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IMG_1284During the month of May, right at the heat of the rut, after the first frost had turned the summer green into a dull yellow, we welcomed a fun bunch of hunters from Texas. The group comprised of our old friends, Steve Travis and Glynn Underwood, as well as first timers, Derrick Ratliff, Luciano Batista, Matt Grim, Sam Stacks, Rolando Rodriguez, and Erik Isacson. Their hunt would be one of our biggest groups for the year taking on everything the East Cape had to offer, from the fleet-footed Klipspringer up in the mountains of the north to the ever diverse plains of the Great Karoo. From the north we headed south to the coast hunting a variety of specialized East Cape species coming away with a great bag of trophies spread across the entire group.

While the trophy photos tell a story of an immensely successful hunt for all involved, they do not capture the full extend of the fun and camaraderie shared among all during the course of this safari. These guys came to Africa to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear her to the fullest each day – living out their experiences as if there was no tomorrow. GTS Productions and their crew joined us on our hunt, fading into the background while capturing this once in a lifetime hunt for all. Enjoy the hunts, the various characters, and the many laughs along the way – These guys were the epitome of fun – They were ‘The Great Texan Invasion”…

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.

Having met Derrick Ratliff at Dallas Safari Club’s annual Convention during January 2016 we immediately knew we were dealing with a passionate man. Walking up to his Horizon Firearms booth with our good friends, Glynn Underwood (aka “Super Hunter”) and Steve Travis, for the initial introductions, it became very apparent that the man not only knew how to build great firearms, but as importantly build great looking guns. The Horizon Firearms brand most certainly came across as something new and unique to say the least. At the time we had no experience on the guns, and had not seen how they would perform in Africa with the usual questions when experiencing a new product for the very first time.

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Fast forward to three months later and Derrick had touched down in Africa.

Derrick had joined a great bunch of guys from Houston, Texas, forming an integral part of one of our funnest groups of the year. Teaming up with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix”Hoole, and tracker, Thanduxolo, the guys set out on their quest to conquer Africa’s spiral horned slam and anything else that met their fancy on quality.

The hunting turned out to be nothing short of exceptional with Horizon Firearms passing their first test of Africa with flying colors.

Upon Derrick’s return home he opened his first newsletter for Horizon Firearms with a story titled Epic – Hunting in Africa. We wanted to share extracts from his story, giving you a front row seat to his first hand experiences.

What is epic? Is it a specific trophy animal? The great shot you made? The time around the campfire with buddies? Or is it just the hunt?

To me Epic was a term I learned in South Africa this year. I never really thought about it, but it was a term used a lot by my Professional Hunter (PH) “Stix”, and looking back that really was the only word that could describe Africa.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive the invite to go with a couple of great customers and friends of mine, Glynn and Steve. If it was not for their persistence and confidence in going with John X Safaris I would not have even considered it. And I would have missed out on a hunt of a lifetime.

It all started back at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, when I had a chance to meet with Carl and Ross “Stix” of John X Safaris. We had a booth there ourselves, and Glynn and Steve convinced me to meet with the John X guys. After one meeting I knew I had to go with them on the trip. I was impressed by their outfit and the confidence they had in the quality of their hunting land, without acting like a bunch of used car salesmen. I knew I could trust them.

Once the trip was officially booked, I was like a little kid counting down the days until Christmas. After months of paperwork, target practice and getting all my gear together, it was finally time to jump the pond. Not only was it my first overnight flight, it was my first international flight traveling with firearms. Man, was that an experience. It was definitely a learning experience and all I can say is that Ann and her crew at Air 2000 were lifesavers! We were in and out of all the checkpoints in about 1/3 of the time of all the hunters that were on our flight. [Side note: Well worth the value of their service, for anyone traveling to Africa contact Ann and tell them Horizon Firearms sent you.]

Once in Johannesburg, we decided to lay low for a day to sleep off the jet-lag before hopping on one more flight to Port Elizabeth. During the hustle and bustle of getting the guns cleared through the police station, we were greeted by Carl and his crew of PH’s. [Side note: It is very nice to have an outfitter that speaks the local African languages well so that you know what is going on when traveling with firearms in a foreign country.]

