Tale of a tawwe tienie rangefinder
A Leupold rangefinder was all alone out in the wild, but it refused to die.
Thursday June 18, 2015 will always remain a memorable day for me, albeit not one of very good memories. I was hunting on Ribbokrant (mountain reedbuck hill in English) in the Eastern Cape Karoo of South Africa. It was mid-afternoon, a few hours before sunset would have herded me back to the farmstead. A small clan of blesbuck was standing across the valley on a hillock in the afternoon sun. My Leupold RX-1200i TBR rangefinder indicated the distance to be 283m, which was within comfortable reach of my Remington Sendero 7mm Remington Magnum loaded with 150gr Barnes TTSX bullets at a few nicks short of 3 000fps. I was in prone position with the Sendero resting on its Harrisbipod. I aimed for the neck of a blesbuck ewe but as I pressed the trigger the ewe moved her head and the bullet whisked past her. The entire herd departed at considerable speed down the hillock. The GPS tracker wristwatch showed it was 15h40, the sun would set within about two hours. I had to move!
I grabbed the Sendero and CamelBak backpack to pursue the herd. Mankind with its two legs is a poor match for fourlegged creatures, especially in rocky terrain! About a mile into my pursuit I spotted the herd grazing on the plains. A long stalk, followed by a 400-yard leopard crawl brought me within range of the blesbuck. My left hand searched for the rangefinder that was always snugly tied to the backpack by means of its lanyard. My fingers froze on an empty pouch. Gone! How could it be?! Taking the CamelBak off my back only confirmed the vacuum in the RX-1200i’s
pouch. Some choice words left my mouth but they did of course not bring back my favourite Leupold toy. Needless to say, I blamed the blesbuck, but, to my utter shame I must admit it was Yours Truly who failed to secure the rangefinder properly to the CamelBak. I shooed the antelope away and regrouped. The rangefinder was somewhere out there in the vast, open Karoo.
I backtracked but my search was all in vain. The RX-1200i was nowhere to be found and dusk was approaching fast. Losing a Leupold rangefinder and a blesbuck in a single event was a terrible blow to my ego and of course to my pocket.
The next morning before I processed the game I had hunted, I went back on “Mission Impossible”; another thorough search still left me without the RX1200i. I just had to accept the fact that I have lost one of my favourite toys. Fortunately I still had my faithful pair of Mojave 10x42 binoculars, the ones I always rig to a Leopold harness around my neck.
Last year in June 2016 I was again hunting on Ribbokrant and had high hopes of recovering my RX-1200i. No such luck! I had visions of a baboon having fun with my rangefinder... ranging scorpions and other edible critters while I had to rely on my army- trained target acquisition and range determination skills. There was only one option left: I had to dig into the credit card vault and liberate the Leupold agents Formalito of a new rangefinder. So came the day in February 2017 when I was once again the proud owner of a new Leupold rangefinder, a RX-1200i TBR/W.
I arrived back at Ribbokrant on 13 June 2017 full of excitement because this year I would for the first time ever hunt an eland. The loss of my RX-1200i was still embedded in my memory but the new rangefinder worked like a charm and on the afternoon of the first day at about 4pm my CZ 550 .300 Winchester Magnum dropped a good eland cow with a 200gr Barnes TSX bullet at a range of 347m. The following day I hunted a blesbuck that brought back sorrowful memories of the lost RX-1200i. I was, however, soothed by the presence of the new RX-1200i TBR/W secured by its lanyard around my neck. I touched it every now and again to make sure it didn’t go AWOL!
Thursday afternoon, exactly two years to the day after losing the old rangefinder, I decided to call it a day, my hunting for this trip was done. I already had the eland, blesbuck and five springbuck, all hanging in the cold room. So I decided to just go for a stroll, checking on small succulents, weathered rocks, birds and small reptiles. Down the slope I went looking for tracks of small game. The time was 15h11 and I had ample time to enjoy the environment and the beautiful surroundings of the Karoo.
I jumped off a shelf of plated sandstone and as I landed my eye caught a dark object with a black “tail”. Could it be? Yes!! It was the long-lost Leupold RX1200i lying in the dirt almost encrusted with a “protective cover” of shale and dried-out mud! Holy moly! I couldn’t help myself but point up to God and imagine a big smile on His face. Oh the joy of finding a long-lost friend! The rangefinder seemed to be OK but the lanyard had perished, like a snake losing part of its skin. I removed some of the caked mud and looked at the little tool. The sticker with its still readable serial number CRA012542C was seriously weathered and the decal with the laser warnings was totally mauled by the two years of resisting the Karoo weather.
The eye-piece had a half-inch fossilised caterpillar in it – as if the little critter needed any ranging services – and the laser aperture was caked with dried mud. Amazingly, the objective was unblemished. The outer rubber »
» was weathered and made my hands black but that was nothing compared to the elation I felt for finding the tiny Leupold. I lifted the device to my eye and found the view clear despite the debris on the front objective. The power button responded favourably to a gentle squeeze and believe it or not, the electronics lit up like a bonfire! The rangefinder was still in perfect working order! And what’s more, the battery was the original CR2 that I got with the Leupold. What a miracle!
I carefully bagged the rangefinder and immediately called Johannes Coertze of Formalito, the South African agents for Leupold, to share the great news; great not only because of the coincidence of finding the rangefinder again but also great that the RX-1200i survived two years almost to the exact hour in the harsh conditions of my Karoo heartland! We shared the joyful moment and Johannes was just as amazed as I was that the Leupold had survived its two year exposure to the Karoo weather.
I strolled back to the farmstead full of joy thinking about all my Leupolds: four 4.5-14x50 VX-3L scopes, one 4.5-14x56 VX-3L scope, one 3-9x40 VX-2 scope, one 1-4x20 scope, one 4x28 FX-II handgun scope and too many pairs of Leupold binoculars to mention here. All have served me well but none have succeeded in catalysing such emotions of loss and joy than the little black box that I was holding in my hand. It endured the wind, drought, rain, heat and bitter cold conditions of the Karoo, yet still sparked to life when I pressed the button. How many other pieces of equipment would have survived a two-year lonesome battle against the elements?
Welcome back RX-1200i. All I can say is: “Leupold for now, Leupold forever!”
My Leupold rangefinder after spending two years in the veld. I lost it on a previous hunt (see the area in the main photo) and by luck found it again when I hunted the same area this year.
ABOVE: These photos show what the Leupold rangefinder looked like after having spent two years in the veld. I wiped it clean and found to my utter surprise that it was still in perfect working order.
ABOVE: Another photo of the rangefinder as I found it.
RIGHT: I was not hunting but just strolling through the veld to look at and admire the veld plants and rock formations when I stumbled upon my long-lost friend, the Leupold rangefinder.