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For six weeks long we have spent numerous days and countless hours trying to share the wonder and beauty of Africa. Trying to relay the feeling that stirs within when the dark continent creeps under your skin and into your soul. The onslaught on ones senses is like nowhere else on earth.

Even after all these years it seems the traveling abroad only gets longer and the longing for Africa greater. This year, like the many before, saw us once again embarked on our journey to secure the future and prosperity of Africa and her wildlife. The commitment from the American hunter is something that is spoken about often, but needs mentioning again. Without you and your support our wildlife would not enjoy the growth and security it has become accustomed to today. For that we are forever grateful. Thank you.

Record numbers were reached on the booking front this year. From Dallas to Las Vegas and the many stops in between – So many people to thank. So many to welcome on board as they look to embark on their first safari to Africa with John X Safaris. And of course, so many to be indebted to as they once again chose John X Safaris as their choice destination for 2017/18/19. The support, referrals, and recommendations from our returning hunters has left us astounded once again. It only drives us on to keep doing what we’ve been doing – ensuring our safaris are so much more than a hunt, but the complete African experience.

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The acceptance and excitement around Woodlands Game Reserve, our new base and home, combined with our renowned Karoo concessions, has seen us return home even more invigorated than before. The experience of 34 years in the safari industry and knowing the commitment it takes to ensure you as individual will enjoy a world-class safari, is not merely a given, but our word. The success and enjoyment derived from being a part of your safari is something we as a team gain much enjoyment from. It’s something we’re proud of and something that goes far further than the hunt.

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Our traditional season in South Africa will kick off in mid-April, at the completion of our new Colonial Safari Manor at Woodlands. This year will see hunters enjoy safari camps like no other, with our northern Karoo camp having enjoyed an upgrade too. While it had been dry for the most part of 2016, late summer rains have fallen across the majority of our areas, with the promise of more on the horizon each evening. The retention of our renowned coastal and Karoo plains game concessions, combined with Woodlands and the Big 5 dynamic that has added, will ensure our hunters enjoy arguably the finest hunting Southern Africa has to offer.

Between now and April we will be gearing up for the season ahead with scouting, building and planning being the focus in and around John X Safaris. There’s a lot to be done, but so much to look forward to.

Here’s hoping my team at home can get it done – As for me, I’m off to Cameroon to get our season off to a big start, and at the same time tick another adventure from my “half full” bucket list. It doesn’t get much bigger than a Lord Derby Eland for a hunter or for that matter, his Professional Hunter.

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In closing I’d like to thank you once again for your American hospitality, your continued support, and your unrelenting trust in John X Safaris is something we’re extremely proud of as a team. Our appreciation is something that goes beyond words.

Thank you!

Catch you in Africa – Carl & Team

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

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Over the years I have been blessed to meet and hunt with some of the greatest outdoor enthusiasts of our day. May it have been a specialized safari in the mountains of the north for Vaal Rhebuck or a Blue Duiker in the forests of our coastal belt, or even a first timer safari with their children. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of sharing many a day out in the field with men and women who have represented our hunting ways and industry for numerous decades.

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Some have joined on one hunt, while there have been others who came back a second time – Then there was Craig Boddington.

When Craig and I first met we were no more than strangers at a cocktail party in Dallas. A couple of months passed and soon we were exchanging emails and a couple of phone calls. Before we knew it Craig and his family were on safari with me and we found ourselves crouching down below a pile of rocks while glassing for a particular Kudu bull I’d scouted some weeks before.

There was a great bull feeding no more than 180 yards below our position, oblivious to our presence, but it was not the bull I was after. Craig gave me some time and when he saw I was ready to move on to continue my search for “the” bull he shuffled over to where I was positioned with my spotting scope. “Look Carl I know you’d like to get us this particular monster you’ve been seeing, but why don’t you keep it for one of your future clients, this bull right here is plenty good for us – lets take him.” And that’s where I realized there’s more to Craig Boddington than just a great writer, adventurer, hunter and explorer.

