Should I Wear Eye And Ear Protection When Shooting And Bird Hunting?

Back when you were learning to ride a bicycle, did you wear a helmet? If you were born in the ‘70s or ‘80s, the answer is probably "no". But today, young kids, teenagers, and even adults wear helmets whenever they ride bikes. As a nation, we're more aware of how to keep minor accidents from causing serious injuries.

This appreciation for safety has found its way into the outdoor world, too. Twenty years ago, few sportsmen and women wore shooting glasses and ear protection was unheard of. Now, shooting facilities require both and lots of hunters are guarding their eyes and ears in the field.

To help prevent accidents and injuries, here are the several things you should wear whenever you're shooting, hunting, and around firearms.

The "Eyes" Have It

Everyone agrees eye protection is something you should wear whenever guns are going off. In the field, ricocheting pellets and misplaced shots aren't the only things to worry about. Twigs, branches, and flying debris are also concerns. A pair of shooting classes can help protect your eyes from all these and even enhance your shooting. Here are three things to look for in a pair:

  1. Polycarbonate lenses: Lens material is what matters most in shooting glasses. Of the options out there, polycarbonate is best because it is impact resistant, durable, and lightweight.
  2. ANSI certification: For a pair of safety glasses to be real "shooting glasses", they must be certified by American National Standards Institute with a Z87.1 rating (ANSI Z87.1). This helps ensure the glasses will protect your eyes and face from impacts, scratches, and other hazards.
  3. Lens color: This has nothing to do with protection, but it can help you see and shoot better.
  • Gray lenses block glare without changing the way you see color. They're good for everyday wear and on sunny days.
  • Amber-to-brownish lenses make flushing birds and clay targets stand out. This makes them a good all-around choice.
  • Yellow and orange lenses also make birds and clays stand out, especially in low-light conditions. They're ideal in cloudy weather and in the first and last few hours of the day. If you shoot clays under lights, yellow lenses are ideal.

Don't Say "What?"

After your eyes are protected, your ears are the next things to look out for. Every time you fire a gun, your ears are exposed to harmful sound. Over time, continued exposure can cause hearing loss or serious conditions like tinnitus (a "ringing" in your ears).

When shopping to hearing protection, here are some things to consider:

  • Foam ear plugs: The most common type of hearing protection. They fit into your ear canals to block sound. But because of this, they make it difficult to hear what's going on around you and to talk to other shooters. That's why foam ear plugs are best for target shooting.
  • Ear muffs: These fit over your head and cover your ears. As for blocking harmful sound, they're about as effective as ear plugs. Their only advantage is they're easy to remove so you can talk to and hear other shooters. Because they block sound, ear muffs are best for target shooting.
  • Digital earplugs and earmuffs: The ultimate ways to protect your hearing. They block harmful sounds and making allow you to hear conversations and sounds around you. Because of this, they're only kind of hearing protection suitable for hunters.

Other Types Of Protection

Protective eyeglasses and hearing devices are just two things you should wear in the field. Here are some ways to protect the rest of your body:

  • Blaze orange: The better other hunters can see you, the better your chances of avoiding a shooting accident. And the absolute best way to stand out in the field is to wear blaze orange. Some state require it when you're bird hunting, others don't. Regardless, you should always wear a blaze orange hat along with a matching vest, shirt, or jacket.
  • Snake-proof chaps: If you're a quail, woodcock or dove hunter in southern parts of the U.S., venomous snakes are a concern—especially in the warmer parts of the season. Snake-proof chaps go over your hunting pants, cover boots, and help protect you from poisonous bites.
  • Tick repellent: Throughout North America, these creeping pests are a serious concern for anyone headed outside. To help prevent this, wear clothing coated with tick repellent or spray repellent onto your hunting clothes. Some upland hunting pants feature tick-blocking cuffs. Ticks crawl up. If they get inside your pants, just imagine what they might find on their way to your waist. If these little blood suckers are prevalent in your covers, wearing a pair of these pants is a smart move.
  • Gloves and hunting pants: Upland hunting is a contact sport. If you want to find birds, you're going to get scraped, scratched, and clawed at by everything from raspberry tangles and poplar branches to barbed wire. Leather shooting gloves and proper hunting pants are simple ways to protect yourself from damage.

Think Safe And Act Safe To Stay Safe

Along with what you wear, another way to stay safe in the field is to always keep track of your companions (hunters and dogs). Never pull the trigger unless you're 100% certain of your target and of what lies beyond it. Lastly, always treat every gun as if it's loaded and ready to fire.

When you combine this advice with eye, ear, and the other types of protection noted above, you can do a lot to prevent injuries and accidents whenever you're around firearm.

Shop For Eye And Ear Protection