How do the Danner Pronghorn boots perform for upland hunting?
Need to kill some time? Walk up to the nearest upland bird hunter and ask a simple question: “What are the best boots to wear in the uplands?” Don’t worry, what happens next is totally normal. There will be a long pause, and that blank stare you see on his or her face is not one of confusion. In fact, neurons in their brain are lighting up rapid fire as they attempt to decide just where to begin. Hold on tight, ‘cause you’re in for information overload.
There are very few subjects as near and dear to the hearts and minds of upland bird hunters as their choice of footwear. Yes, I know, there are bird dogs and shotguns too, but I don’t have all day and I’m trying to keep this PG.
With that in mind, I’m going to tell you about a pair of boots I wore while hunting the short grass prairies of North Dakota this past fall. Danner was kind enough to send me a pair of their Pronghorn boots well in advance of my trip.
In production for nearly two decades and currently on the fifth generation of Pronghorns, at an MSRP of $230.00, the Danner website describes them as such:
“Built on our TERRA FORCE® NEXT™ platform, the Pronghorn delivers the all-day comfort and stability that make the day’s haul easier on your feet. Full-grain leather that’s passed our exacting quality tests forms the upper around our proven 851 last. To cope with unpredictable weather in the field, we built the Pronghorn with a GORE-TEX waterproof liner that keeps moisture out and lets your feet breathe.”
I received my pair of Danner Pronghorns midsummer and began wearing them during my dog’s daily exercise runs which are essentially a hike through the woods for me. The terrain is relatively tame, but there’s just enough variability to ensure that the boots would break in nicely. Any sort of break-in regimen I had in mind however quickly became an afterthought. The Danner Pronghorns were quite comfortable right out of the box.
To add a little perspective to my review, I must say that the Danner Pronghorns are the first pair of leather boots I’ve given the time of day in the roughly four years since I transitioned to wearing rubber boots exclusively. I won’t get into that decision too much here, but for my purposes a rubber boot suits me very well year-round where I live and hunt most often.
That said, out West on the prairie, a rubber boot is often not necessary, nor is it ideal. During a trip the previous fall, I brought with me two pairs of boots from well-known manufacturers that are commonly marketed to upland hunters. Both had been on the shelf for a couple seasons but both were broken in and had plenty of life left. To make a long story short, the first pair left me with a heel bruise after day one and I wore the other pair for the rest of the trip. They were better, but I dealt with that bruise and general discomfort until I returned home to Minnesota and slipped into the comfort of my rubber boots for the rest of the season.
Fast forward to fall 2019, I arrived in North Dakota mid-September ready to log some miles chasing sharp-tailed grouse for the next week. Hopefully better prepared this time, I wanted to see if the Danner Pronghorns would live up to the reputation (more on that later) that precedes them and carry me across the rolling terrain with support and in comfort.
Perhaps surprisingly, after lacing them up for the first morning hunt, my footwear became an afterthought the rest of the trip, and that was a good thing. Compared to the previous fall where my feet and the pain and discomfort they were in was on my mind often, there was none of it this time. Which is perhaps a backhanded way of complimenting the Danner Pronghorns. But isn’t that the way it is with footwear? You don’t really want to notice your boots or your feet while hunting. You’ve got more important things to worry about—like where are the birds and where is the dog.
I will say that I was quite curious to try the Danner Pronghorns because of the seemingly polarizing subject they can be when the topic of boots inevitably comes up among upland hunters. People either seem to really love them or not care for them at all. Reading between the lines a bit, most of the negative feedback seemingly stems from concerns over durability and construction. It would be hard for me to comment on long term durability as I truly have only worn them for a couple months including a week’s worth of serious hunting.
After my trip to the prairie, it was back to the swampy ruffed grouse and woodcock covers and back into my rubber boots. Again, nothing against the Danner Pronghorns, I actually thought hard about wearing them during some warmer early season hunts which is another backhanded compliment (sorry, Danner, I really do like them!), but somebody is probably going to have to pay me to wear anything but a rubber boot in those covers.
What I can tell you about the Danner Pronghorn boot is that they are made by a company that knows boots. They’re damn comfortable and they are absolutely capable of standing up to long days of intense use. At just over three pounds per pair they won’t weigh you down. They actually felt quite lightweight which tells me I may be used to wearing a bit heavier boot. Lined with Gore-Tex, I had no issues with moisture. The prairie country I was hunting is typically quite dry; however, the grass still collects quite a bit of dew in the morning. The outside of my Danner Pronghorns were wet every morning but my feet inside were dry.
The fit was spot-on in my medium width size 10.5 boots and the 8 inch uninsulated model served me very well during my early season North Dakota hunt. Support was about perfect for the mild rolling terrain on the prairie. They were comfortable out of the box and they kept me moving forward and my feet in great shape on one of my favorite trips of the year.
I want to acknowledge the concerns about Danner Pronghorn durability and make it abundantly clear that I cannot comment on that—yet. Durability is a critical component to boot making and it plays a large role in the value proposition of any boot purchase. I certainly hope my Danner Pronghorns remain in service for quite some time as I like everything else about them. I will add updates to this review as I deem necessary.
*Please comment below and let us know how you like your Danner Pronghorns and how they’ve held up.
Overall, the Danner Pronghorn is a well-crafted upland hunting boot. If I lost my Danner Pronghorns today, I’d be tracking down another pair tomorrow.
Nick Larson is brand communications director at Northwoods Collective. He is also the host and creator of the Project Upland Podcast. He and his family, which includes a pair of English setters, reside in Duluth, Minnesota. Naturally, his favorite pursuit is upland bird hunting. From the northern forests of the upper great lakes to the prairies of the west, he chases adventure across the uplands wherever his bird dogs and the people he meets inspire him to go.