Since then we have shared many a camp fire in Africa and now for the first time, Craig and I would like to invite you to join us around our campfire this June. Craig will be hosting a group at John X Safaris in the East Cape, South Africa, from 16-24 June 2017.

Hunters interested in joining this group will enjoy both our coastal base, Woodlands Game reserve, as well as our northern areas in the Great Karoo. By combining the two areas, you as the hunter, will ultimately get to hunt three safaris in one, covering the forests and valley bushveld of the coastal belt, the plains of the Great Karoo, and the mountains of the north. In doing so you will enjoy the opportunity to hunt more than thirty species in their natural environment where they are naturally of better quality. The two areas camps are 3 hours apart, an easy transition on any particular hunting day, ensuring no hunting days are lost.

The all-inclusive 1×1 base cost, covering all day, service and trophy handling fees + taxes, for this hunt will be $3600.00. Over and above this fee only pay for trophies harvested/wounded. Feel free to hunt 2×1 or invite observers along. Why not make the most of our John X Safaris getting the youth hunting initiative – You buy the flight and we’ll comp the Jr hunters day fee, only pay for trophies harvested/wounded. Start them young and get them hunting!

If you would like to join Craig and myself in the East Cape between 16 – 24 June 2017 – Then drop us a line on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za . We have 4-5 spots remaining. For further details on John X Safaris feel free to visit our website on http://www.johnxsafaris.co.za

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We look forward to sharing a camp fire with you in Africa.

Yours in hunting,

Carl van Zyl & Craig Boddington

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

Ever considered the possibility of an African hunt? If you’ve never looked into a safari to the dark continent you may be surprised at how affordable it actually is. The reality of an African hunt might be much closer than you may realize.

Are you after…

  • An outfit that welcomes all hunters, no matter what your age, physical condition or hunting capabilities.
  • Over 30 Species of World-Class Plains Game in abundance across large concessions in the game rich East Cape.
  • Fair Chase Big 5 on our private 30 000 acre concession, Woodlands Game Reserve.
  • Lodging second to none. Where you can choose 1 of 3 different lodges throughout the East Cape. Hunt the game in their natural environment where they are naturally of better quality.
  • Unlimited Tiny 10.
  • Mountain hunting like nowhere else in Southern Africa.
  • Both large high-fenced concessions or free-range areas. We have access to over 3 million acres in the East Cape alone.
  • A hunt that caters to you the hunter – serious about achieving your desired results without “package deals” standing in the way of your goals.
  • A family friendly atmosphere where youngsters are welcomed free of charge. Take us up on our initiative of #Gettingtheyouthhuntingatjxs
  • A destination that welcomes lady hunters and has been doing so for many years.
  • A destination that welcomes observers and prioritize their experience/s as much as that of the hunter.
  • A destination that welcomes groups, and can cater to groups by having large enough areas and a big enough team ensuring every member of the group leaves us satisfied.
  • Professional Hunters who take your safari seriously, ensuring your priorities are not only met, but your expectations exceeded.
  • An outfit who hunts for a living – You – Our Hunter, is our priority, not the ranch or any sideshows. Our business is hunting, and hunting only. We dedicate 24 hours a day to you ensuring your safari is everything you’d hoped for.
  • Hunting with an outfit that not only “talks” about the good work it does, but actually get’s it hands dirty making a true difference via our John X Foundation.
  • An outfit who believes in hunting for conservation – after all, if we didn’t practice what we preached, how could we still be the leaders after 33 years in the safari industry.

IF the above is what you’re after then why not join John X Safaris in Africa – It’s your ultimate safari destination…

Below are some of our most popular safari/hunt options on offer – There’s something for everyone.

