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As I gaze out across the mighty Zambezi River, in awe of her power and humbled by her turbulent size, my mind drifts back over the past month. It has been a month filled with experiences, experiences stretching from the vast Kalahari Desert in southern Botswana, to the plains game paradise of the East Cape, South Africa, and finally into the depths of the Zambezi Delta, Mozambique.

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Our teams and hunters have enjoyed some of the finest areas Southern Africa has to offer, coming away enriched with stories from a forgotten era.

For our old friends, John and Lynn Nowlin, together with Professional Hunter, Ed Wilson, it was to be their first trip to Botswana, but their 7th with John X Safaris. Joining them on their quest for Southern Greater Kudu in the Kalahari desert was John’s nephew, Thomas , on his first African safari.

For years it had been John’s dream to harvest a flaring, but wide Southern Greater Kudu. This year saw both him and Thomas achieve just that, and more… Not to mention Lynn’s dream of a trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe!

Further south saw the arrival of a keen group of young hunters joining their fathers for their first taste of South Africa. Over the past three years we at John X Safaris have voiced our concern over the fact that so few of the youth are joining their parents on safari in Africa – these young boys and girls are after all the future of our hunting heritage.

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With one thing leading to another we decided to put our money where our mouth was. If we were going to stick our necks out there telling folks to bring along a young hunter on safari, then surely we could match their investment?

For this reason we’ve wavered the day fee of any young hunter wanting to join his/her parents or grandparents on safari with John X Safaris. To date the response has been overwhelming with many more young hunters being exposed to not only hunting, but African hunting.

Luther and Dawson Dietrich, Jason and Josh Moe, and Brian, Seth and Cole Lind, made up our first group of young hunters and fathers for the year. While every hunter in the group scored with success on one specie or another, it was the young guns whom impressed us the most. 

Dawson could be considered as one of the luckiest hunters you'll ever meet. A 13+ year old Eland bull and a huge 50" East Cape Kudu, all in the space of 24 hours put him on cloud nine... We're still not sure if he has ever come off it!

Dawson could be considered as one of the luckiest hunters you’ll ever meet. A 13+ year old Eland bull and a huge 50″ East Cape Kudu, all in the space of 24 hours put him on cloud nine… We’re still not sure if he has ever come off it!

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For Josh it would be the unexpected… A huge Cape Bushbuck stepped out when least expected.

 

For Seth it was a epic hunt on a great East Cape Kudu. The stalk was long, in difficult terrain, but more concerning was the fading light. In the end it was up to him to make our one chance count... what a great hunt!

For Seth it was a epic hunt on a great East Cape Kudu. The stalk was long, in difficult terrain, but more concerning was the fading light. In the end it was up to him to make our one chance count… what a great hunt!

For Cole - a champion of a young hunter, there were many memorable hunts, but his Blue Wildebeest was the highlight of a plan to outwit a smart old bull. Well done young man!

For Cole – a champion of a young hunter, there were many memorable hunts, but his Blue Wildebeest was the highlight of a plan to outwit a smart old bull. Well done young man!

Of course the boys stole the headlines with some jaw dropping trophies and brilliant hunting, but rest assured the dads got in on the action too, albeit with only a couple, it seems the boys won this contest hands down!

While the young guns were in the process of taking over the East Cape, we welcomed experienced hunters Don McNeely, Bill Perrine, and Craig Horan, on their first hunt with John X Safaris. All three hunters had previously been on safari with our good friends the Haldane’s in Mozambique, and were now after a number of specialized East Cape species. 

Over the years we’ve refined the various hunts for our specialized East Cape species. This gives our hunters the options of either the classic walk and stalk, or the thrill of pursuing their quarry over hounds/terriers, or even baited. With so many species to choose from the hunting often varies on a daily basis, keeping both hunter and guide challenged at various levels of both skill and enjoyment.

On this particular safari we had all three hunters enjoy the thrill of hunting Caracal over hounds, together with the traditional long hikes glassing for game along our coastal belt and free range mountains of the Great Karoo. The guys endured some chilly conditions, but each team came out on top in the end.

To Craig and Greg, Bill and Mike, and Don and Rusty – congrats gentleman it’s a fine collection of trophies to accompany your many great memories.

While each hunt requires a certain amount of effort, time, and skill, to achieve the desired success, some hunts just require so MUCH MORE dedication. For Professional Hunter, Rusty, and hunter, Don McNeely, it meant 22 hours of dedication and patience in a Blue Duiker blind.

Man was it worth it - What a monster!

Man was it worth it – What a monster!

