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Archive for the ‘John X Safaris – South Africa’ Category

Johnny Posey, Eason Maykus, Todd Allen, Darren Vohs and Bruce Heikkinen joined us on safari during late June, right at the peak of the rut. It was great having Johnny back. He has become such a good friend and big supporter over the years, that hosting him with his friends at Woodlands during our opening season was a must for all of us at John X Safaris.

Our hunt would incorporate both our coastal region, hunting in and around Woodlands Safari Estate, as well as a trip to the Great Karoo, before joining the ladies down in Cape Town. Heather, Simone and Elise Allen, together with Sydney Posey, spent a few days with us on safari before heading down the Garden Route to Cape Town.

For first timer Darren Vohs, it would literally be a life-changing experience.

Darren teamed up with Professional Hunter, Lourens Lombard, and tracker Spinach, making for a formidable team. For a first timer Darren had set his sights on a number of “not so first timer” species, but we weren’t complaining. The rut was on and who doesn’t love a challenge when it comes to hunting?

A Kudu is always a top priority for any hunter to Africa, but apart from the elusive grey ghost the guys hunted hard for Gemsbuck, Impala, Nyala, Springbuck, Black Wildebeest, Mountain Reedbuck, Bushpig and Cape Bushbuck.

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The broad smiles and images pays tribute to what turned out to be an amazing first trip for Darren, very similar to that of Bruce Heikkinen.

Bruce was a late joiner to our hunt after overhearing Johnny tell a fellow hunting buddy about his upcoming safari to Africa. It kind of summed up Bruce in the way he did things. He goes big or goes home…. When he says he’s here for a good time and not a long time, you better know he means it!

Bruce joined PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, and tracker, Thando Xolo, for the first half of his hunt before teaming up with Ed Wilson for his last leg of his safari up in the Great Karoo.

A Cape Buffalo, Sable, Eland, Lechwe, Nyala, Waterbuck, Blue and Black Wildebeest, Zebra, Gemsbuck, Kudu, Impala and Bushpig made for a massive hunt. Not knowing much about Bruce up until meeting him on the first day of the safari we all soon learned the man could shoot.

Bruce proved to be not only a great shot, but a lucky hunter too. He however was not the luckiest hunter of all. That tag belonged to none other than Johnny Posey.

If you’ve done your time in Africa, it is said that the rub of the green starts leaning your way more often than not, but on this particular hunt it was more evident than ever before.

If our Sable and Lechwe were the starts PH, Carl van Zyl, and tracker Oluwhethu, were hoping for, then hold your breath for our Tiny 10 quest.

We headed out early one morning from Woodlands, striking a bearing south-east towards the ocean and the coastal forests Blue Duiker inhabit in large numbers along our rugged coastline.

We typically hunt Blue Duiker over Jack Russel Terriers, or make use of blinds over waterholes in the forest. On this particular occasion we opted for the blind option as conditions were dry and the Duiker were drinking regularly.

At times blind hunting can be something of a boring affair, but one thing you can be assured of when it comes to forest blind hunts, is that the bird life is jaw-dropping. The Turacos are particularly striking in both sound and colour.

While peering out of our blind, day dreaming about the various hunts we had shared over the course of the first few days, we noticed through the only hole in the forest, a red coloured animal feeding on the opposite ridge. At first we brushed it aside as a young Bushbuck female, but then our boredom got the better of us and we turned the spotting scope in its direction. And to our amazement we saw it was a Cape Grysbuck feeding in the morning sun. A rare sighting to say the least.

It was too far to tell if it were a male or female, but the opportunity required a closer look. We gathered our gear and made a dash for it. Knowing the Grysbuck would not be feeding out for too much longer we pushed hard, making up the distance between it and us as fast as our legs would carry us. Reaching the pre-determined ridge, we had plotted out previously as a good place to get a shot from, we crested too fast, spooking the Grysbuck in the process. Carl was mad for his silly error, but he had luckily seen it was a fantastic ram before the sly old guy disappeared into the undergrowth. Feeling despondent and ready to give up, knowing our chances were no more than 1/100, Johnny urged us to go on and circle back around.

And 1/100 is the only 1 we needed. This one belonged to Johnny. Through sheer determination we harvested the first ever Cape Grysbuck in daylight. An unheard of feat in the hunting world where Grysbuck are usually totally nocturnal.

With our Grysbuck in the salt and our attitudes in a festive mood we headed back to our Blue Duiker blind. The day was still young and we weren’t about to give up on our original mission.

We had barely sat down for twenty minutes when in wondered this monster from the undergrowth. The hunting gods were smiling on us as much as one could have ever hoped for.

By noon we were heading back to camp to celebrate two of the most difficult critters of the Tiny 10. It turned out to be one of the greatest days we’ve ever experienced in guiding the Tiny 10, and not to mention doing it with Johnny, a more deserving friend than him would be hard to find.

With Johnny smashing records left, right, and centre, Todd was turning his very first African safari into a huge success with PH, Martin Neuper, and tracker Oluwhethu.

Starting off his hunt with a 31’’ Waterbuck set the benchmark high for what was to come.

Todd’s Kudu was the pick of the bulls on the safari, a beautiful animal, hunted for over the course of four days. His Nyala, Cape Eland and Cape Bushbuck wrapped up a spiral slam reeking of quality, while his Sable gave you the feeling of an old warrior.

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Todd’s pigs were however the pick for all of us guides. While we all know PH, Martin Neuper, is one of the best guides around, he sure has a knack of pulling the rabbit out of the hat from time to time.

Finding a Bushpig in broad daylight takes luck, actually hunting it successfully takes skill. Then top that off with a boss Warthog in trying drought stricken circumstances, and you’ve got yourself a hunt like few have experienced.

Todd came out tops when it came to pigs on this particular safari!

For Eason Maykus, a fellow first timer from Dallas, Africa provided an experience like he could not have imagined.

The mountains of the north in particular captured his imagination and set the spirit of Africa alive with in him…

Sharing his hunt with Johnny and PH, Carl van Zyl, he thrived in the tough conditions. Loving every step of the way to the top of the mountains. We harvested Waterbuck, Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest and Springbuck. Coming away with bag to be proud of.

Eason’s Gemsbuck took more than your average Gemsbuck, giving us the run around up in the high country. We had spotted the group early on during the course of the morning and we decided to concentrate on two or three individuals that had stood out in the spotting scope at 1500 yards +.

We climbed higher and higher as the day grew on, hoping to surprise the feeding group by coming over at them from above.At one point we had found a second group we had not spotted originally, making for a tricky situation on an already bare mountain. We decided to back off and allow the lay of the land and the feeding Gemsbuck to give us the opportunity we were after.

With patience our opportunity came, and with that an opportunity at a Gemsbuck to remember. Hunted for the hard way, up where the air is thin and the eagles soar, where memories and friendships were made for life. It was an epic hunt.

From the Karoo we headed back south for one last evening of fun at Woodlands, before saying goodbye to Bruce and Darren, while the rest of us, including Trish, joined the girls down in the wine country of the Cape.

