These Boots Were Made For Chukar Hunting

When you start chukar hunting you learn fast how important good boots are, and what “good” really means. I’d bet if you asked 100 chukar hunters to list 3 adjectives describing their favorite chukar hunting boots, there’d be a  high correlation. “Stiff,” “durable,” and “high” top my list.

But everyone’s feet are different, and old habits die hard. I’m not here to try to sell anyone boots, but to share what I’ve liked and disliked about some of the chukar hunting boots I’ve had.

Asolo TPS Gore-Tex Military Boots
The Asolo Cotopaxi. The best chukar hunting boot, gone and lost forever…

My favorite pair of boots, ever, for anything, but especially for chukar hunting, are not made anymore, so it’s kind of pointless to say much about them. But I will anyway, mainly because, in my opinion, they’re the absolute ideal boot for chukar hunting. Asolo’s “Cotopaxi” boots — which I got as a fluke while randomly killing time in a Sierra Trading Post store in Boise, Idaho — were perfect in every way for me. I got them soon after I destroyed my left ankle and wanted something with lots of lateral stability and support, and these were ridiculously high (9″). Much higher than any boot I’d ever had. The boots I got hurt in — also Asolo — were the standard 7″ hiking boots, with a standard-width sole. The Cotopaxi sole was narrower, which I immediately liked for chukar hunting because of the peculiarities of foot placement on loose or unstable rocky slopes; it’s easier to pinpoint where your foot’s going with a narrower sole. I had hurt my ankle partly because the sole of my hiking boot landed about a half-inch from where I wanted it to (while jumping off a 4-foot-high rock), which rolled my ankle inward. (The other reason I hurt my ankle, to be fair to the boot, is that I idiotically thought I was still 18 years old.) Almost immediately, I noticed that the narrower Cotopaxi sole added to my sure-footedness at a time I needed it, and allowed me to hunt while trying to let the ankle heal.

At least as important as its narrow sole, the Cotopaxi featured a mountaineering-style stiffness both fore-aft and laterally. When you’re hiking on rocks, a boot whose sole flexes a bunch will torque your foot in unexpected ways and, over time, might cause stress fractures, muscle strains, and bone bruises. The mountaineering boot type of stiff sole on the Cotopaxi really protected my feet from all that, and I’d finish even long side-hill hunts on rocks with happy feet. In addition to sole stiffness, the lateral stiffness of this boot meant that the uppers didn’t allow the sole to turn sideways, which is murder on your ankles and lower leg muscles; if you’re side-hilling on a 45-degree slope, you want to keep the sole horizontal. The Cotopaxi and other mountaineering style boots keep close to that 90-degree angle between sole and upper, which is super important. And the Cotopaxi’s 9-inch height, combined with its lateral stiffness, made the boot almost like an ankle brace.

As for the sole, I’m a fan of Vibram soles. There might be better sole makers out there, but I trust Vibram and have never had a problem with them; they make tons of different kinds of soles with different treads and compounds, and the Cotopaxi’s soles had a harder compound than I’d have liked, but that meant they lasted longer than a tackier rubber would have. And it’s not like you have a choice on soles if you find the boot you want (wouldn’t that be nice?). Chukar boots also should have a rubber rand that goes completely around the boot to protect the leather just above the sole from getting torn and abraded by rocks. All mountaineering and many hiking boots feature this.

Finally, the other essential feature of these boots — as with all the boots I’ve used — is a Gore-Tex lining. Wet feet are bad feet. Knock on wood, but in the 25 years I’ve been wearing Gore-Tex boots, I’ve never once had wet feet (aside from some sweating). Walking through creeks, dew-drenched cheatgrass, whatever: Gore-Tex is the bomb.

My last hunt in the Cotopaxis
My last hunt in the Cotopaxis
Zamberlan Vioz High Hunting Boots

This season was my 7th in the Cotopaxi, and the sole had become worn to the point where I was losing traction. I figure I put about 700 miles of chukar hunting on them, so I definitely got my money’s worth, but I was sad and reluctant to give them up. I tried to find them online in Europe, but to no avail. So the search for a new pair began. I’d heard good things about Kennetrek Mountain Boots, but I didn’t want to spend $450 (the Cotopaxi, when I got them at Sierra Trading Post, were $150, normally $400, and it was the only pair they had, which happened to be in my size), and the soles aren’t Vibram and are wider than the sole I wanted. So I looked at Sierra Trading Post online and found some Zamberlan boots that looked close: they were 10-inches high, but they were insulated, which I didn’t want. But they had Gore-Tex, a good Vibram sole – not as narrow as the Cotopaxi but not super-wide, either. The rand, weirdly, didn’t go completely around the boot, but left a couple inches open on the heel; not that big a deal. I’d had a pair of Zamberlan (an Italian company) hiking boots for years, so that helped stick these in my head. But I kept looking, yet couldn’t find any deals on a better boot, and with the discount at Sierra (if you sign up for their e-blasts they give you a code for a big discount) the boots were about $200, including shipping; retail on these was about $390. They’re not mountaineering stiff, either laterally or fore-aft, but they’re incredibly comfortable as long as I’m not doing a lot of scree-scrambling; my first outing in them was about 4 hours on moderate terrain and I had no issues or hot spots or blisters. Happy feet. But they do flex more than I’d like for Hells Canyon side-hill scree fests. I’ve worn these about 10 times now, and they’re still very comfortable. I was worried about the insulation being too hot on my feet, but even during some long and fairly warm outings (65+ degrees), I really didn’t notice undue foot heat. So I think they’ll work fine.

