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Photograph by Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr. · www.southernfocus.com

Magazine


Delta Sportsmen: Hearing Protection In The Field

If you are an outdoorsman like myself, you’ve probably at some point in your hunting career had the thought cross your mind, “I really need to do a better job at protecting my hearing” usually immediately after saying something along the lines of, “Dangit Kit, that shot just insured me going deaf at least five years earlier than I was going to”. Let’s face it, getting your ears accidentally rung in the duck blind without proper hearing protection is inevitable. While I pick on my buddy Kit, I know I have unintentionally rung his ears ALMOST as many times as he has mine. When you hunt with someone as much as we have hunted together over the years, it’s going to happen regardless of how careful you are. We are both getting a little older, and I for one, am definitely getting wiser so in our duck blinds you’ll find a smattering of hearing protection choices. Some cheap, some expensive, some that take almost a year to get right now, but all will hopefully protect what hearing we have left.

When I guided duck hunters, I always tried to keep an earplug in my left ear, as I was always on the right hand side of the hunters working my dog. I only kept one ear plug in in hopes that I would be able to hear and carry on conversation, as well as be able to hear any safety concerns that arise. Safety is a big factor for us in the duck blind both as guides and when we hunt with friends. The need to hear what is going on was often my crutch for not protecting my hearing quite as well as I should have been doing over the years. I would start out with good intentions of plugging my ears with cheap foam ear plugs, then shortly into the hunt either a client or friend would say something to me and I’d unplug my ear to carry on a conversation then either forget to put them back in or just give up taking them out and putting them back in due to sheer laziness and inconvenience. This brings me to the first option, which works in a pinch (pun intended) and if you have the self-discipline to use them. The standard foam ear plugs that can be found just about anywhere definitely have their place. Now I actually keep several pair in my blind bag for people who forget ear pro, especially with the construction of some of our enclosed blinds acting as amplifying boxes. These are not the best option in my opinion, but they are certainly better than nothing at all. The other option I have tried with similar results to the foam plugs are non-digital ear muffs. While great for the shooting range, I tend to not keep them on during a hunt for the reasons mentioned above.

The first type of hearing protection I use now are digital ear muffs. These come in several different styles from several different manufacturers, but all are pretty similar. They are ear muffs with an electronic amplifier built in so you can hear conversation and even game approaching or calling, but they block out the sharp report of a gunshot. These are my favorite because I can still carry on a conversation in the duck blind and not have to think about replacing ear plugs when I need to take a shot. The latest pair I bought from Peltor even came with an auxiliary cable so I can plug my phone into it and hear either a phone call or music; pretty handy in the duck blind or even if you are mowing the yard and don’t want to hear the droning of the lawnmower motor. While these types of ear muffs range greatly in price, you can find them easily for under a hundred dollars (or up to over a thousand dollars plus). The models we use are typically between $75 to $100 and made by either Peltor, Howard Leight, or Walker’s Game Ears.

The next type of ear protection I see used a good bit are digital, in the ear models. Like the electronic ear muffs, these amplify “good noise” and shut off when loud noises are detected. These can be purchased off the shelf with foam inserts for a general fit or custom molded by an audiologist for a perfect fit in your ears. I have used these in the past but found them hard to keep up with and I cringed changing batteries over the water out of fear I would drop the small unit into the murky abyss. These are great for people who don’t want to wear bulky ear muffs in the blind. I particularly like the in-the-ear models when it is really cold outside and I would rather have my ears covered with a warm hat/face mask instead of the cold vinyl of my electronic ear muffs. The most common brands that have come through my blinds over the years have been SoundGear, Pro Ears, Walker’s Game Ears, and Peltor and they vary WIDELY in price from around one $150 to several thousand, depending on what you want and whether you go with foam or custom molded ear pieces.