We started off our visit to the Cape in Franschoek, a beautiful little town right in the heart of the wine country.

The setting was spectacular…

We spent the next few days exploring some of the well-known wineries, but mostly concentrating on the boutique style smaller vineyards. Both Johnny and Todd enjoy their wine tremendously, which allowed us all to learn a great deal about the various wines with their aging and flavouring processes.

Before we knew it, two days were up and it was time to make the short journey over the Helderberg Mountains to Cape Town. We most certainly weren’t ready to leave the wine country, but the mother city was waiting in all her glory.

By the time our ten days were up we had hunted in some of the most breath-taking areas the East Cape has to offer, the girls had seen the Big 5 and travelled down the picturesque Garden Route, before we all wrapped up a memorable safari in the Cape of Good Hope. It was one of our many highlights from 2017, shared with friends old and new in beautiful sunny South Africa.

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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With our season in full swing I found myself around the camp fire at our new base, Woodlands Safari Estate, in deep conversation with an old friend from the US. He and I have shared many a camp fire across four of Southern Africa’s premiere hunting destinations, having hunted most of the big 5. We were reliving many of those hunts, when he came to the conclusion, that while each of those experiences were amazing in their own right, at times they lacked variety. It was not that they didn’t live up to expectation, but more so the question of “IF” one would return on a second or third hunt to any one of those destinations without having to repeat the same species or the same experiences. Here he was back in the East Cape on his 4th hunt with us, and still he had not experienced everything on offer.

Since then it got me thinking, of course all are familiar with our infamous plains game hunts in the East Cape, not to mention the Cape Buffalo hunting which is gaining a huge reputation as we speak. I thought about how best to share what we were talking about, and came up with a few recent hunts over the past two months at John X Safaris.

The bird hunting in the East Cape is nothing like Argentina or the Dakota’s in the US, but they’re an experience of variety on their own. The Tzavellos family from Greece were after a safari that would entail bird hunting, as well as a Big 5 photographic experience, and a tour down the Garden Route to Cape Town.

They started off their hunt from the coast, staying at Sibuya Game Reserve for the Big 5 up close and personal, giving those who wanted to view game the opportunity to do so on morning or evening game drives, while at the same time giving Apostollos the opportunity at birds on nearby concessions.

From the coast they headed north to the Great Karoo, staying at Samara Private Game Reserve. Samara is a beautiful reserve located on the outskirts of Graaf-Reinett with vistas stretching over the horizon as far as the eye can see. Irini, Elini, and Stelios, joined Appstollos for a day in the mountains above 6000 feet for Grey Wing Partridge over English Pointer.

Tim van Heerden and his hard-working Pointers are a sight to behold.Nothing quite prepares you as one is often caught in mere awe of these amazing dogs.

From the Karoo it was onto Mossel Bay and a meander down to Cape Town along the Garden Route.

Finally saying good-bye to Africa from the slopes of Table Mountain.

From birds, Big 5, and touring we got cracking on one of our most successful concepts to date. We take youth hunting serious. In fact we believe it’s so important for the future of hunting that we’re willing to put our money where our mouths are at. Since 2007 we’ve been promoting #gettingtheyouthhuntingatjxs . Our theory is quite simple, if you’re willing to buy him/her a flight to Africa, we’ll comp the day fee! It has been ten years since that first season of getting more youngsters on safari to Africa and to date it has seen more than 50 youngsters falling in love with Africa and our hunting in the East Cape. It has been a success beyond words.

Arturo Jr on Safari…

Arturo Malo took us up on our offer, flying out from Mexico during May with his son, Arturo Jr. They were after a variety of plains game with either bow or rifle.

Arturo Sr proved that patience and endless perseverance combines well when you can handle a bow like a pro. A Waterbuck, Zebra, and Eland all fell to his bow, with his Eland being a particular favorite. A brute of an old bull, well beyond making it through this winter. The absolute perfect Eland to harvest.

Jr on the other hand was taking in every sight and sound that Africa had to offer.

As a father and son they came away enriched with their experience, with no distractions from the outside world, just one on one – connecting through hunting and the great outdoors.

Then to sum it up best one needs to look no further than two very special people who have become an integral part of our John X family. It’s not often that one has the opportunity to host a couple over a period extending more than a decade. Try adding in four countries plus six return trips to the East Cape, and you get the picture. John and Lynn Nowlin joined us on their 10th safari this season. A privilege and compliment that we pride ourselves on.

By this stage they’ve hunted just about everything on offer, so a Barbary Sheep in the mountains of the north proved to be a big interest on this particular safari.

Hunting these weary sheep are a challenge not taken lightly and one any hunter would revel in.

While the sheep and a number of plains game species would be of interest to Mr. John, it was the quest for a big Kudu that would be the focus.

It has been the Nowlin’s focus for more than ten years to hunt a Kudu of magnitude proportion. They have hunted numerous bulls, with a number reaching that magical 55″ mark, but a bull closer to 60″ has eluded them over the years. After all they’re not called the grey ghosts for nothing…

We had found an area along the Great Kei River that had introduced Southern Greater Kudu more than twenty years ago, and with an extremely strict management plan, offering a mere two trophies a year, had seen monsters coming from this area in the past few years. The area is owned by the Rance family, who kindly offered us one of the two tags for 2017, the other as per tradition was reserved for their family.

The terrain is steep and the vegetation thick, offering both hunter and Kudu an environment to thrive in.

Numerous bulls were spotted from day one, with many giving the hunters serious headaches on passing or hunting. Decisions.. decisions…

And then after scratching their heads for long and often enough, Ed made the call…

And 10 safaris all came into one for not only the Nowlin’s, but Ed and I too.

It has been their quest for so long, and it has given us sleepless nights trying to achieve the ultimate goal, like we do for every single one of our hunters, to finally achieve what we had hoped for.

59 1/8′” – A Southern Greater Kudu of magnitude proportion.

A hunt for a Kudu like this comes around once in ten safaris. It’s not your everyday kind of opportunity, but it proved what my friend and I were discussing around the camp fire. What the Tzavellos family and the Malo’s experienced were two different safaris on their own, and if the Nowlin’s could hunt the East Cape on six different occasions, and re-booked for a 7th during 2018, then that my friend tells us..The East Cape is no ordinary safari destination.

Will we see you during 2018?

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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By Jerry Burch

I have dreamed of hunting in South Africa for over four decades, and this past month I was able to fulfill that aspiration with John X Safaris.  It was everything that I could have imagined, with some benefits that I had never considered before.

The bottom line is that most of my dreams of hunting the Dark Continent were based around long, difficult stalks, for abundant game.  It was probably a bit selfish in nature since it involved just me.  However, on this trip the best decision I made was to take my wife, Jana, and our youngest son, Jacob, with me on the trip.  That made all the difference in the world.

