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.
Looks like the PHs above are both wearing Courteney boots?
I’ll be wearing Courteney boots this August chasing Cape Buffalo.
Right now, I’m heading out into the Missouri Ozark woods to give my Stihl a workout, wearing the same Courteney boots.
They aren’t just for hunting!
I have ordered a couple pairs of Russells... the chuka style one off the shelf and the other made to order. They both fit, but the custom ones are no better than the others. I ordered the 'air bob' soles and they are excellent for grip and not too hard.
I also ordered a pair of Russel Sheep Hunters. They are custom made and fit OK, but I should have ordered the heel counters (forgot) and the pull-up loops. They are too soft for mountain hunting, so I don't use them.
Danners - the old Danners were outstanding - I had a pair of 'Elk Hunters' that were glove leather lined and had kangaroo uppers and bull hide lowers. They lasted over 30 years and were re-soled a couple times. They finally disintergrated. Ordered another pair and and they were leather lined and were very comfortable. My Labrador eat the tongue out of one of them and Danner refused to re-build them for me. Too bad, they were excellent. Ordered another pair and they were fabric lined and the last was different. They did not fit well. I still have them, haven't worn them in several years. Gave up on Danner.
Bought a pair of Limmers - excellent boots made in Germany for an American company. These are more back packing boots and not good for Africa, I would think.
Continuing on, I bought a pair of Bean's ankle high, all leather hiking boots and wore them bird hunting. Wore them out eventually and liked them well enough to buy a second pair, which are going striong, They are Gore-Tex lined. On my upcoming trip to Africa I expect I'll take the Bean's boots and the Russell chukka boots.
Always wanted a pair of Courtney boots, though.
Wore Danners with well worn Vibram soles on first 5 trips, kept them greased with Sno-Seal and wore them occasionally between hunts to keep them broke in. Worked on wearing in two other pairs of Danners, one with air bob soles. Never have got them to the same condition as the first pair.guess Iam not putting in the miles as in the past.
BUT never had a blister or feet that left me down with the Danners.
The PH guiding my friend wore a pair of Rogue Trans Africa. He swore by them so I ordered a pair from a place (sorry would have to look it up). I have to say I like them as well as anything I’ve worn. Well enough I ordered their light hikers to try them out. Both boots comfortable and quiet. Aside from going hiking in both sets I’ve worn one or the other to work everyday since I got them. They’re sure work a look. All leather by the way. Made in South Africa. When I can go back there to hunt that’s what I’ll be wearing.
Courteney’s and Cape Buffalo... Just seems right don’t it?
Some 400 gr A-Frames and all will be right with the world Oh, I know, you keep saying North Fork’s. Well, two out of three ain’t bad
A little bar and chain oil and those Courteney’s will be all ready to go!
Got my first pair of Courteney’s well ahead of a trip to Zim for tuskless last year. Love ‘em! Very comfortable, fairly quiet and definitely worth the investment.
John has convinced me...A-Frames.
He gave me "the look" at dinner last week when I pushed him on the NF vs AF thing.
He said it would be a very expensive buffalo if/when the NF over-penetrated and I hit two vs one!
Oh, he followed-up the look with "you have been warned".
The kid from Houston who's never shot a buff is done arguing with the guy who's made his living in the bush for going on 4 decades.
I can’t speak for Russell’s but.... I bought a pair of Courteney boots at DSC. I go through 2 pairs of hunting boots a year on average guiding hunts. I bought these Courteney’s and wore them around a few weeks after buying them to help break them in before hunting. I just walked in the door from guiding a Catalina hunt and after wearing these Courtney boots for this hunt I can say without a doubt these are the absolute best hunting boots I’ve ever owned. If these things last as long as people say they do I cant imagine ever buying anything else for a general hunting boot. I am way impressed.
I bought some Courteney Selous because I wanted something nice and read good reviews. They are expensive but there are dearer. They are all leather but I hunt in generally warm dry environments. I like them and I’m considering buying some Patrol while I can get them as I like the ankle support and I will use the others in town.my feet won’t grow they will get used and I don’t want to ruin them.
They are heavier than a set of Cabelas I have. They are quieter, even in the Australian bush when it’s dry.
I booked, an African Plains game cull hunt , January is so far away when I’ve waited my whole life. I’m travelling lite and will be wearing a set of Courtney’s from home until I get back home. I’d like a set of Vellies for camp, keep dreaming.
I've found communication with Russells difficult (1 email a week if lucky) & available leathers limited (half on offer on site not even available) but like the style of their footwear.
I've found communication with Courteneys great (immediate, within 24hrs) & large choice of leathers (what's on site is what you can get) but ultimately I dislike the style of their footwear.
However I've found both difficult & restricting when attempting to get something custom made (Courteney simply won't do it).
Both have left a somewhat bad taste in my mouth.
Visit Russell at SCI or DSC and have your feet measured in person and pick out your leather there. I’ve done it twice and it was a great experience. I tried to get custom Courtney’s made in Bulawayo in person at the factory but they won’t do it.
As an ozzie I'm not sure how practical that would be for me to accomplish.
In the last twenty years I‘m wearing Courteney shoes and boots. I‘m often out in the bush, can‘t imagine there is better footwear than Courteney. Not without reason many (most?) PHs in Southern Africa wear Courteney.
I've worn my Merrill's on my 3 trips over.
I use Safari Courteney.
These are my favorite hunting shoes and more.
Who else is there aside Russell & Courteney, that has a large selection of exotic leathers and will make (edit: hunting) boots the customer specifically desires if outside the standard range of their off the shelf production boots?
I’ve got about six pairs of custom Russell boots. Been buying them long before I ever thought of going to Africa. My PH’s have been through Europe, China, Central America and, yes, Africa. Buy what you like and don’t worry about what others think.
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