When I had the opportunity to get a pair of Irish Setter Elk Tracker XD boots I was pretty excited. Then I thought to myself, “Where am I going to be tracking elk in suburban New Jersey?” While the question could be considered fair enough, and we’ll get back to that later on, what’s in a name?
Okay, the Elk Tracker XD boots were designed to withstand the needs of hunters that would be going after elk in some serious terrains. Elk have been pretty much completely extinct on the eastern seaboard, with the last known eastern elk joining the Tasmanian tiger in the late 1800’s. Rocky Mountain elk have been reintroduced into some areas of Pennsylvania, but outside of that, there aren’t many in the north-east. The presence of elk and performance of the Elk Tracker boots are not mutually exclusive, and my first impressions are pretty elevated.
I’ve never owned a pair of Irish Setter boots, however I have been using Red Wing boots, the parent company of Irish Setter, for close to two decades. The same quality and craftsmanship that goes into the style of Red Wing boots I’ve used in occupational settings since W. was in office, I feel went into these Irish Setters.
Irish Setter, as noted, is a subsidiary of Red Wing. Their boots are generally known for being hunting boots, although they do have some work-wear in their product line. The company utilizes hand-tanned leather and employs a number of different technologies to fulfill a wearer’s needs.
The Elk Tracker XD builds on the original Elk Tracker line of boots, with the XD’s being “extra durable.” They feature what’s called a “wrapround Armatec™ rubber rand,” to protect the wearer from sticks, rocks, sharp objects, etc., and “the Vibram® Bulls-Eye® Air Bob Aggressive sole features Megagrip compound for rugged performance and superior comfort,” will give a wearer stability when traversing across rocky and slippery terrain.
The Irish Setter Field Camo Desert Leather is sharp looking. The pattern will be complementary to autumn terrain and maintains a rustic patina that you can almost smell with your eyes. In addition to being marketed as durable, they are noted to be flexible, while also maintaining needed rigidity for support.
As soon as I had a chance when my Elk Tracker XD 3981’s came in, I saw to “breaking them in.” I paraded around my house with the boots on, wearing dark cargo shorts, looking a bit like the kid from “Up.” The wilderness must be explored! The thing that flummoxed me when wearing the boots for the first day indoors, and then taking them out, was they actually did not really need any breaking in at all. They were comfortable as soon as I put my feet into them, and the locking hook row for the laces allowed me to make the uppers as tight or loose as I wanted. I erred on the side of snugger than looser.
I did not get to torture test my Elk Tracker XD’s quite as long as I would have liked to, but I did get them out into the “bush.” How far into the bush? I wore the boots on a long weekend camping trip over the Fourth of July for five days, a couple trips to the shooting range, wore them on a road trip to and while shooting a round of sporting clays, and I even ran them through the paces on a three story metal ropes course on a New Jersey boardwalk. Was I marching across ultra rocky terrain for days on end? No. But I did wear the hell outta these boots through most of July, while putting them through the paces and I have no complaints.
What’s my assessment? Call them Elk Trackers, call them deer destroyers, call the boots whatever you want…the fact is they’re comfortable and I did not bust my ass when walking on slippery rocks. The soles have aggressive lugs on them and helped keep me from slipping or falling while wearing them.
I felt stable and my feet were dry the entire time I wore the boots, which was nice considering it was raining the entire time I was camping. While the model I opted for has 200g insulation, my feet did not swelter in agony when the rest of my body was trying to figure out what I was doing shooting sporting clays in the July Virginia hotness. The boots breathed.
For me, these are going to be a great substitute for late fall or winter day hikes, camping trips, and shooting adventures. Am I going to be hunting elk in these boots? No. Not unless somebody calls me and says, “John we’re taking you on an elk hunting trip!” But I can see them being pivotal to those who would. Uninsulated models would be great for three seasons for sure.
There are certain bits of kismet that the universe delivers, and lacing up my Irish Setter Elk Tracker XD boots for that Pennsylvania camping trip I mentioned must have sent out a message. Several activities that I was to be engaging in while on that weekend getaway fell into the category of “she booked a ‘surprise.’” That is, a pile of things were planned and I was not in on what they all were. That’s how we roll. Keeps life spicy.