Jacob is 15 and has hunted whitetail deer with me over the past couple of seasons.  Traditionally, we sit in a ground blind and his shots are never over a hundred yards.  He has been successful on four trips and has enjoyed the excitement of the hunt and has helped with the processing of the game.  Jana, on the other hand, has gone out a few times with us and has recently started shooting at our annual family dove hunt that we hold each September in South Texas.  We like hunting together, but big hunting trips were often scheduled as solo endeavors.

So, when I booked my safari this past year I really had to consider whether Jana and Jacob would get as much joy from the expedition.  After all, it was my dream.  Was it worth the extra money?  John X Safaris made part of that problem disappear with their offer to waive the daily hunting fee for hunters under 18, with their #GettingtheyouthhuntingatJXS initiative.  All I had to do was pay the trophy fees for Jacob’s animals.  So, I took a chance and booked all three of us for the trip across the pond and south of the equator.

We arrived in Port Elizabeth late on May 11th raring to go. We were met by our Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, who would be our guide for our stay with John X Safaris, heading to their home base Woodlands Safari Estate.  We received a great welcome, some incredible food, and retired for the evening to our luxurious suite.  The next morning Jacob was up first, knocking on our door.  He burst in telling stories about everyone he had met and acting quite differently than he does back home, especially at 6 am.  Jana looked at him and said “Who are you?”  Jacob replied “I am Safari Jacob,” and rushed back out the door uttering something about some toast he accidentally forgot about. 

After a light breakfast we gathered our gear and headed to Glen Harry, John X Safaris’s northern base up in the Great Karoo.  It was certainly a luxury having two separate camps so that we could avoid the incoming rain at Woodlands. Something I had not considered during the planning of our trip.

While we obviously enjoyed the hunting and experiences that went with our safari tremendously. Throughout our ten-day safari I found that I had completely overlooked four very important elements about hunting.

First, hunting at its very nature is a team sport.  The memories that are gathered in the field are so much better when they are shared with others.  Especially with people who you see the most, your close family and friends.  We have enjoyed several recollections of the events, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and even the tastes.  Jana never expected the food to be so good and that she would enjoy the game so much.  We have recollected the evenings eating Wildebeest medallions, Kudu schnitzel, Ostrich kebab, Blesbok liver snacks, Kudu stew, Sable steaks, Ostrich burgers, and several different varieties of biltong (jerky).  These memories would have been locked in my head if I had gone alone.  Instead, I share them daily with two people I love dearly.

The second area I had not thought about was the importance of allowing those you are closest with to watch you fulfill your dreams.  During this trip Jana looked at me and thanked me for letting her come and watch me live out my dream in Africa.  It is so important to open your life and allow people to bear witness to all of the events that make you, you.  As a parent, I have certainly felt the joy, and pride, of watching my wife and kids reach major goals.  However, I had never considered that they might enjoy watching me reach mine.  Boy was I wrong.

Third, hunting takes practice and most of Jacob’s hunts back home were for a day or two at the most.  Our ten-day safari allowed Jacob, and me, to really extend ourselves as hunters.

During our trip to the range on the first day I told Greg that Jacob was a good shot from the bench, a great shot lying prone, but that he was uncomfortable shooting from the sticks. Greg told me that the terrain would require Jacob to shoot from the sticks at times, but that he had some tips to help the young hunter.  Jacob’s nerves really got the best of him at the range.  It was a new gun.  Lots of new people.  He had never been so rattled at the range.  “Let’s try the sticks” said Greg.  Our tracker, Bless, put the target up at 50 yards and Greg unfolded the three, six-foot bamboo sticks that were tied at the top to provide a tripod for the gun to rest on.  I placed the forestock of the .270 bolt-action rifle on the sticks.  Jacob stood behind the sticks and tried to find the target through the scope.  Three shots later and Jacob was even more convinced that he hated the sticks.  “It is just so hard to be steady!” he said.

Over the next ten days Jacob’s confidence grew and he took five animals with six shots.  His shortest was a familiar 70 yard hit, while all four of the others ranged from 165 to 200 yards.  He most certainly grew into a great young hunter.

 

Similarly, I was stretched as a hunter.  We hunted every morning and every afternoon.  We hunted on the flat open plains where long shots were needed.  And then we would hunt the valleys and canyons where detecting game and setting up a stalk were needed.  Every hunt was new and I learned so much from Greg.  It seemed like he had a new trick for every situation.  Without a doubt, Jacob and I, will be better hunters for the rest of our lives because of this trip.

And finally, nothing is more gratifying than to see your children find value in something that you enjoy.  Jacob has embraced my love of hunting and I have thoroughly enjoyed having him by my side in the field.  He is a fine companion, and an incredible shot.  During this safari we were both able to find value in the trophies that we took.  However, I think our greatest shared value came from the hunts for animals that will never make it into the record books.  Jacob has embraced the concept of hunting and conservation.  After five years of drought, the amount of available vegetation has been significantly reduced in South Africa.  The land has more mouths to feed than it can sometimes sustain.  A hunt that I will never forget was for an old Blesbok ewe that Jacob made an incredible shot on at 200 yards off a termite mound.  When we got to the animal, Greg opened her mouth and showed that her teeth were worn to the gums.  She had lived out a very long life and Jacob smiled knowing that this trophy would not die from disease or hunger.  Instead, she would feed camp and make room on the plains for other game and much-needed grass.

Looking back, I had originally planned that I would one day take my “one and only” trip to Africa to hunt the animals that I had always dreamed of.  And instead, this morning I texted a good friend to tell him why it was so important for him to take his family on safari with him.  I must admit that my intentions are not completely altruistic.  My goal is to convince him to commit to the trip so that I can start planning our return trip to John X Safaris with him, his family, Jana and all four of our children.  Shared memories, shared dreams, and shared values await us all.

We can’t wait to return to the dark continent…

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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For the past 11 years, we at John X Safaris, have become a part of a very special community outside of Salt Lake City, UT. Nestled “just over the hill” from Salt Lake one will find the community of Eagle Mountain. It’s a quiet and peaceful area surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Each January, just after the worst snow storms for the year have hit and turned the mountains into postcard perfect scenes, I stop in for my annual visit with the fine folks who call Eagle Mountain home. I visit to meet interested hunters who have heard from the many others about John X Safaris, but more than anything, I stop in to visit my “family”.

This year proved to be no different from the many before, with the arrival of our Eagle Mountain group, right at the start of the rut in May.

“Bwana” Big Jim Smith headed up the group once again, with his wife, Chris, daughter, Cari, and friend, Mandy, joining him on this special occasion. Jim to date had hunted a number of our plains game species, but had never looked at a Cape Buffalo until this past January. Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, put in some serious leg work prior to Jim’s arrival, ensuring he had a full proof plan for the sneaky Cape Buffalo who roam the valleys and hills of Woodlands.

The plan was for the hunters to head out at first light each morning – Heading to the high points to glass for the weary “Dugga” boys as they fed out into the first morning rays.

Cari, Jim’s daughter, a serious hunter in her own right, tagged along on these early morning expeditions, making the most of oppurtunities along the way as the men continued their search for the perfect Cape Buffalo.

