photographs and text by Steve Vose
Maine regular firearms season on deer, barely pushed the mercury low enough to warrant the through testing of my new Irish Setter 800 “Mt. Claw-King Toe” boots. However, by the arrival of Christmas, we were thrust into the deep freeze and the balmy days of November were quickly distant memories.
Maine’s weather is extraordinarily fickle and to be comfortable in these often rapidly changing environments, one must dress in layers and make sure to take excellent care of their feet. Whether hunting or ice fishing, having the right boots can make the difference between shooting a big buck, catching that monster pike or going home empty handed.
Warm and dry feet allow sportsmen to be comfortable in the wilds and spend their time concentrating on the task at hand and not expressly worrying about their feet. Want to have a miserable time in the Maine woods, spend the day with cold wet feet.
To combat this issue, it pays to pick your boots, dependent on the intended task at hand. Sitting in a deer stand motionless in 10-degree temperatures, ice fishing, backpacking, still-hunting, all require specialized boots. Too much boot and feet sweat and leaving you wet feet and blisters, too little boot and you could potentially loose a toe to frostbite.
It is no secret I am a bit of a boot aficionado. My love affair with foot wear, is directly linked to the wild changes that occur in Maine’s seasonal temperatures and a personal pursuit of a wide variety of different outdoor sporting hobbies.
The latest arrival to the collection of assorted footwear is a lightweight, comfortable and warm hunting boot constructed with care by the folks at Irish Setter. This is a fine example of a “niche” boot, perfect for certain tasks, where it would be impossible for other footwear to succeed. Wear heavily insulated arctic boots built for ice fishing and you keep feet warm but lose mobility, when navigating thick spruce thickets and briar patches. Wear light weight leather hikers and gain mobility but lose warmth. The balance is stuck with the lightweight Irish Setter 800sthat fit more like a sneaker than a “boot”, yet with 800 grams of insulation still provide adequate warmth on days when the mercury dips low.
The test area is an icy cold later December morning. The temperature on the thermometer reads 15 degrees Fahrenheit. My feet wrapped first in a thin perspiration wicking polypropylene sock and secondly with a thicker smart wool sock, rest comfortably in my Irish Setter 800s. Stepping off my deck onto the newly fallen snow, it creaks and groans, as if these boots are its enemy. I choke back a laugh thinking that perhaps they are. I exhale a breath from deep within my chest and the hot wet vapor freezes instantly . . . it is the perfect early morning to hunt rabbits.
I doesn’t take long to notice the familiar tracks of Maine’s varying hare and I follow them into a thick swampy spruce cover. Its slow going, through the thick cover and the ice covering the swamps hidden wet holes is thin. Suddenly my foot breaks through the ice and plunges into the frigid water almost to mid calf. Fortunately, the water does not exceed the height of the boot upper and my foot remains dry and comfortable.
After about three hours of walking mixed terrain, it appeared that perhaps Mr. Rabbit would win this battle. However, the good hunter remains vigilant until the very end and as I turned to go home, a single hare burst out of a spruce thicket and straight away from me. I raised my shotgun and fired and one more rabbit would be added to my stew pot. Good boots helped me be able to concentrate on hunting and not expending my mental energies on worrying about cold feet . . . another successful hunt thanks to my Irish Setter 800s.