Turkey Season Wrap And A Gear Review
May 16, 2016
Wow. How long since I last posted?
So turkey season is well past and I don’t have so much as a feather to show for it. As I’ve mentioned, I saw birds, but just never got the right opportunity. And, truthfully, it occurs to me that I guess I’m just not all that dedicated as a turkey hunter. I could have put in some more time… hit a few different places away from the farm… but I just never got that motivated.
Maybe I’m just getting spoiled. Maybe I’m preoccupied with other things… getting the new house in place, working on the property to improve the hunting opportunities, and so on and so forth and all that jazz.
Whatever. I didn’t kill a turkey.
What I did do, however, was get the chance to really appreciate a good pair of knee-high, rubber boots. In this particular case, they were a pair of Irish Setter’s “Rutmaster 2.0”, sent to me for review earlier this spring.
I haven’t worn rubber boots since my childhood, when my standard hunting boots were picked up at the discount store. They were uninsulated, clunky, and made for a lot of really miserable mornings on the deer stand. My feet would sweat while we were driving out to the hunt and walking to the stand, and then the sweat just sat there and chilled until it sucked every bit of body heat right out of my feet.
I gave up rubber boots when I started to buy my own gear, but I also watched over time, in the magazines, television shows, and at the SHOT show, as knee boots became a really popular thing for deer and turkey hunters. It didn’t escape my notice, though, that their popularity was usually in the South. At this point, I was hunting in CA, which wasn’t really the place for rubber, knee boots.
Even in Texas, the Hill Country took a lot of up and down in some pretty rugged stuff, and while the protection of a knee-high boot was inviting, I always felt better with something a little more solid on my feet.
But now I’m back in North Carolina. My place is on relatively high ground, as this part of southeastern NC goes, but it’s flat as a pancake and often pretty wet. The longest hike I’m likely to make is a mile or so, but even the short hikes are often through catclaws and blackberry brambles. So when I got the chance to try out the Irish Setter boots, I figured turkey season would be the perfect opportunity to see what I really thought about them.
My first impression? Rubber, knee boots have changed a lot since I was a frozen-footed youngster, and the change is definitely for the better.
The boots are really lightweight. They’re made of a composite that includes neoprene and vulcanized rubber that somehow provides good strength, but keeps these 17″ high boots down to a little over two and a half pounds per boot. That’s enough heft to feel like you’re wearing something, but not enough to feel like your feet are encased in blocks of concrete.
This particular model comes with 800 grams of Thinsulate, which makes them reasonably well insulated for most of the NC hunting seasons. The weather this spring has been really sort of weird, with lots of chilly mornings that turn into warm days. It hasn’t been exceptionally cold or hot. I think I’d probably want something a little more insulated if it gets really cold, but I found them really comfortable on every outing.
Just to really push them a little, I wore them while cutting the brush out of my ditches… wading through six to ten inches of water and pushing through brambles and briars. It was about 85 degrees out, with matching humidity. I figured my feet would be soaked with sweat by the time I was done, but that really wasn’t the case. Whatever they’ve done to make this boot breathe, it’s working.
The outsoles have what they call the “Mudclaw RPM II” design. It’s a fairly aggressive tread, and holds traction pretty well in the snot-like swamp mud that forms around the edges of my pasture. However, the sole is relatively soft. That’s great for walking quietly. They’d be perfect for slipping through the pines to get to my morning tree stand, but I wouldn’t want to have to wear these over the jagged, volcanic rock like I encountered in parts of Northern California deer country.
I remember walking in those old boots of my youth, and how they tended to slip and slide over my heels. Within a couple hundred yards, I could guarantee a hot spot that would quickly become a blister if I kept going. Rubber boots tended to have one shape, and very little give. That’s changed too.
One of my favorite things about these Rutmaster boots (which I think is standard in most of Irish Setter’s current line) is what they call their “Exo-Flex technology”. This allows the boot to expand over the back of your foot when you put the boot on, and then locks in over your heel to keep the boot really secure, no matter what sort of terrain you’re navigating. It’s not quite like wearing a lace-up boot or athletic shoe, but it made these things really comfortable for walking over uneven ground. The only challenge to this Exo-Flex heel is that I had to use a boot jack to take them off. Maybe it’s just my advancing decrepitude, but I couldn’t bend over and pull them off by hand.
I can’t speak yet to the durability of the Rutmaster boots, since I’ve only had them for a couple of months so far. I’m sure I’ll be using them all summer as I work around the farm and doing habitat projects, and I’ll definitely be wearing them to the stand come September. If there are any updates, I’ll be sure and share them here.