Sitting in a “safari” truck at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, I had a cup of baby carrots in hand to feed the wildlife. The truck had already taken us through to see all kinds of cool exotic and indigenous to the U.S. critters, from fallow deer to American bison. Rolling up a hill in the middle of a field we stopped for a herd of elk. I’m not going to say it was my Elk Tracker boots, but I did feed a few in-velvet elk that day while having the footwear donned. I’m also not going to say it wasn’t the boots. These are the mysteries that life gives us.
Pluses: High quality and well-constructed boots. Comfort is subjective, but for these ten-and-a-half, wide, high-arched feet, the boots felt great from the get-go. There is a warranty. Price point consistent with comparable products; starting at $249.00 and going up to $259.00.
Minuses: Limited warranty for hunting boots only stretches the span of one year.
Would I buy Elk Tracker XD boots? Yes. Would I have given them a thought prior to getting to try them? No. Irish Setter was never on my radar, but they are now. I’m going to be spending a lot more time with this set of footwear, as they are hitting towards the top of my list of favorites. Yeah, I have the brands I’m loyal to and boots that I wear for different occasions…Now, Irish Setter is being added to that list of makes, with the Elk Tracker XD’s being a newly favored model. I would recommend friends check out this line of boots if they were in the market for some.
Author’s Note: Part of having a good experience with any footwear necessitates the use of quality socks. I wore different types of wool hybrid “hiking socks” that are made up of a combination of Merino wool and other materials. Having good socks is as important as having good boots. Tally-ho!
Features from the Elk Tracker XD 3981 page:
ELK TRACKER XD
Stand out from the herd with next-generation boots that combine the comfort of the original Elk Tracker with truly hardcore advanced technology. Elk Tracker XD boots aren’t just tough. They’re elk-hunter tough. Expect rugged performance for the most challenging hunts with a full leather camo upper that uses a proprietary pattern, a wraparound Armatec™ rubber rand for heavy-duty abrasion resistance, and a Vibram® Bulls-Eye® Air Bob Aggressive outsole made with Megagrip compound for long-lasting durability and excellent underfoot comfort.
The Elk Tracker XD 3981 features:
This technology is a protective covering that is incredibly tough and abrasion resistant.
Strategically placed high-rebound material brings high-end athletic shoe technology to more practical applications, delivering a recharging burst of energy with every step.
An Irish Setter exclusive scent control process, ScentBan™ is added to various materials from leathers to linings to footbeds, killing bacteria that cause odors.
TROUT BROOK LEATHER
Handcrafted by our S.B. Foot Tanning Company, this leather is crafted exclusively for our Irish Setter brand and is named after the trout brook which flows just outside the back door of the tannery in Red Wing, Minnesota. Using only U.S. raised steer hides, the master tanners at S.B. Foot use time-proven methods to create the most durable leather, leather that will meet the demands of the toughest trail or job site.
Exceptional design intersects with innovative rubber compounds to create versatile, performance outsoles. Vibram® outsoles offer excellent traction and high abrasion resistance in a multitude of environments.
Our UltraDry™ construction combines a moisture management lining with waterproof components for dry, long-lasting comfort and performance.
CuShin™ Comfort tongue technology was designed to minimize pressure some feel on their shin from the top of the boot tongue. A four-way stretch nylon offers relief and flexibility while walking, and an internal padded waffle mesh maintains premium comfort.
Designed for repeated compression and durability over time. Featuring 90% post-consumer recycled fibers made from plastic bottles, this unique low-bulk construction maintains loft and traps body heat even when compressed. Coupled with a permanent water repellent treatment with high-density construction, this insulation keeps feet warm in dry or wet conditions.
This technology reacts to your body temperature and sweat level to keep you dry and comfortable. When you’re hot, this innovative Swiss technology cools you down by vaporizing moisture and removing body heat. And if you’re chilly it retains your body heat to keep you from getting too cold. It’s like your personal thermometer.