With a happy crew of hunters heading back to the US, it was time to welcome Cole Taggart to camp. Looking at Cole’s selection of trophies one could be forgiven for being slightly jealous of his East Cape Kudu, Gemsbuck, Springbuck, and… and… and all of them! But receiving a mail from Cole upon his return home, best summed up his experience…

“Carl
I don’t know where to even begin. Your operation is heads above the rest. You have some of the most friendly and down to earth staff and PH’s I’ve ever met. Everything is top of the line and absolutely amazing.  It was refreshing to see an operation with such a focus on every aspect of the hunt. Rusty was the most down to earth likeable PH I could have asked for.  His focus on the hunt and pursuing old mature trophies was after my own heart.  No matter how many animals I was able to take didn’t matter. The hunt and each animal individually was worth the trip. I will be back in 2016 or 2017! Thank you again Carl for making a lifelong dream come true.
Cole Taggart”

At the same time as Cole, we welcomed a bunch of fun-loving guys from Washington. Many of them on their first safari too. Paul Latchford, back on his second safari, with friends, Jay Pippin, George Conniff and Mike Jarvis, had a lot of hunting in mind, but never without a heck of a lot of fun along the way.

With so much happening, one could have been forgiven to think there’s not a space in the house for even a mouse, but that’s the beauty of our three camp/area set up in the East Cape.

Our old friend and marketing partner from Spain, Juan Antonio, was back after many years hunting abroad. With him was his good friend, Ivor Karan, a fellow South African, hunting the East Cape for a selection of species he was yet to harvest. An East Cape Kudu, Cape Bushbuck, and most importantly, Cape Grysbuck, were the species we were after.

Both men made unbelievable shots on the same morning to harvest two magnificent Bushbuck rams – a treat for any seasoned Bushbuck hunter.  A further treat to the entire group on the hunt was the inclusion of Donna, Ivor’s new hunting/tracking hound from Spain. For a young dog she proved to be a pleasure and grew in confidence each day. It would be interesting to see where’s she’s at in her development a year from now – something tells me she’s going to be brilliant!

Having hunted hard for Cape Grysbuck on two previous safaris, Ivor had always come up short - this time we wouldn't be beaten and persisted like never before. The reward was greater than even we could have hoped for - the trophy of a lifetime.

Having hunted hard for Cape Grysbuck on two previous safaris, Ivor had always come up short – this time we wouldn’t be beaten and persisted like never before. The reward was greater than even we could have hoped for – the trophy of a lifetime.

It has truly been a great month, so many new friends have been made around crackling camp fires. Speaking of fires…My fire? It’s finally lost its last vigor-rating flames. The entire camp has been fast asleep for hours, the only company I’ve enjoyed has been the sound of my pen, the wild screams from the ever-present Bush-babies high above in the forest canopy, and the distant image of the Zambezi River flowing away into the night.

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Let’s hope our luck will continue… A huge Leopard on the first night, and something about a gigantic man-eating Crocodile, and a wounded Cape Buffalo in the swamps… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

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

By Cari Smith – A Lucky Safari Addict

Africa – The word alone brings a smile to my face. The entire experience was absolutely amazing! Not just the hunting, but the graciousness of the entire John X team. While I enjoyed a number of great hunts and an array of trophies, there’s always one in particular that comes to mind each time… In my mind he’s the most amazing animal I’d ever seen, and since our hunt I’m starting to realize there’s a couple more people whom seem to think so too…. A beast of a bull – That’s my Waterbuck.

Firstly, it takes a great team to achieve the unimaginable. I absolutely loved my P.H. Greg Hayes; he’s so knowledgeable, yet so willing and eager to share that knowledge. He had been hunting with my dad, Jim, previously so I had heard allot about him. I now had the privilege of hunting with him as well. Together with Greg was our tracker, Bless, a great man with a passion for the bush, and our Jack Russell terrier, Jock. Together with Dad and I, this was our A-team!

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Greg had been watching this particular bull for two years, but had not been able to get onto it when he needed to. Then we had seen him earlier in the week as well, but I had not made up my mind if I wanted a Waterbuck, so we missed the opportunity.

Towards the end of the hunt I had made up my mind… I wanted to try for the Waterbuck bull we had seen. Heading out that morning I was actually quite nervous for a few reasons.

Firstly, the previous day I had missed an Impala twice before finally getting it. I had been shooting quite well up to that point, so there was no obvious reason why I had suddenly started missing. The second reason was one which was much closer to the heart… I was nervous, extremely nervous. I was fearful of disappointing my amazing Dad, and the rest of the team. After spotting the bull that first time, it didn’t take much to realize what a trophy and opportunity it was to be hunting him. And lastly, I have to admit it was a pride thing. Being a female hunter I wanted to show up the guys in the group. Gender aside, it would just be cool to pursue one of the biggest trophies of the season at John X Safaris.