The last part of my hearing protection plan may be a shock to some, while others are probably shocked I haven’t mentioned it yet. The most important tool in my hearing protection repertoire are suppressors on my guns. Yep, silencers, can’s, gun mufflers, whatever you want to call them; they have the wonderful purpose and task of protecting our hearing without the need for wearable ear protection, regardless of how they have been portrayed on the big screen. Simply put, they are a tool for hearing protection and recoil reduction as well as a host of other benefits but I digress. I believe so strongly in them that my kids do not and will not ever have to shoot unsuppressed guns if they don’t want to. Their hunting guns are currently and will always be outfitted with sound suppressors in the future, the pistols and rifles we plink with have suppressors on them, even the shotgun I wing shoot with has a suppressor on it. While they take a little more work to get than ordering a pair of electronic ear muffs off Amazon, they are well worth the time and money you invest in obtaining them. Silencers are legal to hunt with in Mississippi as well as in most other states now (always check local laws when travelling on a hunting trip to make sure they are legal where you are hunting). The one and only con to using suppressors in a social hunting environment, like when you are a sharing a duck blind with friends, is the fact that one suppressor equipped gun and four unsuppressed guns doesn’t do much good to protect your hearing, so be sure to talk them up to your buddies too! Obtaining a suppressor is a lot easier than most people think. There is a wait at the moment but other than that, it’s a few minutes worth of paperwork, getting fingerprinted, and having a picture taken and of course, mailing in a check. The steps for getting a suppressor are very easy but there are two different ways to go about it and this can be a source of confusion for many. I will briefly list out the requirements for each method but I strongly advise you to reach out to your local suppressor dealer and talk to them about the process. It looks daunting but I can’t stress enough, it is an easy process and your local dealer will be glad to assist you in filling out the required paperwork. As mentioned above, here are the two avenues to purchase a suppressor:

PURCHASE AS AN INDIVIDUAL:

CONVENIENT AND QUICK, NO LEGAL COSTS, LESS PAPERWORK, SMALLER MARGIN OF ERROR

  • Carefully complete (2) BATFE Form 4s (5320.4) and sign in blue or black ink
  • Obtain (2) passport photos and affix one to each Form 4; do NOT staple
  • Make (1) photocopy of your completed Form 4 with passport photo affixed
  • Complete (2) FBI Form FD-258s in blue or black ink
  • Identify your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO)
  • Write a $200 check to the BATFE
  • Mail your completed paperwork to the BATFE and your CLEO

PURCHASE THROUGH A TRUST:

FLEXIBLE & GIVES PEACE OF MIND, MULTIPLE PERSON OWNERSHIP, ADD NEW OWNERS AT ANY TIME, PROPERTY PROTECTION

  • Carefully complete (2) BATFE Form 4s (5320.4) and sign in blue or black ink
  • Make (1) photocopy of your completed Form 4
  • Make (1) photocopy of your trust documentation
  • Identify all responsible persons (including yourself) and per person:
  • Carefully complete (1) BATFE Form 5320.23 and sign in blue or black ink for each responsible person
  • Obtain and affix to Form 5320.23 (do NOT staple) for each responsible person
  • Make (1) photocopy of your completed Form 5320.23, with passport photo affixed, for each responsible person
  • Carefully complete (2) FBI Form FD-258s in blue or black ink for each responsible person
  • Identify your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO)
  • Write a $200 check to the BATFE
  • Mail your completed paperwork to the BATFE and your CLEO

Being that I have written several articles on suppressors in the past, preach on their effectiveness to anyone that will listen and am truly a believer in them, I will be glad to walk anyone through the process on purchasing a suppressor that needs help. I think they are a wonderful tool in protecting the hearing of outdoorsmen and in many other countries they are widely used and promoted as such. Sales of suppressors have skyrocketed in the last several years in the United States and they are becoming more and more mainstream, but they are still very underutilized by sportsman fearing and often citing concerns for an arduous process for purchasing them. I agree it can be a little overwhelming on paper but it really is not a difficult process, especially after the first one. For more information on how to purchase a suppressor, what states they are legal to hunt with, and a plethora of other information regarding suppressor education, take a look at https://silencerco.com/suppressed/

In closing, there are several viable methods of hearing protection out there. The key to saving your hearing in my humble opinion is finding the method that best suits your hunting style and comfort preferences. Good luck and stay safe!