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If you had asked the founder of the John X Foundation, Chris Petersen, at the initial onset of the project, if he believed we would be where we are today, he would have laughed at you. At the time we were like many other companies around the world, doing our bit “financially” forming part of a growing economy providing jobs, skills, opportunities, and livelihoods.

We have AFRICA – a setting and destination like no other…

Our hunters hunt for conservation….

While supporting and sustaining an economy within an economy….

BUT we wanted to do more than “just” form part of the economy, we wanted to show how much we as hunters care.

And so through the continued support and generous contributions from so many of you we have been able to take giant leaps from those initial ideas and humble beginnings. What started out as a one man show SCI Blue Bag donation, has snowballed into numerous projects supported by many of our hunters.

We partnered up with you, our proud hunters, and brought back the smiles through your caring donations….

We then challenged you to not only donate and provide school supplies and an abundance of stationary, but to join us on our dream of an entire make over of our little school. No longer did we want our kids to have to endure empty play grounds and graffiti riddled walls, or the thought of cold school lunches – no the winds of change had to blow through our little school.

And blow they did….

Today our little school has been transformed into a kiddies wonderland where the daily reality of poverty can be forgotten for just a while to let the colors of the rainbow flow into their lives as they take strides in the right direction with an education.

It goes without saying that without each and everyone who donated in his or her own way, we would not have reached the John X Foundations goal during 2014. Special mention needs to be made of a number of people who went the extra mile, taking on our project with invigorating energy – It all matters and counts at the end of the day – no matter how big or small.

Phillip & Paige Nelsen / Jason, Tracey, Hunter & Jordan Nelsen / Jason Maxwell / Jarod Wallace / Chris & Collette Ashcroft / Robert & La Shanda Terry / Kelly & Suzanne Edwards / Jim & Cari Smith / Larry & Claudia Fullmer / Brett & Shelie Wright / Brad & Leslie Wilson / Randy & Emily B Spence

Both Trish and I, and the entire John X Team, cannot thank you enough for the opportunity and trust you placed in us and the foundation during 2014. Next year sees us taking on a new project, taking our foundation to the masses. John X Safaris, together with Splitting Image Taxidermy, looks forward to launching our 2015 initiative early in the new year. We will once again be calling on you to assist with “Hunters Feeding the Hungry”. Exciting times await…..

A happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

Carl & Trish van Zyl

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

With our season coming to a close we find ourselves spread across Southern Africa. Carl and Greg headed up a group from Houston, Texas, on their first visit to Mozambique, while Rick came out of retirement to join our old friend, Ron Machado, in Namibia. Back home in the south, Stix wrapped up what has been one of our busiest seasons from the past ten years.

Steve Travis, Joe Capobianco, and Smith Underwood touched down in Beira, Mozambique, on October 20th, ready for what turned out to be an epic adventure. Having collected our bags and guns, we cleared customs before connecting onto our one hour charter into camp. Within an hour these three guys, including Greg, whom had never visited the Delta, would be touching down in one of Africa’s greatest hunting concessions. A treat that they could never have envisaged….

There were too many highlights to mention them all, but each and every Buffalo was a story on its own. A special highlight for all was our two nights spent in fly camp, camping on the edge of the swamps. The adventure of camping in the vast wilderness of the Zambezi Delta proved to be a once in a lifetime for the guys, but the sight of four downed Cape Buffalo the following day was a sight not even I had seen before.

The herds were massive, in excess of 1000 Cape Buffalo – spread across the horizon and into the distance. The quality of bulls we saw blew us away, and after more than a dozen safaris to Mozambique over the past seven years, I recon we saw more old and mature Buffalo than ever before. While the Buffalo were there, and the work was done to get the guys into shooting positions, the guys sure did not disappoint.

While Cape Buffalo was our priority, the guys weren’t losing out on some world-class plains game too. A gnarly old Bushbig gave Smith a great opportunity to earn one of these rarer trophies from Africa, while Joe enjoyed his pursuit for Nyala, coming away with a beauty. For Steve and I it was like old times, we just enjoyed Africa and the many blessings that go hand in hand on a safari, lucking into a number of world-class trophies. For Steve a Sable was an important addition to his ever-growing trophy room, which I was glad we scored success on – a great bull it turned out to be.

In the end if I had to pick my favorite I’d have to say it was Steve’s Chobe Bushbuck. Steve is the luckiest Bushbuck hunter out there!

This particular ram only adds more class to an already insane Bushbuck collection!

This particular ram only adds more class to an already insane Bushbuck collection!

When all was said and done it was agreed that the week in Mozambique turned out to be a safari for the ages. I have no doubt that Smith, Greg or Mike would ever forget the local villager who so kindly offered his assistance in tracking a weary group of Buffalo whom frequented his section of forest. While his tracking skills could be compared to that of a world-class poacher, if that ever existed, and doing so without shoes should be commended, but the sight of him extracting a two-inch thorn from his foot with a machete will be edged into their stories forever. The experiences were endless and the stories will be enjoyed for many years to come, or at least until we all gather around a crackling campfire in the not to distant future, as who knows where our next adventure will lead us?

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Further south saw Stix and Dylan wrapping up one of our busiest seasons from the past ten years. It would be Gregorio’s first trip to the East Cape, one he most certainly enjoyed. Joining Gregorio was his daughter, Leslie, making the best of our renowned Big 5 photographic opportunities, coming away with a number of fantastic pictures.

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As is custom this time of year down south, the rains had arrived, making for a couple of  wet days. Neither hunter nor the game were complaining as our Karoo areas most certainly needed rain. A dry snowless winter has left us with concern for some of our northern areas, but with some luck the rains will continue quenching the lands thirst and transforming it into a wonderland.

Gregorio enjoyed success in hunting Sable, Gemsbuck and Springbuck in the Karoo, before getting back to the coast for a Cape Bushbuck and Red Hartebeest.