After the guns were cleared, we loaded our gear into their sweet safari Toyota trucks and headed off for the Karoo. It took us about three hours to get there. Thank goodness I don’t get motion sickness because the South African roads, and the driving on the opposite side of the road, is enough to make your head spin. Once we arrived at camp, we headed out to the shooting range and got everyone dialed in for the morning to come…

The rest of the trip is more than I can talk about in one post. Every day was filled with a new adventure and every evening filled with amazing food and camaraderie around the campfire. In saying this there’s not a whole lot that can really prepare one for the first morning waking up in Africa. 

For now, I will say this: nothing, or no one, can prepare you for that feeling. Everyone will tell you about the mind-blowing diversity, the vast amount of land, the hundreds, if not thousands, of animals you will see – but you won’t believe it. It’s nothing short of EPIC.

GTS Productions joined Derrick on his hunt, capturing all the action along the way. Enjoy his safari with him as he relives those first emotions of Africa.

For those interested in learning more about Horizon Firearms and the great firearms they build, feel free to contact Derrick and his crew on derrick@horizonfirearms.com . Derrick will also be sharing a number of short stories about his trip and any suggestions about traveling to Africa on his Horizon Firearms Newsletter over the coming months. Feel free to follow his stories and suggestions as he plans his return on a second hunt to John X Safaris during July 2017.

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.

Now in our fourth season of partnering with Gunwerks, the leader in long-range shooting, we at John X Safaris are looking forward to an exciting 10 days of hunting starting as of tomorrow. This year will be a great combination of father and sons, as well as excited first timers to Africa. Joining Gunwerks owner, Aaron Davidson, will be his boys, Danner and Derrec, some old friends and Gunwerks customers, Sultin Kawarit, Mark Simpson, Paul Baird, John Benbow, Bob Phillips, Todd Gardener with sons, John, James, and Todd Jr.

In total, hunters will have the opportunity to hunt over 25 species, ranging from the tiny Blue Duiker 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. The hunt will once again be filmed for Gunwerks Long Range Pursuit on the Sportsman Channel.

This year we will be combining our renowned trophy hunting with a large cull quota, giving the guys some serious shooting time on the guns. For those interested in daily updates can feel free to join us on our John X Safaris Facebook page. We will be posting news and pictures of our safari as often as possible.

Opportunities in Africa are like nowhere else on earth – get ready to be amazed by the sheer number of animals, size of the hunting areas, and beauty of Africa.

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We’re off on safari – Catch you in a couple of weeks time!

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.

By Paul Brisso

When I booked my third safari with Carl van Zyl of John X Safaris for April of 2016, I had two primary objectives in mind.  First and foremost, I wanted Carl to help me introduce my wife Teresa on her first safari to the wonders and experience that makes Africa such a special place. And along the way, I wanted to hunt some animals that I had either not had the opportunity to hunt, or that had eluded me on my prior four trips to southern Africa.

Among these was the Cape Bushbuck.  Although a relatively common animal in much of southern Africa, my first two safaris in Namibia were too far north and west for Cape Bushbuck.  On my first safari with Carl and John X Safaris in South Africa several years before, we came up empty-handed after being outwitted by an exceptional Bushbuck.

On that previous safari, Bushbuck was fairly low on the priority list, to the point where we did not target it until late in the safari.  But on the last morning of the hunt we thought the hunting gods were going to be kind to us.  Glassing from a low ridge, we spotted a great ram feeding below our view-point following two females.  Dropping into the bottom, we worked our way towards the three shy animals, moving slowly and carefully to intercept them.

Everything seemed to go perfectly according to plan.  Mid to late morning we had worked into a location where we had a clear view of an opening along their route.  We set up on the shooting sticks, anticipating they would enter the lane about 80 yards away.  After 10-15 minutes, the first female fed into the clearing from our right, oblivious of our presence.  We could see glimpses of red-brown of the second female and the dark shades of the ram through the heavy brush.  After a few minutes, the second female fed into view, the ram would soon follow. Our excitement levels were building as we could still see glimpses of the ram though the brush heading our way.

