by Koos Barnard
In days gone by, when long foot safaris were more common, in wilderness areas durable, comfortable boots were extremely important. Modern transport and road/track networks make for far less walking, even in the larger of the comparatively small private hunting estates.
However, even if you do walk ‘only’ five kilometres a day, comfortable boots are still essential for the maximum enjoyment of the hunting experience. On recent hunts to the Eastern Cape and Moordenaars Karoo I wore Gordon Footwear’s new Oryx PH boots – SAS-type leather boots with a soft (but tough), flat crêpe sole which allows you to stalk very quietly. Although these boots are not waterproof, the uppers are pure leather which does not pick up burrs or seeds.
Two models are available, ankle-high and calf-length, I opted for the ankle-high. Oryx boots are thinly padded in the collar area, a feature I prefer to the thick padding found on some hiking boots. The tongues are leather-lined for extra strength but, although this smooths the ‘putting on’
process, it also makes the tongues stiffer than I like. Lace-up is via metal D-rings and hooks. The upper leather is wonderfully soft and Oryx boots are very comfortable to wear right out of the box.
On learning where I was going to hunt, Greg Steyn of Gordon Footwear mentioned that the soft soles were not designed for such extremely rugged terrain; they are ‘stealth’ boots and were developed for walk-and-stalk hunters to use in flat, sandy and/or mildly rocky terrain. Bow hunters who need all the help they can get to stalk close to their prey, have reportedly found these Oryx PH boots very useful because they are so quiet, even on gravel.
Despite Mr Steyn’s reservations, I decided to use the Oryx boots during these hunts as this would put them to the test under a variety of conditions. I must mention that flat soles without tracks or a wedge/heel are not meant for climbing. You will slip and slide on steep, grassy or wet slopes or ones covered in loose gravel. My first hunt was in the Eastern Cape near Adelaide where I hunted on flat and mountainous terrain. With the terrain being so varied and the hunting area not very big (2000ha) it meant that I would be hunting on the flats for an hour or two before climbing a steep mountain or going up a rough kloof. It was impractical to change boots every time, so I just stuck to the Oryx boots and took extra care on the steep slopes.
Although it was soon apparent that these boots were not made for climbers, during my four days in the Eastern Cape I walked a lot of ‘unsuitable terrain’ and their overall performance was excellent. I have never worn a quieter boot in the veld, the soles are fantastic and I am convinced that the Oryx boots helped me to stalk right up to a family of warthog and several kudu cows, and later a warthog boar, an impala and a kudu bull that I shot. The terrain was very difficult – covered in gravel and golf ball size stones – yet I was able to move silently and close in on the animals which were all shot at close range.
Those who have hunted the Moordenaars Karoo will know how difficult it is to walk there because the place is ‘wall-to-wall’ stones and rocks of all sizes. Unless you walk along a riverbed, the going is extremely uncomfortable and your feet and ankles become tired and sore quickly. I wore the Oryx boots for four days and walked many kilometres in terrain Greg Steyn had warned me against. I found the boots very comfortable and the soles stood up to the punishment that the Moordenaars dished out. I did change to other boots on my second last afternoon. I happened to be back at the little cabin that served as my digs when it started to snow and I wanted to climb a slippery little ridge to take some photos.
The ankle-high Oryx PH boots retail for R850 and the calf-length ones for R1095. Oryx PH boots with EVA rubber soles are also available and they retail at R795 and R950 respectively.
During my hunts I also used a pair of leather sock protectors supplied by Gordon Footwear. Made by Rogue these soft suede protectors are quiet and durable. They fasten by means of Velcro strips and press studs. I stopped wearing calf-length boots some years ago because they are just too hot for my liking. Sock protectors work extremely well to keep sand, pebbles and twigs out of your boots and your socks burr-free. In some parts of our country you simply have to wear sock protectors otherwise the steekgras burrs will drive you crazy. These Rogue sock protectors retail at R165 and are worth every cent.
I am happy to recommend these Oryx PH boots – especially for walk-and-stalk hunters who enjoy getting up close and personal. If they do not suit your particular footwear needs, visit or contact Gordon Footwear anyway – this specialist company carries such a wide range of boots and shoes that they can match virtually every requirement (indoors and outdoors). Their skilled staff can advise you on the pros and cons of many different designs and brands.
For more information contact Greg Steyn on 011-805-2735 or 011-315-2277.
The sock protectors fasten by means of velcro strips and press studs.
Gordon Footwear’s PH Oryx is an excellent boot for walk-and-stalk hunts.
Left: The soft, flat crêpe sole allows you to stalk very quietly. Right: The PH Boot is also available in a longer version.