It was actually an unusual morning. It started normal. Up early, breakfast, load up the truck, and off we were. Then Greg got a phone call from Carl asking if we could help out by giving his nephew a lift to school in Grahamstown. No one complained. It was actually kind of fun listening to a child that had grown up in the African bush – he knew so much about hunting. (p.s. Which by the way was much more than me!)? Before collecting Ross we had actually joked in the truck that doing these favors would bring us good karma… If only we knew how good it would turn out to be!

By the time we got to our hunting area it was about 10:00. Greg parked the truck and we headed out for a slow walk through the brush to a small clearing the bull had frequented before. I was told that old Waterbuck bulls were extremely territorial, so this was the logical place to start if we were to find him again. We had only walked for about 15 minutes when Greg spotted our bull in a clearing further up the ridge. We approached slowly, keeping a constant check on the wind. At 75 yards out he suddenly appeared. He stood there for a minute then turned. Greg quickly set up the shooting sticks and I set up the rifle. I was shooting my dad’s bigger 30-378, the perfect caliber for a big old weary Waterbuck. Dad’s rifle was fitted with a different scope to my gun; it had various crosshairs for different distances. As I looked through the scope and prepared to squeeze the trigger I suddenly realized I had the bull lined up in the wrong crosshairs. I quickly adjusted to the correct ones, tried to regather myself, while the bull just stood there, unaware of our position. I’m sure it was only seconds, but it felt like a lifetime before the shot rang out. 

At the crack of the shot I quickly reloaded, and looked up with dread to see if I had hit him…… Both Greg and my dad had huge grins on their faces – “You got him!” Those words from Greg were like music to my ears!

The bull had taken the hit well, disappearing into the nearest undergrowth. We immediately released Jock to pick up on the blood trail, hoping he’d relocate the downed bull. It didn’t take long before Jock started barking franticly indicating he’d found the bull. He had run a mere 40 yards before piling up. Then real celebration began.

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Dad and I admiring my bull with the rest of the team….

No mere handshakes, no, there was hugging all around. WAHOO!!!!!! After the hugs and the many pictures (more than most weddings), it was time to appreciate a bull like few others have ever seen.

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My bull came in at just under 33”…. A trophy of a lifetime!

After the emotions had settled and I had time to reflect, I have to admit I feel kind of guilty taking credit for this beautiful trophy. All I did was follow Greg into the bush and shoot when he asked me to. 

For my Waterbuck of a lifetime I’d like give credit to Greg. Without him and his knowledge and work, this awesome trophy would not have been mine.

For my Waterbuck of a lifetime I’d like give credit to Greg. Without him and his knowledge and work, this awesome trophy would not have been mine.

Now, as I sit here in Utah, weeks after our amazing adventure had passed, I am already planning my return trip. This was, thus far in my life, the most amazing experience of my life.

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

 

With the month of May coming to an end, and a wet early season dominating procedures, combined with bouts of cooler weather, we have seen a peak in the rut earlier than usual. While a peak may have been reached, there are tell-tale signs that it should be here for a couple more months. There have been bouts of cooler weather, but it has most certainly not been cold as to date. And if the old heads’ theory stands for anything, it should mean that the main rut is yet to hit.

 

With the warmer weather lasting longer than usual, it has provided our hunters moderate conditions with breath-taking scenery prior to the winter dull. The current condition of the wildlife is something worth mentioning – the animals are in immaculate condition across the board, with even the older game boasting rounded bellies and shiny coats. It is most certainly a paradise in the East Cape at the moment.

Looking back at the months results, one asks oneself how it could get any better? But then again it all lies in the planning, and that’s not only from the teams side, but our hunters too. Our entire May was booked up more than three years ago. We knew it was going to be a busy one, but Trish and I often have to pinch ourselves to realize its all real. Yes, hard work and dedication goes hand in hand, but the support from our friends in Utah has been a humbling experience to say the least.

Having met a group of guys from Eagle Mountain on their first safari some eight years ago, it would be fair to say not them or I thought our friendships would prosper to the point of family. With time I’ve come to know a special group of people, people who have become my extended family in the US, whom have taken in my entire team as their own from day one. To Bwana Big Jim Smith, Chris & Collette Ashcroft, Brett & Shelie Wright, and the many past hunters from Eagle Mountain, I don’t know if there are enough words to express our gratitude for everything you do year in and year out.

Knowing you the way I have come to know you, a simple thank you would be sufficient. BUT you all deserve more than that - I truly hope we as a team have produced the results and experiences that shows our gratitude and says more than just thank you.