She had planned for a Kudu, Zebra, and a Blue Wildebeest, but came away with a few more than the initial wish list. Her Kudu was an especially rewarding one, as it was a gift from the team a few years ago when Cari was battling cancer. Our deal with Cari at the time was quite simple. Get up, get motivated, and beat the cancer! Get to Africa and choose what you’d like to hunt.

She beat cancer and chose her Kudu!

As for Big Jim, the hours of searching grew into days, but the excitement never stopped as the hunt built and built each day. Getting ever closer to a bull of Jim’s dreams.

The excitement at times was unbearable….

Then on day five it all came together. The quiet moments of frustration listing to Buffalo crashing through the undergrowth of the valley thickets as the wind shifted were suddenly all worth it. The excitement, the anxiety, and the years of dreaming, culminated into a moment that Big Jim will surely never forget.

A more deserving man than Bwana Big Jim I do not know. A bull like few….

All this time, Jim’s wife, Chris, asked for very little. She enjoyed quiet days on the verandah at the Manor playing Granny to her “African” grandkids with untold amounts of candy and kindness each day. She did however want a Copper Springbuck to complete Jim’s slam.

Jim dully did so…

And then ticked off a massive bucket list dream of his own..

A proper Cape Bushbuck to end off one memorable family hunt.

With Big Jim enjoying his hunt to the utmost, we welcomed first timers Bill and Nancy Jones. They teamed up with Professional Hunter, Rusty Coetzer, and tracker, Ou John, for their first taste of Africa.

The hunting party hunted on the coast for a day before heading to our northern camp up in the Great Karoo. Bill proved to be a great shot with numerous tough setups and shots earning him a fine reputation amongst the PH’s. From the Karoo the team headed back to Woodlands Safari Estate hunting both Black and Blue Wildebeest in the area with Nancy joining the fun each day.

Bill would come in each evening telling us how much fun he had, but also expressed how much he’d like to hunt a great old Warthog. He had come to Africa to find that big old boar, and headed out determined each day. The hunt was starting to come to an end, and we’d be lying if we were to say we weren’t getting nervous. Rusty and Ou John did all they could, heading out that last day to what Rusty likes to call “Hog heaven”. It was now or never.

A rain storm had hit that morning, but the guys kept at it. Conditions were terrible for the most part of the day, but in the end they did it. Bill was the happiest man in camp that evening – He had his pig!

Bill and Nancy’s son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Janelle, were out on safari with the group too, teaming up with PH, Martin Neuper, and tracker, Oluwhethu. Bob started out slow, enduring a few rough days before getting going with the adventure of a lifetime. From the plains and hills of the Karoo and finally onto the coast, Bob and Janelle hunted hard for a bag to be proud of.

Together they harvested some of the best trophies on the safari, but nothing could prepare one for Bob’s huge Gemsbuck bull or Janelle’s Cape Bushbuck.

What a bull in a setting and view hard to beat..

And a Bushbuck ram guided by the “Bushbuck King”, Martin Neuper. Most probably one of the trophies of the season.

With this group it wasn’t hard to see folks having fun, but few people I know, know how to enjoy themselves as much as Larry and Claudia Fullmer. Days with Larry are filled with a grin from ear to ear. He never stops smiling from the minute the plane touches down in Africa. He is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable hunters to have in camp, reminding one daily how good we have it.

Claudia is never far from Larry’s side, making the two one fun couple in camp.

This was Larry and Claudia’s second hunt with John X Safaris, with an Nyala and Warthog being the priority species of interest. The match with PH, Lourens Lombard, was one made in heaven, as the crew got on like a house on fire from day one. By the end of day two I was certain Lourens would be an adopted son by the end of the safari as the hunting started off with a bang!

By day five Larry told me he had already claimed Lourens as his South African son, so I may have gotten that wrong by a couple of days, but what I did get right was team Larry up with the PH that had a plan for a big Warthog. Larry’s dream coming to Africa.

A big Warthog is an extremely challenging trophy to hunt. A pig takes long to mature, and with the years in age, comes serious experience of how to evade the ever keen hunters hoping to harvest a big boar. Even IF you know of a big pig frequenting a certain area, it seldom means that important slice of information will convert into a successful hunt. It takes luck, luck, luck, luck … and some more good luck.

This team it seems had it all!

After the hunt while enjoying the view from our verandah Larry shared this video with me. It’s just too good not to share.. Enjoy the running commentary as Larry approaches his downed monster. It’s moments like this that makes our job the pleasure it is.

With a group such as this and the atmosphere around camp it would be hard to see anyone not having the time of their lives. Jarred Wallace, our friend from a number of previous safaris, did the gentlemanly thing, offering to stay home to watch the rest of the kids, while his wife, Kim, and daughter Savanna, joined us for the very first time. Kim had hunted in Africa before, but never with us at John X Safaris.

They joined PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole and tracker, Thandu Xolo, for a ladies only affair.

For Savanna it was to be a hunt for the ages. Watching her getting ready for the day ahead each morning, and seeing her excitement as the anticipation of the days hunt dawned on her, made it a joy to observe. As for Kim, something tells us we’ll be seeing plenty more of her the next time Jarred heads back to Africa.

With everybody taken care of, and each team going about their days the John X way, I got going on a special hunt guiding two dear friends of ours, Brett and Shellie Wright. The three of us have always teamed up over the years, making for numerous great memories along the way. In time our relationship has become one where Brett gives me an idea of what he’d like to pursue, but left everything else in my hands. What he hunts seldom matters to him, it’s all about time together in the field making memories enjoying one another’s company.

This year I wanted to share our new home Woodlands with them, unbeknown to me that Woodlands was planning on sharing something special with us. With scenery, wildlife, reserve life and our first big thunderstorm making for a memorable safari…

Of course we hunted somewhat too… Lechwe, Common Duiker, Steenbuck, Blue Duiker, Impala, Waterbuck, and Brett’s special Bushpig with Clayton.

But so much of this hunt and the planning that went with it involved Brett’s wife, Shellie. Brett had expressed a desire for Shellie to hunt her dream trophy, a Sable, but it had to be a surprise and a gift for Mothers Day.

Two years in the making, BUT WOW was it worth it! Awesome bull Shell’s!

While Brett was planning the Sable surprise for Shellie, I was planning to redeem myself after we came up short on a Kudu on our previous safari together. With the Sable in the salt I turned our focus squarely onto Kudu. We glassed hard, saw a number of great bulls, but couldn’t get onto any of them on our first afternoon out for Kudu.

A couple of days later, still in search of a Kudu, we spotted a good-looking bull more than a mile off. We started a long stalk down a gradual valley bumping into a lone Dugga Boy Cape Buffalo along the way, which made for an exciting moment or two. At 367 yards we came out of a draw and with no more further cover, I edged over to Shellie and set her up for what was going to be a challenging shot.