But because of my shoe fetish and the fact that I still want to hunt stupid stuff, I wanted another mountaineering style boot because I like hunting that crap in Hells Canyon, but don’t like the Zamberlans too much for that terrain. Again, I went to Sierra Trading Post’s website and found some boots from an Italian brand I’d never heard of, but that looked good. Then I did a bunch more research on other brands I knew that had good reputations for mountaineering boots, such as Lowa and La Sportiva. After reading reviews (both from consumers and trade magazines) and comparing prices I decided to take a shot on the AKU Montagnard Gore-Tex® Mountaineering Boots boots from Sierra Trading Post. Again, with the discount I got these for around $220 (retail listed at $530, which is nuts).

AKU Montagnard Gore-Tex® Mountaineering Boots – Waterproof, Insulated
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AKU Montagnard on their first outing
Narrow Vibram soles
Narrow Vibram soles

I’ve only worn them once, but was very happy with the stiffness. Traction was excellent, and after 3 hours my feet were happy, with no hot spots. Not bad for a super-stiff boot on the first outing. The only negative, so far, is that I wish they were higher (they’re listed at 8″; an inch actually makes a big difference). The sole is nice and narrow, and there’s no sharp heel step which helps prevent the heel from catching on rocks and turning you into a scree waterfall. Amazingly, too, they’re very lightweight for how stiff and robust they are. Time will tell if they become my go-to boot.

I ordered the two new boots I have from a website without seeing them or trying them on. I consider myself very lucky that they seem not just fine but actually very good, from fit (most important) to quality. I would much prefer to try things on before buying them, but this is the way of the world nowadays, especially for rural folks, and you can always ship stuff back (often for free) if it doesn’t work out.

So there’s way more than anyone needs about my personal preferences for what I think the characteristics are for the best chukar hunting boot. I hope some of the information is useful to somebody. I’d love to hear from others about their favorite boots.

 

20 Replies to “These Boots Were Made For Chukar Hunting”

  1. Just started following your blog this week. Love your videos, really enjoy the fine dog work. our appreciation of the outdoors and what it has to offer is very evident in your writing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I like your taste in boots. Rocky made a good chukar boot for one year. I am currently rotating the Danner Mountain Assault boot with a quality European alpine boot made by Dachstein. Both are solid.
    What do you recommend for road hunting and ground-swatting birds out of a jeep?

    1. I’ll have to check out the Dachsteins. Danners don’t fit my feet, which look like a slice of pecan pie (toes are crust). My favorite road-sluicing footwear are probably my Rainbow Sandals Classic flip-flops (early season). Later it’s the faux-sheep 3/4 slipper from L.L. Bean. Kinda squishy. 🙂

  3. Just watched your video from when you sprained your ankle, it hurt watching it.

    Maybe you should do something on “SPOT” locator.

    More on boots later.

    Kent

  4. Bob, your description of chukar hunting boots are spot on! The German boot makers use a wider last than the Italian boot makers for better fit if your feet are wide. A friend showed up for a chukar hunt in a pair of Rocky boot some time ago and nearly ended the day lame. They became chew toys for the dogs. Sorry Hanson, but Rocky boots don’t belong on chukar terrain. Stiff soles that grip, uppers that don’t flex and seams in the back of the boot.

    1. I had some Meindl boots that were amazing, but since I wanted to use them for bow hunting elk I had to return them: they emitted an ear-piercing squeak with every step. It was hilarious (after the fact).

    2. Ron. Re-read my post before being that guy online who wants to call others out.
      Rocky made one mountain-style boot, for one season, that I sold to sporting good stores I work with. Definitely the only style I would ever use chukar hunting. Let me know if you want me to email you a photo of them.

      1. Jay,
        I’m so sorry for being that guy. Please accept my apology. Can you email me info on the Rocky mountian-style boot? ronblackburn@verizon.net is my email. The Dachstein boots and the Danner Mountain Assault boot are well known and I’m familiar with both. Ron

  5. I’ve been using two different style boots. My Alico’s that are a classic styled leather mountaineering boot. These are a little to low for my taste, but they are stiff and work pretty good. My favorite pair are my logger style boots that I wear for brush fires at work. They are a pair of Drew’s, with an 8″ top and a stiff sole. Not as stiff as my mountaineering boots, but good non the less. I crawl over boulder fields all day long while hunting out here in the Mojave. My next pair are going to be a custom made pair of Nicks logger style boots. Expensive, yes, but a good value, definitely. I’d skimp on a lot of other gear before I’d ever skimp on my boots.