To our new friends; the Hamilton’s, Edwards’s, Heaton’s, Wilson’s, Terry’s, Wallace’s, Maxwell’s, and Fullmer’s – the latest additions to the John X family. Welcome – Enjoy the memories… Our journey together has only just begun….

After all the dust had settled on the last evening and beaming faces enriched with new experiences had gathered around a cozy dinner table, the entire group decided to each share a fond memory/experience from the hunt. Of course there was the usual banter and laughter that can only be shared in a hunting camp, and there were some emotional stories too – not because anyone was sad, but more so the emotion of gratitude.

I had personally shared a funny story about my old friend, Chris Ashcroft, whom had brought me close to tears with laughter after witnessing a sequence of funny mishaps on his Impala hunt. But in the moment I had forgotten about one particular experience – I’d like to share that story with the entire group and you the reader.

While hunting up north one day, I had the privilege of witnessing something truly special – something that reminded me, and many of my guides and team members, why we wake at sunrise each morning.

Kelly Edwards and I were done hunting for the day and decided to lend a hand and spend some time with Larry and Claudia Fullmer, together with PH, Sean Cromhout. Larry was after an Eland, and as tradition would be with most big things, the better the quality of trophy, the harder it is to achieve. To cut a long story short, Larry, Sean, and Claudia made an epic stalk on a group of bulls we’d spotted earlier that morning. The bulls were feeding in a valley below their final position, and as the hunters popped their heads over the top of the cliff we saw Larry’s gun go up and the immediate rapport of the shot. The bulls took off at a pace, while Larry’s bull slowed to a walk before going down.

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The moment was a great one. Larry, Claudia, Sean, and Tsikelelo – The team who did it!

The smiles all round told of a succesful hunt and an experience enjoyed by all. It was only much later, after the bull was back at the skinning shed that I for the first time realized that the grin on Larry’s face which had been there since the moment we collected them at the airport was even broader than before. Larry quietly stood in awe as the old gun steel-blue bull was hoisted high above his head. He just stood there smiling with a glimpse of a tear not far below the surface. He was speechless.

I decided to step back for a minute too – and to enjoy the moment. The scene unfolding in front of me was as rewarding as I had ever witnessed or experienced before. Here was a man whom I had only met on two prior occasions, before spending the first part of the hunt together – we knew very little of one another. Yet through the age-old tradition of hunting we had come together like old friends and could enjoy the silence between us more so than any words could ever have spoken.

It was the experience of that moment that saw me rise at 4am the following morning. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I wanted to be the first to see the sunrise – to greet the day and count my blessings…..

There's so much to look forward to, and its only the end of May.

There was so much to look forward to, and it was barely the end of May.

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

Now in our second season of partnering up with Gunwerks, the leader in long-range shooting, we at John X Safaris are excited to announce our upcoming show schedule on The Sportsman Channel.  As to date the first two episodes have aired with the 3rd and 4th airing as follows.

Gunwerks

The 3rd episode will rerun the week of May 19th. While the 4th episode is scheduled to air the week of June 30th, and will then rerun the week of August 4th.

Airtimes are Standard Eastern Time:

  • Friday’s 10:00 am
  • Friday’s 5:30 pm
  • Saturday’s 2:00 am
  • Saturday’s 1:00 pm
Please watch our show and give us some feedback on what plains game species you’d like to see hunted in our next season of shows. You may just see one of the John X Safaris Professional Hunters realize their dream to hunt that most asked for specie with one of these amazing Gunwerks rifles.
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At this time we would like to invite those interested in joining Gunwerks owners, Aaron and Mike Davidson, together with friends and family, as they set out to join us on another adventure to the East Cape, SA, from 29 July – 7 August 2014.

This year once again sees the groups point of arrival being Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where they will be met by the John X Team. A total of eight days hunting, nine nights, will be split between our renowned coastal area, Lalibela, and the Great Karoo in the north.

On the coast, hunters can enjoy the benefits of our luxurious safari lodges, combined with Big 5 sightings each day, with hunting occurring in adjacent concessions to Lalibela.

From the coast the land rises gradually, climbing the plateau to 4500 feet to reach the escarpment of the Great Karoo. In a mere 3 ½ hours from our coastal base camp, hunters will arrive to our northern camp in the Great Karoo. Sit back around a crackling camp fire each evening reliving the stories of the day’s hunt and gaze at the brightest stars on earth.