To find the bull in her scope was going to be the first challenge, and then finding the optimum moment of a clear shoulder through the undergrowth would surely make it as a difficult setup as I could have thought of. Just as I was about to tell Shellie to let him walk, she whispered; “Can I take him?” I looked at her for a split second, suddenly realizing this was the most focused and relaxed I’d ever seen her behind the rifle, I turned to the bull with my Leica 10×42’s and told her to take him.

Shellie squeezed off the most epic shot! The bull barely made it 20 yards before piling up in a Spekboom (Bacon Tree).

As a young man I was privileged to guide a group of hunters from Eagle Mountain, and ever since then I’ve been taken in as one of their own. It has been a journey of friendships built around numerous experiences shared on safaris over the years, and ones that I will always cherish and appreciate beyond what words can describe.

You all know who you are, you were all there for me, my family, and my team. This year, with the opening of Woodlands, it was more important than ever to share our new home with you, after all, you all now know you have a home in Africa. Thank you. I’ll see you in January!

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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Having started our season up in Cameroon during mid-February, we finally got going down south in the latter half of April. While it was somewhat later than usual, the building and renovating of our new camp at Woodlands had been our focus and priority up until that point.

The original colonial homestead on the property was first completed in 1898 with various building additions taking place over the past 119 years. We started by stripping most of the original buildings additions and then added an additional seven suites of our own in the same style as to keep with tradition of the era and of a colonial grandeur of yesteryear. Meticulous care and focus was dedicated to the original homestead as to restore and preserve every room to its original form. Where windows or fixtures were replaced with more modern materials and styles over the past century, we went back and replaced each of those with fittings from the original era, ensuring the manor rose from its neglected state, restored to its once grand past.

We present The Manor at Woodlands Safari Estate….

Further additions are taking place at the moment with a trophy room and bar being the main focus at present. Out buildings such as a skinning shed, butcher shop, salt shed, workshop and tool room have been completed too, ensuring our safaris are running at optimum levels.

With The Manors completion we were ready to start our season, and it was fitting that our old friend Brett Kettelhut would be our first ever hunter to Woodlands. Brett teamed up with Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, and tracker, Bless, for a second time. This time the safari started in the north.

Brett harvested some fantastic trophies up in the Great Karoo before heading down south to Woodlands. With a Sable and Lechwe being his priorities, the guys put in some serious effort to see Woodlands off to a flying start. The results of both the Lechwe and Sable were pretty mind-blowing.

First a Lechwe in the 28″ + class..

And then a Sable that will rank as one of Brett’s best trophies to date.

A monstrous bull in the 44″ class – Not your everyday kind of bull.

At the same time as Brett we welcomed first timers, Steve and Kathy Winkleman, who hunted with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix” Hoole, and Thandu Xolo. Neither Steve or Kathy had ever been to Africa, with each having their personal priorities on this maiden African safari.

For Steve it would be a Kudu and the desire to see as much country side as possible. To take in the sights and sounds that make Africa the place it is. Luckily for them the rains had just started and Africa came out to bloom…

As for Kathy, she came hunting for the perfect tree, as to capture that perfect African sunset.

One could say she found the best trophy of all…

As for Professional Hunter, Carl van Zyl, the dream of Woodlands and the prospect of guiding a first ever hunter on the Estate was an exciting one to say the least. It would be fitting that he should host, South African Cricket legend, Quinton De Kock, on what would be the first of many to come.

Quinton brought along his bow going after any opportunity that may present itself. Our plan was to walk and stalk each morning, and then head into the blinds from midday. We got lucky on a great Blue Wildebeest stalked to within 31 yards and a sneaky Mountain Reedbuck at 46 yards. It was intense and exciting getting in that close to numerous species. From the hides Quinton took a Waterbuck and Warthog too, making for a succesful five days of bow hunting.

A Bushpig was a high priority on his hunt, but unfortunately the pigs only started feeding some days after he left.

We’ll have to plan a return hunt for a big old boar with the bow in the future.

During the course of the hunt Carl had shared his passion for his Gunwerks 7 mm LRM, and then right at the end of the hunt they headed out on the last afternoon to give Quiny a taste of some epic long-range shooting. It took a mere twenty minutes on the range for Quinton to get up to speed with the system, proving to be a natural not only with the bow, but behind a rifle too.

We headed up to the plains at Woodlands to enjoy a last bit of fun…

At 578 Yards Quiny put the hammer down on this beauty. His first shot with the Gunwerks system – his first long-range kill.

The start to our season has been another succesful one. The Karoo keeps on producing the goods year in and year out, with the rewards of a strict management policy coming through in trophy quality. Woodlands still remains an unknown, it’s a mystical 30 000 acres with numerous new hunting concessions in the area too. If I were a betting man I’d be confident in saying prepare to be amazed. The valleys and draws along the Great Fish River play home to an abundance of wildlife. From what we’ve been spotting while out on safari, tells us that if you’re hunting with John X Safaris during 2017, you’re going to be in for opportunities on some monsters. They’re out there!

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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By Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix” Hoole

As you look towards your next safari you may not be giving much thought to the Pygmy Antelope of Africa. There is a definite attraction to hunting these often lesser known species. Those whom have started their Tiny 10 collection will vouch for the addiction that arises once you’ve been introduced to the unknown. The collection will take one across various countries, incredible terrain, and cover numerous methods and aspects of hunting.

Dik-Dik

For me personally, as a professional hunter, not only are each of the members of the Tiny 10 unique, but the hunting methods involved when pursuing them are varied, keeping one honest as a guide. Not a day can pass when one can sit back and rest on your laurels thinking you’ve mastered the mountains both physically and mentally in the quest for Vaal Rhebuck and Klipspringer, only to be brought back down to earth in the pursuit of the minuet, Dik-Dik, Suni or Blue Duiker.

Suni

Suni are down right nippy, a flick of the tail and a sharp hissing blow and they’re gone. A Blue Duiker can see one sitting in a hide, waiting for as long as 4-6 hours testing your absolute patience, or giving chase with Jack Russel Terriers leaving ones heart racing with exhilaration. I truly believe that a safari incorporating a number of the Tiny 10 will give you, the hunter, the opportunity to see the best of “Africa’s unchartered territory”, but also leaving you with a sense of achievement having hunted a unique group of species that takes a bit more than your average hunt.

An example of a typical tiny ten collection addition to your safari could start on the coast. Having risen the first morning at first light you get up high making the most of vantage points spotting for various species. An hour after sunrise, a big old Common Duiker ram steps out. You put in a great stalk skirting around a family of Warthogs and two Bushbuck ewes going about their business with the utmost discretion of secrecy.

He appears at 80 yards ahead of us and you bag your first tiny antelope for the safari.

Later that afternoon you spend time glassing for Oribi, but unfortunately an old ram is not spotted. The views of the Indian Ocean and the sound of crashing waves in the background sends you off on a day-dream to the following morning which sees you up at 5:00 AM. We head straight east, towards the ocean. Our tracker, Thandu Xolo, drops us off in darkness at an obscure hidden entrance into the forest. We stalk down a forest path, there is a pop up blind with two cushioned chairs and a rifle cradle already setup. We load the rifle as quietly as possible and sit in silence, knowing that half an hour before sunrise could see the first Blue Duikers active, visiting our strategic water hole.

