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New stalking boots – Chris Dalton puts two pairs to the test

With the dry undergrowth making silent stalking challenging, it’s time to test out some new stalking boots that might just make all the difference

An army, so they say, marches on its stomach. Well, as an ex-military man, I can tell you that is only true to a point and can categorically confirm that it marches on its feet. In fact, from the very start of any young military person’s career, the need to look after your feet and boots is frequently stressed. 

Since my military days, I have spent over 30 years working as a stalking outfitter and, to this day, I am careful in my selection of footwear. I have certainly been through some boots in my time. I prefer a high-leg type and have become particularly enamoured with the range from Brandecosse, having been introduced to the brand a little over a year ago. 

There is, however, a problem with a stout, heavy-duty boot when it comes to stalking in the dry conditions of summer, particularly so when trying to move silently in woodland. In fact, only this morning at breakfast one of my stalkers, Tony, was bemoaning the fact that, while he had seen plenty of roe that morning, he was unable to get close to them due to the noise he was making as he crunched through the undergrowth. 

As it happens, Brandecosse has recently introduced two pairs of lightweight boots — the Stambecco and Capriolo — and with the ideal conditions to assess them, I now had the perfect excuse to get out to try for a roebuck myself. The ground was very dry after a long spell of warm weather and, coupled with the still conditions, moving around undetected in the woodland was going to be difficult.

The roe doe eyes Chris and approaches cautiously before moving off into the adjacent fields


Explosion of growth

My first dilemma was which pair to try. I opted for the Capriolos — which appropriately enough means roe deer in Italian. I made the short drive to a small local estate with some native broadleaf woodland, which has been recently coppiced and thinned. Opening a woodland canopy allows more natural light to the understorey, which in turn results in an explosion of growth, providing perfect conditions for roe. They love the cover and shelter of mixed woodland, and with a new and plentiful supply of tender buds, it’s deer heaven. 

You can almost spot Brandecosse HQ from my regular haunts on the Carrick hills, and I sometimes feel these boots have been designed specifically for me. Crafted in Italy, the Capriolos have been developed and tested in the Galloway hills, a mere hop from Garryloop, and they really ooze quality. The lightweight nature of the boots make them ideal for summer stalking — they weigh just 980g, or 2lb in old money — with a low-profile outsole giving the wearer maximum ground feel. I was eager to see how they performed. 

Chris waits for a clear shot through the vegetation before squeezing the trigger on the roebuck

Dawn breaks over the Ayrshire countryside as Chris readies himself to set off for the woodland stalk

I arrived just before sunup to a cool morning but could already feel the hints of warmth in the morning sun. Zosia, keen as ever, could not wait to get out of the truck. She sniffed around while I loaded the rifle and kitted up. She knew the drill and beavered around with her nose down, checking the edge of the forest track. I allowed her that time but, as soon as I was ready, a swift tap of my leg and a whispered hiss had her back at my side and ready to work. 

I moved into the trees and through the most spectacular display of bluebells, providing a stunning purpley-blue wash through the beech trees. The benefit of being able to feel through the sole of the boots was instantly apparent; they allowed me to test for twigs before slowly putting my weight down. I eased forward, following my mantra “move a little, look a lot”. I scanned through the binoculars every few yards, backing that up with an occasional check of the thermal. In this environment, binoculars are much better at picking out deer or those shapes and contrasts that merit closer inspection. 

A roe doe emerges from the forest edge, hopefully a sign that other animals may be present

However, despite the optics, it was the hound who was the first to detect deer. Her demeanour changed instantly. She tensed, her nose pointing skyward and testing the wind. She eased forward slowly, stopped and turned to look back at me. She was telling me to get ready. I glassed ahead and examined deep into the cover. What was that shape sticking out from behind a silver birch? A closer check as I fine-tuned the focus on the Swarovskis revealed the back half of a roe with a large anal tush. It was a mature roe doe less than 50 yards away. A positive ID. 

She emerged from the birch trunk, browsing as she went, clearly unaware of me. I stood and watched, something I never tire of doing, as Zosia sat transfixed 10 yards in front, periodically turning her head to look back at me, puzzled at my lack of action. The doe turned and moved towards us. At around 30 yards, she sensed something was wrong and her head shot up. She stood for a while before slowly moving off, stopping to utter a single challenging bark almost as an afterthought. 

Almost instantly, more movement to the right caught my eye. A young buck in velvet suddenly appeared, followed by a small clean six-point buck. They charged around for a moment, disappearing briefly before reappearing in the clearing in front of me. I already had the rifle set on the quad sticks and tracked the younger of the two. They would not stand still, prancing around and lowering their heads, more for show than combat. There was very little contact other than the odd gentle prod. Clearly they were both just practising some moves. 

New stalking boots

The lightweight Brandecosse Capriolo boots prove ideal for this time of year, and Chris tests for twigs before putting his weight down with each step

Zosia watches out for movement as Chris lines up the buck in the crosshairs

It seemed an age before a clear broadside shot for the youngster presented itself. In all likelihood, it was less than a minute. He fell to my shot and lay still among the bluebells. The older buck remained for a while, looking around before moving cautiously to sniff at his playmate. He eventually ambled off, remarkably unconcerned given what had just transpired.

Happy with a successful outing, my thoughts turned to the performance of the boots. The design certainly lends itself to drier conditions and the Italian suede means the Capriolos are highly breathable, the perfect material for warm weather. The addition of the rubber toecap and waterproof outer lining keeps your feet dry, while the microshock-absorbing midsole and grippy Vibram outsole means they are comfortable, flexible and lightweight too. 


Summer footwear

New stalking boots

Capriolo (left)

  • Price: RRP £199 

Stambecco (right)

  • Price: RRP £209 



The next step up

The alternative Stambecco (Italian for ibex) is the next step up from the Capriolo, designed to cope with slightly wetter ground or mud. Accordingly, they have increased rigidity with the addition of deep-legged outsoles made from leather for better grip. Even so, they are also remarkably lightweight at 1.25kg (2.75lb). 

As soon as you pick up any Brandecosse boots, the quality and craftsmanship is obvious. I have never worn lightweight boots for summer stalking before, simply because I have never found any that were suitable. Now I have.