  6. Bob:

    Thanks for your boot info.

    I have for 15 years or more used Custom Made Russell Boots for my upland hunting. Decided to try something different.

    Purchased a pair of Kenetrek mountain extreme, began break in in April mostly flat hard surface walking. Had about 100 miles on them when I headed for ND pheasant hunting in October. Backed them up with a pair of Lowa, broke them in same way but have not yet worn them for actual hunting, in ND, SD, NE and KS. Used a product called Body Glide on bare feet, socks were Smart Wool liners and Med. weight Smart Wool socks on top. Used Engo blister prevention patches inside the boots. Never had a hot spot and never had blisters at all.Both brands are very comfortable boots. Of course have not hunted chrkar but bet they will be just fine

    On Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 9:57 AM, Chukar Hunting wrote:

    > Bob McMichael posted: “When you start chukar hunting you learn fast how > important good boots are, and what “good” really means. I’d bet if you > asked 100 chukar hunters to list 3 adjectives describing their favorite > chukar hunting boots, there’d be a high correlation. “Stiff,” ” >

  7. First of all, thank you for creatign this site….I really enjoy following your blog! I would really like if you were posting your images on instagram too….possible?

    Secondly, wonderign about weight in boot selection, I used to wear Meindl boots and a couple years ago switched to Han Wags….lighter, but less support. I am finding weight to be near the top of my list in selection of all hunting equipment…

    thanks again,

    Curt
    instagram me #rayenrcoastal

    1. Thanks for your comment, Curt. I just started playing with Instagram and hope to get more familiar with it soon. I added a bunch of pictures to my account (rkmcmichael). This social media thing takes a lot of time! On the weight of boots, I think support trumps weight, for me anyway. I’d rather make sure my feet were well protected and supported than have super lightweight boots. I just found out about the Hanwags, and thought the Tops would be my next pair of boots, until your comment about lack of support… Any more you can say about that?

  8. Thank you Bob for your amazing work you do for all of us to enjoy reading, Thank you!
    I would like to give people a different perspective on shoes vs. boots which is nearly opposite of what you wrote. I use a flexible soled shoe not boot with different gator heights per conditions. Flexible soles gives the ability to feel what’s under my sole on each step. It allows me to distribute weight on different areas of my foot for grip and balance. It’s important to have my ankle free and flexible to manipulate because if it’s restrained as with boots rather than shoe it will transfer lateral movement up to my knees. This transfer is not only painful but also throws my center of gravity/core off. If the snow is deep and your soles rarely contact anything but snow then it makes sense to wear a boot to help with keeping the deep snow out. The less weight you have strapped on your feet the less fatigue on your muscles and Joints. Rounded edges on perimeter of treads are better in early dry season as they don’t catch every slight rock edge that can make a person stumble. Sharp edges on treads are better in mud, wet or snow conditions. There are extreme differences on how slippery some soles are on wet rocks vs. dry rocks.
    In early/mid season short gators are useful to keep cheat grass seed out. I especially like the Sitka gators for the form fit and quiet use.
    In my head there is a reason we have all those bones in our feet.
    Hopefully this perspective helps a few and once again thank you Bob for sharing your passion! … addiction.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jim. I see your point about footwear, and it makes sense. For me, though, the boot stiffness factor is most important for side-hilling. The very few times I used boots with no lateral stiffness (like Cabela’s Guide-series boots with Bob soles) I literally could not physically manage any extreme side-hilling because the sole would take the 45-degree (or more) angle while my leg stayed vertical because the boot didn’t have any lateral support or rigidity: severe ankle and lower-leg tendon and muscle strains. Yes, the weight of this type of boots wears on me, but the tradeoff is one I can’t avoid if I want to hunt the scree and steep slopes where I like to hunt, which is almost always. 🙂

  9. Just wanted to say thanks for the insight and info you provide. You’ve convinced me to give a mountaineering style boot a try, not only for chukar here in Nevada, but mule deer and hopefully​ elk also. I found a pair of Scarpa Charmoz in my size (12.5 (I love that Scarpa does a half size this big)) for a steal on REI’s website. They aren’t as tall as I’d like, but they’re much stiffer than the Lowa mid hikers that I’m sure contributed to my groin pull last fall.

    Thanks again and cheers!

    1. Glad to help (hopefully!). I must confess that the AKU boots proved too low for my particular situation. So I’m actually still in search of a replacement for the Asolo Cotopaxis. The good news around here is that more chukar appear to have survived than expected, so it will be important to have good boots! Please let me know what you think of the Scarpas.

      1. Will do, and thanks. I’ll probably try to break them in searching for sheds so they are ready to go come Fall.

Chirp away