A fantastic 26" Red Hartebeest proved to be the last trophy on his safari, and so too the last trophy of our season in South Africa - it was fitting that a bull of such class would close off a world class season in the south.

A fantastic 26″ Red Hartebeest proved to be the last trophy on his safari, and so to the last trophy of our season in South Africa – it was fitting that a bull of such class would close off a world-class season in the south.

With things drawing to an end we saw Rick coming out of retirement to join our old friend, Ron Machado, on his hunt to Namibia. Ron, has been hunting with John X Safaris for as long as I can remember, becoming a permanent member of the family.

As per usual his safari started in South Africa with a few days of R&R at Lalibela before we headed up to the Karoo for a Copper Springbuck with Niel. Not only did Ron make a long shot count on his Copper, he did so under tough conditions too – a remarkable shot on a superb ram. As always Ron’s camera is close at hand, capturing some remarkable pictures of our newly acquired Burchell’s Golden Gemsbuck – a future must for all serious collectors.

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As our southern leg of our safari came to an end we bid farewell to Ron and Rick as they headed off to Namibia for Ron’s main reason for his safari – A Damaraland Dik-Dik.

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From Windhoek, Namibia , the guys travelled north to Damaraland, right up to the border of Etosha National Park. Gunter and Reinhild Scwhalm would be our hosts for the hunt, sharing their impressive areas and facilities.

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As expected when visiting a new area for the very first time, we felt anxious to see the game, hoping the hunt would prove a success. . Damaraland Dik-Dik are tiny, they form part of the tiny 10, and the terrain they inhabit can make a hunters life difficult if rains were late, leaving more cover than usual during the late season. With much anticipation they headed out that first afternoon.

That evening I received the report from Rick – Great area, super hosts, and plenty of Dik-Dik! That’s all I needed to hear.

Within three days Ron had his Dik-Dik - A magnificent ram of over 3", easily qualifying as a gold medal, and a fantastic addition to his Tiny 10 collection.

Within three days Ron had his Dik-Dik – A magnificent ram of over 3″, easily qualifying as a gold medal, and a fantastic addition to his Tiny 10 collection.

With the all important Dik-Dik in the salt the guys visited Etosha National Park for a day of touring before heading onto Windhoek, Luderitz , and Walvisbay.

Touring the famous Skeleton Coast and small traditionally German towns proved extremely interesting. While the desert is a harsh environment it was interesting to see the wildlife that thrive in such rugged conditions.

In closing this months report, I wanted to share a special picture with you. It’s not everyday that one has the opportunity to give someone who has given so much of himself to John X Safaris, something he has truly dreamt about.

You all know our head Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, the big bubbly guy whom likes hunting more than anyone you know. The same guy who arrived at John X Safaris more than twenty years ago, and still guides with the same enthusiasm as his first day on the job. For many of you he’s the reason you come back year after year – to be a part of his safari.

Now Greg and I go back a long way, as you could imagine, as a young boy with only a sister, I latched onto Greg like a big brother.  Needless to say we spent a lot of time together, having fun and causing untold headaches for Rick and Sue over the years.

So while up in Mozambique I pulled a few strings and called in a favour or two…..

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What a privilege to have guided Greg on his Livingstone Suni! From long hot days hunting Springbuck in the Great Karoo to a Suni in the Zambezi Delta, who knows what’s next?!

What a fantastic month it proved to be – a fitting end to what has been a world-class season.

Until next time, from both Ron and us... Ciao!

Until next time, from both Ron and us… Ciao!

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

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As Johnny and pilot, Craig, disappeared into the direction of Beira, I saw a dejected Temba crossing the runway in my direction. With that look of a beaten man he stared at me before uttering;” I’m sorry.” I stood there for a minute taking in what had just happened, then realizing that he had turned and was heading towards his sleeping quarters, I shouted after him;”I’m sorry too.”

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Here was a man I respected more than most, a proud Zulu tracker, a dedicated team player – but most of all a fine man. A man whom could be relied on when starring danger in the eye while facing a charging Cape Buffalo, yet he possessed a deep sense of humanity, a quiet ear to listen, and an uncanny ability to offer advice in the most subtle manner. He had sat out on the hood night after night, determined to spot a track – his “want” for a successful hunt was as strong as all of ours, yet he felt the urge to apologize for his part he had played in the failure. It felt good knowing my team was as invested as I was in the drive for success – it gave me hope knowing my old buddy, Dave Kjelstrup, would be landing in a couple of hours.

 

Dave was back on his third trip with John X Safaris, and this time we were after a number of species he hadn’t hunted yet, including an all important Leopard.

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Stix had met up with Dave in Johannesburg, escorting him all the way to camp in the Delta, joining us on our hunt to gain further experience in Mozambique. And what an experience it proved to be for both Stix and Dave – starting off with a truly world-class Litchenstein Hartebeest.

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With Dave cruising along like he always does, we were soon into a number of exceptional trophies, including a fantastic Chobe Bushbuck.

With our daily hunts going better than expected we turned our attention to Coenraad and Stix, whom had each formed their own teams’ for the night shift. Each crew would head out after sundown each evening patrolling their selected “clean” roads. Coenraad was determined in hunting down the now legendary Crocodile Pan cat, while Stix covered a heavily baited area which boasted good leopard activity.

 

Having pursued the same cat on and off for five consecutive nights, Coenraad felt he was catching up to the tom. He was figuring out a pattern. Our daily early morning get-togethers around the campfire with a steaming cup of coffee brought new information to the front, while our notes and pictures in the sand became more elaborate each morning. We were plotting his route, while trying to determine where his territorial boundaries lay. Natural boundaries such as rivers, old tracks in the forest, water holes, and dry pans, were important to consider. Past hunted cats were as important as the fresh signs of this tom, as Leopard often take over another cats territory if it suddenly disappears. Finding scratch posts were basically impossible with the vastness of the forest, but known posts were considered in our analysis. We were a team of guys banking on every ounce of experience to outwit the Crocodile Pan monster.

