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Leather Hunting Boots - A Review and Comparison

Keeping Your Feet Warm and Dry

February 19, 2015
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Last fall, I did a review of rubber hunting boots. That print and youtube video review was well received and has prompted one common response, "Great review, but I prefer regular hunting boots." For those people, here's a review of three very popular leather hunting boots.

DescriptionRockyIrish SetterDanner
StyleCornstalkerDeer TrackerPronghorn
Style #RKYS085483845013
Size/Width10.5 (Reg)10.5 (EE)10.5 (EE)
Height *9”10”8”
Weight (pair)4 lbs., 3 oz.4 lbs., 4 oz.4 lbs., 1 oz.
CamoRealtreeMossy Oak®Mossy Oak®
PatternXtra™Break-Up Infinity®Break-Up Infinity®
Outsole MaterialPolyurethaneTriple-density RPMRubber Compounds
Lacing Hardware4 eyelets / 4 boot hooks5 speed lace / 2 boot hooks5 eyelets / 3 boot hooks
Pull-On Boot StrapYesYesYes
Warranty **12 months6 months12 months

* How a manufacturer measures a boot height varies. ** Check with the manufacturer for specific details.

Article Video

*** Rocky Cornstalker ***

Waterproofing is accomplished with Gore-Tex. First introduced in 1978, Gore-Tex fabrics have improved and evolved over the years to find a wide variety of uses in outdoor wear, such as hunting boots. Gore-Tex has billions of microscopic pores which are approximately 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water, but 700 times bigger than a molecule of moisture vapor. Rocky uses the Gore-Tex fabric between the outer shell of the Cornstalker and the inner liner so water in its liquid form cannot penetrate the Gore-Tex to get into the boot and moisture vapor can pass through it to get out.

Rocky uses 600 grams of Thinsulate Ultra Type I through the entire Cornstalker boot for insulation against the cold. Thinsulate works by trapping air molecules between you and the outside cold. Because the fibers in Thinsulate Ultra insulation are finer than most other synthetic or natural insulations it traps more air in less space. Thus, the Cornstalker boots retains body heat for warmth while allowing moisture produced by sweating to evaporate. Rocky chose Ultra Type I insulation for the Cornstalker. According to 3M "Type I Ultra insulation offers about one and a half times the warmth of down and nearly twice the warmth of high-loft fiberfill insulations when equal thicknesses are compared."

Article Photos

(l to r) Rocky, Irish Setter, Danner

The outside of the Cornstalker is made with full-grain leather and 900d Cordura panels. The U.S. Military has been using Cordura fabrics in their combat footwear since 1991 because it is light weight and durable. Being tear, abrasion and scuff resistant, Cordura is a good choice for hunting boots. All of the outer leather and Cordura panels are double or triple stitched. The toe area is given an additional protective coating since this part of the boot gets the most wear and tear. Goodyear welt construction is used to attach the upper part of the boot to the outsole, a method known to be durable and it enhances the waterproof construction.

The outsoles are made from durable polyurethane with an aggressive tread pattern for even the harshest conditions. The tread pattern in the toe and heel area is designed to give extra traction for situations like ascending or descending a steep hillside. A layer of EVA separates the outsole from the footbed for added support and comfort.

When you lace up any type of outdoor boot or shoe, the first eyelet above the ankle is a stress point. For that reason, Rocky double-riveted this eyelet for additional strength.

On the inside, the top 2" of the collar and tongue are padded for added comfort around the shin and calf area. The rest of the inside is covered with a mesh sewn in place with a crosshatch pattern; this mesh helps with moisture control. On the bottom, Rocky uses its contoured Air-Port Cushion Footbed that is molded from polyurethane that gives more cushioning than other commonly used materials, doesn't break down or loose its shape. This footbed is designed to allow air to circulate for ventilation.

When you look at a cross section of Rocky Cornstalker boots, there are seven layers. In addition to the leather, Cordura, Gore-Tex and Thinsulate Ultra layers, there is an airflow padding, a licra lining and a comfort lining. Each layer serves a specific purpose and when you put it all together, the Cornstalker a rugged, waterproof, warm and comfortable boot.

