This weekend is the end of my Bull Elk tag here in NV. As I write, I continue to dwell on the fact that I cannot even apply for another bull tag for another 7 years in my home state. The toughest part is knowing that I gave it my all and ended up coming home empty handed. As I think back to all the things that could have gone better and worse, I am pressed to believe that my physical conditioning was awesome while my feet had other plans. I also had a first time hunter on this adventure with me and he suffered a tough battle with his feet. As you hear the story below, you will learn a bit of what could happen to you as you journey into the mountains for a real backcountry hunt.
We began our journey at the trailhead which heads into the wilderness. When you hunt the wilderness, you cannot take in any wheeled object such as a car, bike, ATV, etc. You can only go in with horses or hump it in there on your own 2 feet. I am not a man that owns horses and while I have thought about renting horses or a set of llamas, I have enjoyed hiking in by myself. This year, I had a first time hunter that joined East2West Hunts for the Annual Unlimited Tag App Package and I offered to have him come along on the adventure so he could truly see, feel, smell and taste the emotions that come along with hunting the backcountry.
Onto our first day. Edwin, my partner had a pack that was fitted just for him. As we began to go into the wilderness, he began getting the weight of the pack onto his low back. This caused him pain in his hips which ultimately gave him a rough 5 mile walk into camp. With that said, he mushed through with the pain but not without some rough times on his feet. You see, his boots were pretty new. While he wore them around the house, on a few hikes and a short coyote trip in the desert, he never wore them for a full day. I also was in a similar boat where I had a brand new set of Crispi Nevadas and I wore them on a few hunting trips but I never wore them for a few days straight going up and down the mountains.
You see, when people speak of breaking in a pair of boots, there is the talk of 10-20 miles that get brought up. I have to say that this week, we put roughly 60 miles on our boots and obviously our feet. The first day, blisters began to form on my buddies toes and the heel of his foot. By the time we got into camp, he was feeling quite rough and the question began to arise, “can I pack out an animal if we get it down?”
I was beginning to get hot spots on the bottom center of my foot. I have never gotten blisters on my feet from any hunting boot, especially a good quality boot. Nevertheless, I also was feeling rubbing on the back heels. This was quite concerning for me as well. We ended up getting some mountain house meals down and hit the tent. This is where we opened up the mole skin packs and began to take a look at what could be the make or break of our hunt. We ended up cleaning up, adding some mole skin on the hot spots and hoped that tomorrow brings up a better day depending on the hunting conditions.
As day 2 came about, we hiked up and down a mountain a couple times as well as went around an entire mountain, side hilling to stay off the main ridge. We did not want the deer and elk to see us at the skyline. We literally left camp at 4:00am and didn’t make it back until 10:30pm in the evening. This was due to staying out to hunt until last light and then we still needed to hike back down off the mountain and hit a trail which was a little over 3 miles. Well, our feet were absolutely rocked by the end of day 2. My foot however no longer had hot spots on the center and my heels were no longer rubbing! Win! I did however still have an issue with my big toe due to how I was walking downhill. I realized that I was knocking my big toe to the top of the boot every time we were heading downhill which was giving me pain and some swelling. My buddy was still having a rough time with his toe blisters but other blistering points on his feet were no longer there. His heel was still hurting however and this was seeming to be a similar issue as my big toe when he was going downhill. What we concluded as we were back at camp was that we were truly breaking in our boots with more and more miles and the main issues from the prior day were going away.
By day 3, I figured out that over tightening my boots was not the way to go and I needed to make sure my feet were able to have some move in them. This helped with all areas of my hikes as we continued on for another 10 mile day. My buddy did the same and the only issue he was having was his bruised heel that happened from day 1. So what is the truth of breaking in your boots when it comes to an experience like this? Here are a few things to note.
- You will not break your boots in on the first 10 miles.
- You will not break your boots in on the first 20 miles if you walk on only flat surfaces or perfect trails.
- You need to make sure that you are mimicking the environment that you will be hiking or hunting in. For us, our coyote hunt was very similar in environment but not in miles so therefore that is where we screwed up. Had we hiked for 10 miles in 1 day up and down the rocks in the desert, we would have felt the pain ahead of time and this would have lead to less pain and suffering as we went along on our backcountry hunt.
Now, we hustled and continued to hunt the same way no matter the pain. We made it through the week with 60+ miles and knew that there was nothing to stop us but ourselves. The key points here are the learned lessons that go along with the hunt which teach you what to do and what not to do in the future. I know that these boots will last me for years and I got quite a bit out of the way. My buddy is in the same boat and will be able to use these boots for years to come, knowing what it should feel like to have comfortable broken in boots.
I added a picture to this blog to show you what I mean by hiking up and down the mountains. Some might not believe but the elk are all the way to the top peaks and into the pines. You are literally hiking to the top of the mountain each and every day once you spot them.
Cheers to the life lessons and adventures now and in the future.
Scout, Hunt, Repeat my friends.