23 Sep

Barefoot Arkansas Digiscoping with iPhone and OPMOD, Painting the Turtle, Salem Eckman Foreskin III, New Old Guns, and Alaskan Bear Hunt

Steven K. Ledin,

My Shirley and I had a great trip to dad’s place in Arkansas. One of the best things about the trip was that we got to talk in the car for hours, something we rarely get a chance to do. My Shirley is awesome and beautiful and a perfect traveling companion. Plus I get to sleep with her, which doesn’t happen with most of my other traveling companions.

Dad looks for golf balls every day. He donated 12,000 golf balls to his church last year, and finds more than that annually. He keeps a bucket filled by the fourth hole so his cronies can pick out their favorites. He gives many friends boxes of balls of their choice. His 86 year old body gets daily morning exercise by climbing up and down precarious and rocky ravines, through thorns and over beds of leaves that hide snakes and walking sticks and armadillos. He’s like an octogenarian spider monkey, or maybe more like a billy goat. He has superhuman golf ball finding skill. The morning I went out with him I thought I did pretty well and found 12. He found 39. I can’t remember getting beat so badly at anything. He doesn’t only find golf balls, he golfs like he knows what he’s doing. He shot a 35 on the back nine the other day, and regularly beats his age.
We sat and drank a couple of beers in his sun room. Marly and he spoke about their volunteer work at the LPGA recently, and how all the women look so much slimmer in person. It’s actually their stupid TV which makes everyone look stretched horizontally like with a poor computer monitor. Anyway, we both still agree on Paula Creamer, Natilie Gulbis, and Michelle Wie being babes.
Dad and Marly can hear barely better than my deaf dog, so their TV is set at a volume slightly less painful than my last Ted Nugent concert. Plus, the TV in the sun room has some kind of recording device that makes the feed come in fully a half second later than the 100 decibel squelch coming out of the TV in the kitchen that Marly uses when she’s cooking. So you get a double whammy. Shirley stayed outside on the porch with her computer most of the time, and I just withstood the audio vertigo blasting until they went to bed, then turned it down to a reasonable level. Which is not to say it’s not way too loud for many others, still. One of my commercials with me touting Nikon came on one evening on the Outdoor Channel which we got a kick out of.
Dad had to “Paint the turtle” one afternoon. He has four turtles he sees every year and paints the shells different colors to identify them. They hibernate and return every spring. Lots of armadillos down there that dig for grubs and destroy greens and fairways and yards, and the community regularly organizes posses with flashlights and firearms to cull the herds. The vigilante Q-Tips (old people) go out en masse on their golf carts at night when the rodents are feeding and blast them. I have a crossbow pistol with a laser I thought would be fun, but never got a chance to use it. I used my iPhone to digiscope through the OPMOD PVS-14 and could not believe how easy it was to get great pictures. Try it!
My Shirley and I had a turtle. His name was Salem Eckman Foreskin III. He was a three toed box turtle. Do you know how to tell a male from a female box turtle? The males are concave on the bottom so they can mount a female during mating. He was named Salem because I was in Salem, Missouri while turkey hunting when I found him. I turned him on his shell so he couldn’t get away while I was packing up my gear to leave. When I was done and went to get him he was gone. Sad. So I found another one. He had one eye and peed on me and tried to bite me but I wanted to adopt him anyway. My friend Duane Eckman was driving home, and he saw a third turtle in the middle of the road. Duane put the hooks on and did a u-turn so we could swap turtles. The third turtle’s head looked like a tiny male genetalia when he poked his head out of his shell. Therefore, Salem Eckman Foreskin III. I made a plywood and dirt home for him about 5 foot by 2 foot with carpet and a warming light and a pool and a place underground for him to rest. He was a great friend. My Shirley used to dangle nightcrawlers in the middle of his cage and coo, “Foreskinnnnnnn….”, and he used to come out to grab the worm. I swear he knew My Shirley’s voice and when his feeding time was. My Shirley used to kiss him on his sharp little hooked turtle beak. I told her that one day he was going to bite her, but to no avail. One day the Avon lady came over and Shirley was showing off Foreskin and kissing him when he unexpectedly opened his mouth and latched onto the tip of her nose with his parrot-like beak and would not let go. Blood was dripping and the Avon lady was freaking out, but Shirley said she had it under control. Picture a three pound turtle hanging off a pretty nose, bitten in and stubborn and hanging on for dear life. After a few minutes Shirley was able to get him off by tumping the bottom of his neck with her finger. The cuts took a long time to heal. The scabs were as funny as scabs get. After that he became known as Salem Eckman Foreskin III, Attack Turtle First Class. Foreskin lived for about a year with us. He made a constant left turn around the curcumference of the one bedroom apartment we lived in at the time, and the cats loved him. When he died I buried him with honors in a Trilene fishing line box where he would not be disturbed. We will see him in heaven.
I walked barefoot and in shorts with some Canadian Club whiskey and my OPMOD PVS-14 to the 8th fairway in back of Dad’s place at about 3 in the morning. The night was very clear and the temps were in the 70s. I was looking to valiantly protect the community greenage from rogue armadillos. My trusty and lethal golf ball finding stick at the ready, I perused the fairway from tee boxes to green, and as familiar as I am with night vision, still found the third gen monocular to be almost beyond belief. The picture was as clear as a bell at well over 200 yards with very little ambient light. The clarity was amazing, simply amazing. You have to experience a top quality night vision unit to comprehend this technology. Also, if you are fortunate enough to have access to any good NV unit, make sure you stargaze. With your naked eye you may see a few dozen stars, but through great night vision you will see thousands. The below photo is towards the tee boxes. The light and shadows are from the open door at dad’s place and the moon. The title picture is looking towards the green over two hundred yards away. Simply amazing.
