by Chad Love

To boot or not to boot, that is the question many upland hunters face when running their dogs in areas with high concentrations of vegetation that bites back. Some hunters swear by boots, while other hunters swear at them.

Cactus spines, thorns and burrs can drastically hinder a bird dog’s ability to cover ground. On the other hand, it can be a real pain to spend twenty minutes booting up your dog, only to have them throw one in the middle of a hunt.

I’m pheasant and quail hunting the sandhills of southwestern Kansas this week with Ted Gartner, the director of corporate communications for Garmin International. When he’s not working, Gartner is a hard-core bird hunter who regularly runs his string of dogs in the burr-infested sandhills of southwest Kansas. I posed the question of booting dogs to Gartner.

“Only when I absolutely have to,” he replied. “I kennel my dogs on concrete and that helps toughen their pads, which in turn helps them with the burrs.”

And Dr. Dale Rollins, director of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Roby, Texas, doesn’t boot his dogs at all, preferring instead to let his dogs learn how to avoid cactus patches.

Where I live in northwest Oklahoma sandburrs are the big problem, and in some cases boots may be the only way to continue a hunt if your dog isn’t used to dealing with them.

Where do you stand on the boots-versus-no boots issue. Do you use them? Not use them? Manufactured or homemade?