Last fall, I was pheasant hunting with a friend who is about my
age. We were walking a strip of good cover, Miss Meg out in front
of us doing her thing. Meg got birdy and then locked up solid.
I encouraged my friend to go ahead and walk in and flush the
bird, while I moved off to one side. My friend does not hunt as
much as me, and I wanted him to get the shot. John walked in ahead
of Meg and a hen flushed at his feet. A split second later I heard
another bird flush behind us.
Either we had walked past the rooster or it had doubled back as
Meg worked the hen. From my peripheral vision, I could see that
John did not know that the rooster had flushed, so I went ahead and
took the shot.
“I just never heard the rooster flush,” John said later.
Most of the guys I know in my age group suffer from some hearing
loss, just like John. In most cases the hearing loss can be traced
back to shooting firearms while not wearing ear protection. Don’t
let it happen to you. Those who are hard of hearing miss out on a
lot. Not only does it make it more difficult to follow a
conversation, hear the preacher, or enjoy a good play, but in the
hunting world, poor hearing is a real handicap.
Like John, if you don’t hear that rooster flush behind you, you
will never even know that it was there. Miss that faint crunch of
crisp leaves, and the buck of a lifetime might slip right on past
you. And if the hearing loss is substantial, never again will you
shiver to the hiss of wind on wings as mallards circle tightly
overhead before committing to the decoys.
Preventing hearing loss due to shooting is easy. Just wear ear
protection whenever you shoot. And don’t think that you only need
hearing protection when shooting “big” guns. Even a .22 rifle will
come in at about 140 decibels. That’s well above the 90-decibel
mark where experts in the field feel that hearing damage can
A 12-gauge shotgun registers about 156 decibels, which is only
an increase of 16 decibels over the .22 rifle. But don’t let that
fool you. The way decibels are measured you end up with a doubling
effect for every three decibels.
If my math is correct, that makes a shotgun blast about 10 times
as damaging as the crack of a .22 long rifle. Handguns come in
around the 165 decibel range, and big caliber rifles with muzzle
brakes will break the 170 decibel mark, which is why big game
guides cringe when they see a hunter uncase a .300 mag with muzzle
Some think that damage to your hearing will get better over
time. It does not. In fact, the reverse is true. In most cases,
hearing loss is gradual enough that we don’t even notice it until
we begin to have to watch a person’s lips move to try to decipher
what they are saying. The bottom line is, once you lose your
hearing, it’s gone for good.
Protecting your hearing is simple. Wear ear protection. A simple
pair of foam ear plugs cost next to nothing and they work. When I
am at the range sighting in a new rifle or doing some patterning
work with a new shotgun, I wear foam earplugs and earmuffs. I want
to hear that rooster get up behind me for a long, long time
Several years ago, while hunting mallards in the flooded timber
near Stuttgart, Ark., I had a chance to test a pair of electronic
ear plugs. Sometimes referred to as assisted listening devices,
these nifty plugs allow you to control the volume so that you can
hear your buddy whispering at you to “get down” and at the same
time they provide the protection you need against the blast of
shotguns. I would not hunt ducks or geese without them and either
should you or anyone you love.
There are many companies out there that make hearing protection
products.Do yourself and your family a big favor this year and stop
by any major sporting goods outlet and invest in some good hearing
protection. It would be a shame to miss the distant gobble of a
turkey, the shrill bugle of a bull elk or the rush of wings which
is a ruffed grouse flushing.