In total, hunters will have the opportunity to hunt over 25 species, ranging from the tiny Steenbuck to the giant Cape Eland. Long range enthusiasts can expect various challenges from each area, with exciting setups and even greater shots on a daily basis. Opportunities in Africa are like nowhere else on earth – come to be amazed by the sheer number of game, size of the hunting areas, and beauty of Africa.

INTERESTED HUNTERS can reach Aaron / Mike Davidson on 307.762.3240 / Or Carl on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za  . Don’t delay - We only have a few openings left, and its time to book air travel.

Don’t miss this opportunity of a lifetime to hunt with the men who are the masterminds behind Gunwerks.

Carl van Zyl
John X Safaris

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

Part 2 – Mid / Late April

With the “Reunion Tour” fresh in our minds and the team easing into the seasons rhythm we welcomed first timers, the Nelsen brothers and their spouses, as well as their good friends, Mike and Renee Schneider. At the same time we welcomed David & Ruth Stark, together with their great friends, Bob & Jo Penny.

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Having met the Nelsen brothers in Salt Lake City during early January, and having known the Stark’s and Penny’s from previous visits at the Dallas Safari Club, we knew we were in for a fun 10 days.

Dave and Ruth had planned their hunt with Carl at the Dallas Safari Club convention some two years ago via a good friend of John X Safaris’, Mike White. As the months ticked by leading up to their hunt, the excitement levels reached an all time high with the news that Bob and Jo would be joining them as observers on their safari. What we knew of Bob and Jo was very little at first, apart from the visits in Dallas, but what we’ve learnt since has opened our eyes to couple with talent.

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Bob’s skill with a camera is truly remarkable. Not a single day passed without Bob amazing us with his latest subject captured on camera. For those interested in photography, and for that matter African wildlife, here’s a man to consider talking to prior to your next safari. His pictures are breath-taking…..

As for Dave and Ruth, they were here to hunt, joining up with Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes. With April turning into nothing short of a Waterbuck festival. Dave hunted a magnificent bull along the dunes of the Indian Ocean, while making the most of an Nyala opportunity too.

Having spent the first leg of their hunt in the Great Karoo, they harvested Gemsbuck, Kudu, Hartebeest, and Springbuck to mention a few. The match up of Greg as guide with the Stark’s and Penny’s was one of the nicest things to observe from their hunt together. The friendships formed on safari are often some that will last a lifetime, something tells me this wont be the last time you’ll hear from this team.

While the Penny’s were capturing amazing pictures on film and the Stark’s were making some great shots out in the field, the rest of us were enjoying a fun-filled 7 day safari with the Nelsen’s and Schneider’s.

Videographer, Jo Vermaak, joined the hunt capturing every second of action on film.

Videographer, Jo Vermaak, joined the hunt capturing every second of action on film.

Jason and Tracy Nelsen joined Professional Hunter, Mike Currie, for their first taste of Africa. Jason was after a number of plains game species, with the emphasis on an East Cape Kudu and Gemsbuck. In the end he hunted quality trophies of both, while making the best of a number other species. Towards the end of the hunt we even saw Tracy join the action with a beautiful old Zebra stallion.

Good friends Mike and Renee Schneider had joined the Nelsen group, with Mike going after a number of species with his bow. Teaming up with Professional Hunter, Ross Hoolle, worked like a charm, as both men are passionate bow hunters. Some great hunts were enjoyed by both, and some even more exciting follow ups with Bongo rounding up an Impala that nearly got away. One of Mike’s biggest interests on this hunt was a Fallow Deer, and in particular a rich chocolate-colored stag. How they got it all right nobody knows – but Mike sure was a happy man with his long-awaited Fallow Deer.

Late on the last afternoon of Mike’s hunt, Thandixolo, their tracker, spotted a particularly big Cape Bushbuck laying up in the tall grass. At first Mike wasn’t interested…. until Ross finally told him not to make the biggest mistake of his safari.

And thank goodness he didn't... What a monster!

And thank goodness he didn’t… What a monster!

Phil and Paige Nelsen joined Professional Hunter, Carl van Zyl, and tracker, Richard, for their first African safari. Upon their return home, Phill joined our John X Safaris Facebook fan page and left the below review.