  • Single or Multi Area Hunt – Make the most of our traditional 7/10 Day Hunt in the East Cape. Limited dates remain for 2017.
  • Get the Youth Hunting – Bring your son/daughter/any minor along on their spring/summer break and we’ll comp his/her day fee. Only pay for trophies.
  • 2017 Cape Buffalo Special – Opening Season Woodlands Cape Buffalo Hunt $15000 (7 Days All Incl) This will be real hunting in a large extensive concession with amazing quality Cape Buffalo. Numbers are high and quotas are conservative  – Expect to be amazed!
  • Tiny 10 Hunts – We’re the team hunters turn to when it comes to their Tiny 10 collections. From Vaal Rhebuck to the Livingstone Suni and everything in between.
  • Mountain Hunts in Africa – You’re an altitude hunting enthusiast? Then we’ve got the hunt for you in Africa. Vaal Rhebuck, Klipspringer and Mnt Reedbuck – There’s no one with more experience and larger/better areas when it comes to hunting the high country in Africa. Our track record and the amount of 10″ Vaal Rhebuck hitting the salt on an annual basis speaks for itself.
  • Hunt the Spiral Slam – East Cape Kudu, Cape Bushbuck, Nyala & Cape Eland. Could there be a more beautiful slam with such challenging hunting.

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Below is a quick reminder of our 2017 show and travel schedule. If you or any of your friends may be interested in meeting with us, please drop us a line, we’d be glad to fit you or them into our schedule.

  • Dallas Safari Club Show – Dallas, Texas: 5 – 8 January 2017. Booth # 4360
  • Houston, TX, Cocktail Party: 11 January 2017 – Any interested hunters can join us for an evening BBQ Reception at the Travis residence.
  • College Station, TX, Cocktail Party: 13 January 2017 – Any interested hunters can join us for Africa Info Night with Horizon Firearms at their amazing factory.
  • Amarillo, TX, Visit: 16 – 20 January 2017 – Any folks interested in meeting up with Stix can schedule a preferred time during the week.
  • Omaha, NE,  Cocktail Party/Visit: 20 – 25 January 2017 – Carl will be hosting a cocktail evening with Steve & Jill Evers from Wildlife Creations Taxidermy on Saturday, 21 January 2017.
  • Jackson, MS: 20 – 25 January 2017 – Stix will be visiting with our good friends Alex Good & Mike Jarvis. Feel free to meet up with Stix while he’s in Mississippi.
  • Salt Lake City / Eagle Mountain / Pleasant View, UT: 25 – 29 January 2017 – Feel free to meet up with Carl/Stix while they’re in Utah.
  • Safari Club International – Las Vegas, Nevada: 1 – 4 February 2017.Booth # 3052 & 3054

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Hunting with John X Safaris is more than just a hunt – It’s the total safari experience. It is a journey of discovery, a wakening of the senses, and ultimately the realization of the dream of hunting Africa.

Whether it is your first trip to Africa, a hunt for the big five, or the choice of forty different plains game species, we are here to cater to your every need.

Contact us for your next hunt on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za or alternatively call Carl Van Zyl on US Cell 6824108377 or PH Ross ‘Stix’ Hoole on 6824108373– We’d gladly assist by dropping you a mail, giving you a call or visiting you in your home state.

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

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As I started my final forward from Lalibela during late September, I found myself gazing out over the game rich plains deep in thought… the moment had finally come for us to say goodbye and close a chapter on twenty memorable years. I would be lying if I were to try to convince you that at that moment I was not feeling overly sentimental or emotional. Twenty years of dreaming, sacrifice, hard work, and achievement. It had been a journey like few.

If we were to rewind the clock by twenty years, to be more precise, October 1996, and I were to tell you about that first sunny afternoon on Hillside Farm, Sidbury, East Cape, South Africa, you would have been excused for being a pessimist like the many others. Rick and Sue van Zyl had just acquired the first property in what would become today’s world-renowned Lalibela Game Reserve, and the home of John X Safaris.

At first it was a meager colonial homestead turned into a “rustic camp” for the few loyal hunters, who unbeknownst to them were playing a major role in getting the dream of a wildlife reserve off to a slow, but gradual start. Soon the first lodge, Lentaba, was completed, giving our hunters a taste of what was to come. With the acquisition of more land and the re-introduction of 22 game species and the first White Rhino, things started coming together nicely.