If you purchase Rocky boots at a retailer, you have an opportunity to try them on to make sure the fit is right; buying online does not give you that chance. Rocky's policy about the fit of a boot is, "If it doesn't fit, return it within 28 days, as long as it is unworn, unwashed and unaltered."

There are 5 styles of Cornstalker boots from which to choose. They are available in sizes 8 to 12 (with half sizes) and 13, in both regular and wide widths. MSRP varies.

Rocky first made the Cornstalker boots 30 years ago and continue to do so. This says a lot about the quality of a product, its popularity and the satisfaction of the outdoors individuals who wear them.

*** Irish Setter Deer Tracker ***

To keep your feet dry, Irish Setter uses UltraDry waterproofing in the Deer Tracker boots. UltraDry combines a moisture management lining with waterproof components. In addition to the UltraDry, the insulation material is enhanced with a permanent water repellent treatment creating a second layer of protection for your feet.

Irish Setter Deer Trackers are insulated with 800 grams of PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco. Primaloft is a patented synthetic microfiber/macrofiber thermal insulation material originally developed for the US Army in the 1980's. It was designed be comparable to goose down in weight, compressibility and warmth. In addition, Primaloft is able to retain 96% of its insulating capabilities even when wet. The PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco used in the Deer Trackers features a 90% post-consumer recycled fibers (made from plastic bottles) that are low bulk and high density. PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco is designed to keep your feet warm in any weather conditions. PrimaLoft is used from the bite line of the sole up to the collar.

Irish Setter utilizes RPM (Rapid Performance Material) on the outside of the Deer Tracker. This is a modern composite material engineered to provide the durability and strength of traditional boot materials, but without the extra weight, and it's waterproof. RPM is given the Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo pattern and is used in the tongue, foot and upper parts of the Deer Tracker. The outsole is made from rubber (the black tread) and dual density RPM (the brown cleats). The camo midsole, made with EVA, is tough, flexible and stress crack resistant in low temperatures.

The toe and heel areas of any boot are high wear areas and get a lot of abuse. The Deer Tracker has an Armatec panel in both of these areas. Armatec is a protective covering developed to be tough and abrasion resistant as a way to lengthen the lifespan of the boot. The Armatec heel also incorporates a heel kick.

Five premium leather panels (made by Trout Brook Leather in Minnesota) are sewn on the outside to further reinforce the Deer Tracker in areas having the most stress. All of these panels are double or triple stitched.

The outsole has an aggressive tread pattern for any terrain. It extends around the front to further protect the toe area. Both the heel and toe incorporate a tread design for improved traction on uneven ground. The outsole is attached to the boot using StableFlex technology that combines welt construction in the heel for stability and cement construction in the forefoot for flexibility when you walk. There is an added layer of EVA in the welted area of the boot.

For comfort, Deer Tracker boots incorporate an Achilles Comfort Panel for added comfort when walking. The top of the tongue in many boots will put pressure on the shin area that can be unpleasant when walking. The CuShin Comfort tongue is a four-way stretch nylon panel with an internal padded waffle mesh to minimizes this pressure. A thick, cushiony contoured layer of polyurethane is used for the footbed. The footbed is covered with the same lining material used throughout the inside of the boot.

The inside of the Deer Tracker is also treated with ScentBan scent control. This is an Irish Setter exclusive scent control process that kills the bacteria that cause odors.

There are 4 other styles of Deer Trackers with heights from 7" to 12", insulated or non-insulated, and in different camo patters. The sizes available are 8 to 12 (with half sizes), 13 and 14; widths are D and EE. MSRP varies.

Irish Setter boots have been made for over 60 years. Like the deer hunter who uses the knowledge and experience gained over the years with the goal of a successful hunt, Irish Setter did the same in developing their Deer Tracker boots. Their goal was to make a boot for hunters based on the importance of stability, flexibility and warmth; they succeeded with the Deer Tracker.