“Get ready,” Carl whispered softly.  “Here he comes.”  He never did.  The two females continued feeding on contentedly through the clearing and back into the brush on the other side, oblivious to our much-anticipated ambush.  The ram apparently decided it was time to bed down and turned right, heading back in the direction he was coming from, never setting foot in the clearing.

We decided to pull out and return that evening, the last of our safari.  The wily and lucky old ram did not come out until almost very last light, and then he was too far away for us the get into position before darkness enveloped the bush.  We tipped our cap to our intended quarry and for years Carl and I have talked about the one that got away.

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On my second safari with Carl we headed to Mozambique for Cape Buffalo a couple of years later, where Carl and I got a small measure of revenge on Bushbuck by taking a very nice Chobe Bushbuck on that particular hunt.  But our longing for the one that got away and the continual discussion of it saw our urge for an exceptional Cape Bushbuck grow even more. We made an agreement – The next time we hunted together in South Africa we would prioritize a Cape Bushbuck.

So for my 2016 safari Carl had instructed me to fly into East London, rather than Port Elizabeth, which is nearer to his home base of Lalibela, so that we could pursue Cape Bushbuck in some prime country along the wild coast. Prior to our arrival in East London, my wife and I spent an enjoyable week of viewing wildlife, touring, and adjusting to the time zone difference, before flying from Durban to East London to commence with our hunting. We had purchased the photo safari at the annual California Wild Sheep Foundation fundraiser the prior year, making for a relaxing week as we acclimatized to Africa.

Upon arrival in East London we were met at the airport by John X Safaris head PH, Greg Hayes, whom joined us for a fantastic late lunch at a café overlooking the Indian Ocean, before traveling the 45 minutes to camp at Mpotshane Game Reserve where we met up with Carl.  Since we had done a photo safari first, for the first time I had decided to travel to Africa without my own rifle and use one of Carl’s for the safari.  That afternoon we moved into our room, sighted in the rifle, and settled into the lodge for our first evening.

It rained that night and the weather was still unsettled in the morning, but after breakfast we headed out to an area we would be hunting Bushbuck.  We met up with the landowner and set out in search of a ram.  We had quite an entourage—in addition to Carl, Teresa and me, we had Jose Hernandez doing some video work for Carl, Carl’s tracker, Greg and his tracker, and the landowner.

The country was ideal Bushbuck country—very steep and very thick with vegetation and very light hunting pressure.

The country was ideal Bushbuck country—very steep and very thick with vegetation and very light hunting pressure.

There was no doubt there were Bushbuck on the property that had never seen a human.  On the other hand, there was no doubt there were Bushbuck on the property that was humanly impossible to see.

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We covered a lot of country that morning and set up and glassed openings without success, other than a few females and one young ram.  The weather remained unsettled.  We were so close to Mpotshane that we decided to return for lunch, and then return again later in the afternoon. Sooner or later the weather would lift and the game would start moving.

By early afternoon the weather seemed to be clearing, and we crossed our fingers in the hope that the Bushbuck would be out and about.  We returned and commenced glassing from a spot we could see a substantial amount of country from.  The trackers had been placed on a couple of different points to glass, while the rest of us were together on a spot with a wide panorama.  There was so much country to glass, every set of binoculars focusing on far away ridges and gorges would increase our chances, but things remained slow.

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With the two professional hunters, Jose, the landowner, and me glassing various areas, Teresa—on the first day of her first safari – calmly said “There’s one.”  She had spotted a ram in a small opening on a steep hillside about 250-300 yards away. It was precisely the break we were after. The cooler weather and scattered thunder showers had pushed the animals into the deep cover, but now that the sun was starting to make its appearance again, not even a weary old ram could resist a few warm rays.