With 20 000 acres, a lodge, one of the Big 5, over 3000 head of game, and an eager team we set off to launch Lalibela to tourists in the summer of 2002. The concept was a brilliant one; our hunters would occupy and utilize the winter hunting months, while the tourists would take up the summer months, when hunters preferred to stay home for their traditional northern hemisphere hunting season.

By 2003 a second lodge, Mark’s Camp, was completed, the very year both Elephant and Cape Buffalo, joined the White Rhino as members of the Big 5, once again roaming free where they had not set foot for over a hundred years. A masterstroke in developments it turned out to be, with the reserve taking an even bigger step with the introduction of free roaming Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah in the early part of 2004. With the addition of a further 10 000 acres and completion of our flagship lodge, Treetops Luxurious Tented Camp, a first of its kind, during September that same year, Lalibela had established itself and was now a successful brand in both the hunting and tourist industries respectively.

Throughout the years and the numerous developments we have been privileged to have grown as a family, calling a place such as Lalibela, home. It is something that we have not taken lightly in our responsibility to the land, wildlife, our people, hospitality, and business. Your support and safari contributions have allowed us to build and live an extraordinary life – one we could not have been a part of without each and every one of you – after all, Lalibela only became a reality because of you and your commitment to conservation through hunting. It has been a journey we are immensely proud of and an achievement of a goal reached through untold sacrifice and hard work.

With that said we had reached for the stars and fallen amongst them, but something was lacking, it was time to move on… time to let go of the familiarity. It was time to go back to the beginning, to our people, to John X Safaris and the most enjoyable years of our lives.

New Beginnings – Woodlands Game Reserve

“And suddenly you just know… it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings…”

Woodlands Game Reserve – 30 000 Acres, big 5, plains game, over 2500 head of game, 20 + species, rifle, archery, wing shooting, and a brand new colonial safari lodge opening in March 2017 + the very same trusted team – Dedicated to hunters and hunting only. 

We will still be offering our multi-area option safaris in both the coastal and northern Karoo regions, like we’ve been doing for the past 33 years, with Woodlands becoming our coastal base. Those hunters who have booked safaris can rest assured that Woodlands will be everything and more of what Lalibela could have ever offered as a destination.

We have found our new home. It’s a hidden gem like no other, and you’re invited to join us on your next safari as we turn the industry on its head and launch the greatest hunting destination the East Cape has ever seen.

Until your next safari – We thank you for being a part of the Safari World of John X Safaris during the past year and the many before. It has been a privilege hosting and having you on safari. Your support and friendship means the world to us. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Carl & Family

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

With one season coming to a close we turn our attention towards the next at a rapid rate. It seems the hunting world has notched up its intensity to the next level with numerous inquiries from around the world. The possibilities are endless from Plains Game to Big 5 with destinations to suite your safari requirements – How about some of these options for your next hunt with John X Safaris?

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Make the most of our traditional 7/10 Day Hunt in the East Cape – Single or Multi Area Hunt…

Our renowned hunts throughout the Coastal and Karoo regions of the East Cape have been going for over 33 years, and like Matt and Stephanie Zanin, who joined us during late August, you too can make the most of arguably the best value for money hunt in the world.

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Our East Cape safaris allow our hunters the option of hunting from either two or only one region on any given hunt. That allows for the best of both worlds – Matt and Stephane opted for the multi area safari…

While Dennis LaRochce opted for a single area safari during mid-September. Dennis had booked a hunt to Tanzania for 2016, opting to join us for a stop-over safari on the way back home in our Coastal region. An Nyala and Cape Bushbuck were his two priority species to complete his spiral slam. He did so in some style in breath-taking surroundings.

You’ve tried everything the East Cape has to offer? Want to hunt a different region in South Africa? We’ve got you covered!

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Our dear Australian friend, Max King, had joined us in the East Cape on two previous occasions. This time he opted for something somewhat different to your traditional African safari.

