Monday, November 14, 2011

Danner Boots and Iowa Pheasants

This past weekend I had the chance to hunt wild Iowa pheasants with some good friends in the conservation field, including Howard Vincent, CEO and Dave Nomsen, VP of Government Affairs, both with Pheasants Forever. Also joining us on the trip was Ron Regan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Steve Williams, CEO of the Wildlife Management Institute, and a former chief of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It was a great chance to talk fish and wildlife habitat conservation with some of the leaders in conservation policy. It was also a fantastic opportunity to walk literally hundreds of acres of unbroken prairie with great dogs in search of crafty ring-necked roosters.

I got advance knowledge of the rigorous terrain from a colleague, who said the miles long walks through head-high cover was tough on gear and tough on bodies. Knowing full well that my hunting experience, which consists mostly of short walks through harvested corn fields to goose blinds or deer stands, had sorely prepared me for long dusty days in the tall grass prairie. So a few weeks before I left, I started going to the gym in the evenings; and I ordered a pair of Danner Sierra boots. I thought at least this half-hearted attempt to prepare would pay off somehow.

The boots weren't cheap. At more than $300, they were purchased from www.danner.com after a lot of research. The customer reviews for the Danner Sierras is almost unbelievably good. Customers boast about owning these boots for a decade or more, wearing them for every sort of outdoor activity, from hunting and fishing to farm work. The impression one gets from reading the reviews is that these boots aren't so much expensive, but are rather an investment in your feet. I figured that if the boots lasted for ten years, I would come out ahead: like just about every hunter I know, I spend way more than $300 on boots over a ten year period.

The Sierras are made in the USA, are waterproof, and are the Thinsulated cousin of the uninsulated Danner Grouse boots. Since I do most of my hunting in weather that one wouldn't call balmy, I decided to opt for the warmer shoe. Available in regular, wide, and extra wide, as well as in half sizes, it is easy to find a Danner boot that fits, and the 9.5 wides fit my feet very well.

I wore the boots as much as possible in the two weeks prior to the hunt in order to break them in a bit. The first day I wore them they were understandably stiff, and there was some slight discomfort. Day two, the boots were sufficiently broken in that any discomfort disappeared, and from there on out they were a pleasure to wear.

Fast forward to Veterans Day morning, when I laced up my Danners for their first trip into pheasant country at the Hole N The Wall Lodge in Akron, Iowa. Early morning conditions were chilly and in the 20 degree range, but the day warmed up to the high 50s by lunch. Despite this nearly forty degree variation in temperature, my feet were never cold or hot, but those temperatures probably aren't extreme enough to measure the boots' performance, a January day in the goose pit might be a better judge than a day spent walking.

The real test of these boots was walking for two full days through tall grasses and uneven terrain dotted with badger and gopher holes. They performed very well. After hunting each day, my feet weren't in any pain, I had no 'hot spots' or blisters, and there was no pinching at all. My ankles felt great despite hitting a few of those aforementioned badger holes with precision accuracy. I also inadvertendly put my right foot up to the mid-calf into a small creek while chasing some roosters, and my foot never got wet, a real victory when the boot has essentially been submersed. A wet foot with much walking left to do would be a losing proposition.

Generally speaking, when I spend a day in boots I can't wait to get out of them at the end of the day, eager to trade them in for lighter, more casual shoes (or if it has been a particularly tough day, bedroom slippers). But there was no such feeling at the end of the day with the Danners. Now to be sure, at the end of the hunting days in Iowa I was dog tired, perhaps more tired than I have been in a long time. I was dusty (it was so dry that despite 20 degree temps at night, there wasn't a lick of frost on the ground, and you couldn't even see your breath in the morning because of the lack of moisture), my legs were sore and my feet felt as heavy as lead weights, but that wasn't the fault of my Danners, it was more the result of a tough but memorable day of Pheasant hunting with great dogs, good company, and the nicest pair of boots I've ever owned.

1 comment:

prpark said...

Great "review" post and hunt. Danners are the real deal. My Dad has hiked the AZ high country for the last 20 years in his...Phil