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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…