Outdoors Column: Hearing Protection

Weather in the Midwest can always be counted on to be unpredictable. Christmas day was sunny and a balmy sixty degrees. We decided to get outside and enjoy the nice weather while we could. At this time of year, a person knows, it can not last. A relaxing ride on a warm winter day is just what we needed.


Our first decision was whether to bring the dogs along or try to sneak off without them. They both so much enjoy going for a ride, it is almost mean to leave them home. The decision to take them along cuts the relaxation part almost in half. Billie, the poodle, gets to ride in the back, cross-tied. We have tried letting him ride up front between us but getting walked upon by a seventy-five-pound dog gets to be annoying when he gets excited. He cannot be left loose in the back as he will jump out and chase a squirrel or rabbit. A five-minute chase of a rabbit will result in his needing a couple hours of brushing to remove weed seeds, burrs, and leaves from his fine poodle coat. Jag, the terrier, like to ride up front for the first one hundred yards and then wants to run. His routine is to get all excited, hop in, and spin in circles on the seat between my wife and me. In very short order, he is begging to get out, making driving much easier.


We had driven only a half mile or so when we ran into Damon and Zane, who were rabbit hunting their way toward our house. When we left them after a brief visit, Jag stayed behind. He likes to hunt rabbits and it is much better to hunt with someone that has a gun. It is not as much fun to chase a rabbit that will never be caught.


My wife and I, with Billie in the back, crossed the dam and drove through the top gate. Just inside the timber, a doe with two of last year’s fawns jumped up from where they had been sleeping and took off down the trail. Billie spotted them immediately and exploded with his high-pitched shrill bark used when he is about to capture his prey. Being in the back and cross-tied, his face was at the same level as ours and less than a foot from our closest ears. The pitch and volume of the bark caused us both to duck and flinch. It was almost painful. Billie was convinced he had chased the deer away so no matter how much we protested, he continued to bark until the deer were out of sight. Rounding the corner at the bottom of the hill, things had returned to normal, or as normal as driving around with a happy bouncing dog in the back of a Ranger can be.  Neither my wife nor I were on guard when we were attacked by the same three deer again. Fortunately, Billie saw them coming and scared them off with his painfully loud bark. Unlike Billie, I do not think the deer were attacking and would have gone on their merry way with or without his barking. It does make him feel proud of himself when he protects his family.


We were coming across the top path when a large buck ran across the trail in front of us. Billie exploded with barking again. I have decided, next time we go for a ride and take Billie, we are wearing hearing protection. Putting in ear plugs is a much better option than being startled by his painfully loud bark.