*** Danner Pronghorn ***

To keep your feet dry, Danner uses the proven Gore-Tex material in the Pronghorn boots as a liner that is 100% waterproof and breathable. The leather covering most of the outside of the Pronghorn boots is waterproof. As for the camo tongue and side panels, they are made from denier nylon; while not 100% waterproof, it is non-wicking.

Warmth in the Pronghorn boots is accomplished using 800 grams of Thinsulate Ultra Insulation Type U. This lightweight insulation is positioned throughout the boot, including the quarter panels on the upper. Danner chose the 'Type U' Thinsulate Ultra insulation since it offers a mid-loft alternative while keeping the bulk down.

On the outside, Pronghorn boots utilize durable, waterproof full-grain CamoHide leather. This leather uses a special die process developed by Danner in 2004 to achieve the desired appearance. All of the leather panels overlap and are double stitched with the toe and heel caps being triple stitched for added strength. These two areas of any boot get the most wear and abuse. The camo panels are made with 1000d denier nylon that is heavier and more abrasion resistant than other common grades of denier. The leather has plenty of overlap on top of the nylon panels to create very strong seams connecting the two materials. The collar and Achilles area are reinforced with a nylon mesh material that is also abrasion resistant.

Pronghorn boots are built on Danner's patented Terra Force platform that is lightweight, stable and durable. The upper is stitched to a 'board' (a flexible polyester non-woven material that is saturated with a resin but still allows for stitching). Then, the midsole and outsole are cemented to that board. For additional foot and arch support, a shank made from TPU (thermo polyurethane) is embedded into the midsole in this new generation of Pronghorn boots. The outsole is made from a combination of rubber compounds with a tread pattern suitable for anything from slick mud to rugged underbrush.

On the inside, the liner is a spacer mesh that is very soft to the touch. The liner allows for better breathability and flexibility of the open cell foam liner, and it adds cushioning. It is found in the collar, quarter panels and the tongue areas. For the contoured footbed, Danner used their Ortholite footbed made with three-density open cell polyurethane for improved comfort.

All quality boots are built around a carefully crafted foot shaped model known as a "last". Danner chose a new athletic fitting last for the Pronghorn boots that gives a good heel capture and opened the toe box to create a wider platform and better fit. This makes the Pronghorn boots fit true to size. Danner is so confident about the sizing they make this commitment "Rest assured that if the boot you receive doesn't fit correctly, we pay for return shipping back to us. You can order with confidence knowing return shipping is always on us."

Danner makes the Pronghorn boots in 7 different styles. In D-Width, the sizes are 7-12 (half sizes) and 13-16 whole sizes. For EE-width, the sizes are 8-12 (half sizes) and 13-14 whole sizes. MSRP varies.

This year marks the introduction of the fourth generation of Pronghorn boots. With each generation, Danner has enhanced this line of boots so the outdoors person is getting the best possible Pronghorn boot for the money.

*** Conclusion ***

The big question anyone reading this review will ask is, "Which boots are the best?"

Rocky Cornstalker -- These boots are built to be durable. There is a special protective coating over the toe area, double riveting of the eyehook at the stress point and the Goodyear welt construction. Even though the Cornstalker boots for this review were regular width and my footwear of choice is wide width, they were still comfortable. Of the three boots in this review, the Cornstalker is the least expensive which can be a big factor for anyone on a tight budget.

Irish Setter Deer Tracker -- From the lyrics of an old song title by Nancy Sinatra, "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." If you don't lace your boots to the top to keep the tongue from rubbing your shin, the CuShin Comfort tongue will appeal to you. On the back, the Achilles Comfort Panel is designed to give you added comfort and support when you're walking. During my scouting excursions, the Deer Trackers broke in the quickest loosing that new stiffness.

Danner Pronghorn -- Leather has been used for centuries in making outdoor wear because of its durability and natural resistance to weather conditions. About 2/3 of the upper exterior is leather. The other 1/3 is rugged 1000d denier nylon. The tough exterior is given a spacer mesh liner on the inside that is very comfortable. The weight of your gear and clothing is a big factor for any outdoor excursion; the Pronghorn boots are the lightest in weight of the three.

All three are of very good quality and craftsmanship. The final choice should be based on personal preference and the features of each boot that are the most important to you.



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