July 13, 2020
By Taylor Pardue
The year, and thus Pennsylvania’s deer season, was winding down, and the whole Orange Army seemed to be out on maneuvers. I had passed vehicle after vehicle on my way down the game-land road that morning, so when I finally came to a seemingly overlooked stretch of woods, I threw my car in park, grabbed my gear and headed over the side of the ridge to make my play wherever I could. (I moved to the state after the season opened and hadn’t been able to scout beforehand.) Why had everyone left this spot alone? I wondered.
The answer soon became clear. Had it not been the dead of winter, I wouldn’t have dared to venture across that jumbled pile of rocks — it ended up being some of the snakiest-looking territory I’ve ever seen. Timber rattlers are fairly common in Pennsylvania, especially where I was hunting, so if it hadn’t been too cold for them to be out and about, I’m sure I would have come across at least one.
The day ended without me taking a deer, but I did glean a bit of wisdom: If I intended to hunt that area again, I needed snake boots. Good snake boots!
Fast forward to May 2019, when I was invited on a writers’ hunt for axis deer and other exotics in Texas. I’ve hunted for axis deer before in the same general area (outside San Antonio) without any sign of snakes, so I didn’t think anything of hunting there again without snake boots. However, several friends and coworkers urged me to reconsider. Knowing I’d be scouting/hunting in that same rocky area of Pennsylvania later in the year, and having been impressed by the regular version of Danner’s Vital boots at the 2019 Archery Trade Association Show, I ultimately decided to go with a pair of the snake boot variants of the Vital.
Once I arrived at the lodge, it quickly became clear that snake boots were, indeed, necessary. The staff cautioned us against walking to and from our cabins at night without a headlamp, as rattlers were known to crawl onto the sidewalks to soak up the leftover heat of the day. Even shooting on the outfitter’s 3-D archery range was disconcerting, what with the multi-colored rocks, sticks and vegetation along the way looking like so many reptiles. Throw in the time we spent in brushed-in ground blinds all across that West Texas property, and I was glad to be as shielded as possible.
I’m thankful that I wore snake boots on that hunt even though I never ran into a snake, as one of the writers in our group did spot a good-sized rattler slithering along beneath his treestand. It was also a comfort to be protected while blood-trailing my axis buck through the thick Texas brush.
So, what is it about Vital Snake Boots that make them such a good choice? The answer starts at the ground level: Vital Snake Boots feature multi-directional lugs on the outsoles for great traction on a variety of terrains, as well as Danner’s Plyolite midsole for comfort and shock absorption. These Vitals were designed for when snakes are most active, so a waterproof lining and a Danner Dry liner (Style #41531) are also included for when conditions are hot and wet.
The drawback to snake boots is that to thoroughly test them, you need to actually get bit by a snake. In that respect, I didn’t fully vet my Vitals, but Danner did the “legwork” for me beforehand — instead of having a human wear each boot, an unbiased, third-party lab facility filled the Vitals with an inflated latex balloon, which would easily be punctured if a snake managed to get its fangs through the Vitals’ “360 Snake Guard.” This non-woven material between the liner and exterior, along with strategically placed leather and rubber, keeps a snake from sinking its teeth into a hunter from shin to toe.
With all of that protection incorporated into each boot, I thought my 17-inch-tall Vitals would be a burden when hiking longer distances. I was pleasantly surprised; I could have just as easily been wearing the eight-inch-tall Vitals for how I felt, as the snake boots are only slightly heavier than their siblings — 66 ounces a pair versus 47 ounces a pair, respectively.
Danner Vital Snake Boots are available in medium and wide widths in sizes 7-16, as well as in brown (Style #41530) or Mossy Oak Break-Up Country (Style #41531). I’m a 13 wide, so finding boots that fit me well is often a chore. My Vitals arrived with true-to-fit sizing, thanks in large part to Danner’s DT4 last. This provides the boots with an athletic fit, tighter heel pocket and wider toe box — features I need when hiking through rattler country. Simply put, Vital Snake Boots are “better safe than sorry” at its best! MSRP: $190-$200