I wore two versions of this boot for pretty much the entire deer season last year. In September and October, I wore the uninsulated boot on blacktail and mule deer hunts in California and the high desert of Oregon. Later in November I switched to the insulated boot for cold-weather stalks in Wyoming and Montana. I put more than 100 miles on these boots in terrain that ranged from rolling hills to moderate canyons to steep, rough mountains; in conditions from dry and dusty to snowy and slick. The ultimate field-test for a new spot-and-stalk hunting boot.
The Instinct Backcountry Hunting Boots are designed more like a true hiking boot than a typical hunting boot, something I like. If hiking is one of your passions besides hunting, and if you have long worn and liked leather hiking boots with thick and secure ankle support, you will especially like the look and feel of this boot.
The Instinct boots are built of a combination of leather and 900 denier nylon. Pick them up, squeeze and flex them, and it’s obvious they are quality made. I like the 8-inch design, which fully encases your ankles for major support.
Inside, the boots are well padded and have “foot cages” and Ortholite “foot beds” for support and comfort. (Hunting boots sure have come a long ways.) Like a hiking boot, the Instinct boots fit snugly, something I like, but they are also designed with a bit of extra toe room, something I really like. To hunt and hike comfortably, you must have a boot that does not cramp your feet and especially your toes.
The boots have GORE-TEX breathable liners and Vibram soles with a moderate lug. In all my tests my feet never got wet, nor did they sweat excessively. Good traction was fine and never an issue.
The cold-weather version of this boot adds 400 grams of PrimaLoft insulation, which I found to be just the right amount for balancing the need for warmth and movement as you stalk in late fall and winter.
Another thing I like: This boot has a padded tongue and asymmetrical lacing system that enhances a wide, snug fit with no pressure points on the tops of your feet. Additionally, this design has created boot laces that never once came untied on my hunts. I repeat, not once that I can remember. To me that’s huge. There’s nothing more annoying and uncomfortable than hunt/hike boots that keep coming untied.
When you pull these boots out the box, they feel a bit thick and stiff, but they require very little if any break-in time. I put the uninsulated boots on for the first time and went blacktail hunting for a week in the Cali hills with no issues. It will also strike you how lightweight (3.3 pounds) these boots are.
The boots fit pretty true to size. If you wear a size 10, boot, buy a 10 or 10½. The right way to wear these boots and maximize their fit and comfort is to slip on a thin, wicking sock first, and then add a lightweight wool sock. That’s it.
I have tried to come up with some negatives about these boots…but I can’t. Cabela’s has long made quality hunting boots at a reasonable price. These Instinct boots ($250 for the insulated ones) might be the best yet.