Gear Review: Irish Setter Wingshooters

November 15, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

Sean taking a brief breather in Maine this year....

Here’s the first of a few posts we’re doing about gear we’re using this year. Really it’s gear we’re “testing” because if the gear flakes out, we don’t use it anymore. Few notes before diving in:

> At this point we pretty much know what we like and need – meaning we’ve bought and run through a boatload of gear in years past, and have cut it down to what actually works and what we like. We also have a running list of gear we wish we had.

> We put our stuff through the ringer. Not every upland situation, but several week-long ruffie hunts a year plus the odd other bird trip here and there is pretty dang Serious. Plus we hunt in the pouring rain, the snow, crazy heat. Not looking for points here, just trying to make the point that gear that can handle a few weekends a year will show it’s faults at about week 1/day 5 of wet grousin’.

> Unfortunately, with the possible exception of dog stuff, there isn’t a whole lot of truly new gear each year in the upland hunting world. Some of that’s the nature of the beast (bird-hunting gear has to hold up like no other), some is the nature of the industry: Most big manufacturers put the upland market at the bottom of their lists. We mention this because we don’t find a ton of truly new stuff to test every year.

> We feel it’s our duty to use gear and tell you about the stuff we like (and please do the same).

So with that said, here’s the opinion of Serious birder Sean Haines – brother of SBHer Brendan – on a couple pieces of gear (boots first) he first-timed in Maine this year.

[Full disclosure: We received these items free for testing/use from the manufacturers, but neither company pays SBH anything (dang it! lol). As a side note, we figure that any company that sends us gear to test has a lot of confidence in their stuff, which is great. And it’s interesting to find out what companies don’t want us testing their gear….]

Irish Setter 808 Wingshooter Boots

Every October I have the good fortune to accompany the Serious Bird Hunting crew on a ruffed grouse trip to Maine. This year’s outing was in the Rangeley region of northwestern Maine and included a one-day trip to New Hampshire.

The 808...(Irish Setter photo).

While getting my gear together, I noticed that my old hunting boots were starting to show their age. I asked Brendan and Jay what they recommended, and they both said, “Irish Setter Wingshooters.”

Thanks to Kim at Irish Setter (thanks again Kim!), I was able to get a pair for evaluation – the model 808 boot, which is non-insulated, uses a waterproofing system called UltraDry and has their prairie sole.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the box is they were very streamlined. Not the normal clunky hunting boot I was used to. Second, the leather work and stitching was very high quality.

I put them on and hit the trails by my house in NJ to break them in. Fifteen minutes into the hike I realized they didn’t need to be broken in. They felt great from the get-go, so off to Maine.

Grouse Death March

Hunting with Jay and Brendan from Serious Bird Hunting is kind of like a cross between an extreme sports marathon and a grouse death march. They never stop or give up hope of finding that elusive patch of perfect cover, no matter how nasty it is. This year’s hunt was no exception.

These boots hit the ground and from day one performed flawlessly. As you all know, grouse and Woodcock cover are notoriously wet and difficult to navigate. The UltraDry waterproofing system worked great: My feet never got wet once during 6 straight days of hunting. This included numerous full-immersion river-crossings and countless other muddy holes that seemed to suck your legs up to the rim of the boot.

The one thing I was a little skeptical about was the non-lug prairie sole because I’d never had a boot that didn’t have a lug sole and was very used to the traction they provide. Well, I never slipped once, and the practicality of a non-lug sole became apparent quickly: Heavy mud doesn’t cling to the bottom of the shoes and they remain light throughout the day.

That might sound trivial, but anyone who has grouse hunted for 6 to 8 hours in wet muddy covers will know what I’m talking about. It definitely helps save the leg muscles.

The lacing system on the boot was excellent: I wasn’t stopping to constantly retie them like I have on some other boots, and they provided great ankle support.

The leather took quite a beating and held up nicely. A quick cleaning and a little mink oil, and they were ready for the next death march!

Since upland hunting is a very aerobic, you’re constantly on the move and this means you tend to get hot even when it’s cool or cold outside. The fact that these boots are non-insulated is a big plus.


Now for the single best feature of the 808 Wingshooter: Comfort. I can honestly say that these are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn, bar none. Hiking boots, work boots, other hunting boots, you name it, and at the end of the day, I found myself not having to take off my boots because my feet were killing me. This to me say’s it all.

And did I mention they look great too. I got a some stares from the grouse-hunter groupies in town (lol). [Forgive Sean, he used to be in the music biz….]

After 6 days of great hunting in Maine, I’m sold on the Wingshooter 808s. They are purpose-built upland hunting boots and it shows. Irish Setter has a new customer.


> Brendan and Jay wear the Irish Setter Upland DSS boots (aka, Wingshotter 831s), which they feel similarly about!


Category: Irish Setter boots, Reviews

Comments (1)

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  1. lucas says:

    i had a very similar pair irish setters, and they were very comfortable, and expensive. One thing you forgot to mention was weight! i think the pair i had were only 3 pounds! i was a bit upset though when, after two pheasant hunting seasons in iowa, the stitching on the top of the toe was worn through and the boots split at the seam, just from walking through grass. good thing cabela’s has tremendous customer service and a return policy. i returned them for a full refund and bought a different pair of boots.

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