There's nothing more critical to your success in the backcountry than your ability to get up and down the mountainside. Even when you're on a horseback hunt, you'll spend a significant amount of time on your feet, and oftentimes your feet are the only vehicle that you have to navigating steep terrain. Taking care of your feet before you blister sounds like a small chore, but it could be the one thing that makes or breaks your hunt.
Kristy Titus is an Oregon resident, backcountry expert and bowhunter of all things big game.
Even though you might have worn your boots around before your trip and you "think" that you're impervious to blisters—think again. Once you start side-hilling and trekking up and down steep mountainsides with a heavy pack, your feet are going to get a workout that's difficult to replicate at home.
Think blister prevention and pack along basic athletic tape. I've found that the Mueller brand stays in place better and longer than most others. Be sure to pack along a pair of folding medical scissors, such as those found in a first aid kit. As soon as you feel a wear spot on your foot, take off your boot and wrap your foot in athletic tape—no matter what you're doing. As long as your foot stays dry, the tape will remain in place for up to several days. If your feet get wet, replace the tape daily for the duration of your trip.
And don't be shy with the use of the athletic tape … at the end of a long sheep hunt, my entire foot will be wrapped up like a mummy, but I won't have a single blister.
Socks are the next critical aspect to your foot care. Never—ever—wear cotton socks on a hunt. Once wet, cotton stays wet. Implementing a sock layering system is key to comfort and blister prevention.
Next to your skin you should wear a high-quality sock liner because it'll help reduce friction and aid in wicking moisture up and away from your foot. Synthetic socks or wool-blend socks should be worn over your sock base layer. Do some research as to how much cushion you like in a sock and how warm of a sock you'll need on your hunt. It might be worthwhile to bring along options.
After a long day on the mountain, there's nothing that I enjoy more than putting on a dry pair of socks. If you're like me, you'll want to keep a pair set aside just for your arrival into camp. If you have damp socks, place them in your sleeping bag with you and the warmth from your body will help them dry out overnight.
Happy feet equals a happy hunter!