“In April my wife and I spent 7 days on safari with John X Safaris in the Eastern Cape and Great Karoo. From the moment we stepped off the plane our experience with John X Safaris was nothing short of the most fun we’ve ever had, and likely ever will have. Everything, including the accommodations, service, hunting, culture, food, property, etc. was so much better than we could have ever imagined that it’s difficult for me to put my experience into words. What Carl and his lovely wife are offering in South Africa is truly incredible. My entire life I’ve read and dreamed about hunting in Africa. The 7 days we spent with John X Safaris blew those dreams out of the water. I would tell Carl each day (if not more) that I should have paid 5 times what I paid for our safari.
As we were traveling with two other couples we vetted dozens of other outfitters prior to settling on John X. We ultimately chose John X based on the recommendations of several of their past clients. Even though everyone we spoke to couldn’t speak highly enough of John X, none of them came close to preparing us for how unbelievable our experience would be.
One final note, at the recommendation of Carl we also hired Video Africa Productions to film our Safari. I am extremely grateful we did so. Not only was Joe a world-class videographer with some of the most incredible hunting stories I’ve ever heard, but for my wife and I to be able to share our experience with those who couldn’t be there with us (including our children) is truly priceless. I would strongly recommend that anyone heading out on safari hire Video Africa Productions to film your experience.
To Carl, Etresia, Richard, Mike, Joe, Sticks, Lauren, Greg, Kelly, Hendrick, and all the rest of the staff at John X, THANK YOU for giving us the trip of a lifetime and an experience I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.”

Thanks for the kind words Phil – as we’ve mentioned before, your review not only left Trish and myself speechless, but our entire team. Thank you very much for the great feedback.

Prior to the start of their safaris, both Tracy and Paige took on extremely passionate active roles in our John X Safaris Humanitarian Initiative for 2014. This year sees us once again support Nomzamo Pre School in Grahamstown, with Tracy leading the charge on a number of initiatives. The Nelsen kids have also gotten involved through their parents and to date the families have contributed $1000 towards further upgrades at the school. What their efforts mean to us,  the kids, and teachers, at the school goes far and beyond what words can describe. We are forever grateful to all whom have contributed and continue to do so – Thank you.

While out on safari Tracy and Paige decided to skip a day of hunting and joined Trish for a day of giving. They went surprising the kids at the school….

As with most safaris with us there’s more to the journey than just hunting, especially if there are non-hunters joining the hunt. This safari was no exception to the rule. We had some fun on our days off…

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As the end of the month neared we saw the arrival of Louie and Heather Lantz. The Lantz’s form a special part of the John X team, with Heather heading up a large part of our marketing campaign. Over the years they have become like family, with Heather’s daily involvement growing each year. What she does for John X Safaris is more than most will ever know, so this time it was our turn to give back to one that gives so much of herself each day. We hope you two enjoyed it as much as we did!

We’re sure you would agree in saying that the month of April was a big one at John X Safaris. Many happy hunters enjoyed our renowned areas in the East Cape with quality experiences ensuring new friends left the African continent already planning their return trip.

For now it’s good hunting until next month – Enjoy the outdoors, do so responsibly, and share your passion to hunt with the youth. The future of our hunting heritage ultimately rests with them.

We’re off on safari… the bulls are rutting.

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

The Month of April

As we look back at the past month I have to remind myself that this is only the end of April. The first Kudu bulls have barely started following the cows, and the early mornings are slowly but surely requiring longs – it seems it’s time to pack away the shorts until September. In saying this I find myself excited to report back on the month of April, not only to relay the news of the exciting hunts that were enjoyed by all, but also anticipating that which lies ahead. Who wouldn’t be excited about the start of the rut and the return of many old friends in May?

Glancing through the various hunters’ albums it is rewarding to see our management efforts coming together. An ambitious principal was formulated into a plan some ten years ago, one which would see a new vision on areas, game numbers, and quota management. I’m glad to report that the vision is starting to mature into something even greater than we ever imagined.

Like with all visions it takes a team of strong individuals to enforce an agreed ideal, for this I’d like to thank my team of professional hunters and trusty trackers. What these guys have achieved and keep achieving on a daily basis is nothing short of remarkable. The results speak for themselves on the quality of trophies hitting the salt, but the effort on educating our hunters on what we’re trying to achieve, and ensuring their buy in, is what they need to be commended on.

As you look over the results of the past month, you’ll understand what I’m referring to. The quality of trophies will be mind-blowing at times, while the reports from our hunters have left not only Trish and I, but our entire team, speechless.

Part 1 – Early April….

The Reunion Tour

Brett Nelson has been an integral part of John X Safaris’ success over the past fifteen years. This year he was back again for hunt # 9, he brought along his girlfriend, Gina, and some old buddies of ours from Maryland. It was a reunion…. 12 years in the making.

John X Reunion

On this particular hunt, Brett stepped aside for the most part, giving Gina her first taste of Africa. She took in every moment, enjoying the fun along the way while being an extremely lucky hunter too.

An Nyala was never part of the plan, let alone a monster, Gina needed no second invitation as she joined the sisterhood of hunters in Africa.

An Nyala was never part of the plan, let alone a monster, Gina needed no second invitation as she joined the sisterhood of hunters in Africa.

