Most wild game, such as the whitetail deer, have exceptionally keen hearing, and they often can hear the crunch of trodden leaves or a twig breaking up to a mile away. Hunters who like to stalk their prey wear specialized boots called stalking boots. These boots have special soles that are thin and flexible enough for a hunter to feel a twig under the boot. Normally, the soles are made of rubber, gum, or other material that provides cushion and deadens the sound of the footsteps on fallen leaves. These boots have other advantages, such as low heels and perspiration scent containment.
Many different shoe companies make specialized hunting boots, including stalking boots. Often manufacturers combine the best qualities of each type of boot, and buyers should consider all the options available to them. One of the most important choices is the sole type. Each hunter has a preference as to whether the gum, rubber, or leather sole is better. Many hunters like the feel of the moccasin-type sole, but others find that it tires their feet.
Generally, the moccasin sole is thin and flexible enough to provide the best ground feel. Some shoemakers sell moccasins that slip over regular hunting boots to soften the sound, but this technique does not offer the full ground feel that the stalking style does. Usually, a hunter should periodically seal the moccasin-style stalking boots with water repellent to protect the feet from the cold, wet morning dew or swampy areas. Another advantage of the moccasin sole is that shoemakers can wrap the material up into the vamp, or shoe top, area, thus eliminating a seam at the sole area.
Typically, the gum or rubber soles offer a hunter more traction than the moccasin sole. Many shoemakers design the man-made soles with a slightly raised heel, and while this provides more comfort, it lessens a hunter's ground feel ability. On some terrain, the exceptionally flexible moccasin-style boot performs better than the thicker gum or rubber soles, but generally this is not the case. The man-made soles are popular in many countries and with many different types of hunting, such as safari-style hunting. Although shoemakers sometimes call them tracking boots, they are the same.
Companies sell insulated or uninsulated stalking boots in a variety of upper heights. In snake-infested areas, a hunter should invest in boots that offer protection from snakebites. Other areas in which the taller uppers are practical include areas of tall grass and rocks that may scratch or scrape the calves and shins. As the taller upper adds weight, some hunters choose a lower upper to help reduce fatigue.
Hunters are not the only people who benefit from stalking boots. Wildlife scientists and photographers also use them to stalk wildlife. Often the nearly silent approach can improve a photographer's chances of getting an exceptional or rare shot. Hunting boots typically enclose the wearer's perspiration scent so that the human smell does not alert nearby animals. This means a photographer can get closer to his subject.