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Having overcome the disappointment of chasing this exact same cat with Johnny, having lost it in a fresh burn during the final stages of that chase a mere 8 days earlier, Coenraad and Live, were zoning in on their quarry. It was night six of Dave’s hunt, and Coenraad had predicted the toms movements to a precise area that morning. He had made a big call the night before, having found a fairly “old” track, one from the early evening, then deciding there wasn’t enough dark hours left in the night to pursue the tom, he let him be. He did however leave the track in a favorable area and now was in hot pursuit.

Head dog Karrel was as frustrated as any, she too had done her job every evening, and at her age with a certainty of distinction too, she too knew she was close, the cat was no longer walking, he was running, they had finally put him up. At last! Soon the younger dogs would take over with their youthful spirits and enduring speed, before the packs “convincer”, Virgo, would use her size and temper to convince the tom to tree.

At one stage Coenraad felt the tom may have treed as the dogs were constant, remaining in the same area, intensifying their barking. Together with Live they slowly approached, cautious in every movement, a cat of this size and age would not be an easy customer in a tree. They say for every second a Leopard spends mauling you it’s responsible for  an average of 140 stitches… There’s good reason for the cautious approach and respect.

With a mere three hundred yards to go the brewing storm that had been threatening overhead all day, opened its heavens and drenched all with a torrential downpour. Needless to say our hunt was over. In the dead of night the tom escaped yet again…. How many lives did this cat have?

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That morning saw camp in a somber mood, most too tired to be awake, but to disappointed to sleep.

For the next four days it rained. It felt like we were stuck in a Forest Gump movie with Tom Hanks, enduring every kind of rain imaginable to man.

From time to time the clouds would clear and the sun would come through for a couple of hours before closing in again. During these times we made the most of our opportunities, hunting what we could when we could without getting stuck.

Having done what we could, having made peace with the fact that we could not change the weather, we rose that last morning to a beautiful day.  This would be it – tonight would be the night, surely any sane cat would head out hunting that evening? Having endured four wet nights we felt the cats had to walk.

Four enthusiastic crews left camp at sundown that last evening, hoping to make Dave’s hunt the success we hoped it would be by finding his elusive Leopard. Up to this stage we had enjoyed a hugely successful and enjoyable hunt, only coming up short on his Leopard. Throughout all this time Dave had stressed how much he appreciated the endless perseverance and effort by the team, and was happy with what would be, would be. He was an experienced hunter, knowing full well one cannot win every time one headed out on a hunt.

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In the end we limped back to camp in dribs and drabs at sunup, having experienced  one of the quietest nights of the entire three weeks spent in the Delta. All of us were back, with only Coenraad still out at sunup… There was still some hope. And then the familiar diesel drone came into earshot. As he rounded that last bend into camp it was final… No screeching tyres, excited hounds, or the adrenalin rush of a fresh Leopard track, just the look of a tired and disappointed man. Our hunt was over.

The heart break … When the gods are just not fair…

The day we left the Delta there were a couple of German hunters from Blaser in one of the other camps within the concession. They kindly asked our hounds man , Coenraad, if he’d give it one last go before he headed back to South Africa the following day , a long and tedious journey through Zimbabwe and finally into SA. Coenraad agreed half heartedly, he knew of old “Murphy” and its mysterious laws.

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The next morning I received the following from Coenraad first, then Mark;” Sorry mate… We shot a big Leopard last night.” The heartbreak just about got the better of me, let alone my two great friends, Johnny and Dave, who had invested not only emotionally in the pursuit, but had spent a fair penny on the opportunity to pursue a Leopard.

It was not that we weren’t happy for the German hunter who hunted a beautiful Leopard in one of my favorite parts of Africa, but the reality that one never knows when it comes to hunting. We had given it our all and then some…. Who knows? Maybe next time the hunting gods may smile down on us more favorably and shower us in luck.

Appreciation of the crew… Giving credit where it’s due.

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While every single hunt at John X Safaris is planned with meticulous precision, with every member of the team driven to ensure the desired success of any given hunt, one can never take success as a given. Over time I have learnt I can however control the odds of success by selecting and investing in the right areas, with the right clientele, and the right team. Each one of these three aspects going hand in hand to ensure the success of any given safari.

But sometimes when the going gets tough and the stakes are down one gets reminded of how important it is to surround oneself with good people, after all without them there would be no team at all. In this sense, more than just good people – good animals.

To the guys and girls whom I had the privilege to call my team in Mozambique over the past month – I cannot thank you all enough. Mark, Mike, Poen, Stix, Anton, “Donkey Kong Little Craig”, Temba, Staff, Zandre, Sarah, Roundy, Shorty, Nazoua, Gotchi, Albino, Mfana, Domingo, and Dagga Boy – thank you.

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Then to Coenraad and Live, your endless perseverance and never say die attitude is what sets you apart from the many other houndsman out there. I don’t know how you do it night in and night out!

Lastly, but certainly not least, to our four-legged fury friends – Karrel, Botswana, Boesman, Virgo, Pepper, Daisy, Ice, and even Spotty – you girls are all in a league of your own. Your excited pants and echoing barks ringing out into the night air gives one goosebumps of excitement and anticipation. I can’t wait to join you ladies soon again!

So what if I told you I’d love a rematch tomorrow? I’d like to get out there again…right now. The critic in you may question my sanity in being so determined to pursue the Crocodile Pan cat again, after all we did fail miserably with a bunch of rotten luck.  You may also question my claim of success being a 50/50, but consider our past success rate of 100% on Leopard, then taking into account the last two missed cats, the average is still very much in the high 80’s. But let’s not get caught up in the figures, what does a Leopard know about averages? It’s like my old mate Lou Hallimore always says;”Leopard hunting is a 50/50 – you either get a cat or you don’t….”