An Aoudad in South Africa’s Northern Cape…

Upon Max’s return home, having enjoyed his experience to the utmost, he sent us a poem he wrote about his hunt for his weary old ram…

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Black and tan piled iron-stone tors

This croque-en-bouche, where Aoudad lay

At rest among the sun dappled gorse

‘Till thirst demands their trek to sate.

For three grey days the mountains howled,

Now lightning strikes and thunder reigns.

And while we cringe ‘neath shelter’s cowl’

The bloodied sands are cleansed again.

Max King (Copyright 29/09/2016)

Or care to join us in another African destination?

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You may be in the same boat as one of our longest standing hunters. Ron Machado first started hunting with us at John X Safaris almost two decades ago, and ever since that first safari he not only fell in love with Africa, but became a part of our family too. Ron has joined us on more than ten trips to the Dark Continent covering South Africa, Mozambique, and Namibia. This year he joined us in Zimbabwe for the elusive Sharp’s Grysbuck on his quest to complete his Tiny 10.

Lake Kariba and her magnificent shoreline provided the backdrop to a sensational photographic, fishing, and hunting experience…

Like them, you too can make the most of our various destinations on offer for your next African adventure. You’ve trusted us with your initial hunt to the Dark Continent – Feel free to do so again. You wont be disappointing.

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

#GunWerked

While out on safari up in the high country with Gunwerks owner, Aaron Davidson, during our 2015 safari, the topic of having a Gunwerks rifle in camp came up once again. Having witnessed the class and precision of their rifles, combined with an amazing user-friendly shooting system that simplifies the complicated science of long-range shooting, the matter of getting my very own Gunwerks rifle to Africa became a goal for 2016.

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With the help of Aaron and Garrett I picked out my choice gun during SCI’s annual Convention in Las Vegas – My gun was finally coming home to Africa.

Welcoming back the crew and my Gunwerks rifle to Africa

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As late July rolled in so too did Aaron with his sons, Danner and Derec Davidson, as well as Gunwerks customers, John Benbow, Sultan Kawarit, Paul Baird, and the Gardiner family.

For Aaron it would be a traditional return joining me on safari for what has become a highlight in my calendar each year. Knowing each other so well and enjoying so much of the same, we have built an enjoyable friendship through our adventures and time on the show circuit each year.

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This years hunt would prove to be a special one, as together with him, he brought his sons, Danner and Derec, for their first taste of Africa.

Some torrid cold conditions put the boys through their paces on the first few days up in the Karoo, but credit to them as they stuck it out and soon started mastering challenging conditions overhead. From huddling around a small camp fire with the trackers trying to keep out of the snow and cold, to blistering winds, and finally beautiful sunny days, giving the boys a bit of everything Africa could throw at them. And when it turned the boys turned up the heat with some world-class shots!

Of course Aaron got in on the action too, but it was not until we got back south to the coast that he and I finally found the kind of Warthog we’d been after for many years. It all kind of happened by sure coincidence, but we’ll take our luck everyday of the week! On previous safaris we had always concentrated on numerous species, with a Warthog never proving to be a priority. Over time a pig became somewhat of a priority, and more so – a big pig.

We had passed up a number of shooters over the years, but this time there was no second guessing.

We had passed up a number of shooters over the years, but this time there was no second guessing. A “Boss Hog” finally hit the salt!

Aaron’s Warthog proved to be his final trophy of the hunt, while the boys continued on in style harvesting Cape Bushbuck, Warthog and Zebra. Both the shots on the Cape Bushbuck and Warthog were fantastic setups with great natural shooting platforms due to the nature and the lay of the land, while the Zebra on our last day allowed the boys to get in close, once again proving the versatility of the Gunwerks system.

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While Aaron and the boys were enjoying every minute of their family hunt, so too was first timer John Benbow who joined the crew teaming up with Professional Hunter, Dave Burcy. John and Dave hit it off from day one going about their hunt in a quiet way, bringing home pretty loud trophies each evening.

