Bears in Boots vs. Sock Stalking
By: Conrad Evarts
My rule on hunting footwear is; wear the minimum. In addition to thousands of days afield, I base this opinion primarily on two bear hunts.
The most recent was in Alaska. It was spot and stalk hunt along the coast. My bear was in the salt so I went ashore with another hunter to glass. We spotted a nice bear 500 yards down a rocky beach and across a creek. The wind was right so we stayed in the woods as long as we could, but had to drop down to the rocky beach 300 yards away. This put us beneath a bank and out of sight of the bear. Despite the wind and good visual cover the bear ghosted us into the woods.
On the walk back the adrenaline dissipated and I started looking for the Belgium workhorse that was apparently on the beach with us. I could hear it clearly. Then I looked down and realized the other hunter wore a hard-soled boot I’d love to have on the side of a goat mountain. But, even as I let him move a hundred yards ahead and the wind was at my back those clodhoppers could be heard clearly by my nearly dead ears. “Clunk, thud, crack!” is all I could hear back to the pickup spot.
The other hunt was 10 years ago. I was filming a spring archery hunt in BC. This hunt included two of my favorite stalks in my life. The first best stalk was in sneakers on a clover field that could have been a fairway. We stalked within 5 yards of a 7-foot bear that was devouring the greenery. We had no shot as we were directly behind the glutton. When his Spidey senses told him something was amiss, he looked over his shoulder, woofed and bolted.
On the last afternoon of this hunt we saw a bear, drove past it and out of sight. We took off our boots and quietly unloaded. In our stocking feet we closed the distance without the bear being aware of us. We easily could have closed the gap more but it was the last night and we needed to get the show done. The arrow found its mark and the bear never saw us. Stocking feet (stalking feet?) were the reason this stalk worked.
$400 hunting boots are great for making an impression but they aren’t always great for hunting. Slippers in a tower blind don’t thud. Moccasins on a forest trail allow you to feel sticks before you crack them. Trail Runners on a forest service road are quiet and fast. And then, yeah….sometimes you want to go after a high mountain elk, sheep or goat. Then you can break out the $400 hard-soled goat talons. There’s an old saying, “Use enough gun”. Maybe we should add, “Don’t use too much boot”.