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For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

 

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It had been another all “nighter”, the stakes were high and the odds had not been in our favor. Four trucks had been out looking for tracks for the last four nights, an additional two from the usual schedule for the past 17 nights – we were determined. No one likes losing, least of all losing two in a row. As the rising sun made a spectacular entry from the east, I knew we were beaten – humbled by one of Africa’s most mysterious creatures.

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Within hours we were taxiing along Mungari Rio, Runway 16-34, a secluded bush strip in the middle of the Zambezi Delta, Mozambique. Our pilot Josh revved the engine for the last time before easing the Cessna 206 into a south-easterly direction. Within minutes we had covered the 25 miles to the swamps, enjoying the view of hundreds of Cape Buffalo and Elephant, before turning west along the coast towards Beira. As the terrain skid by below us our minds drifted off into a forgotten era, Africa’s wilderness had left us in awe – romanticized by her raw beauty. We may have come up empty-handed on a couple of Leopard, but not in the journey that is the true essence of a safari.

But let’s rewind the clock by three weeks, I had my good friend, Johnny Posey, desperately trying to get comfortable on the sticks as the weary old Nyala entered the shooting lane. He had been in and out of the forest, with Johnny, Mike, Temba, and myself, closing the distance between us and him as fast and quiet as possible.

As the bull cleared Johnny squeezed off his 338, the bull lunged and took off at a rapid pace disappearing into the undergrowth. We tracked him for about 100 yards before finding him piled up with a well placed lung shot. A magnificent bull to say the least!

As the bull cleared Johnny squeezed off his 338, the bull lunged and took off at a rapid pace disappearing into the undergrowth. We tracked him for about 100 yards before finding him piled up with a well placed lung shot. A magnificent bull to say the least!

Together with a world-class Nyala , Johnny hunted a selection of Zambezi Delta specific species, with one of my favorite being his Livingstone Suni. An important member in his growing Tiny 10 collection.

 

So while our days were being filled with plains game hunts it was our nocturnal activities that kept us riveted, patiently waiting for that leopard track to show. It was not until night five, when the PH’s and trackers clearly showed signs of anxiety that our luck began to turn.

A track had been found by one of our trackers and the hounds were released immediately. First it was Karel, the head dog of a bitch only pack, then it was Botswana, Boesman, and Daisie, with the rest coming up the rear. For much of the way the track proved to be a cold track, and it probably was as the hounds never sang in one voice, a fairly disjointed chase. Either way, as Coenraad and Live, our hounds man neared a tree, passing beneath it, they noticed that the hounds had lost the track – with that cold sickening feeling Coenraad peered up with his headlamp. Right above him, mere meters away, a Leopard sat quietly peering down at the activity below. Lights were switched off immediately and they moved away until all were in position.

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We regrouped and went in for a closer look – this time ready to take the shot if it turned out to be a good Leopard Tom. After closer investigation it was agreed that in fact this was a female – and most certainly not what we were after. We all moved out quietly, while Coenraad returned on his own to call off the hounds.

From about 80 yards out we witnessed one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever witnessed with hounds over the years. Coenraad walked within 20 yards of the tree, blew out a loud whistle before shouting;”loss hom!” And then it was as if someone had turned off their barks – silence fell within the pack with those two simple words, directly translated from Afrikaans as, “leave him!” Anyone who has had the privilege of hunting with a well-trained pack will agree with me that even the best trained hounds take some convincing to leave their quarry in one single command. If only I could have captured it on camera, but unfortunately the sound without any light in the dead of night would never have been able to relay the experience like being there that night.

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A special night it proved to be – we had left the beautiful female to rest at the top of the tree, not bothered with a thing in the world. Come to think of it now, she never showed any sign of aggression, which is strange for a Leopard, but then again I’d question her understanding of the danger? Had she ever seen or heard a hound before? The wilderness she calls home knows no such animal such as a domestic dog, due to the Tsetse fly, the carrier of sleeping sickness, and the few humans that do live there would make an encounter opportunity fairly rare.

Having put a cat in the tree, saw a change in fortune and attitude. Desperate looking trackers and PHs regained that measured look like a team mere days away from success – drooping shoulders and tired eyes were a forgotten hindrance.

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The team was back on the horse – or more like back on the hood looking for tracks!

The following two evenings saw no further signs of cats, but on day eight, things took a turn in the right direction. Anton, one of the other PHs’, had found a Leopard kill that morning and suggested we take a closer look. The Leopard had killed a mature warthog and had dragged it for more the 200 yards, before covering it with foliage. That evening we returned hoping to find it had returned and that a clear track had been left.

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As we had hoped for, the cat had returned, eaten a lot for a Leopard, and left the biggest track I’d ever seen in the Delta. This was a huge Leopard. Excitedly we released the hounds – this was it. Within seconds there was more than enough voice from the hounds to indicate that this cat had recently been in the vicinity. They all disappeared into the night for the next 6 hours.

After 6 hours a dejected team returned to the truck, the sun was mere hours from rising – we had lost the track after it had crossed a freshly burnt area. A bushfire proved the determining factor between us and our prized cat. It was time to catch some shut-eye. We were all exhausted.

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Over the course of the last three nights of the hunt we pushed harder than ever – checking baits on a regular basis hoping for any activity

A couple more female tracks were found and for one last time, the warthog killer too, but this time the track was just too old, the dogs couldn’t do much with it after the early morning dew had settled over it. All scent had dissipated.

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Johnny left Mozambique gracious in defeat, appreciative of the effort, but disappointed. So were we. As a team, we had done everything we thought possible – dragged the roads, hung baits, spent every night out in the bush – searching for that elusive track, but in the end we came up short. It just wasn’t meant to be….