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Each morning they’d head into the hills…

And each evening their quality spoke for itself…

It seemed this team had a trick up their sleeve each time someone else brought in something really good. What has become tradition over the years, has seen the team of Professional Hunters choose the best trophy hunted during the Gunwerks safari each season. The criteria is not set in stone, but the specie/animal hunted must carry the attributes of a gold medal class animal for that particular specie.

And so it came as no surprise that John hunted the trophy of the safari - A magnificent 43" Sable.

And so it came as no surprise that John hunted the trophy of the safari – A magnificent 43″ Sable.

Sultan Kawarit had previously hunted the East Cape, but this would be his first taste of what John X Safaris has to offer.

Sultan had previously hunted with PH, Martin Neuper, and was ecstatic to hear that Martin had joined our team, once again teaming up for another safari.

Sultan had hunted with PH, Martin Neuper, before and was ecstatic to hear that Martin had joined our team.

The two of them set out to not only tackle a variety of plains game, but a couple of mountain dwellers too. On Sultan’s previous safari he had hunted a number of species, so this time round he was after not only variety, but quality too. He had arrived at the right destination. The quality of Sultan’s trophies speak volumes of our areas, while the experiences provided by Martin will be lasting memories for both of them.

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There was however one particular hunt that will never be forgotten by all involved. The guys were after Klipspringer and had headed into the hills with a lunch pack for the day.

By mid-morning they had found a couple of pairs, but a heavy mist with sleet rain blew in from the north, covering them in a blanket of white and cold.

By mid-morning they had found a couple of pairs, but a heavy mist with sleet rain blew in from the north, covering them and the Klipspringer in a blanket of white and cold.

For three hours they held their position having identified a shooter ram. When the weather blew over the ram provided a shot at 480 yards.

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What a shot – What an effort – What a memory!

Sultan’s hunt proved to be a massive success with his Cape Eland over 1100 yards being one of the best and longest shots of the safari. While Sultan was pushing hard providing a competitive challenge to the rest of the hunters, it was Paul Baird, hunting with PH, Greg Hayes, and the Gardiner family guided by PH, Rusty Coetzer, that left us amazed.

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Paul was the first and only man whom we have ever seen taking long-range shots off standing sticks, and doing so successfully time and again. His confidence was a treat to observe – it’s hard not to admire a man who puts in that kind of practice and then to enjoy his success with him when the results pay off.

As for the Gardiner family consisting of Todd Sr, Alex, Gabriel and Todd-Gerald – these guys had very little to no experience with the Gunwerks system, let alone any long-range practice prior to their arrival. Their success and the speed at which they gained confidence once again proved why Gunwerks remains one of the best, if not the best, system in the long-range market.

With this being their first hunt to Africa – a great occasion to say the least – they booked GTS Productions to capture their experiences on film. Enjoy the journey with them and relive the emotions of what proved to be an exciting ten days with John X Safaris.

#GunWerked during 2016

It seems the more we use, enjoy, and hunt with the Gunwerks system, the more we take for granted. It has become the norm to accept that every single last Gunwerks rifle that has ever joined John X Safaris on a hunt has far exceeded our and our hunters expectations in not only precision results, but rewarding experiences for those who have had the privilege to shoot these amazing rifles. The fact that a seasoned long-range hunter or a beginner such as myself can achieve a certain level of success within a limited period of time speaks volumes for the system. That alone is a remarkable feat by Aaron and his entire team at Gunwerks, and for that they need to be congratulated.

I see the new #tag sporting the waves reads #GunWerked – Let’s rephrase that to #GunWerked2011,  #GunWerked2012,  #GunWerked2013,  #GunWerked2014,  #GunWerked2015  … And I can assure you #GunWerked once again in Africa during 2016. Take my word for it, I’m not merely guiding hunters enjoying the system – I’m shooting my very own Gunwerks 7 mm LRM.

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

When we first set out to launch our foundations mission for 2016, it was probably one of the greatest unknowns I’ve ever taken on within the safari industry. The questions mulling over in my head and the fears of launching a successful program felt more daunting than my first Cape Buffalo hunt. While the John X Foundation has been supporting a number of worthy initiatives and causes over the past five years, this one seemed closer to home. It was my brainchild, something I had been quietly thinking about for a number of years ~ I knew my passion and the unrelenting support from my team would ensure success, but this was still a first for all of us.

