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It was 11:30am and we'd been following the tracks of this old dagga boy for over four hours under the hot African sun.

The cool morning air had gradually warmed and beads of perspiration were beginning to drip down my face, neck, and torso. We were on the trail of cape buffalo and I could tell from the body language of my Professional Hunter (PH) and tracker that we were getting close.

Our pace slowed to an agonizing crawl as we tried to pick our way through the thick brush without alerting our quarry to our presence. This was easier said than done as small thorn covered limbs reached out from all directions to grab onto our clothes and rip our skin to shreds.

Even so, we were making good progress and the tracks looked like they were getting fresher, even to my untrained eye.

Then, I heard the very soft, almost gentle sound of movement in the grass in front of us moving from right to left.

I signaled to my PH who paused, heard the sound too, and then motioned me to follow him as he moved a few meters ahead and to the left. We emerged out of the thorns into a more open area with a massive sea of head tall grass about 30 meters front of us.

The sounds of movement paused for a few seconds and I copied my PH's movements as he readied his rifle in the direction where the sounds of movement had just ceased to take a quick shot at anything appearing from the grass.

Then, the movement started again, but louder and moving almost directly away from us this time.

I thought I caught a glimpse of something large and black moving through that grass, but it quickly disappeared.

A buffalo?

My suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later when we spotted that buffalo's tracks where I'd heard the movement. He'd moved into that grass and bedded down under the shade of a small tree to seek shelter from the midday sun.

Then, something alerted him to our approach and he stood up, walked a short distance to catch our wind, and then stood there in the grass, just 20 meters away for a few seconds before turning around and moving away.

We didn't end up shooting that bull, but we came darn close.

Looking back on things, we were ready to shoot and looking in the right direction at that bull while he stood there a short distance away, hidden in the tall grass, deciding what to do.

He ended up running away, but we would have only had seconds to react if he decided that he wanted to fight.

I was the only one who initially heard his movements and those few seconds of extra warning allowed my PH and I to prepare for a rapid, close range encounter with that buffalo.

Things didn’t work out that day with the buffalo, but the situation was different a few days later.

I heard a single, quiet but distinct "crack" in the woods off to our side while we paused for a short break a few hours into our morning hunt. I quietly got everyone's attention, pointed to my ear, then pointed in the direction I heard the noise. The four of us stood there motionless and in complete silence for about 30 seconds before I spotted movement in the direction the sound came from.

Sure enough, a herd of impala materialized out of the bush and moved right past us.

They were strung out in a line with a few ewes leading the pack, followed by a few younger rams. Then a bigger ram appeared. And then an even bigger ram appeared behind him.

The tracker whispered to me “The biggest ram is at the back. Get ready to shoot and I’ll whistle to stop him when he’s in a clear spot.” I carefully got set-up on the sticks and sure enough, an even bigger impala ram appeared, following in the tracks of the rest of the herd.

The tracker whistled loudly, the impala stopped and looked at us, and I squeezed the trigger. That ram staggered under the impact from my 7mm PRC and then awkwardly took off into the brush, collapsing a few yards later.

xcor

Just like that, I had my first animal in the salt from that trip.

And it was all because I heard one of those creatures break a limb as they picked their way through the bushveld.

I was the only one who noticed that soft "crack" and the only reason I heard it was because of the hearing enhancement my new AXIL XCOR ear buds provided.

They provide audio enhancement and actually make quiet sounds easier to hear while at the same time still protecting your ears from loud sounds like gunshots. The XCOR sound quality is fantastic with very little distortion: I can easily tell what direction a sound (like a limb breaking) is coming from while wearing them.

Plus, they're also really comfortable to wear.

I'd put them on when I left camp in the morning each day, take them off for a short break around lunch, then wear them until we stopped hunting in the evening. They're the only ear protection I've ever used that I could comfortably wear for that long over the course of a week-long hunt without issues.

Our close call with that buffalo I just mentioned is a good example of how wearing them can pay dividends afield. The same is true with that group of impala we happened to encounter a few days later.

Those encounters played out over the course of a minute or so, but shooting opportunities can sometimes appear out of nowhere when hunting Africa too: like when one of my friends had a massive buffalo appear out of the bush just 11 yards away on that same hunt. In a situation like that, there’s no time to put on ear protection: you either need to be already wearing hearing protection or shoot without it.

I’ve experienced it before and trust me: you don’t want to have to deal with three rounds from a 375 H&H in quick succession (especially from a rifle with a muzzle brake like his) without ear protection if you don’t have to!

 

Luckily for him, he was also wearing AXIL ear pro that day and didn’t have to make a difficult choice. He connected with a couple of good shots on that buffalo and it went down without a fuss. His hands were shaking, but his ears weren’t ringing afterwards!

The hunt doesn’t always end with that first shot either and those first few seconds or minutes after the initial shot can be crucial and you must have your wits about you, not distracted by ringing ears or trying to clear your head after absorbing the blast from a big magnum rifle cartridge.

 

For all those reasons, AXIL XCOR ear buds sit at the top of my list of the best hunting ear protection and there’s literally nothing else I’d trust in those situations when success or failure (and even life and death) may depend on full use of all your senses, especially your hearing.

Read more from John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog and subscribe to his show: The Big Game Hunting Podcast

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