The sharp, thorn-covered branch came out of nowhere and found it’s way under my eyelid and into what felt like the back of my brain. The pain was immediate and I almost doubled over. I reached for the perpetrator, broke him off and threw him to the ground like a WWE wrestler. We’d been tracking a wounded deer and, as is usually the case, the deer had found the heaviest cover around. We followed the trail into a thicket of willows and thorn bushes. Normally if I’m hunting while on the move (like for pheasants or deer), I’ll wear some sort of sunglasses to protect my eyes, but this deer had been shot near the end of shooting light and I’d pocketed them so I could see better.
As I type this, I find myself handcuffed like a pirate as my right hand is clasped over my right eye. The pain has gotten progressively worse throughout the evening. Despite a thorough investigation, it didn’t seem like anything was wedged in there. Possibly just a scratch or irritation hopefully.
I had worked my way out of the woods hoping that the branch didn’t do any permanent damage and wished I’d worn the clear safety glasses I had sitting on my dashboard.
Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. These senses get us through our daily lives. Most take them for granted. But could you imagine losing one? Losing the sense of taste might help me eat more vegetables, but I do everything I can to keep the rest of them.
That’s why I am constantly amazed when I watch people destroy them willfully.
“I need to be able to hear what’s around me.” That’s what people say the most when the conversation turns to hearing protection. I get it. You like to hear the whistle of ducks as they come winging over the top. You like to hear that twig break as a big buck slowly glides through the woods so you’re ready. But every time you pull the trigger you are doing damage to your ears that they’ll never recover from.
I hear over and over again this phrase relating to ice fishing, “No fish is important enough to go out on unsafe ice.”
Why should ducks, geese and deer be any different? Is a goose worth losing your hearing over?
As I wrote about in the pages of Minnesota Sporting Journal magazine (Summer 2014), all the guys in my family have one word that they like to use over and over: “What?”
Repeated gun use-whether in the field or at the trap range-has contributed to early hearing loss. Why is any deer, bird or clay pigeon more important than one of your five senses? I see that more people are using protection at the range now-that’s great, but why should it be different in the field? Because you want to hear geese that you’ll be able to see for a mile before they get there? Most deer are seen before they’re heard-hence the name “timber ghost”.
Ok, ducks I’ll give you, sometimes they surprise me with the wing beats before I see them. But, I believe the most important part of audio while afield is hunter communication. You need to be able to listen to the guys around you to stay on the same page.
Yes, ear plugs are a pain. They can be uncomfortable, they’re easy to lose and you can’t hear much when you wear them. I get it.
But finding the right hearing protection can not only protect one of your most important senses, but enhance your hunt as well. When I close up a layout blind as a big flock of geese lock up and commit, I know that guns may be going off within inches of both my ears. I could stuff styrofoam into each ear until it leaks out my nose, but then I can’t hear the “Take ’em!” call. I’ve taken giant ear muffs into the deer stand, but they’re clumsy and you completely block out most of the enjoyable noises of the woods.
I can’t emphasize the importance of hearing protection enough (and eye protection for that matter). Senses can’t be bought at the corner drug store. Expensive batteries to enhance those senses, sure, but once you lose them, they’re gone. That’s where a product like WildEar Hearing Boosters can help.
I’ve been asked many times how I like my WildEar Hearing Boosters. I love ’em. They enhance light sounds and block out the damaging noises. Here is my review:
1) They cancel out loud noises. Since I’ve gotten my WildEars, I’ve shot my 12 gauge too many times to remember and have had no ringing afterwards. I really was interested in what using them with my .30-06 would be like. I’ve shot that with cheap foam plugs and still had ringing for days. I’ve pulled them out only to get surprised by a teal and believe me, you’ll notice the difference.
2) They take getting used to. Just like anything else that you add to your body, your body will take getting used to them. Stay committed to them and soon you won’t even notice that you’re wearing them. I literally forgot that I had them in tonight and had to physically check to see if I was still wearing them. People complain that they might hurt, but after you wear them for a couple of outings, you’ll get used to them.
3) There is some white noise. Every noise is enhanced. Wind, footsteps, branches breaking, pants swishing, etc. You have to get used to hearing the surroundings a bit differently, but just like the fit, you’ll get used to it. You will also learn to dial them in the way you want them. You can adjust the volume to comfortable levels.
4) You have to take the batteries out to turn them off. Not a big deal, as they come with a handy zip up pouch that I put them in along with the batteries so I always know where they are.
5) They’re not cheap. I’ve had people express concern over the cost of proper hearing protection. But let’s put in perspective: You have 5 senses, what would you pay to keep them? If you had to pay to keep your eyesight, wouldn’t you? If you could pay for something to keep from having to pay for glasses for many years, wouldn’t you? Like laser eye surgery? Consider it preventative. Come to think of it, shouldn’t insurance pay for these?
6) They’re hard to lose. They come on a lanyard that hangs around your neck so when you take them out, they can just hang around your neck instead of having to be put away.
7) They’re color coded. Mine are anyway, I have a red one and a blue one. That way it’s easier to put in if I’m in a rush. I know that red is going on the right. Plus if I drop them in the grass or woods, they’re easier to find.
8) They’ve got my name on them. That way you won’t get yours mixed up with someone else in the group.
9) They won’t fall out. They’re custom-fitted to my ears so they fit in snug and don’t fall out like regular ear plugs. They can get pulled out by the lanyard if I turn my head quickly and they get caught on something, but that’s only happened once or twice and it’s usually my fault.
10) Customer Service has been great. If I’ve had questions or issues, they’ve been quick to fix them. I thought I’d broken one and sent it in…turns out my ear wax was a little out of control! Oops, my bad. They were cleaned and sent back immediately and I never missed out on hunting with them.
I don’t want it to be necessary to have hearing aids when I’m in my 40’s like a lot of hunters I know. I could care less if people make fun of me for wearing hearing protection now. I don’t want to lose my hearing early in life and as much as I shoot, I’m guaranteed to lose it if I don’t protect it. Even if you think your ears are shot already, you can still protect what you’ve got left. It’s one of your 5 senses, don’t throw it away purposely. Protect your hearing-and your eyesight for that matter. Who cares if it makes hunting just a little bit harder. No game animal or bird is worth losing your senses over.
Learn more about WildEar Hearing Boosters here. It’s never too early to start wearing them and there is a youth program that allows for refitting as the user grows older. They also have new passive hearing protection for guys who work around loud equipment all day. They are custom-fitted plugs that won’t fall out and are tough to lose. Visit their website for more information.