BUT before Johnny left Mozambique an unbelievable opportunity presented itself in the form of a Selous Zebra. Now all of you would have heard about a Zebra, most of you would have enjoyed the opportunity to hunt one along the line somewhere in Africa, if not with John X Safaris. Few people realize there are three main Zebra species, namely the Burchell’s, Hartmann’s Mountain, and Cape Mountain Zebra. There are also a number of sub-species, with the most common ones being the Chapman’s, Grant’s, and Grevy’s, but very few would have heard of or seen a Selous Zebra before. Reason being they’re EXTREMELY rare.

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In fact they’re so rare they only occur in the Sofala and Gaza provinces of Mozambique. They have clean black-and-white banding without the brown shadow stripes, which extended down the flanks and over the entire body, including the shins all the way down to the hooves. The upper half is covered with horizontal stripes, with the belly partly striped. At the conclusion of the war it was believed there were a mere 100 animals left in the Marromeu district of the Sofala Province, but soon after more animals were found with improved censor techniques.

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Today, 20 years later, and thanks to the safari community of Mozambique, driven by hunters from all over the world, their numbers have returned to a sustainable figure, allowing a quota of two Zebra per concession per annum. Johnny just happened to be in the right place at the right time scooping up the opportunity of a once in a lifetime trophy!

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

 

There’s a common believe amongst African folk that any given flock of Ground Hornbills should always group in odd numbers, but apparently someone forgot to teach them how to count.

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For the past few days my good friend, Johnny Posey, and I have been trying to keep a head count of each flock of Ground Hornbills while enjoying the rigors of a Leopard hunt in Mozambique’s Zambezi Delta. It’s not necessarily bothering us, but ever since the guys made mention of this fact around the camp fire we’ve started noticing how many of these peculiar birds can’t count. Day in and day out we’ve noticed odd number flocks, but more often than not it’s been even numbers.

Contrary to popular believe we’ve come to the conclusion that either the 100 degree heat has affected the birds ability to account for the rest of their flock… or Africa has once again proven how mysterious she can be. How else can one explain it? A mystery of diversity, as diverse as the past month at John X Safaris.

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From 1200 yard shots to bachelor parties and African weddings. From exciting adventures to lifelong memories, and ultimately from strangers to friends – that has been the safari world of John X Safaris. We’ve seen families united, reliving childhood memories, while broken relationships have been healed by the African bush. It has always amazed us how much good such a relatively short period of time such as a safari can do.

For Mike Grier it would be his third return trip to John X Safaris, together with good friends, Tyler Geer and Tom Lincoln. For both Tom and Tyler it would be their first taste of Africa – a taste so sweet it would be hard to see them not back again in the near future.

Having started in the south, the guys enjoyed memorable days hunting from our coastal area before heading north to the Great Karoo. A number of great trophies  was just reward for the endless effort put in by the group.

 

A certain highlight of the hunt was to be Mike's long-awaited Bushpig, never an easy specie to pursue, but one certainly worth the wait!

A certain highlight of the hunt was to be Mike’s long-awaited Bushpig, never an easy specie to pursue, but one certainly worth the wait!

With Mike, Tyler, and Tom heading back state side, we welcomed the Motley family for a short, but action packed safari. The species the family were after meant the family would spend most of their hunt up in the north, before heading to Cape Town with Freewalker Luxury Tours. As per usual a couple of days of R&R at Lalibela with big 5 game drives was a must and one the entire family truly enjoyed.

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To Mark, Patrice, Lauren, and Caden, congratulations on a superb collection of trophies – From all reports both Greg and Stix enjoyed your hunt immensely!

With July coming to an end we entered one of our busiest periods of the season. The arrival of Gunwerks saw a hive of activity erupt as we geared up for our second season of hunting and filming for “Gunwerks Long Range Pursuit TV”.

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This year proved to be bigger and better than last season with owners, Aaron and Mike Davidson, hosting the hunt in South Africa. Joining them was first timers, Sam Cunningham and “Uncle” Don Roberts, as well as the father/son duo of Graham and Sebastian Turner.

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Mike and Aaron Davidson.

Each hunter had used the Gunwerks rifle system before and came prepared. The level of understanding of what the guns were capable of made a great impression on us – as the results would prove later on.

Aaron and Mike Davidson teamed up with Professional Hunters, Carl Van Zyl and Rusty Coetzer, respectively, treating the guys to a shooting exhibition like few have seen before. These guys were the men behind the system, and how interesting it proved to be….

While the men behind Gunwerks were keeping us busy, so were the rest of the group too.

Sam Cunningham enjoyed a memorable hunt with Professional Hunter, Stix Hoole, taking over proceedings on any species that anyone else wished to pass on. Sam arrived open-minded, ready for the adventure, and man did he walk away with a very fine selection of trophies. During the course of the safari both he and Stix struck up a special bond between PH and hunter, one that sees a hunting career being built on. It seems Sam enjoyed his hunt that much that on the last day of his safari he had already confirmed his next hunt with John X Safaris – a Leopard hunt in our new concession in Namibia, but more on that later.

With Sam clearly leading the pack on species, the rest of the pack weren’t going to be left in the dust. Having met Don Roberts briefly on the opening day of SCI, Las Vegas 2014, I knew he would be a sure member of this years group. Needless to say, the very next day he and his beautiful wife were back at booth # 850 booking Don’s hunt.

Since then we’ve come to know the stranger a lot better and proudly call him a great friend. “Uncle Don” as he is now fondly referred to enjoyed success on a number of species, and together with PH, Martin Niper, proved to be one of the luckiest team of hunters out there!

A huge Kudu, Fallow Deer, Nyala , and Bushbuck were some of their best, but it was Uncle Don’s Sable that inspired me the most.

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Picture the scene, I had just come into camp off one of the tallest mountains in our newly secured 80 000 acre concession in the Great Karoo, having been after Eland for most of the day with Aaron , when Uncle Don meets me at the door pleading to have a word. Immediately the alarm bells start ringing in my head – what could have happened today that Uncle Don wants to see me so urgently? Then I notice the frown on his brow turn into a smile, asking;” Carl , today I saw the most beautiful animal I have ever seen in my life…. What are the chances that I could hunt it?” As they say the rest is history! Uncle Don got his Sable, and a beauty at that, not to mention that smile he has yet to wipe off his face!