Carl quickly confirmed it was not only a ram, but an exceptional ram. We quietly moved into a shooting position a little over 200 yards away across the canyon and I touched off the shot from the 300 Win Mag. As the shot rang out the ram immediately reacted. “You’ve hit him just perfect Paul!” Carl whispered excitedly; “Did you see him jump up into the air and somersault into the brush?” unfortunately I hadn’t seen all of this as the recoil of the gun had obscured my view for a couple of seconds, but that didn’t matter, my shot was true and all indications pointed towards a downed ram.

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Man were we excited when we found him!

Tracking a wounded Bushbuck in that steep and heavily wooded country would have been a challenge beyond words.  Even so, with a confirmed downed ram we still needed a dog to help us find the animal in the thick brush.

Having found our ram was one thing, getting him out was another. Luckily for us we had a strong tracker, Bless, along to pack my ram out of the steep canyon.

With a feeling of content I watched on as Carl and the crew put together the final touches that would immortalize my trophy for the rest of my life. Pictures carry our stories beyond the adventures – Carl and his crew ensures that those pictures are always taken with the utmost care to capture that exact memory.

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I had my Cape Bushbuck!

Back at Mpotshane that evening, we celebrated and toasted our first day success and the skill of our rookie game spotter with cocktails and another great dinner.  The next day we would move on in an attempt to locate what Carl termed “a right proper Eland.”  But that is an entirely different story for another day.

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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The month of May saw us welcome back many old faces, with some bringing along new friends to experience South Africa for the very first time. Others joined us for their annual hunt to the East Cape picking up the shooting sticks with old friends as if their previous safaris had never ended. While I am yet to meet a hunter who has not thoroughly enjoyed his safari with us,  nothing quite comes close to the compliment of a returnee. For that individual to choose John X Safaris as his/her choice destination for a second, third, fourth, and in some instances even 9th trip, speaks volumes louder than words.

Dave and Ruth Stark were back on their second hunt with Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, looking to pursue another Kudu, and then complete their Springbuck slam. They headed up into a newly acquired concession, bagging a number of great animals along the way. Their Lechwe, Cape Eland, and Common Springbuck, proved to be certain highlights on their hunt, as well as the continues pursuit of the kind of Kudu Greg was after for Dave.

The rut was running late, and even with the best planning and optimum moon conditions the bulls just weren’t moving like they usually do at mid-May each year. Never the less Dave came out more determined each morning giving it his all. After having seen numerous shooters the Kudu gods finally won this round, but we are certain Dave will be back to give it another go in a couple of years time.

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With the departure of the Stark’s we welcomed our old Spanish friends from Camino Real Hunting Consultants. Alvaro, Danny, and Roberto, had become great friends while hunting various destinations throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Their passion for free-range mountain hunting in the wide expanses of the Great Karoo is what drew them to the East Cape on this particular hunt.

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The top priority on this safari would be the manner in which they preferred to hunt. In saying this it wasn’t that it differed from our usual approach, but it took on a greater meaning once one understood their motto; “Don’t turn down what the mountain offers.” 

And they didn’t….

Klipspringer, Vaal Rhebuck, Mountain Reedbuck, and East Cape Kudu, hunted hard each day from dawn to dusk. Having experienced Tanzania previously, neither Danny or Roberto had envisaged the East Cape to offer the diversity and possibilities on free range game and the hunting thereof. With our multi-area greater conservancies in the Karoo we could offer them something they could never have experienced elsewhere in Africa.

With the main priority species having hit the salt we turned our attention to further free range opportunities in the north before heading back south to the coast for the final leg of our trip.

The entire hunt turned out to be a fantastic trip with three great guys, all sharing the same enthusiasm to hunt hard, never turning down what the hunting gods offered. All three were proven excellent marksman, making numerous unbelievable shots throughout their stay with us. But in the end it doesn’t matter how hard you hunt or how well you shoot – it all starts with the hunters attitude, which proved to be the biggest winner of all. Luck will naturally come to those who choose to have fun, but none more so than the luck of a Spaniard hunting two dream pigs within the space of 12 hours.

Felicidades cablleros! Que caceria la que disfrutamos con ustedes!