Blue Duiker

With a stroke of good fortune and two hours later, a female is followed by a ram. Silently and slowly we take aim, the shot echos in the valley. You have just harvested the tiniest of the South African Antelope.

With much excitement we continue our safari adding some local specialities like the Cape Bushbuck, East Cape Kudu and Bushpig, before heading to the Great Karoo. Since you are a few days in now, the jet lag has worn off, and you’re feeling good to take on the high country after our much coveted Vaal Rhebuck.

Vaal Rhebuck

After two days of hiking around 5500ft and being busted on numerous occasions, having covered enough miles for your annual step-counter to be satisfied, we eventually earn a trophy animal worthy of centre piece in your trophy room. Keeping to the open plains we harvest a Steenbuck in the spot and stalk manner at last light, as the ever impressive Karoo sunset and a lonely African Night Jar welcomes the first signs of night fall and the thought of a crackling camp fire. We toast to your success as our safari draws to an end, with only the “bush TV” in the glowing embers of our dying fire seeing you drift off in thought already planning the next of your Tiny 10. Will it be a Klipspringer, Cape Grysbuck, or the Oribi we missed out on? Or possibly a visit to Mozambique for Livingstone Suni and Red Duiker, or a trip the Namibia for the Damaraland Dik-Dik? Who knows? You’re addicted and you’ll be back to complete the 10.

Having successfully guided every member of the Tiny Ten, the addiction didn’t stop at my hunters. My enjoyment of pursuing this select group of species bubbled over into a personal quest. During 2015 I opened my Tiny 10 account with a magnificent old Steenbuck ram, and ever since I’ve made a decision to pursue one of the ten annually.

Come the end of 2016 saw myself, Jose, and Ozzie from GTS Productions get together as friends for one last hunt of the year! I packed my .375, loaded it with 300gr solids, and sighted it in at 15 yards, and then headed out for a Blue Duiker.

GTS Productions captured the entire hunt as it unfolded – Conditions were terrible, but knowing this ram was so habituated to frequenting this waterhole, I hoped that habit was going to play a far more important role than weather. Sitting silently lamenting the heavy wind and now some drops of rain – the ram came marching in. I recognized the shorter horn immediately, made one check that Ozzie was rolling and took the shot.

I was shaking like a leaf admittedly, to my surprise. This was everything I could ever want in a trophy animal – old, missing teeth, heavy horns which were heavily worn, an indication that he was well past his prime. I was so excited and suffering from ‘buck fever’ that when Jose saw me his comment was; “Are we hunting Leopard here? Why you shaking so much!” Such an amazing trophy highlights the necessity of trophy hunting – focusing on taking out the old ram or bull, the ones past their prime, and still utilizing the entire animal, essentially immortalizing them on our wall so that they may be admired for generations to come.

Another world-class addition to my Tiny 10 collection. I’m not sure what will be next, but I’m certain it is going to be a lot of fun!

Why don’t you add one or two of the collection to your next hunt with John X Safaris… You won’t regret it!

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 the truck veered slightly to the left, with the edge of the road mere yards away from the hidden drop off and the forested valley below, we weren’t in the mood for the usual mutter and jokes that had accompanied our previous two safaris together.”

As the Professional Hunter I was frustrated. I had done more than enough to have scored success up to this point. My hunters and great friends, Aaron Davidson and Garrett Wall, were being the ultimate gentleman, reminding me daily we were only hunting – It wasn’t a matter of life or death.

Of course they were right but that didn’t change the situation. I had planned the safari strategically months before. No stone was left unturned. Meticulous scouting by the entire team would be the only way we could meet the requirements for this particular group. As the leader I had made sure all my PH’s were in the best areas from day one, every hunter needed a good start to settle the nerves.

I chose to explore a lesser known area – more to get out-of-the-way of my team, and to spend some quality time with Aaron and Garrett. We hadn’t seen each other since show season ended in Las Vegas during early February, and I knew them well enough to know they’d enjoy going after some “unconfirmed” local knowledge. My old hunting partner, Niel, had been touting me of late with some news of big Kudu sightings in a range of mountains to the west. It was worth a go – Niel and I had enjoyed our fair share of success on pretty impressive Kudu up until then, I wasn’t about to start doubting one of the best in the game.

We hunted hard that first day, enjoying the optimism that goes hand in hand with any first day on safari. We returned to camp that evening to be met by overjoyed hunters, my team had clearly done their part, but I hadn’t seen much of what Niel had been spotting, so we celebrated in their success. The feeling of a hard day up in the mountains felt pretty good, like Aaron enjoyed reminding us, we had earned our desert after dinner that evening.

The following day we all setoff in various directions again. I’ve never been one to force a certain area onto any of my PH’s, they’ve all got the sufficient experience to run their own hunts, and they all have a secret preferred spot, I trust their decisions and back them to the hilt. They’ve always delivered the goods. After everyone had chosen their bearing and target specie for the day, I called over my tracker, Zwayi.

“You reckon we give it another go?”; I asked him. “Why not!”, came his ever enthused reply. After all we had a packed lunch for the day, an instead of playing it safe, boldness seemed an attractive thought at the time. Zwayi liked hunting the hills to the north-east of camp. He had seen a particular Kudu bull that had him in “gibberish” mere months ago, but we had tried hard to find him again, to no avail. I hadn’t seen the bull, Zwayi was watching a particular draw we had spotted a pair of Klipspringer disappear into, when he had first laid eyes on the bull. I knew my trackers pride and bragging rights back at the skinning shed depended on the size of “his” bull, combined with his experience, there was no doubting he had seen something impressive.

We gave it a good proper go all day, spotting tons of Kudu and numerous other species including Steenbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Gemsbuck and Hartebeest. A couple of shooter Kudu were spotted and the opportunities should have been taken, but Zwayi was insistent we’d be making a mistake. We all felt the same way, so we passed on them, getting back to camp late that evening – still nought to report.

The following few days it was decided to change our target species, and to get Garrett, fondly known as “G”, back onto the gun. G is a pretty lucky hunter all round, that we had come to learn over the years, so any change of habit would hopefully change our fortunes with Kudu. Or so my superstitious nature assured me.

G didn’t disappoint with a massive Gemsbuck, Black Wildebeest, Zebra and Common Springbuck, then making one of the best shots on a Cape Eland I had ever seen.

We had spotted a group of Eland bulls early, and I wanted to catch them on the flat ground before they headed for the hills. The group consisted of ten to fifteen individuals, with two old brutes leading the way. Their experience told them they needed to be on the high ground by sunup, but their weary old joints after more than ten winters in these mountains kept them away from the higher altitudes for as long as possible each morning, ultimately determining the pace of the group.