Professional Hunter, Dave Burcy, teamed up with Graham and Sebastian Turner, for a selection of species they had not hunted before. This was to be a multiple return trip to South Africa for the Turners, before they headed up to Mozambique for the second part of their safari.

The guys did extremely well in both South Africa and Mozambique – coming away with a number of dream trophies.

As early August rolled along, with Gunwerks still enjoying our northern areas we welcomed a wedding party on safari to our southern base, Lalibela. The change of the season was upon us, with us ultimately deciding it was time to open up Treetops lodge again after the cold winter. Treetops proved to be the fairytale setting to what turned out to be one hell of a safari and wedding.

Father/son duo of Wade and Casey Fairchild enjoyed a memorable hunt with PH, Tyrone Schulpfort,  while mom in law, Michelle and bride, Rusmira, joined in on the action too.

As I’ve come to expect from Tyrone, that is since I’ve known him from the 3rd grade, always expect the unexpected! I’ve always believed that each PH should enjoy the privilege of planning his daily hunt as he wishes, as long as it maintains our high standards, and keeps all involved, firstly safe, and secondly, very happy on safari. Tyrone not only ensured a memorable trip was enjoyed by all, but mixed hard hunting with down time at the beach, a day of shopping here and there, and ultimately ensuring a dream African wedding for the wedding couple.

The Fairchild’s enjoyed a truly memorable hunt with a wedding and setting like no other. To the John X ladies who put the wedding together, I fear I may have to start a wedding service business – you’ve all missed your calling in life! What you ladies put together not only blew my mind, but all who were present too,  thank you.

I sign off this past months report with pictures from a fairytale wedding… Congratulations Mr and Mrs Fairchild… It was not only beautiful, but spectacular ….

 

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

Lion

Mention the word Africa, and most drift off in thought with visions of Lions and Elephants roaming the vast plains of Africa. Zebra dotting the savannah in their thousands, and Africans drumming in chorus long into the night. That is Africa, but not all of Africa is the same.

There are most certainly endless savannahs stretching for as far as the eye can see, but then there are the forests, mountains, and deserts. The same can be said about rifles.

Over the past thirty years John X Safaris has seen the likes of numerous great rifles from various makers in a large variety of calibers. With each new rifle entering the market so the norm gets challenged – boundaries are pushed far and beyond what was thought possible before, and each gun maker stakes claim to the next best thing. Stick around for long enough in any industry and you’ll meet them, see their new product, and most certainly hear it all.

So you could imagine my interest and skepticism when I passed the Gunwerks booth at a trade show the very first time. With a slogan like theirs, who could not stop to wonder for a minute before continuing on in the maze that is a safari trade show today? And so I stood there day dreaming about, “ 1000 Yards out of the box” , thinking of the many older clients I’ve had to guide over the years, knowing that even 500 yards out of the box would have helped on the side of a mountain when one step further was not an option anymore.

With the imagination running wild I stepped into the Gunwerks booth and picked up a brochure. I realized everybody was extremely busy attending to customers, so I strolled over to the nearest display and picked up the 300 Win Mag. I’m a 300 man – eat, sleep, and preach it. I have come to believe it’s the most versatile caliber for any hunter after plains game in Africa. With various loads you’ll bring down the tiny Steenbuck on the plains of the Great Karoo, to a sneaky Kudu along the edge of a coastal forest, and even an old gun steel-blue Eland bull strutting his stuff on the open savannah. My belief is not one based around theory of what I’ve heard, but more of what I’ve seen proven in the field.

“I bet you could do with one of those in camp”, beamed a familiar voice over my shoulder. It was an old friend of mine and John X Safaris’, Kregg Thomassen. Kregg had been on safari with us to the East Cape, South Africa, on two previous occasions and now had teamed up with Gunwerks.

With one thing leading to another, there we were eight months down the line awaiting our first group of Gunwerks hunters. I’m still not certain who was more excited – The professional hunters or the hunters? Having arrived back home from the US I had broken the news to the guys that Gunwerks would be joining us on safari later that year. The hunt would be televised and the guides would be able to try out the guns themselves too.

From Gunwerks we had Kregg Thomassen and Garret Wall, getting myself and my guides up to speed with the rifles and their capabilities. You must realize, none of us had ever seen anything like this in Africa before – let alone imagined shooting anything like it. The various variables of gauging wind, shoot to distance, temperatures, and height above sea level was discussed in-depth.

Both Kregg and Garret’s shooting school expertise came through strongly here as all of us were up to speed with our hunters by the end of day one. Being up to speed with the system and the theory behind it was one thing, but seeing our hunters use the guns was a completely different story.

Chad and Jennifer Fraughton, from Utah, and Peter Corrado, from Canada, together with the professionals from Gunwerks made up the hunting party.

In all we hunted for eight days, and in those eight days we not only had the privilege seeing what the Gunwerks rifles were capable of, which was impressive to say the least, but more so the capabilities of our hunters.

Not all the shots were long, this in itself proved how versatile the rifles were. This may sound simple and obvious, but not all rifles built for long-range shooting handle targets at close quarters to well. Africa threw the hunters a number of curve balls too, with a couple of days of gale force winds, a rainy day or two, but luckily for the most part the weather was as spectacular as ever.

The hunters had to deal with various difficult set ups, this was not the range anymore, the game was unpredictable and we had now entered their territory on their terms. And then of course there were the long shots, many that left us astounded. As good as the guns were, they still needed the operators, and this is where our belief of the Gunwerks rifles grew substantially.

The system could be the best in the world, but if it proves too complicated to operate and enjoy using, then what would be the point at all? In this regard the four hunters sporting various Gunwerks calibers proved how enjoyable these rifles truly are.