By the time late May arrived we eagerly awaited John and Lynn Nowlin’s arrival for their 2016 hunt, which would see them embark on their ninth trip with John X Safaris, a special feat for all involved. Having guided them throughout Southern Africa they decided it was time to return to the point of their original “first” experience of the dark continent. This time they would be after a couple of mountain dwellers, with the usual opportunistic favorites being their species of choice. Professional Hunter, Ed Wilson, once again led the hunt in what has become something of a tradition.

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Having hunted a Vaal Rhebuck on a previous safari, the Nowlin’s were game for a second dual in the mountains. This time John hunted a challenging Klipspringer and this amazing 9″ Vaal Rhebuck.

Both John and Lynn made the most of their opportunities on Caracal over hounds, Impala, Cape Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck and Warthog, but nothing could come close to the Eland they bumped into on their very last day.

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For one to even start to comprehend the quality of this animal, one has start and end at the mop and dewlap on this once in a lifetime Cape Eland. While we hunt many great bulls each year – this one in particular will take some beating by the time our season gets wrapped up in late October. How fitting an end it proved to be on the Nowlin’s last day of their 9th hunt with John X Safaris. More deserving folks one cannot get – the harder they try, the luckier they keep getting…. the more often they come.

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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Looking towards the future, it is becoming more evident with each passing day, that without the involvement of the youth, our proud hunting heritage, stands to lose further ground. Gone are the days of SCI and Dallas Safari Club standing alone in carrying the torch of responsibility. While those organizations work relentlessly in their goals of involving the youth in hunting, it is up to us to do our part too.

If each one of us, who proudly claim to be passionate hunters, were to look back at that watershed moment when the penny dropped and you became a hunter, were to pin the period in your life that, that happened, the majority would surely point towards their younger years. When a father, uncle, older brother, or grand father, introduced you to this amazing past time and instilled the values of hunting. And it is with these fundamentals that we are proud to launch the John X Foundations’ initiative for 2016.

THE LAUNCH – FINDING THE RIGHT PARTNER

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Our Foundation will be teaming up with Patrick Cairns from the Ithemba Trust, initiating a Junior Hunters Course for previously disadvantaged youth from our local impoverished communities.

The aim of this course is to encourage youngsters to get out to the great outdoors and to create a genuine love for outdoor activities and lifestyle. As such it aims to introduce nature, hunting, and conservation, to a part of our community that has never had the opportunity until now. While hunting is the focus, it will be within a conservation style setting and ethos. The course is open to both young ladies and gentlemen.

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The course will be held on the 2000 acre, Orange Grove Farm, outside Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape.  The property has wonderful camping facilities where the junior hunters will be based.

The emphasis of the course will be on acquiring practical skills on the following topics and activities –

  • Conservation – The Role Hunting Plays
  • Animal Identification
  • Hunter and Gun safety
  • Introduction to Ballistics
  • Introduction to Shooting
  • Basic Hunting Principals – Stalking and bullet placement.
  • Tracking skills – Track one of the big five – Buffalo
  • Archery
  • Survival skills
  • Judging Trophy Animals
  • Each child will be offered the opportunity to hunt their first Springbuck.
  • Gutting, Caping, and Skinning – Learning about the process where nothing goes to waste.
  • Camping
  • Night Drives

At the completion of the course, each participant will receive a tanned hide of his or her Springbuck hunted, kindly sponsored by Splitting Image Taxidermy.

SO HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?

John X Safaris will be sponsoring all the required clothing, equipment, and foot wear for the children, as well as assisting in transportation to and from Orange Grove. GTS Productions has come on board as to capture the entire experience on film for not only the participants, but the sponsors too, ensuring these first fond memories of hunting are immortalized forever.

WE ASKED YOU TO SPONSOR 1 of 8 KIDS

The cost for the course is US $500 per kid covering:

  • Accommodation in canvas tents at Orange Grove Farm for four nights.
  • All meals, cool drinks, tea, coffee etc for the duration of the course.
  • Transportation throughout the course with 4X4 hunting vehicles.
  • All rifles and ammunition.
  • Instructors – Professional Hunters, Trackers, and Skinner’s.
  • The opportunity to hunt one Springbuck.