The morning was a brisk Karoo winters morning, typical of that time of year. The group was far too interested in catching the first few rays of warmth to notice us slipping over the edge of a small bluff a couple of kilometres up the draw. We quietly made our way along the valley floor, nervous of busting out anything else along the way. As we crested the last bit of blind ground between us and the group I felt a shift in the breeze, the cold air was no longer burning my nose, I could feel it hitting the back of my neck. Immediately the Eland stopped feeding and looked up.

I explained the various scenarios to the guys, both agreeing any further movement would result in the Eland busting out. G crawled forward to find a comfortable spot while Aaron got the camera rolling. I ranged our bull at 810 yards, gave G the reading and let him touch one off from his Gunwerks 6.5 Creedmore.

The shot was perfect. He entered the soft spot just behind the shoulder as the bull was quartered slightly away from us. He took out a lung and the top of the heart. The bull never knew what hit him, let alone any of his accomplices. We sat quietly as the bewildered bachelor group didn’t know what to make of the downed old bull. Soon they moved out and we moved in to admire Garret’s beauty.

It took us most of the day to admire Garrets bull and get him processed – He was a beauty to say the least and a brute of a bull.

While Garrett set off our luck in the right direction I decided to throw in a couple of mountain hunting days in between – getting Aaron onto my favourite species to hunt.

A great Vaal Rhebuck and awesome Klipspringer made for exceptional hunting and even better long-range opportunities to test the equipment under pressure situations up in the high country. It felt much better joining in on the evening festivities once we started adding value to the skulls back at the skinning shed each day. We had scored big up in the Karoo – but still no Kudu. The following day I made a call to head south.

At 03:30 I knocked on the guy’s room door. Time to move boys! I was feeling optimistic – not merely because I’m a believer in the early bird catches the biggest worm, but I knew of a certain Kudu bull that I saw regularly. This particular bull frequented a certain valley in one of our prime areas bordering Addo Elephant National Park. I would see him on the odd occasion each year, but he was always just out of range, and making a move on him always came up unsuccessful due to the terrain he liked to call home. Of late I had seen him each time I hunted the area, in fact I had spotted him the day before Aaron and crew arrived on safari. A bout of cold weather hitting the coast had pushed my decision to head north at the start of the hunt, but now the front had come and gone.

At first light we were in position. The guys, including, Zwayi, and my Jack Russel Terrier, Bongo, had slept for most of the three-hour journey south, while I listened to the morning show on our local radio station, Algoa FM.

We glassed hard and sat patiently that entire day. We took turns on the spotting scope looking over numerous bulls during the course of the day. By nightfall we had looked at a number close to thirty Kudu bulls, but our back sides were sore from patiently sitting and waiting for “the” bull. We rumbled into camp with the sound of the Land Cruisers’ motor being the only company in that evening. Our failure to connect was naturally starting to affect our mood.

The following morning, we were back up at dawn, like any good cowboy, we weren’t about to give up after being bucked off the horse. I chose a versatile area for the day. Anything was going to do. Come what may I needed to find more to look at than just Kudu.

By mid-morning we had seen a bunch of species, before Garrett connected on this great Cape Bushbuck. He was an old warrior, well past his prime, the perfect specimen to have taken.

We were glad about our Cape Bushbuck, but even it wasn’t getting us closer to an elusive Kudu bull. As the truck veered slightly to the left, with the edge of the road mere yards away from the hidden drop off and the forested valley below, we weren’t in the mood for the usual mutter and jokes that had accompanied our previous two safaris together. Each one of us were in that winters morning daze, that period in the day when the sun bakes one into a hibernating mood. The toll of early mornings and last back at camp each evening was starting to wear us down. Our concentration was not where it was meant to be.

Starring at the track ahead of me I noticed a glimmer of light, a reflection of sort, something was moving on the slope ahead of us. I stopped the truck. Raised my 10×42’s and started panicking immediately. I dropped the clutch and let the truck roll back down the hill and out of sight. As it came to a halt the entire crew jumped into action. We had finally found a Kudu bull of magnitude proportion.

We rushed ahead hugging the edge of the two lane track, hoping to snake our way forward unnoticed into a shooting position. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Aaron could see I was clearly shaken by what I’d seen, so he moved even faster than usual. As the range finder beamed back something in the 450 yard range I told the guys to get set up. Garrett was on the camera and Aaron on the gun.

The Kudu bull was still milling about feeding with a group of cows on the slope ahead, with a group of Waterbuck off to the right, but he clearly knew something was up.

Aaron picked him up in his scope immediately, while Garrett located him in the cameras viewfinder. We were set and ready, now all we needed was for the bull to feed out of a clump of light brush into a clearing ahead where a particular Kudu cow had fed out into.

Like clockwork he followed her out, coming to a halt in the clearing. I gave Aaron the go-ahead, he had one final breath, then touched off his shot.

At the crack of the shot the bull looked up, but I could see from his reaction he had not been hit. He started moving within seconds veering back up to his left, looping away into some thick stuff. All this time I had the Swarovski 10×60 fixed on him, hoping to see any sign of weakening – but I knew there would be none. It was a clear miss over his back.

As the bull disappeared out of sight, I backed off the spotting scope lens, hoping not to show my disgust at the situation. I would have backed Aaron’s shot if my life depended on it. I had never seen him miss within 600 up to that point. We were all in shock and clearly disappointed. We had worked so hard for that one opportunity, which was now clearly gone.

Some hours later, after having gathered the gear and our lousy moods, doing what was expected, but clearly not enjoyable, I felt embarrassed for my earlier behaviour. I hadn’t said anything after the shot, but the look must have been one of utmost disgust – for which I was ashamed. Aaron was and would still be a great friend had he hit or missed the bull, I just wasn’t ready for that kind of disappointment when the opportunity had finally come. We had done our time and had a massive bull on the ropes being filmed for a television show back in the US. Don’t let anyone fool you – when the cameras are rolling the pressure is on, especially on the professional hunter.

That evening we shared Garrett’s footage with the rest of the crew back at camp. I knew the bull was big, but I didn’t need to see the look on my guides faces, especially my head PH’s face, Greg Hayes. There was no need for “the one that got away was a monster” story, everyone, including Aaron knew what we had missed out on. The evidence was on the camera.

The following day, after numerous discussions with the rest of my crew, and following Greg’s advice and hunch, we decided to give the area and bull a break. It was day nine of a 10-day hunt. If we were to have 1% chance of seeing him again on the last day of our hunt, then we had to give him space.

We hunted an adjacent area to the big bulls’ range, still going after Kudu, but fairly light-hearted in effort. I kept finding Zwayi on the spotting scope staring back at the range of hills behind us, instead of the valley below – the one we were hunting. Our day proved to be a fairly inconsequential one, we weren’t hung up on our miss anymore, but we weren’t over it either.

Our final morning arrived and we rose well before sunup. By 10am we were enjoying our egg salad breakfast sandwich, trying to find the joy in a great tasting sandwich, hoping to eat away our disappointment. We hadn’t found our bull and the eyes were tired of “seeing” things that clearly weren’t going to turn into Kudu the harder we looked.