P. Coraddo

For Peter Corrado and professional hunter, Rusty, there were numerous memorable hunts and shots. A Blue Wildebeest across a canyon at 798 yards was a certain highlight for all, but Peter’s Gemsbuck was just magnificent in every sense of the word.

: Gunwerks professional, Garret Wall, experienced Africa for the very first time with head Professional Hunter, Greg “Roy boy” Hayes. Garret proved to be a wealth of knowledge on the shooting system and watching him operate was a privilege in itself.

Gunwerks professional, Garret Wall, experienced Africa for the very first time with head Professional Hunter, Greg “Roy boy” Hayes. Garret proved to be a wealth of knowledge on the shooting system and watching him operate was a privilege in itself.

Chad and Jennifer Fraughton teamed up with Juan MacDonald for their first taste of Africa too. Chad proved to be a wealth of knowledge on the system, and could be mistaken for a professional shot from Gunwerks. The man was a master and one of the most important team players in the group.

Chad and Jennifer Fraughton teamed up with Juan MacDonald for their first taste of Africa too. Chad proved to be a wealth of knowledge on the system, and could be mistaken for a professional shot from Gunwerks. The man was a master and one of the most important team players in the group.

And our old friend, Kregg Thomassen, joined me for his third trip back at John X Safaris. He had made a true “hog” of himself when it comes to big East Cape Kudu on both his previous hunts, scoring with a top 5 Kudu of a lifetime on his second hunt. That bull was a particularly narrow bull; this time around he lucked into another monster at 450 yards. The trackers now refer to him as; “Kudu King”, and his rifle as “The magic stick”!

And our old friend, Kregg Thomassen, joined me for his third trip back at John X Safaris. He had made a true “hog” of himself when it comes to big East Cape Kudu on both his previous hunts, scoring with a top 5 Kudu of a lifetime on his second hunt. That bull was a particularly narrow bull; this time around he lucked into another monster at 450 yards. The trackers now refer to him as; “Kudu King”, and his rifle as “The magic stick”!

In all more than twenty trophies were hunted by the four hunters at varying variables and distances – all a challenge in their own right. But that was not as impressive as the fact that not one single animal had been wounded and needed tracking down. This not only proved that the Gunwerks system was one which could be mastered by anyone, but that the system had covered all the bases from the caliber, to the optics, and the ammunition. It had without a doubt proven itself in Africa.

Many months later, after the dust had settled and the Gunwerks group had departed the African continent, I revisiting our experiences and got thinking about long-range shooting in the hunting world, and particularly in Africa, as that is where I’ve gained my experience. It was at a time when I was writing about my experiences with a dear friend of mine, Lee Friend, whom had first told me about Gunwerks.

Lee Friend with a superb Vaal Rhebuck taken at 400 yards with his Gunwerks 6.5×284.

Lee Friend with a superb Vaal Rhebuck taken at 400 yards with his Gunwerks 6.5×284.

I started off that particular article questioning long-range shooting and the ethics surrounding it. And as the story unfolded and I relived those adventures through the words flowing freely with excitement on the screen in front of me, it is then that I realized I had answered my concern and put any doubt to rest.

In saying that if any reader would like to read about that particular experience with Gunwerks rifles, feel free to visit; “Against all odds – the man without hips….” @ http://johnxsafaris.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/against-all-odds-the-man-without-hips/ Upon reading the story of that safari I’d like to leave it up to each individual to decide, I know I’ve certainly made up my mind on the matter.

Gunwerks taking Africa by storm.

Looking back on my experiences over the past 18 months, one thing is for certain and that is that Gunwerks has pioneered us into virgin territory when it comes to long-range calibers and hunting. Who knows what the boundaries may be? As long as those boundaries are ethical and both hunter and guide understand their equipment’s’ capabilities, then I predict exciting times ahead. Gunwerks has most certainly taken the African continent by storm…

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

8

If you thought 2014 couldn’t get any better, then don’t feel alone, I was sitting on the banks of the Zambezi River a mere three weeks ago counting my blessings and wondering how the remainder of the season would pan out? I’ll be honest, at that moment I was sipping a cold locally brewed Mozambican 2M with my good friend Jeff Edland, savoring the success of the days hunt. At our feet lay a known man-eater, at 14 foot in length and more than a meter at the belly, one could understand the fear the locals had for this Crocodile.

It had not been an easy hunt, the wind wasn’t perfect and the day had been long. Numerous Crocs had been seen, two of them meeting the requirements we were after, but nothing had come from endless patience. We had given up, called it a day, and then no more than a mile from our landing site there he was. Jeff made another telling shot – this time at 70 yards off sticks – and if you’re thinking what’s the big fuss at 70 yards? Go try hitting the centre out of an Oreo cookie at 70 yards without a dead rest. It’s tough!

It had not been an easy hunt, the wind wasn’t perfect and the day had been long. Numerous Crocs had been seen, two of them meeting the requirements we were after, but nothing had come from endless patience. We had given up, called it a day, and then no more than a mile from our landing site there he was. Jeff made another telling shot – this time at 70 yards off sticks – and if you’re thinking what’s the big fuss at 70 yards? Go try hitting the centre out of a Oreo cookie at 70 yards without a dead rest. It’s tough!

Jeff not only enjoyed success on a huge Crocodile, but a first night Leopard over hounds had set our safari off on the right foot. Our hounds man Coenraad had expressed his concern over rain that was expected later that week, and he wanted to give it a go on that very first night. We trusted our man on the ground and within hours had a big tom treed.

To say that it was a relief would have been an understatement! Forget the success rate ratios - As described to me by a friend of mine, the famous Zimbabwean Leopard hunter, Lou Halimore, " It's a 50/50 - Either get one or you don't!" We had ours! And at that a beauty!

