Never again while hunting will I have to hear my young son or daughter ask, “Dad, did you hear that?” and have no idea what they’re talking about. I grew up shooting and hunting, and gun safety was pounded into my head. However, so was the noise from high-powered rifles and shotguns.
I put hundreds of 270 Winchester rounds downrange and never wore any kind of hearing protection. Back in the day, it just wasn’t popular. And, too, while I was in the Army, lots of time spent on a tank range did my ears no good, either. I’m not saying I can’t hear, I just can’t hear like I used too. And, then there’s that continual ringing that never goes away.
Hearing protection is a must, but I loathe ear muffs. For that reason, I’ve been using rubber ear plugs for many years. But, if I spend all day on the range, my ears get sore. And, I have to keep asking folks, “What did the range master say?” Fortunately, I met up with some smart guys from a company called WildEar. They build custom-fitted earplugs. Now, this is nothing new, but WildEar incorporates electronics into these form-fitted plugs. (They shutdown the amplified noise when shots are fired so your ears are protected.)
They’ve become a constant range companion, and I even wear them while hunting so I can hear like a kid, and I don’t worry about getting my ear drums busted at the shot. When my Mossberg Patriot in .375 Ruger went off on Vancouver Island last spring, my WildEars silenced the boom, but amplified all the instructions from my guide during our stalk.
The real question was how these things would hold up. I’ve broken every electronic ear protection device I’ve ever owned. Well, I broke my WildEars, too. (If you’ll notice there is a small activation switch on each earpiece. The two smaller buttons control the volume.) Somehow or another, I broke the activation lever on one of the units, or it could have possibly been sabotaged by TSA. I betting on the former, but wouldn’t be surprised with the latter.
At any rate, I contacted WildEar and shipped them off for repair. In about a week, they were back and good as new. No charge, no questions asked. I did suggest they look at a more robust switch, but this might preclude easy activation. Still, I have no idea how the damage occurred. It could have been from normal use or I could have just been treating them like I do my guns — hammer rough.
Everything is prone to breakage, but my WildEar experience so far would not deter me from recommending them. I won’t go to the range or hunting without them. They make you feel like you have bionic ears! They work exceptionally well, are very comfortable, and warranty service like that is rare these days.
Images by Richard Mann