Counting down the days and then the arrival at Orange Grove Adventures… The first Jr Hunters Course

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Having raised the necessary funds through the support of our generous hunters, whom we cannot thank enough, we plotted and planned every detail of the course with Patrick Cairns. Trish jumped to work on sourcing the various items of clothing, toiletries, and food requirements. Greg, Stix and I covered the various topics of the course with Patrick, while Ozzie and Jose from GTS Productions worked on the script of how we would be sharing this very first Jr Hunters course with the rest of the world.

The months soon turned to days and before we knew it we were unpacking the trucks at Orange Grove, Tarkastad. With us we had eight shy boys from various backgrounds and communities – all linked to the safari industry in one way or another.

At first I wasn’t sure who was more nervous than the other? Patrick had warned me of something I had never considered when the idea first came to mind. While most of us grew up “wanting” to hunt or have been introduced to hunting at a young age, and would have given anything to have been accepted to a Jr Hunters course at age 13/14, none of these boys from our previously disadvantaged communities had ever hunted before. They understood the concept, but not a single boy had ever held a gun in their lives! Did they even want to be here I kept asking myself. Was it my “want” for them to be here? Or was I being overly ambitious in my concept?

If you don’t dare you cannot succeed….

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Nelson Mandela once remarked; “If your plan is for 1 year, plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years, educate children.” And it was with those words that we jumped in head first. We were determined to make an impact through hunting and the great outdoors on these young men.

That first afternoon and evenings’ schedule was dominated by lectures on topics such as; why hunting plays an important role in conservation, what the correct ethics were in hunting – the do’s and dont’s, and of course we wanted to hear from them what they thought hunting was. How did they see this age-old tradition?

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We spoke about the various methods of hunting and then capped off our day with a rifle cleaning session and dinner around the campfire. Some of the boys had never traveled this far away from home before – so all were pretty exhausted after an overwhelming first day. The boys settled into their campsite and were fast asleep before we even realized they had quietly disappeared from the fire.

The following morning saw the “shy” boys from the previous day rise to slightly more confident young men. With their smiles and imminent signs of genuine interest, my fears started dissipating. Things started falling in place as we started the morning lecture off with tracking and track identification in the field. By mid morning we had them back to the final lecture session of the day – animal identification. This proved to be an interesting one as soon one could judge the region a child was from by the game he was able to identify. With our huge variety of game one could understand how a kid from the Karoo didn’t have the slightest idea of what a Blue Duiker or Bushbuck looked like, while the coastal kids had never seen a Gemsbuck in their lives before.

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After lunch we were off to the range. This proved to be one of the most rewarding afternoons I have ever experienced. There we were, Greg, Stix, Asisipho, Patrick’s trainer assistant, and myself, each at a bench with the boys taking turns. Patrick covered the various gun safety aspects once again, and then we had the boys take their first shots with a .22. The results were astounding. Expecting a full afternoon on the range we had not planned or banked on how fast they would master the art of handling a firearm in a safe manner, and then becoming crack shots at the same time. We were astounded!

Soon we had them shooting off sticks, and then we put away the .22’s and took out the 243’s – which they would be using the following day to hopefully harvest their first Springbuck.

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By the early evening we felt confident in our young hunters capabilities and headed back to camp to discuss the various shot placement scenarios and the general characteristics and habits of their target specie the following day.

8/8 – What a day!

That morning we woke the boys at 04:30 am and headed out for Springbuck. Four teams consisting of a Professional Hunter and two boys, accompanied by a GTS Productions cameraman, set out in various directions. The Springbuck were plentiful and the opportunities numerous. The boys had clearly listened the previous day, and while there were some spectacular misses, there were some pretty amazing shots too. In the end we got home at 17:30 that afternoon with 8 boys, and 8 Springbuck. It was a remarkable feat to say the least. We had taken a bunch of serious “green horns” and achieved a level of success we had not envisaged, but more important than any kill, we had introduced hunting and the benefits of that lifestyle to a group of young men who now clearly seemed hooked.