My Shirley and I haven’t been down to see Dad for years. He calls Arkansas “Heaven”, and I can see why. The temperatures are temperate, the trees deciduous and coniferous, there are cool walking sticks and lots of frogs and spiders and snakes. I like it there a lot. One of my favorite climates to live in in our fantastic country.
Dad said to bring some gun cases when we come because he wants to start giving me his guns. He’s pragmatic and has not used a bunch of them for years and doesn’t want to have people stuck with them when he dies. He was kind of sad when he offered these guns, but I’m here to help, and I brought home some good old friends.
The Rossi Squire exposed hammer SXS .410 was one of the guns I used a lot as a kid, and shot scores of quail and chuckar and pheasants with. Also the bolt action .410 that I started with and a couple of single shots. One single shot .410 I’ll cut down and make into a youth gun to help new shooters. Also a JC Higgins bolt action 30-06 made by Winchester pre-64, a beautiful Remington 12A, a pre WWII FN Auto 5 with Cutts compensator (pre-WWII determined not only by serial number, but the inside trigger guard safety placement), and some other stuff like tools and bows. I’ve already used his belt sander a handful of times for jewelry making for friends. The fact that it is twice as large as my previous bench model more than doubles its usefulness.
I got invited to a black bear and blacktail hunt in Alaska in a few weeks. It just dropped in my lap, and I have to take advantage of it. I was looking forward to taking the winter off and playing with My Shirley and me and Rad and the house and reorganizing firearms and other stuff, but I can hardly wait to go. Alaska has been a gaping hole in my hunting resume, and I have never had a dedicated black bear hunt, just tags along with hunts for other creatures.
My gun for my Alaska hunt came from my deceased uncle Bill, passed on to my uncle John, who passed it to me as a forever loan. The son of a gun won’t sell it to me. It’s an HS Precision SPL (I originally thought it was a PHL) with a half minute guarantee in 300 WSM. I would certainly be hard pressed to buy a gun like this new, but to see is to believe. It is fabulous and perfect in every way. If it shoots. I will make creatures say “Uncles” with it. On their death bed. Leupold just sent me a pre-preduction VX-6. I now almost require a 6x magnification range. If I couldn’t have gotten this VX-6 I would have opted for my sadly discontinued Burris 6X or my excellent Bushnell Elite 6500, both of which I have used to help me kill creatures. Come to think about it, maybe I’ll use one of those instead of one of my smaller magnification range Leupolds for a back up. I’ll think on it. But I guess not after all, because I’m having a CDS dial made for my Leupold VX-3 4.5-14×40 (without AOsee my archived test on maximum parallax error) which is one of the best western scopes ever made. Scopes with a 6X magnification range are so easy to get used to. Low power is more important than high. I wish more people would realize that. I have a dial with my ballistic information on the VX6 CDS dial, and I can get the scope mounted and sighted in with the load I’ll be using, the now available Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Tip 180 grainers. I have 100 rounds to start with, courtesy of ATK. I have steel Mark 4 rings that I will maybe swap for aluminums, and two piece Mark 4 bases, which I prefer over one piece bases due to the ease of loading the rifle from the top. If it was a magazine gun I may have opted for a one piece base due to the almost insignificant increase in receiver rigidity. I hope the ammo shoots okay, because I have it and I will use it unless it shoots really poorly.
The gun is coming from uncle John in Texas, chronicled in the blog posting, “ATK Outdoor Products Conference, may 2011, Remember the Alamo, and Uncle John’s Cabin.” If you read the news you’ll know about the massive Texas wildfires. John lost 175 collectors cars, including fleets of restored corvettes and mustangs, with all his tools and everything except his fairly fireproof house, thankfully. All his neighbors lost everything. God bless them in this horrible distaster.
I”m getting my gear together. BLACKHAWK! expandable pack, BogPod sticks, Muck boots (which I may replace with the new Irish Setter EKOFLEX knee highs), a Gerber Pro Scout multitool, SOG fixed blade Aura Hunter, OPMOD binoculars if they come in on time, Storm case (check the tutorial in the link showing how I like to cut foam), and lots of other products that I’ll talk about soon.
I recently was interviewed by Jim Slinsky for the Outdoor Network radio show which was fun. You can find the archives in the previous link.
We lost half a tree during our last storm, but no big damage done and now we have lots of fast burning firewood.

Our last batch of venison peppers showcase God’s bounty with five kinds of tomatoes reduced to sauce, mixed with our best batch of green peppers and lots of homegrown herbs. Prayers to our recently passed friend, Judy, and her loved ones. God bless.

About Steven K. Ledin

Steve has never not known guns. Before motorcycles, money, or girls, they have always been part of his life. He was tenured as General Manager of one of the country’s largest gun stores and ranges, a buyer in a big box sporting goods store, and is currently OpticsPlanet’s Director of Product Intelligence. He was a US Navy gunners mate, and is an NRA certified instructor in ten categories, as well as an Illinois CCW instructor. He shoots competitively and has hunted from Alaska to Africa. He thoroughly loves life with his beloved wife, Shirley, and their three wildish dogs Tinker, TranRek (pronounced “Train Wreck”), and Crash Almighty. He is a stubborn stage 4 cancer survivor not yet ready to cash in his chips.

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