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Hunting Boots: by Bill McLeod

21/12/2020 9:10 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)


It is true. Most Forest Service hunters of my era, who I know, wore Buller gumboots for work. There are a few caveats here. I worked mainly in the North Island. Some hunters would not wear them. They were definitely unsuitable for some jobs.

The area where their use was almost exclusive was the Urewera. A prime reason for choosing them was that the main access routes involved significant numbers of river crossings. A pair of good leather boots would last half as long as a pair of Bullers. They were much cheaper than leather boots. We became quite inventive in finding ways to put nails into the soles. A favourite method of mine was to put a steel plate designed for a leather boot around the heel of the gummie. This would be secured using horseshoe nails which left the head of the nail proud of the plate. I tried attaching  triconis to the forward part of the sole but found they tore out very quickly. While they lasted a fully nailed gum boot gave awesome grip on slippery river boulders. The Buller would give good service for quite some time considering the daily soakings they got. We found it necessary to burn holes through the rubber reinforce in the instep area. The appropriate method to do this was to heat up a piece of number eight wire in the fire and then burn a hole into the boot. These holes then acted as drain holes letting water out and air back in as you walked. If you didn’t have any river crossings late on your boots could be reasonably dry at the end of the day. 

There were two other common  modifications dependent on your foot shape. Most hunters found that the rubber connecting the side of the tongue to the boot proper cut into their ankles so a v shaped cut was made to eliminate this problem area. Some blokes also cut the upper heel area to stop pressure on the Achilles’ tendon. The best modification jobs of this type I saw ended in a burned hole which reduced further splitting.

We found that putties or horse bandages were necessary to prevent stones and sticks jumping into your boot. We had all sorts of modifications for lacing the boots, bent over two inch nails forming clips was a favourite. I used the old standby, chainsaw starter cord.

Eventually the boots would get so soft and slick on the sole that they became dangerous. At that stage they would be aptly called “gliders”. After a few good crashes you would reluctantly decide that it was time for a new pair. Found out the hard way when I foolishly tried to use a pair of gliders in a rough South Island river. Nearly crippled myself.  I found that even a pair of gummies had to be broken in, eventually they would mould to your feet. 

Ashley gum boots were also used, the higher tops meant that you didn’t need putties, but they would wear a hairless scar around your leg that was painful to acquire. 

Redbands were more commonly used by possum hunters. The only reason I can think of is that they are super easy to slip on in the morning and the noise that they make was less off putting to a possumer. The redband was a favourite for camp slippers. Gummies of any type were a disaster in hot weather, open pasture situations, the stink was unbearable.

So if you see an old coozer wandering around in the north island bush wearing some Bullers,  as some of my cobbers still do, you may well assume that he has done a mile or two in the back country. 

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