• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Video and Review: Irish Setter Elk Tracker XD® boots

448 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

A pair of rugged, sturdy boots should be the foundation of your elk hunting trip. But not just any boots will do. These Irish Setter Elk Tracker XD boots may be what you’ve been looking for.

by Leon Pantenburg

Disclaimer: Irish Setter supplied the product for this review. I don’t work for Red Wing or Irish Setter boots, there is no ongoing advertising relationship between Irish Setter and Survival Common Sense, and nobody had any input in this review. I was not paid to write this post, and all I ever promise is a fair shake.

If you’re going elk hunting this fall, the time to start preparations is during the early summer. Check out and buy necessary new gear, start making hunting plans, get in shape and if you’re getting new footwear, start breaking those boots in well before you get to the trailhead.

Elk hunting is not for the faint-hearted, (says the guy with quadruple heart bypasses and two artificial knees!) The activity typically takes place in remote mountains or desert. The animals range over  wide areas, and finding a herd may take a lot of hiking, climbing and glassing. The hunter who is in poor physical shape will soon regret that lack of preparation.

And then, elk hunting ceases to be fun as soon as the animal is down. It becomes hard work, as the carcass is gutted, skinned, quartered and packed out.

Quality footwear is paramount, and this is one area where you don’t want to economize. How to decide on the best boot for elk hunting? Well, do some research. Or better yet, talk to several experienced elk hunters. 

These Irish Setter elk Tracker boots are a great choice for that fall western hunt.

These Irish Setter Elk Tracker XD® boots are checking all the boxes for me. I tested the style #3980, an eight-inch non-insulated, UltraDry™ with Field Camo Desert Leather upper boot.  

Here are the Elk Tracker XD specs:

  • Genuine leather welt construction that provides some flexibility, with enough rigidity and torsion control for stability on uneven terrain.
  • Full leather camo upper with leather gusset overlay.
  • Proprietary camo Troutbook® leather is made in Red Wing, MN.
  • UltraDry® waterproof construction offers protection. Primaloft® insulation (200 grams) is available in Elk Tracker XD style #3981.
  • A lace-to-toe fit allows a tight fit which reduces discomfort created by movement within the boot. 
  • Sole: Vibram® rubber outsole with bulls-eye air bobs. 
  • A Cushin® comfort tongue provides comfort in the shin area while ScentBan® scent control eliminates odors within the boot.

  • Weight: 3.5 pounds

It was several months before hunting seasons, so I started field testing in the Mississippi heat as soon as the boots arrived in June. I wore them nightly on my two-mile dog walk, generally in stifling heat. It was a wonderful chance to check out how hot the boots would get, and what problems might crop up in extremely warm conditions.

The Elk Tracker is a great boot for hard condition hunting in the mountains or deserts.

From that first walk, when I laced up the new, stiff boots over my wool socks and took off, the Elk Trackers were comfortable. There were no hot spots or chaffing or rubbing, even though the leather was quite stiff. Now, after some 100 miles, the boots are broken-in, very comfortable and ready to hit the mountains.

The good stuff:

Sizes: The boots come in sizes 8-14 in Regular [D] and Wide [EE] widths. Your boots will have to handle a lot of weight, and your feet will naturally swell. Those of us with wide feet anyway must start out with a wide-width boot. Make sure you buy the correct-sized boots!

Lacing: The lacing system is excellent. A locking hook row assists in keeping the boot tight during lacing and these help tighten boots for a secure fit. A lace-to-toe fit allows a tighter fit which reduces discomfort caused by movement within the boot, especially when descending steep terrain.

Sole: A Vibram® rubber outsole features bulls-eye air bobs with a tread pattern that releases mud and dirt for superior traction. I’ve worn a similar tread pattern for years in my Cabala’s Outfitter boots. I’ve been very happy with how well the pattern works in a variety of environments. The dual-density sole provides maximum underfoot cushion.

The tread pattern is self-cleaning and durable.

Boot temperature: TempSens® technology helps regulate the temperature within the boot. In hot conditions, the system reacts so moisture is hyper-wicked away from the foot, facilitating evaporative cooling. This helps keep feet cooler, drier and more comfortable. As far as I can tell, this system works really well. On several days, hiking in temps in the high 90s, my feet never got uncomfortably hot. Of course, in those conditions, every part of me was hot, and I sweat through my clothes and hat.

In colder conditions, the system also pulls moisture from the skin, according to Irish Setter, but traps it to create a thermal barrier that helps maintain a constant, comfortable temperature inside the boot. We’ll see how that plays out in cooler weather.

Cushin® comfort tongue: Irish Setter claims the Elk Trackers provide comfort in the shin area while ScentBan® scent control eliminates odors within the boot. My experience is that the comfort tongue works really well.

mike, crossing salmon river

Michael Pantenburg wades the Salmon River in Idaho on an Idaho elk hunt. In this case, the best elk hunter boots were waders.

Heavy duty uppers: High quality leather boots are a pain to break in. It takes time for thick leather to warm up, soften and mould to your feet. And there are no real short cuts. (Here are some tips for breaking in boots.) You just have to wear them.

That said, the Trackers were not that bad to break in. When breaking in boots (and I break in a lot of footwear!) my first choice is taking frequent, short walks until the boots are comfortable. Irish Setter Field Camo Desert Leather® offers concealment and matches a variety of terrain. 

Primaloft® Insulation provides warmth in cold environments.

Welt: The welt is a long strip of leather, about one centimeter wide, that sits between the upper and the outsole. By adhering the welt first to the upper (via a stitch to the canvas plyrib on the bottom of the insole) and then stitching the welt to the outsole, the shoe is easily resoleable and virtually waterproof. As long as the upper stays in good shape the shoe can be resoled  as many times as needed. 

Solid, semi-stiff sole with aggressive tread: I don’t want a sneaker-like, soft sole elk hunting boot. As mentioned, you may end up hauling heavy loads long distances. You don’t want a boot where you feel every rock and pebble on the path. (Remember that heavy pack?) The solid sole, combined with the leather uppers, provide the best insurance against a twisted or broken ankle.

Moisture barrier: My experience is that the liners can’t remove moisture as fast as it accumulates during vigorous exercise. This means the shoes retain moisture and prevent it from being released. This whole waterproof liner aspect often overlooked when people are buying shoes or boots, and it can make the difference between hot, soggy feet or comfortable hiking. (Here are five reasons I don’t like waterproof liners in most hiking footwear.)

That said, the Irish Setter UltraDry™ waterproof construction has not proven to be uncomfortable so far, and the boots were broken-in during some really hot conditions. The key to using waterproof liners is to dry out the boots whenever possible. Final judgement on the Elk Tracker liners is withheld until the boots have been worn more. 



There are a lot of factors that determine how comfortable your hiking footwear will be.  Consider these things when you are shopping:

So do you need a pair of Elk Trackers?

A backcountry hunter/hiker must have footwear suitable to the conditions that they can rely on. My experience so far is that the Elk Tracker boots are solid, reliable performers, and are well worth the investment. I wouldn’t hesitate to rely on them for an extreme backcountry hunt and you could too!



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