As for Brett, he always seems to squeeze out the big ones, but then again, he’s been here on nine separate occasions.

The harder Brett Nelson tries, the luckier he gets!

The harder he tries, the luckier he gets. Yes folks, your eyes aren’t fooling you, this will be one of the biggest Waterbuck taken in Africa during 2014.

An integral part of the reunion tour was the inclusion of Dwight Moser. This man is the heart and soul of the party and reason for the smile on my face while I write this. It’s not often that a hunter gains an infamous nickname such as “Klippies”. Those of you who are familiar with South African Brandy brands, will recognize the name Klipdrift, knowing this will most likely lead you to the explanation of his nickname.

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While Klippies knows how to enjoy himself, he sure knows how to shoot too. After a lengthy stalk on a Vaal Rhebuck on that first afternoon in the Karoo, Dwight pulled off a remarkable shot at 619 yards after clipping the ram at 300. A superb Vaal Rhebuck!

A number of trophies were hunted, including a great Blue Duiker, Nyala, Copper Springbuck, and Klipspringer to mention a few. A lucky break even saw Dwight and Professional Hunter, Mike Currie, bump into a group of Bushpigs late one afternoon – not something that happens everyday.

However his Cape Bushbuck turned out to be one of our favourites - a beauty to say the least!

However his Cape Bushbuck turned out to be one of our favorites – a beauty to say the least!

For Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, and Russell Pelan, it all became the hunt of the hog. It became an addiction….

With a boss hog in the shed, and knowing they had put the hammer down on the rest of the competition, they went about their business in a winning manner. Like most guys in a group, the competition is always rife, with no quarter given – nor expected. In the end they truly hit the home runs with a number of world-class trophies.

Dave Moser, back on his second hunt with John X Safaris, teamed up with Professional Hunter, Ross Hoolle, as they went after a number of species Dave had not hunted on his first safari.

 His Waterbuck taken a couple of days prior to Brett's was a monster of a bull too, scoring just over 31''.

His Waterbuck taken a couple of days prior to Brett’s was a monster of a bull too, scoring just over 31”.

A great Nyala, Vaal Rhebuck, Lechwe, Copper Springbuck, and Bushbuck all found their way  into his daily diary, with my favorite being the stories he’d share around the bar each evening.

He would tell about the rest of the boys in New Zealand, Australia or Alaska, and of the crazy things they did. The funny things his brother, Dwight, would come up with, and about all the locals they met on their hunts around the world. It was hard not being envious listening to the many adventures these men had shared, but at the same time it was great being a part of all the new stories.

It had been one hell of a story getting them all back together for our reunion hunt, but man was it worth it. If it takes another ten years to get them back again, then so be it, it sure is worth the laugh every step of the way.

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After an early start to the season, with hunts during January and February, March saw the traditional start of our season in the East Cape. The bar had been set high during those first two months of the year, with record-breaking trophies dominating a number of fabulous experiences.

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As March rolled by we were caught in the grips of a heat wave to be followed by a couple of wet weeks as the last summer rains affected a number of our hunts. Our hunters were however not complaining as daily showers gave some rest bite from the hot summer days.

As is the norm during the early season when the days are longer and hotter, and the nights shorter, one has to wake much earlier each day, as to reach the desired areas to make the most of the cool early mornings and late afternoons. By 9am each morning most of your bush-dwellers would disappear until late afternoon, with only plains dwelling game being an option during the hot hours of the day.

It may have been the heat, combined with timely showers of cool rain that saw our hunters excel out in the field, or simply the fact that most of the areas had not been hunted since September/October last year, but whatever the variants, the results speak for themselves.

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Not only were exceptional trophies hunted, but more so was the pleasing sight of smiles around the bar in the evening with the story of the hunt far outweighing any trophy taken on a particular day. It has been our goal at John X Safaris over the course of the past five years to maintain an above average trophy quality, but as importantly to create the experience that sees our hunters relaying stories of their adventures for many years to come. It is after all in the experience where memories are made.

Eric, Kristie, Hunter, and Kasey Arnette, were the first arrivals of March. They joined Professional Hunters, Carl van Zyl and Greg Hayes, as they returned on their third trip back at John X Safaris. Eric had hunted a number of species in the East Cape on previous hunts, but had started a new-found addiction for the Tiny 10.

For Hunter, as per usual with this remarkable young man, the choices are never straight forward when it comes to his specie selections, and the strangest game always interests him. For Kristie it was to be a special trip, she had for long expressed an interest in hunting an old Giraffe bull, and for the most we were focused on achieving just that. Kasey came along for the adventure, always proving to be a bundle of fun with a smile never far below the surface.

