent in L.L. Bean footwear design. First designed in 1912, the Maine Hunting Boot is an iconic staple amongst upland hunters and offers a timeless style and rugged simplicity in its design.
Its look is reminiscent of the original moccasin hunting shoes that Leon Leonwood Bean first created for hunters to transverse the treacherous Maine landscape.
Featuring a completely genuine leather and waterproof upper that laces high above the ankle and chain-molding underneath, the Maine Hunting Boot provides excellent ankle support and protection from water whether one is hunting or shoveling snow in your driveway.
The Maine Hunting Boot also provides excellent steel-shank arch support so that your feet aren’t what takes you out of the chase. I have personally worn these on trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Dakota and have held up beautifully in the elements.
One thing to remember is that leather can tend to get brittle and begin to crack after numerous instances of being wet and then drying out.
For this reason, if you opt to go with the Maine Hunting Boot, I would recommend periodical application of mink oil or other leather-care products to ensure the integrity of the leather and keep life in the boots.
If the bean boot doesn’t do it for you, Danner Boots offers you a more modern yet equally impressive alternative. If there’s a first impression you get from just glancing at this boot, it’s probably rugged.
These boots are no joke when it comes to being able to hold up, and they look the part too. They look like they are built like Sherman tanks, only tougher.
What’s more, the moc-toe style and deep brown exterior give the boot a stylish finish that will look as great in a pair of jeans at the after-hunt dinner as they will in the field.
The Sharptail is Danner’s contribution to the expansive upland tradition that we all cherish so much. They have created a rare gem in this one – offering full-grain leather upper and also Gore-Tex technology to ensure water can’t get in but moisture can get out.
Moreover, the outsole and platform give you unmatched stability over the most hostile terrain, something that is coveted by every serious upland hunter.
To sweeten the pot, Danner also offers a 365-day warranty should you for any reason feel that the quality isn’t up to par. And weighing in at just 51 ounces per pair, your feet will thank you in more ways than one.
Irish Setter Wingshooter Upland Boot
If you’re looking for a timeless classic, there is no brand more iconic amongst upland hunters as Irish Setter. This brand has been a staple go-to for hunters of all stripes for decades, and any list of upland boots would be doing a disservice of they didn’t at least get a shout-out.
Aesthetically, the Wingshooter almost checks in as somewhat of a hybrid between the Maine Hunting Boot and the Sharptail, offering a leather-heavy look with a moc-toe design. This handsome boot features similar traits as the aforementioned models.
It is a tall, high-ankle lace boot with a very durable full-grain leather upper which also offers waterproof protection. Even more striking is its chestnut upper in contrast with its prairie-colored outsole, which gives this boot its unique and stylish look.
These boots are known to be so comfortable that they may just as easily double as your new favorite work boots. Like all leather boots, they may become susceptible to water damage over time, so a bit of mink oil or other protection is never a bad idea
Another truly unique feature for this boot model is the way that Irish Setter uses their patented Ultra-Dry technology in their use of layers within the boot.
Several layers give the boot ultimate protection against water making its way in from the outside. On the other hand, the moisture-wicking nylon that lines the inside of the boot is great for allowing moisture to escape the boot, making comfort optimal, and getting your feet wet the last thing on your mind.
After all, upland hunters know you must be alert at all times. Nobody wants to be preoccupied with their boots failing and miss that coveted opportunity for a shot.
Finally, Irish Setter gives you great stability and a sure step. They have gone above and beyond by providing a boot that is made to mold the heel, helping to create an unmatched fit that have made a loyal client base.
On top of that, the sole is specifically designed to shed debris so that the mud you had to slog through early in the morning doesn’t come back to haunt you when you have to descend that steep strip-pit or walk across a slate-bottomed stream.
That extra little bit of peace of mind pays dividends when you’re out in the wilderness and a slip might be a very big deal, especially if you’re hunting alone.
Overall, there are many companies offering a plethora of options for upland hunting boots at various different price points. These three classic and unique models offer a great starting point for anyone looking to get into, whether they are new to upland hunting or a seasoned veteran.
Whichever you choose, keep in mind that staying dry and on your feet can be the difference between a memorable and forgettable experience.
Sometimes it is worth it to spend a little extra to get the additional insurance against a slip and fall or a bad case of hypothermia. One can’t go wrong with either of these choices, and you’ll look good doing it too.