With a big winter storm bearing down on the central U.S. now seemes like a perfect time to write about my new(‘ish) boots.
Since last winter I had gone on a several coyote hunts in hope of harvesting a few yotes to make myself a pair of mukluks for deer season.
Worn by Indigenous People / Native Americans, mukluks have kept feet warm for a millennia and I wanted a pair for quite some time. As it turns out I’m apparently a better shopper than I am a coyote hunter because while browsing the net looking for mukluk inspiration I stumbled across an Indigenous owned and operated company in Canada that makes exactly what I was looking for.
Manitobah Mukluks designs and manufactures footwear in traditional patterns blended with modern materials and in my opinion have created the ultimate in cold weather boots.
I immediately contacted the company and ordered The Hunter…Cowhide uppers sewn to a custom designed vibram soul (theres a reason i spelled it that way…) with a faux fur lining and natural shearling foot bed. The customer support was amazing and my boots arrived in time for Deer Camp!
The unboxing was more presentation than it was anything else. The boot box and inner wrapping was beautiful. The imagery, color and symbolism blew me away and the added touch of the authenticity certificate and booklet just pushed the experience over the top. It was clear to me after learning about the company and what they do for the Indigenous Community and Families that you dont simply own a pair of these boots, you become part of something larger, something working to keep the old ways alive and strengthen a culture.
Manitoba Mukluks sponsors what they call the Story Boot Project where Elders share the ways of boot making with the younger generation keep the tradition alive as well as provide a market place for Native Artisans to present their crafts to a global audience.
Meanwhile back at the ranch…
The moment I slipped the mukluks on I was in heaven! The fit was spot on and the softness and warmth was amazing. The construction is solid with an exceptional fit and finish and the soul (see, I did it again!) is everything I have come to expect from Vibram. The unique tread pattern provides good grip on a variety of surfaces while allowing your feet to feel everything thats beneath them giving you a level of awareness not found in regular snow boots.
Designed by Heather Endall, the soles tell the story of a Woodland People and their connection to the earth under the sky with its life giving rain, cleansing winds and a fire showing the People will always survive.
Hiking to the blind my feet were warm and comfortable as well as quiet. The snow was no match for these boots. In the blind again they were warm and cozy adding to the hunting experience.
They worked great and ending there I’d give them two thumbs up…but theres more.
How did they feel?
This past year has been one of reflection and change resulting in a decision to turn more to the Old Ways, exploring an obscure family rumor of Indigenous Heritage and an out of place name in the family tree.
Survivalists call some of what I’m doing Bushcraft, hipsters call it Rewilding, I call it a return to what’s real and visceral. And that my dear readers is how I found myself standing in the middle of the woods in a pair of mukluks determined to take an active role in the food chain.
My dad and I were out before sun up, following the winding snow covered two tracks as they lead us ever deeper into the forest toward our blind. Not a word was spoken between us as we carefully picked our way through the snow, eyes sharp to shapes, ears keen to the sound of movement and my mind focused on the endeavor at hand. Deep in that focus is when it hit me…when was the last time a pair of mukluks walked these woods in search of food? Who was this hunter? What was his story? Were we experiencing the same feelings? Hearing the same sounds? Quietly saying the same prayer? “please send me a deer to feed my family and keep my aim true…”
I could almost feel him next me on the other side of the wind and the cold, just beyond reach, showing me where to go and which tracks to follow…
The beautifully designed soles were leaving their pattern in the snow like a prayer, blessing the earth with every step I took and bringing me closer to my destination in time.
Two lives were going to end in this wood, the deer’s to feed my family and mine as just an observer to this thing called “life”. I was reborn that day as a hunter….as one who provides for his tribe.
As always, thanks for reading!