The one piece of gear that differentiates whitetail from mule deer hunters is our boots.
Whitetail hunters can live an entire season in the same pair of boots, and often they're scent-containing, waterproof rubber boots. That just won't work for hunting mule deer in steep, open country or in the hot archery season or the frigid, snowy later season.
That's why I make the case in this video that serious mule deer hunters should invest in a variety of boots, models that will see you through an entire season.
Sometimes I feel like Imelda Marcos, with a boot for every occasion. But the comfort and performance of my boots is a huge consideration for the sort of hunting I do.
Here are the boots you see in the clip:
Cabela's Silent Stalker Sneakers
This is my go-to archery boot, not just for mule deer but also for elk and open-country whitetails. The 8-inch upper is dead quiet, and just the right height for muddy or damp conditions, but it's the flexible sole that has me sold on this boot. It is thin and responsive enough to allow me to feel rocks, sticks, and other obstructions that make noise in the final yards of a stalk. But they're stout enough to carry me across miles of mule deer country without turning my ankles or tiring my soles.
Lowa's Bighorn Hunter GTX
Great for steep terrain, this is my favorite backcountry boot for just about any season or species. It has a stiff sole that enables me to sidehill safely and comfortably, but it's light enough that I don't feel I'm walking with shackles on my feet. But the coolest, and most innovative feature, are the textile inserts in the tread. I first thought this was a gimmick, but the little fabric disks provide essential grip, especially on wet rocks. And they fit me exceptionally well, with the rigidity of a ski boot but the comfort of a mid-weight hiker. It's a great boot for active hunters, but if you're going to sit for long in cold weather, you'll want a boot with better insulation.
Other favorite boots that I've worn this season:
• Bogs' Copperhead: Seriously cold-season hunting gear, the rear zip on these heavy-duty boots allows me to tuck even the densest, most insulated coveralls in my boots.
• Vasque Vista Ultra-Dry: This is a great early-season boot for the longest archery hunts. This year I made a number of 12-mile circuits in eastern Montana's prairie, looking for big bucks. These were on my feet for most of those hikes.
• Rocky's Athletic Mobility Maxprotect: These boots don't fit my run-and-gun style, but I pulled them on for those mid-season days when I didn't know if I'd be sitting or stalking. They're dry, flexible, and quiet.
• Muck Boots' Arctic Pro: The fourth week of our rifle season here in Montana got pretty cold, with lows around zero and plenty of snow. These were the boots I lived in during long days chasing the trophy buck I ended up killing. Comfortable, flexible and warm as I could want, these are serious hunting boots.