We had taken 8 boys and turned them into 8 enthusiastic hunters. There’s something to be said about that particular experience.

Wrapping things up in fun –  A Charging Buffalo and Clays…

Our final day saw the weather continue to treat us well, as we set out to work and process the Springbuck carcasses from the previous days hunt. Each boy dismantled the various portions and cuts from his own Springbuck, while Patrick and Asisipho explained what each portion of meat could be used for, or prepared into a scrumptious meal. Once the meat was processed and packed away we were off to the range once again. This time round we had a surprise up our sleeve for the boys.

Arriving at the range the boys soon realized they wouldn’t be shooting at stationary targets, but a mobile one – in the form of a charging Cape Buffalo on a sled. One of the boys would tie a long rope around his waist, which was connected to a life-size Cape Buffalo target, and upon Patrick’s command the runner would take off at a full gallop pulling the sled along at a rapid pace towards a second boy with a loaded .22. The concept was quite simple ~ hit the Buffalo in the head or chest before the sled reached your position. This proved to be a hit with the boys, as the laughter and excitement reached new levels. Soon we pulled out the “Elephant gun” as they referred to the 458, and offered then an opportunity to shoot with a big bore rifle for the very first time. Once those who opted to try the 458 had each had a couple of turns, the instructors and PH’s set out on a small competition of our own, taking on the charging Buffalo with the 458. I can proudly declare each one of the guys made the required kill shots, with our Mexican friend, Jose, out shooting us all! (He just got lucky! LOL) By the end of the charging Buffalo challenge one could see that the boys had now truly come into their own and were engaging in every aspect of every challenge we threw at them.

From one challenge we headed to the next – Clays on the range and the concept of wing shooting. This particular session proved to be an amazing one as some of the boys were recording 3/5 scores on their first round. We all agreed that was pretty impressive considering the time it takes most of us to master the art of successful clay pigeon shooting. We finished up the clays and shells, satisfied with a morning well spent and headed to camp for our final afternoon and evening around the camp fire.

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We had all had a blast!

Giving Thanks where Thanks is due…

As I proudly reflect back over the course I can truly say we have achieved everything we had hoped for and so much more. More importantly we have realized how much we take for granted, and how important it is for each and every one of us as hunters, to take responsibility of our actions, by committing ourselves to introducing our age-old tradition we hold so dear, to the next generation. While it is important that we continue to raise our young boys and girls in a manner that accepts hunting and the role it plays in the future of our wildlife, we need to challenge ourselves to introduce a complete “outsider” to the world of hunting. This is something harder than most would realize, and something we could not have done without the support of a number of committed hunters who made this first Jr Hunters Course a reality during 2016.

Most of them, as on previous occasions would prefer to remain anonymous, as they feel it’s not about them, but about the kids. They are the true saints of our Foundation, the people whom I cannot leave out at this time.

Sam Cunningham, Jim and Chris Smith, John Thompson, David and Mary-Lynn West – Words cannot express my gratitude. You all know how close to my heart this mission was, and every one of you never asked a single question, except how many kids the Foundation needed sponsorship for. You are the ones that have truly made a difference. Thank you.

Enjoy the memories with us as GTS Productions takes us back to a week of fun on the first of many Jr Hunters courses to come.

If you’ve enjoyed hearing about the John X Foundations Jr Hunter initiative and would like to get more involved by sponsoring a boy/s for our 2017 course, then please feel free to contact Carl directly on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za  or catch up with him in the US during Jan/Feb 2017. Also note as of 2017 we will be able to offer our donors the opportunity to claim back 100% of their donations through an agreement reached with the Ithembu Trust via a 501(c)3 Registered Organization under the Jernigan Foundation. We’d be glad to have you on board as we strive to make a difference through hunting.

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

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