26 Nov

The Biologist

Steven K. Ledin,

I started selling “The Biologist” guns and optics and night vision for population control of deer in the late 80s. He was employed by one of the largest counties in the state. Let’s just call him “The Biologist”. I was the head Gunbitch in the largest gun store and range in the same state.

We shared many interests and liked each other right away. I watched birds for the Cornell University of Ornithology every year for their “Backyard Feeder Survey”, and he knew so much about these creatures that like a good book, I couldn’t put him down. I also liked bats, and wanted to attract them to my house to eat insects. He told me how to build proper bat and bird houses and where to put them. I learned a lot about the carrying capacity of land for animals. Carrying capacity is how many animals the land can support with its available food and shelter. He was the one that shot the deer when there were too many in the forest preserves. I also shot deer. I did it as a licensed hunter. He did it to control population. From knowledge learned from him, I even did my final exam in speech class about “Why People Should Hunt Deer”. Excluding me, it was a fully far-left-wing class of young students, but by the time I was done, I think I rolled a few over to my logical way of thinking. When the bunny lovers and tree huggers are driving through a forest preserve in the full rut of November, and a horny, swollen-necked buck bolts across the road after a doe and they total their Prius, they get the message in a painful and expensive way. Some of these forest preserves are supposed to have a carrying capacity of 9-11 per square mile, and they have OVER 100! He taught me about beavers and coyotes and chipmunks and bees and trees and snails and carp and snakes.

I sold The Biologist (TB from now on) lots of guns. TB liked the .44 Mag carbine a lot because he often had to shoot in populated areas and hated pass-throughs. He also liked the .243 with explosive bullets like the old Nosler Ballistic Tips, way before they strengthened the jacket. The .308 was only for the very longest of shots. He rarely shot at any animal part besides the neck, and they almost always dropped very quickly. He also shot quite a few with 12 gauge pumpkin balls from police-confiscated smoothbores with early red dots. The cops gave him the guns, and we sawed the tubes and mounted the red dots, mostly Tasco ProPoints.

I remember selling him his first pair of really good guns. A Remington 700 BDL in .243 with a superb Swarovski scope, and a heavy barreled laminated 700 Varmint in .308 with ATN night vision. At that time, with the technology available, this was the very best equipment in existence. The Swarovski was an obvious choice because he was shooting most often in poor lighting conditions. That was one of the real requirements he had… the best and brightest glass available. He also beat the crap out of his equipment. This was by default, because unlike hunters like us who may have used our guns a lot during season, he used it as a tool every day, like a mason’s trowel or a carpenter’s hammer. The ATN was giant and bulbous and cumbersome, but it was the required tool. TB always had to bring two guns into the field when he went out in the field (or forest preserve); one with a scope for daytime use, and one with night vision for evening use. He didn't use the .308 very often, and has since replaced the NV with another excellent Austrian product.

I’ve continued to sell him equipment over the years, ranging from knives for digging out flora to gutting fauna, to the very best binoculars and riflescopes and firearms and ammo available for his purposes. I even remember helping him choosing his first carry pistol, a Colt Commander. He didn’t know handguns, and I gave him some personal pistol schooling. The pistol wasn’t only for dispatching quadrupeds; it was for personal protection from bipeds, since a lot of the county forest preserves carried not only deer, but homeless people, ne’er-do-wells and miscreants.

I visited TB at his new facilities a couple weeks ago. Upward evolution happens in many of us, and after 25 years it’s astounding what happened to him. He now has his own sprawling facility with laboratories, walk-in freezers, 6 wheeled amphibious Argos and other wild vehicles, and a huge bomb-proof vault for his most dangerous equipment like the firearms that we all love. The county has money and spent it on him and his crew of many biologists.

He toured me the place.

Through the halls, white and perfect and long and just built this year and still vaguely smelling of paint.

A giant new laboratory, with lots of stainless steel and an epoxy floor with drains, gleaming under a ceiling of lights. Necropsies will be performed here. Just like a surgeon’s office for people, the place is outfitted so you may use your feet to power implements and gadgets so you have to touch as little as possible with contaminated hands.


Then into a pristine, shiny, and sterile walk-in cooler as big as my basement with pulleys and moving tracks to hang a hundred deer, or so it looked like.  All the deer that are shot are given to the food pantry. God bless the killers that feed the hungry belly with delectable and nutritious venison!

Into the huge garage with an Argo with tracks over its 8 wheels, and a badass 6 wheeled Ranger, an all-terrain contraption surrounded by cabinets and more stainless-steel benches and sinks and overhead heaters and water and air hoses and ropes and pulleys and shower and a decontamination station that could be used after the apocalypse.

6x6 Ranger


I saw movement on one of the tables to my right. It was a hamster or gerbil or something in a glass terrarium. There was a name tag on it that said Apollo and Zeuss. I asked where the other one was, and TB said he was working. Before I could ask what he meant, another biologist drove in on another Argo and returned a similar cage with the same kind of tiny beast in it. TB said that they were black and white rats used to attract hawks so they could be studied and banded. The small-square chicken-wire cages had almost invisible nooses of monofilament line secured to them that the birds would inadvertently step into and get caught. They would then weigh, measure, and band the birds before their release. I wonder, after dozens of episodes when  hawks descended on their protective metal cages and were captured instead of fed, the rodents felt secure as the raptors screeched with alarm and protest, while the furry food just laughed and laughed and laughed. 

One by one, TB opened a row of metal cabinets and explained the contents. There were transmitters on collars of various sizes for coyotes and other mammals, and some for birds and bats that are attached in different ways, and many different sizes for various fish that are surgically implanted. There were snares and traps and decoys and scents and cages and safety equipment.

Cabinets O' loot

Then into the bomb-proof vault.  Gun safes lined the wall, many that I sold to him in the early 90s.

He pulled out an older ATN Night Tiger gen 3 bi-ocular that he uses regularly, then pulled out the first two night vision riflescopes I ever sold him. They are so huge, but that was the technology of the day.

Early NV Scopes

Two very early night vision riflescopes

His first couple of 44 Magnums were lever guns, but they never seems to group very well or at least consistently. I took them in on trade and sold him a couple of Ruger 77 stainless bolt guns with Leupold glass and they have been his favorites for years. Absolutely loves them.

He pulled out the BDL in .243 and stated matter-of-factly that he figured there was 3,000 deer taken with it! 3,000 deer!!!

The Varmint in .308 doesn’t get that kind of use.

I remember the Squire shotgun I fixed up for him. What a homely thing, but it throws an ounce of lead from its smooth bore plenty well enough for his purposes.

His Colt Commander is his constant companion, and to dispatch game he uses CCI shotshells! They won’t cycle the action, but from an inch away they make a hole and scramble everything like so many eggs. Immediate and humane.

I even fixed him up a Beeman R1 air rifle with a Leupold 3-9 EFR (Extended Focus Range) scope, not only to practice with, but for small game, as well. Loved seeing that gun. I have an almost identical model and had the same scope on it. Great German rifle!

We played and reminisced for quite a while, then continued the tour. Another lab had a woman with her head attached to a Leica microscope.

She was studying UV radiation regarding bees and exactly what effect is has on attracting them. She has specimens with over 400 types of bees just from our area, many now extinct. And hundreds more types of ants!


Over 400 indigenous bee specimens, some extinct

I loved visiting with TB

Hope you all have a blessed Thankgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for!

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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