Most hunters don’t limit themselves to one species of game or a single geographic area, so why limit yourself to one pair of boots? The footwear requirements of an upland wingshooter are different from those of a Rocky Mountain elk hunter or a tree stand hunter pursuing eastern whitetails. These three styles will cover pretty much every scenario you can encounter.
A great upland boot is flexible and easy to break in, yet it offers enough support to cover the untold miles involved in following bird dogs across the prairie or through grouse and woodcock cover. The classic upland boot is lightweight to reduce fatigue, with a low heel suited to relatively level and grassy or brushy terrain. A flat heel is also preferable for mounted quail hunters who don’t want a deep heel arch getting hung up in the stirrup.
Standard trail boots offer beefed-up rigidity and support. They feature aggressive traction and often a pronounced heel for digging in when descending uneven terrain. Speed-lacing hooks are convenient for getting out of camp while the elk are still bugling, and some form of waterproof membrane, like Gore-Tex or the manufacturer’s proprietary product, is essential. If you are looking for a boot to pull double duty on the job site, consider a pair marketed as a hybrid work/hunting boot. It will function fine in the field but usually have sturdier toe and heel protection than a dedicated hunting boot.
When the going really gets wet, the only answer is some form of mud boot. They come in all heights, weights, and insulation levels and can’t be beat for traversing swamps and creeks, climbing in and out of johnboats and canoes, or reducing scent while hanging deer stands. Pay close attention to the thermal rating to make sure you are getting a boot that is appropriate for your environment.