Feets of strength: Take care of your hunting boots

Turkey season is over, and hunters will put away their calls, clean their guns and hang up their camo clothing. But there’s one more thing to do before calling it a season. Unfortunately, it’s a chore many hunters forget about. When it comes to outdoor equipment, hunting boots get little respect.

We would never consider putting a gun away wet or not drying a hunting outfit before storing it, but it seems hunting boots are often just kicked into a corner to be forgotten about until the next time they’re needed. That is a mistake and it could prove to be a costly one.

I have boots made of natural leather and others made with leather and synthetic Cordura material, and both benefit from a periodic cleaning. Both boot types contain a waterproof GoreTex membrane that keeps the inside of the boot dry and allows me to cross small steams and walk through wet grass without getting wet feet.

The Codura types are the easiest to maintain and I’ve found that if I brush accumulated mud or dirt from the outside of them and then allow them to air dry before putting them away they’re good to go the next time I need them. If the mud is really caked on, I run a hose over them and then allow them to dry. A spray of silicone Camp Dry on the leather insures it will remain supple and that it won’t dry out.

My all-leather boots are another matter. Leather, of course, is the natural skin of an animal (usually a cow) and, because it is a natural material, if it isn’t properly maintained it can be ruined. Dirt and mud can cause abrasions and water can easily deplete natural oils, causing the leather to dry out and crack. This combination of abrasion and drying can spell doom for a good pair of boots.

To make a pair of boots, cow hide is split by the manufacturer. The outside of the hide is called top-grain leather. Top-grain leather may undergo an additional finishing process to remove any natural scars or blemishes. If it doesn’t, that leather is referred to as full-grain leather. Most hunting boots are made of full-grain leather.

After a season of use, if my leather boots have mud on them, I treat them like my Cordura boots and wash off the mud. The water won’t hurt the leather at this point as long as it’s carefully dried and conditioned with a good leather conditioner. When drying leather boots, don’t put them near a stove or in direct sunlight because this could crack the leather and possibly ruin the boots. When drying any pair of hunting boots, be sure to remove the insole so that bacteria or mold doesn’t have a chance to grow.

After the boots have been cleaned and dried, I rub a good oil or wax leather conditioner into the leather using a soft cloth. I’ve been using the old standard Mink Oil for years and find it works well for keeping my good leather boots in excellent condition.

A good pair of boots can cost a pretty penny but they’re worth it when spending a day hunting deer or small game. With proper care a pair of hunting boots can provide years of service and dry feet. It’s worth the effort to keep them in the best condition possible.

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