To say that it was a relief would have been an understatement! Forget the success rate ratios – As described to me by a friend of mine, the famous Zimbabwean Leopard hunter, Lou Hallamore, ” It’s a 50/50 – Either you get one or you don’t.” We had ours – And at that a beauty!

And that’s the way our Mozambican hunt went… The trophies speak for themselves and the adventure enjoyed with our old friends and hosts, Poen and Zandre, was a treat and as good as ever. Poen, together with our local trackers, Gotchi and Albieno, have become an extension of John X Safaris in Mozambique. Seldom does a day pass without unexpected adventure, with the quality of the hunting a given…

Back south in South Africa, we welcomed Steve and Charlene Galas, as well as the father/son duo of Dan and Jake Tomcheck. For both parties it was to be their first hunt with John X Safaris, enjoying both our coastal and northern Karoo areas.

Steve and Charlene teamed up with Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole, hunting a variety of plains game. An outstanding Gemsbuck and Kudu hunt was some of Steve’s favorites, but a certain highlight for us was Steve’s Waterbuck. From time to time one stumbles upon an interesting trophy, one that sees one becoming addicted in its pursuit.

For Steve and Ross it turned out to be a superb Waterbuck, the only catch, this bull had broken its right horns’ tip during the course of their hunt. It was now more than “just” the hunt, there was a story… In the end they did get him, and while many would wonder about their quest in turning down so many good bulls to hunt this particular bull, I and others who knew what they were after could appreciate their dedication. He may have had a broken tip, but the broken horn still tipped off at 27”, while the other 32”. A trophy of a lifetime in my eyes, and story to go with it.

For Dan and Jake Tomcheck, joining Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, it was to be a truly special safari. Since the start of our father/son hunts we’ve been overwhelmed by the response of so many of you. But the added bonus that was not expected has been the reward of seeing fathers and sons spending quality time together, and ultimately rekindling relationships and family bonds without external distractions.

The hunting proved to be a treat under the guidance of Greg and tracker, Bless. From the coastal forests, to the plains of the Karoo, and finally up onto the mountains in the north…

With early July rolling on it was time to welcome our extended family from Reno, Nevada. Over the years we at John X Safaris have been privileged to host many hunters from around the world, some come on that once in a lifetime safari, others a couple more times, then there are those who form part of the family, coming every other year. They bring their kids, their friends, and families – ultimately bringing them home to Africa as often as they can.

One such family is the Robinson family. Steve had first joined us on safari with our good friend, Rich Adams, many years ago and since has shared a number of memorable safaris with us. Since that first hunt, Steve has introduced his wife, Linda, as well as kids, Ashley, Hunter, and Kaley, to African safaris. Our families have grown together, enjoying many trips throughout southern Africa.

This year proved to be one of our most enjoyable safaris to date. Together with the Robinson’s, we welcomed the Pitts and Tripp families. The plan was for the entire group to spend four days at Lalibela, and then the girls would head down to Cape Town with Trish, while the boys headed to the Karoo for some more hunting. From there we would all meet for the last two days of our safari down in Knysna on the Garden Route.

An action packed safari it proved to be with a number of record-breaking trophies hitting the salt. A 55 3/8’’ East Cape Kudu for Bo Tripp was the trophy of a lifetime, not to mention an awesome Klipspringer and Waterbuck with the family. Arnie and Hunter Pitts made for quality entertainment with some trick shooting, with humor like no other. My team of Steve and Hunter were as solid as ever, with Steve hunting a magnificent Kalahari Springbuck of 17’’, while Hunter stole the limelight with an epic old Bushpig we’d been after for quite some time.

 

While the “seasoned” hunters may have dominated the hunting in numbers, it was the junior hunters whom most impressed us. Two very special young ladies reminded us what it was all about and why we enjoy our passion for hunting. To Kaley Robinson and Abie Tripp – Congratulations on some exceptional shooting and a great bunch of trophies!

Meanwhile down in Cape Town the girls were warming up to their new-found slogan of “Living on the Edge”…. Yes folks adventure sport junkies to say the least! From the V&A Waterfront to the Nelson Mandela Apartheid Museum, Cape Point to Table Mountain and Paragliding off Lions Head, to Great White Shark cage diving. That and so much more…

All in all it proved to be a mammoth safari to say the least. The combination of hunting, Big 5 photographic safaris, and the Garden Route to Cape Town sight-seeing tour, provided for first class vacationing. The fun and games never stopped from the minute the group arrived to the day they left.

As mid July rolled along we welcomed our partners from Blaser, Marc Hillerman, and hunter, Jan Bredensen. They joined Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole, for a week of mountain hunting. Over the course of the week the guys hunted hard, enjoying long hikes with hours of glassing, hoping to find what they were after.

During their quest they hunted a variety of species including a Caracal with hounds, Blesbuck and Common Duiker, but their mountain species is what they had come for, and wow were they impressive…

A 9 3/8’’ Vaal Rhebuck...

A 9 3/8’’ Vaal Rhebuck…

A 7 4/8’’ Mountain Reedbuck...

A 7 4/8’’ Mountain Reedbuck…

And 4’’ Klipspringer.

And 4’’ Klipspringer.

Eat your hearts out all you mountain dwellers! These three would be the pride of any mountain hunters’ trophy room.

I’m still in awe at a number of trophies from the past three weeks. As I said before, who would have thought it could get any better, considering the season we’ve had to date, but our areas keep producing the goods and the teams on the ground keep providing world-class experiences.

As I sign off this month’s report, we find ourselves spread across the Eastern Cape. In the north we have our old friend Mike Grier, together with Tom Lincoln and Tyler Geer, back on his third hunt with John X Safaris, while Jose, Trish, and I, are giving back to the industry with our annual PHASA donated hunt. We’re looking forward to a busy period running into early August before we set sail to Mozambique once again.

Until next month – Enjoy the outdoors and do so responsibly.

Until next month – Enjoy the outdoors and do so responsibly.

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

 

 

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