By Andrew Wilson
As I rubbed my index finger and thumb together right next to my ear, I noticed I could barely hear the friction of skin beyond the steady ringing.
But the ringing subsided, so I decided to keep hunting. I would have kept hunting anyway, but it’s nice to be able to hear the quail call, except the little bastards weren’t calling. They must be holdovers from last year because they know how to keep quiet. So far, their only giveaway has been the rustling sound they make moving through dry leaves. Good thing I’m not totally deaf yet.
Weaving through the scrub oak, I try to remember how many shots I’d taken. Was it five or six? Six misses? These quail are making a fool of me. They’ve been flying low all morning, and most refuse to jump at all; they’re bright runners.
There! A little squad scrambles beneath the live oak; I hustle around for a clear shot, but they flush on the other side; I can just see them glide away through the tangle.
Busted up, the covey finally starts calling; now I got ‘em. Hunting without a dog is tough, but who has time to train a dog? Suddenly a staccato of wings to my left, my 870 is up in a flash, click. I feel like an idiot; I forgot to rack another shell in the chamber after the last miss.
Okay, stay calm; there’s plenty of quail left. I go running after them, and WUNK, I’m flat on my face in dry grass; a collapsed barb wire fence ripped my feet from under me. Damn, that hurt; there’s a little blood. When was the last time I got a tetanus shot?
Three birds sail past as I gather myself up.
Desperate now, bashing my way through dry branches, I swear I’ll catch up; I can feel the sweat run behind my ears. Or is it blood? God, just give me a clean shot at one; I promise I’ll quit after one, just give me one.
Another pair drums up; the shot is awkward through branches, and it’s a miss. Dammit, okay, I quit. I’m never hunting quail again.
Walking back, three run out straight ahead. I can’t help myself and unleash with the 870; I manage one. It’s an ugly shot; the bird barely got off the ground. Never mind, it’s beautiful in my hand; I worked hard for this bird.
Sitting on the tailgate of my truck with my bird laid next to me proudly on display, I sip coffee; the world looks better now.
A hunter drives up.
“Wow, a mountain quail! Nice job, teach me your ways,” he says from his open window.
“Well, you know it’s not too hard; just walk up the hill,” I replied knowingly.
“Lot of shooting going on up here. You got more birds in the cooler?” He asks.
“Oh, that was some idiot plowing around earlier; he busted all the good coveys; I just got here,” I lied.
“Hey, I think I hear some calls!” he said suddenly.
On a serious note, losing your hearing isn’t funny. And these days there is no excuse not to wear hearing protection because new technology also allows you to hear the sounds of nature around you. Companies such as Walkers Game ear make unobtrusive, in-the-ear hearing protection devices that amplify sounds to actually enhance your hearing–until the gun goes off when you need hearing protection. In the past, such devices would cost $2,000 or more. Now, however, Walker’s Silencer BT 2.0 feels just like your earbuds–indeed you can wear them on airplanes for listening to music via Bluetooth–but they do away with those miserable little hearing aid batteries. Best of all, they only cost around $300. Trust us. Get some. –The Eds