As is the case with many of our returning hunters, the safari deviated from the beaten track and followed an interesting course of its own into new and unchartered territory along the Wild Coast. Greg had headed up the scouting in the off-season, to be joined by Carl and Trish a couple of days prior to the hunt.

The area proved to be breath-taking, the game we hunted and spotted was of exceptional quality, but more than anything – the characters we met have been etched into our memories forever! Thanks Cecil for all the great laughs each day!

From the Wild Coast we once again returned to the Karoo – a family favorite from past safaris. It was here that Hunter got the opportunity on his long-awaited Kudu, and Eric impressed with some impressive mountain scrambling for his Klipspringer. It’s not often that one attempts a Klipspringer after five in the afternoon – if ever someone could do it, it would be Eric. A great ram and even better hunt!

Leaving the Karoo with what we came for we headed back south to Lalibela. The remainder of our trip would be split in two with a couple of days hunting, combined with a final weekend down on the beach at Kenton-on-Sea. Hunter finally got his number one priority – an Ostrich, while Eric continued on his quest for the Tiny 10 with a super Blue Duiker.

 

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While the boys might have been dominating in numbers, it was Kristie who came in with quantity. A Giraffe had been our priority – and what a beauty it turned out to be!

Our last few days with the Arnette’s was spent at the beach enjoying a relaxing end to our hunt. It had once again been a great adventure with close friends enjoying the privilege of having our kids spend time together on vacation.

Mid-March saw the Arnette’s heading back to Texas, and the rest of us starting off on safari down in the Cape with the arrival of the Skelly’s, Matson’s, and Kruvant’s. The group arrived in Cape Town, where they were met by Freewalker Luxury Tours, guided by owner/operator, Murray Luscombe.

From the slopes of Table Mountain, to the heart of the wine country, and along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth – All this and more made for one fun tour. No stone was left unturned or pit-stop missed as the group meandered along down the coast. The food was superb, the scenery a treat and the wine plentiful – what more could one ask for on vacation?

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With a week of touring and R&R behind them the group settled into the next leg of their safari – hunting started in earnest, and the photographers made the best of some great photographic opportunities.

For Paul and Melissa Matson, and Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, the safari that had started out so well only kept getting better. A number of great trophies, including Blesbuck, Impala, Springbuck, Bushbuck, and Gemsbuck, were taken, but nothing could prepare them for their spiral festival. The quality of both their East Cape Kudu, and Nyala, was some of the best to date this season – with our personal favorite being Paul’s massive Kudu.

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Paul’s magnificent Nyala hunted in pristine habitat along the coast.

 

The Kudu that had heads turning - what a beauty!

The Kudu that had heads turning – what a beauty!

Robert Kruvant, together with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix” Hoole, had set their sights on an East Cape Kudu, with anything extra being an unexpected bonus. They worked hard for their bull, coming up close on two prior occasions, finally getting the right opportunity to make a telling shot. An Impala too crossed their path before the end of their hunt, but not before Robert’s wife, Melinda, had joined the men for a day out in the field – the scenery proved to be spectacular.

For Tom and Dianne Skelly, their safari turned out to be harder than most. Having arrived in Cape Town and enjoyed two days of touring, they received the sad news of the passing of Tom’s mother. They dully returned to the US to be with family and friends, only to return the following week to join the rest of their friends in Africa. They were lucky enough to reschedule their flights and make it back prior to the entire group completing their safari, thereby spending time together on their long-awaited African hunt.

Our condolences once again goes out to the entire Skelly family – To Tom and Dianne, we hope we turned a period of mourning into a comfortable one through the experiences created at John X Safaris. We enjoyed having you and hope you enjoyed your hunt – from what we could gather you sure did enjoy your stay.

To Robert, Tom, and Paul – Congratulations on a fine selection of trophies. You all worked hard and deserved every inch of success you achieved. Melissa, Melinda, and Dianne, the adventurous traveling spirits – It’s not often that three ladies take on Cape Town, Lalibela, and Victoria Falls on the same safari. We bet you had a blast! It was great having you, we can’t wait for 2016!

Currently we’re on the back-end of a number of safaris, enjoying a memorable “Reunion Hunt” with some old friends from 2001, as well as having the Stark’s and Penney’s out on their first hunt with John X Safaris. Later in the week sees the arrival of the Nelsen brother’s and Schneider’s, as they too join us for their first African experience.

Until next time – Keep hunting, and we’ll keep doing what we do best…

Creating world-class experiences with a lot of fun along the way!

Creating world-class experiences with a lot of fun along the way!

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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