Wearing Hearing Protection While Hunting – Avoiding a lifelong problem with a simple solution
I was about 12 years old when I pulled the trigger on my Savage .30-06, dispatching a caribou, when I suddenly knew that I had made a pretty bad mistake, completely preventable by wearing hearing protection while hunting. This particular rifle has an adjustable muzzle brake on the end of the barrel and this time the brake was open. The consequence? A nice ringing in my ears for roughly the next two days.
At that time I wasn’t that old, not very experienced in the field, and like most adolescents, didn’t place a huge amount of brain-power in the safety department. Regardless, I knew that what had happened was less than ideal, and believe it or not, it took another bout of shooting a S&W model 29 in .44 magnum a few years later without hearing protection to drive the point home. Shooting without hearing protection while hunting is NOT GOOD!!
Most people know that when it comes to your sense of hearing, what you have is all you have. Also, when it’s gone, it’s gone for good! Throughout my younger years of hunting, we never even gave hearing conservation a thought. The typical operation was to stand behind the shooter with your ears plugged and, I guess, hope that it wasn’t too loud for the shooter. I know that many times while setting up to take the shot on an animal, your adrenaline is pumping, your heart is beating out of your chest, and often you don’t ever even remember hearing the shots. That phenomenon, known as auditory exclusion, isn’t really something you should be relying upon, especially since you can’t count on it ‘working’ for you on a regular basis.
So what’s the best method for ensuring you have adequate protection while in the field? Lug around a pair of shooting muffs? Take the time to put in individual ear plugs just before shooting? Likely both of those scenarios aren’t going to happen. Lugging the muffs all over Alaska wouldn’t be practical and because of their size/weight, and they would probably spend more time in a pack and not on your head or around your neck. What about the individual plugs? Foam plugs would be the best option for lightweight protection but how many times have you found yourself in a hunting situation where you either needed to shoot quickly or didn’t have time to fumble to roll the plugs, put them in each ear individually, wait for them to expand, etc.? I would guess more often than not!
The best option that I have found for consistently wearing hearing protection while hunting is the Howard Leight Quiet Band. For less than $10, you get the band with two foam plugs on the end and an additional set of replacement plugs. I can’t tell you how valuable this piece of equipment is for us while hunting. The Quiet Band is super lightweight, doesn’t interfere with movement, and is very comfortable. I have often found myself in my sleeping bag, waking up in the morning not even realizing that I was still wearing them! I feel this is a good enough piece of equipment that before we leave for a hunt, I make sure that everybody who is going to be stalking an animal or potentially near a rifle report is going to have a set on them, which is why I have linked to the 10 pack, putting these at less than $5 each!
Since the Quiet Band can ride around your neck for the lion-share of your hunting trip, putting them in your ears has yet to be a problem even when it needed to happen very quickly. I’ve found that putting the plugs in your ears and then rotating the band up on your head to resemble headphones has worked great for me as it isn’t rubbing on clothing causing additional noise to be transferred into my ears while still trying to make last minute adjustments or communications before shooting.
I know there is a TON of cool new gear that people are saving up for and I also know that getting ready for a hunt can already be cumbersome as far as remembering all of the things that you’re going to need, but PLEASE consider getting yourself a few sets of these to ensure you have some hearing protection while hunting in Alaska and beyond. It’s not likely that the animal you’re about to shoot without hearing protection is worth a bad case of tinnitus or permanently losing your hearing altogether. Snag them here and pass them out to anyone going into the field with you.