Discussion in 'Hunting Equipment, Gear & Optics' started by James.Grage, Jul 10, 2011.
I stumbled across this thread looking for boot suggestions, since I'm a member and haven't posted in a while I'll pipe-in with my two cents this beautiful Saturday morning... doesn't hurt that I have a hunting boot fetish either.
Preface this post by saying that I have spent a total of about 4 months or so hunting on 6 trips the last two years. From the rocky lava-rock cliffs of the Northern Cape (aoudad), to the tick-infested sub-tropical tangle of Natal, the rugged mountains that the East Cape kudu call home, hunting the cats of the Kalahari, the plains game of Limpopo and the Northwest Province in the RSA. Most of my hunting in Zim has been big-five oriented in and around Hwange National Park (buffalo, elephant and leopard), but just completed a wonderful Namibian horseback hunt for mountain zebra and gemsbok.
In other words, having just completed my first Big Five as well as the SCI Africa 29, my PH Walla Albertse and I have logged over 10,000 miles in southern Africa by truck, foot and horseback so as you may well imagine I have a few ideas about what, as an American hunting both archery and rifle in Africa, likes on his feet. By and large it differs fairly significantly from what I wear hunting in the States.
First off, the vast majority of the miles in South Africa or Zimbabwe will be racked-up in your PH's Land Cruiser or Hilux with the spot-and-stalk approach. Big-five can be lumped into this as well (especially when checking cat baits), however you will be walking more tracking elephant and buffalo. Comfort and coolness, along with protection, is the key for the plains species, you won't be walking all day, you'll be sitting high in the sun, in the back rack of the pickup, looking for game with your shorts on. High-top Rocky Mountain hunting boots will not help you stay cool. The lower, lighter and more breathable category of "light hikers" are far more appropriate. In fact, regular sneakers would be great if it were not for two rather universal facets of African hunting you'd be wise to accommodate - pepper ticks and thorns.
A pair of PH's and their footwear on April's Zim hunt. FYI, those spots on their legs ain't freckles.
Pepper ticks are a very accurate name, they are about the size of a grain of pepper, are ready, willing and able to squeeze into our boots through the smallest openings and not only itch like crazy when biting but also carry the dreaded tick-bite fever bacteria, so the wise hunter (especially early in the season) will do everything practical to minimize his or her exposure. This (and the thorns) is a primary reason so many PH's wear those sock-protectors over their lightweight footwear. Between the ticks and the thorns, be prepared to toss the socks into the garbage daily if worn exposed to the bush. Get a pair of the leather sock protectors at Safari & Outdoors or elsewhere as soon as you can when you get there, why more Americans don't use these things is beyond me.
When considering construction, bear in mind that external seams, stitching and nylon can not only hide pepper ticks for a ride back into your truck and sleeping quarters, but also take a beating from the thorn bush that you will almost certainly be walking through. The ideal plains game / big five boots will keep these things to a minimum and the sock protectors will help also (see photo).
I have also found that the heat of a late season African hunt can destroy soles. I traced my feet and spent over $400 on a pair of Russell's and the soles separated around day 7 with little regard to the fact that "Ivan Carter" as well as the salesperson recommended them for precisely this use. The second pair fared little better. Now they have replaced them for the third time with the Air Bob they say is required to hold up to these conditions, IMHO completely defeating the original reason(s) I purchased them (light weight and quiet soles) in the first place, but they are comfortable and fend off the ticks well.
Here's a partial list of the boots I've worn and why I don't wear them anymore:
Danner Pronghorn's - worked relatively well but very hot to wear in the sun and in the truck all day after plains game. Perfect for the mountains of the Eastern or Northern Cape.
Keen Low Targhee's - (forgot my sock protectors) grand total of 53 tick bites on my lower legs and feet, mostly in the truck after three days of hunting. Made for a very interesting 7-hour ride back to Swartruggens. Lots of places for ticks to hide. In all fairness, this was crawling after red duiker in the jungles of Kwazulu-Natal, the mid-hikers would be a fair choice for general plains hunts after a winter freeze that killed off the ticks on your chosen Limpopo game farm.
Under Armour Mid-hikers - completely destroyed by the thorns and lava-rock after a single day hunting barbary sheep in the Northern Cape. They'd likely be adequate for plains game and ideal for sitting in a bow blind all day. Thorns will pierce the soles and sides and stab your feet.
Russell Laramie 5.5 Safari PH's - would be great everywhere except the mountains if they could find a lightweight and quiet sole that would last. Simple leather / canvas uppers seem to repel the ticks and thorns very well.
Additionally, I've worn various mid-hikers that work very well in a wide variety of terrain, but they are more noisy, don't breathe very well and are on the heavy side, for most hunts or your first trip they are a good all-around choice when worn with sock protectors.
I've just ordered a pair of the new Danner Willowa 4.5" Hikers for the easier days in the truck or blind as well as a pair of the new Danner 6" Gila's for more rigorous terrain. I'll let you know how they work out once I get them...
One more little thing - take a can of RAID or pick up a can of BOOM insecticide and spray your boots well every day. PH's should have this in your truck for client's use wherever ticks are an issue.
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