As mid March came and went, with our first safaris completed in some of the warmest weather in recent years, we were beginning to wonder if the scorched African countryside’s thirst would ever be quenched before the onset of winter.
Autumn rainfall is never a predictable occurrence throughout the East Cape, but can be the difference between a fair or great season. The secret to the entire formula lies with the timing. If the rain comes to close to the onset of winter, then the growth period of warm weather will be too short to see our areas benefitting from the rain, and if it’s to early in autumn, then the heat will ultimately beat the growth. But when the timing is spot on – it’s a miracle metamorphosis that takes place overnight.
Not only does one see barren earth turn from dust red to a blanket of green, but one sees a change in mood. It’s as if everything perks up, most notably the first signs of the rut. It is during this period when sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking a valley below admiring the class of a Kudu bull in full rut, that one’s’ senses are filled with life and the excitement of the hunt. How else could one describe the privilege of hunting right in the middle of all these changes? The only thing better would be to include a bunch of old a friends, a couple of new faces, and a lot of fun!
Back on safari, returning on his 7th hunt with John X Safaris was our old friend Brett Nelson and his group from North Dakota. Over time, Brett and many in his group have become extended family members. Very seldom does a season or two pass without us seeing Jeff Edland, Chad Badger or Dennis & Nan Roberg back in camp. These folks and their friends are what makes our world the place it is. Getting to know Brian Gebeke, Brian Nelson and Joe Kapaun, and welcoming them into the John x family with the old timers, is what made this particular hunt one memorable trip.
Our teams on the ground consisting of PHs, trackers, skinners and camp staff had their work cut out ensuring each individuals needs were catered for. Varying levels of African experience by the hunters saw the need for our teams to head into the forests, mountains and plains. It was going to take the best in the very best areas.
Each morning saw the individual teams rise at the crack of dawn in pursuit of their quarry for the day, and each evening the smiles grew broader. Many great trophies were making their way to the skinning shed on a daily basis, with a number showing early signs of competing for trophy of the season. Each team had their favourites, with many deserving a special mention.
While the above are some of our favourites, there were plenty more. The quality was outstanding, the hunting was hard and there was lots of it. Come along – hold on – this was one humdinger of a safari!
Achieving all this in ten days took serious hunting, but as we’ve come to know Brett and his groups, we’ve come to know the hunting is as important as the fun. What at first seemed like a one-sided affair soon saw the John X team take up the challenge with a few pranks of their own and the “brainchild” of a new award.