Tips & Tactics

Rubber vs. Leather

Rubber vs. Leather

By Ken Piper

Is one type of boot material better for controlling scent?

One of the great things about bowhunting is you get to observe deer behavior when the animals are relaxed and just going about their daily routines. If you pay attention, you also learn some hunting lessons.

That was the case several years ago when I was enjoying watching a spike meander through the woods below my stand. The young deer was perfectly relaxed and just browsing along until he got to the trail where I had walked in. That little buck froze mid-stride and went into full-on panic mode. He didn't even finish the step forward and instead stepped back several times before turning and, tail tucked and head low, snuck out of there.

The wind was blowing from the buck to me, so he didn't catch my scent. Plus, you could tell from his body language that the odor that had him spooked was right there on the ground in front of him – exactly where I walked in.

That was the hunt that taught me knee-high rubber boots are no guarantee against spreading scent while you're walking. At that time, you couldn't have paid me to wear leather boots while bowhunting. Now, I wear whatever the terrain calls for. If it's hot and I don't have to cross deep water, I wear non-insulated leather-and-Cordura boots that go just above my ankles. If I know I'll be crossing a creek or have to traverse a swamp, I go with uninsulated knee-high rubber.

Boot choice also depends on the type of hunt. Will you be sitting all day, or will you be doing some hiking? Are you climbing ladders or sitting in a ground blind. Do you need insulation to stave off cold temperatures? Those are the questions to ask and answer when deciding on what to put on your feet.

Scent-wise, both leather and rubber have advantages. More important, both have weaknesses.

Rubber boots don't leave human scent behind, but because of their loose design, there's a forceful puff of air that takes place with every step. That puff pushes human odor up out of the boot. That is what I assume happened with the little spike. You can wear your pants out over the boots to trap some of the puffed air, but then the material of your pants will rub against foliage and leave scent.

Leather boots leave scent just like any other cloth material. Tiny molecules slough off the leather and leave behind enough scent to be easily detected by deer.

You simply can't fool a whitetail's nose completely.

To leave as little scent as possible, try to have a clear path to your stand. Trim any branches and greenery that might rub against your legs as you walk. Also try to approach your stand from an angle that prevents deer from crossing your path. Sometimes that means making a bit of a circle and arriving at your stand from an indirect angle, but it can make a big difference in getting off a bow shot.

As to choosing boots, I wear what is comfortable and appropriate for the hunt and conditions. If you're more concerned about scent than comfort, wear what gives you the most confidence. Just don't assume you're walking scent-free.

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