At noon I decided we were done. The reality was plain for all to see. We had our chance. We didn’t take it. What gave us the right to think we’d have a second opportunity on a weary old monster? He must have escaped so many a hunter in his day – how else could one explain his sheer size? This bull was no fool.

As to lighten up the mood we found a pretty amazing Waterbuck well over the 30” mark, and at somewhere close to 600 yards Aaron dropped him in his tracks. Reiterating my belief and trust in Aaron as a shooter.

I felt a bit better about things, grasping at the positive attributes of one of the best Waterbuck hunted in South Africa during 2015. Having loaded the Waterbuck, we headed towards the skinning shed. On route we decided to stop off at a side valley for a one last quick glass. We spotted some Kudu, but no bulls in the nearby vicinity. We continued on to the shed and left Zwayi to finish up skinning.

Instead of sitting around the shed I decided it was a far better option to head back to the group of Kudu cows, as just maybe a bull would decide to show itself during the course of the afternoon. Arriving back at the side valley we immediately spotted a mature Kudu bull. We could see it wasn’t “the bull”, but he was of a shape in horns that required a closer look.

Getting to within a mere 200 yards from the feeding bull, we were set and ready to take him, when Aaron paused, looked up at me from his prone position and said; “This isn’t our bull, let’s rather pass on him. We’ll never give this bull the respect it deserves if we took him now.” Aaron was right. By taking a lesser bull after everything we had been through would have left us hollow. Yes – we would have a great Kudu bull, but we’d rather take nothing than just take a bull because it was our last afternoon. We got up, gathered our gear for a last time, and headed over to the lookout in search of our bull for what would be the very last time. It was nearing 5pm – the light was fading fast.

Coming to a halt a couple of hundred yards short of our view-point, most of the truck fixed their binoculars on a group of Eland in the valley below us, when Aaron excitedly shouted out from the passenger seat; “There he is!”

No ways, I thought to myself. It was a long way off, right at the top end of the opposite slope, feeding in a frosted yellow grass clearing. I could see it was a bunch of Kudu, with a bull in the group, but it was not until my spotting scope rested on him and the focus glass cleared that my heart started racing again.

I cleared my emotions before lifting off the glass this time. If we had any chance this late in the day, it was going to take every ounce of knowledge I had of the lay of the land. Inside I felt calm, but on the outside I needed people to move, to realize how little precious shooting light we had left. At best we had 1% chance of having a shot at the bull. But it was still a chance, and we had been at it for ten days – there was no quitting now.

The idea was to race to the edge of the large valley separating our slope from the Kudu’s, before free-wheeling out of sight. Within a couple of hundred yards we would be out of sight. We would then race up the opposite slope to as high as we could make it, without disturbing the group, hoping they’d continue to feed in the clearing they were in.

Our plan started off fairly well. The Kudu hardly noticed the truck 2000+ yards away as it dipped out of sight. The minute I felt it as safe to start-up the motor I did so, increasing our pace down the slope. With numerous s-bends making up our two lane track down the slope, I cut one of the corners too sharp, slashing a massive gash in my front left tyre. The truck came to a sudden and bumpy halt.

Having taken stock of our situation we decided we had no chance with the remaining light if we didn’t use the truck to make it up some of the way on the opposite slope. With Zwayi back at the skinning shed taking care of capping out our Waterbuck, Garrett and Aaron jumped into action with me. It was something pretty special to see – right in the middle of the African bush three guys were going about the business of changing a flat as if it were a pit stop in a Formula 1 championship. In no time we were back at it and had come to a halt halfway up the opposite slope.

We grabbed our gear and made a dash for it. Long gone was the fear of busting out anything ahead of us. The lay of the land would hopefully protect us if anything did bust out – this was not the time to be concerned about what could and what wouldn’t. We marched on as fast as our legs and weary souls could take us.

Cresting the ridge, I realized the Kudu were actually on the opposite slope of a hidden valley nestled amongst a heavily forested section of the main ridge. Things were looking good. But the light as now fading from fairly poor to terrible. There was an open section with zero cover we had to cross to get within 500 yards to even start seeing the clearing they were last spotted in when we came to an abrupt halt, facing off with five White Rhino.

I’m not sure who was more startled? The Rhino or us! I threw caution to the wind, hoping the characteristically milder natured White Rhino would clear out without giving us or our Kudu a run for our money. Luckily they did. Two hundred yards further we settled down in the grass. For once things were looking up – we had front row seats to a beautiful sunset, a shooting position as perfect as could be, and a view of a group of Kudu feeding some 400+ yards ahead of us, unaware of any lurking danger. It was now or never.

I glassed as hard as I could trying to find our bull. I could see three cows feeding, with a couple more appearing from time to time. Then suddenly my eye was drawn to a single bright orange Aloe Vera flower about 100 yards below the feeding group. Right there next to the flower was a Kudu bull thrashing a particular thorn tree scent marking as if his life depended on it. I pointed Aaron towards the bull in the thick stuff next to the bright orange flower, while G located it in his camera. I had a quick glimpse through the spotting scope for one last time when I came to the realization I was looking at a completely different bull. Here was a big bull, but not our bull. I put him on ice for the time being and gave the guys the news. We turned our attention back to the feeding group in the clearing.

It could not have been more than 2-3 minutes, which felt like an eternity, but for the life of me we couldn’t find our bull. Just as I started glassing back down towards the orange flower bull I noticed a quick-moving glint of a reflection below the furthermost cow in the group. There was a Boerbean tree, bright red in flower, and from behind it protruding to its right was an off-green yellow looking shrub. And from that shrub I could now clearly see two shinning white tips moving about as the bull browsed in the cool evening breeze.

Aaron and Garrett settled on the bull, each in their now familiar roles when it came to our pursuit of Kudu. The bull started feeding out. First there was more to the horns than just the flaring tips, then the head, and finally he stepped into the gap. He was quartering away ever so slightly when Aaron touched off the 6.5 Creedmore. The bull lunged forward, then jumped high into the air before kicking out and flashing his bright white tail, before disappearing into the undergrowth and out of sight. We sat in silence.

There was nothing that needed to be said in that precise moment. Just for 10 seconds we sat to allow the moment to sink in. This time there was no doubting. I watched the bullets’ impact right behind the shoulder, in the sweet spot, where there’s only ever one result.

As the seconds passed and so too the crashing of the undergrowth on the opposite bank subsided our emotions took over. It had been a hunt of epic proportion, climatic to the very end of day ten. It was possibly the most emotionally challenging rollercoaster of a hunt I had ever guided up to that point, let alone been privileged to have been a part of.

He arguably is the most magnificent looking Kudu I have ever guided.

There have been many great hunts over the years, but very few that would actually play out like the 1% Kudu. Experience tells us we should never have gotten a second chance at our bull, the reality of digging deep and not giving up right to the very end is what brought us back and took us out to the field time and again. The 1% Kudu is why we hunt.

Side note – For those interested in viewing the show of this epic hunt, be sure not to miss Gunwerks Long Range Pursuit on The Sportsman Channel for the re-airing of this show.

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