YOUR RESPONSE WAS ASTOUNDING!

Having initially launched our Jr Hunters Course initiative during Thanksgiving 2015, it didn’t take long for the first mails to start trickling in. Many asked to have a couple of kids reserved for their sponsorship, while others planned to meet with Carl and Ross during Jan/Feb 2016 in the US.

Having met a number of you on our travels, it soon became evident how much we as hunters truly care. It’s one thing talking and saying all the right things, it’s a whole different story when fellow hunters step up to the challenge and sponsor the heck out of the initiative. At one stage both Ross and Carl had to push sponsorship over to 2017, as we had run out of spots for our 2016 course. It was like nothing they had ever experienced with the Foundation!

A special word of appreciation must go out to the sponsors of this inaugural Jr Hunters Course. Some of our sponsors did not want their names mentioned, as they didn’t want the recognition for their sponsorship. To them it was about the kids and the opportunities their funds could provide. While we respect their requests we cannot honor it. These are the true heroes among us – these are the people who need mentioning – no matter what they might tell you – without them this new initiative would not have happened. We salute and thank…

  • David & Mary-Lynn West
  • John Thompson
  • Bwana Big Jim & Chris Smith
  • Sam Cunningham

WHERE ARE WE AT NOW – THE DATE HAS BEEN SET.

Together with Patrick we have secured and set a date for the course. The course will be held during our third quarter school vacation, from 4-8 October 2016. Trish, Ross, Patrick and Carl, have started the purchasing of equipment and supplies. There’s a lot more that goes into a course such as this than what one would think!

The selection process of eligible kids falling between the ages of 10/11 -15/16 years of age has started, with kids required to apply via a letter reasoning their interest in the course and why they feel they should be selected. Our trackers, camp staff, and all hunting areas staff children have been given first option on the first six spots on the course, with a further two being offered to PHASA(Professional Hunters Ass of SA).

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Through PHASA’s Fund and its #HuntersCare initiative we felt we would challenge our competitors in the industry by offering these two spots to some of their interested staff members, seeing them benefit via this initiative in giving their children an opportunity to.

Between now and August we will complete the selection process of the kids, with further purchasing of supplies taking place on our monthly town runs.

We feel we’re onto something special here. Where this initiative may end up in years to come who knows? One thing is for sure, with your continued support we can do anything we set our minds on. Together we can bridge a gap for previously disadvantaged communities by developing a passion for wildlife and hunting in their children beyond the boundaries of their social background.

Let’s stand together and keep the rally of support going – We’re not just talking about doing the right thing – The hunters are doing it.

The John X Team & Foundation

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!

There is always something special about guiding a youngster on his very first safari to Africa. The blank canvas so eagerly absorbing every detail thrown at it. The overload on the senses, trailing your every move, keenly taking on valuable lessons while shaping a life passion. With this too, comes a great responsibility as guide to ensure the correct principle of conservation and sustainable utilization are passed on to the next generation – ultimately the future custodians of our age old tradition of hunting.

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Having witnessed Jon’s successful Cape Buffalo hunt last week, we now turn our focus and attention to his son, Ridge, as we see Africa through the eyes of a boy for the very first time.

Ridge’s willingness to learn and his eagerness to please impressed not only Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole, whom guided this father/son combo, but all in camp at the time of their hunt. From chasing the biggest bird in the world and wily Springbuck on the plains of the Great Karoo, to a monster Blesbuck, and experiencing the rugged brush of our coastal region with its abundance of game. Early mornings, action packed days, and quiet evenings around a crackling campfire made for one exciting adventure for this ten year old. Dad, Jon, of course made the most of a number of species too, with his Cape Buffalo, Kudu, and Gemsbuck being the certain highlights.

Enjoy this special edition film compiled by GTS Productions. Once you have viewed the video, then you too, just like we have, will realize what a privilege it is to be able to experience the great outdoors of Africa. Seeing the excitement and wonder on a young hunters’ face soaking up the experience and loving every minute out there will leave you reminiscing about your first dreams of Africa, reminding one of Richard Mullin’s famous quote; “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.”

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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