The wildlife action began shortly after dawn as mourning doves came to drink at a nearby livestock trough, making a sound similar to that of a squeaky pulley as they swooped in to land in the leaf-barren mesquites. I ignored the distant mechanical growling of the big rigs hauling cargo up the highway 5 miles to the west. Suddenly I was aware of plodding hooves as a young whitetail buck came in at a saddle-horse trot, anxiously harassing a doe. Fewer than 15 feet away, the stifled grunts of an enthusiastic mule deer buck drifted up as he followed his romantic interest with outstretched neck. Then, at 38 yards, a buck presented a perfect, broadside shot. The muffled crack of my 41 Magnum revolver immediately disturbed the peaceful scene I had watched (and heard) unfold before me.
Incidentally, I had heard all of these things while wearing hearing protection.
Especially when handgun hunting, you place yourself as close to the game as possible. Oftentimes it is very difficult to insert ear plugs or don muffs before making a shot without the alert animals catching your movement. Therefore, it is important to already have the hearing protection in place when that buck, bear, turkey or whatever it is you’re hunting offers a shot.
Luckily there is a vast assortment of hearing protection available to fit any budget that allows the hunter to hear, but also protects the ears from damaging muzzle blast.
“Earmuffs that permit normal sounds and block out loud ones,” is a basic explanation of high-tech muffs like the Safariland Liberator HP. These muffs have three modes that provide the wearer options for everything from what I would call “standard hunting and shooting uses,” to additional possibilities for operations in helicopters, aircraft and boats, as well as military and law enforcement applications. I’ve used similar muffs while deer hunting with my daughters to good effect. Muffs such as these allowed them to hear my whispered instructions yet protected their young ears from the rifle’s muzzle blast. Ear-covering muffs can also be an added comfort while hunting on cold winter days.
Similar to high-tech muffs in an ear plug form, ear buds seem to me to be very practical for wearing while hunting. They are much smaller in comparison to muffs and also allow the user to wear a hat with a brim. Some come with Bluetooth features for those who want that option, as well as multiple sizes of ear inserts to help find the right fit for your ears. Like muffs, they allow normal sounds, but block harmful noise.
There is no reason not to wear hearing protection in the field! Take a lesson from a gun writer: I’ve fired (or have been very near) many gun shots in my life without wearing hearing protection. It’s a poor decision to make and the detrimental effects of hearing loss are very real. Cumulative hearing damage from just one or two unprotected shots per season will catch up to you over time.
Protect yourself and your family by doing a little research on the types of hearing protection available. Choose the protection that is right for you, and use it!