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We first met Sam Cunningham at the Dallas Safari Club Convention during January of 2014. Sam booked to join the Gunwerks crew on a hunt to John X Safaris that summer, where we got to know the man a bit better. Since then we have hosted Sam on four safaris spread across three different countries, coming away with a host of experiences and a bag of trophies ranging from plains game to big five.

Sam’s Zambian Leopard from 2016 being a certain highlight for both Sam and Stix.

What initially started as a client / PH relationship soon budded into an epic friendship between Sam and Stix, making for a formidable team out in the field. This year we welcomed Sam back to the East Cape, together with his wife, Tracey, and friends, the Smith’s.

For Tracey it would be her first trip to Africa…. and for that matter her very first hunt. She not only proved to be an excellent shot, but a really fun addition to have along on safari. When not behind the scope hunting personally, she turned out to be a trooper in supporting Sam as he came on a quest to continue his Tiny 10 collection, as well as going after the biggest too.

Sam’s Blue Duiker hunted from a blind, and his Oribi pursued along the dunes of the Indian Ocean, were great additions to his ever-growing pygmy antelope collection. It seems he has truly taken a liking to these elusive critters with plans for more in the future.

While up in the Karoo he completed his Springbuck slam from his previous East Cape safari, hunting a fantastic Copper Springbuck with our buddy Niel.

With the tiniest of the tiny in the salt the guys turned their attention to the largest plains game specie of all, the Cape Eland. With the acquisition of Woodlands at the end of 2016, unbeknown to us we had bought into an unbelievable gene pool of Cape Eland, with the population exceeding 150 animals on the greater property. This allowed us the opportunity to harvest a quota of six bulls for the season, with our ever conservative quota approach opting for no more than three bulls for the year.

Having looked at more than forty different bulls over the course of the hunt, with many world-class bulls being turned down, they finally settled on this monster. His dewlap hung at belly height, while his mop on the forehead gave away his age at over ten years. But what was the most amazing of all was his horns that boasted both length and shape. A rare combination for old Eland.

Joining Sam and Tracey were fellow Texans, the Smith’s, out on their first African safari.

Aubrey and Robin, together with their son, Tyler Smith.

For the Smith’s it would be a hunt of the ages. They joined professional Hunter, Carl van Zyl, tracker, Oluwhetu, and Jack Russel Terrier, Bongo. Pursuing a number of plains game species including; Wildebeest, Sable, Kudu, Zebra, Gemsbuck, Eland, Nyala, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Lechwe, and a host of others, making for an exhilarating first experience on the Dark Continent.

GTS Productions videographer, Ozzy, proved to be a great addition to the safari, not only capturing the entire hunt on film, but enhancing Aubrey’s experience through their common interest and passion in photography.

All in all we enjoyed a great week together, with the smiles and many trophy pictures, the result of hard yards under challenging wind conditions. The Gunwerks system once again came out on top, giving both the Cunningham’s and Smith’s, reason to smile not only about the quality of their game, but even more so the rewards of great shots.

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 Cherise Ratliff

In South Africa, I felt freedom from dates and times. That doesn’t happen very often. At least not in my life. Every day is a somewhat predictable juggle of school starting, and work starting, and meetings starting, and school ending, and work ending, and dinner cooking, and bedtime going. On our recent trip, most of the time I had no idea what day it was, how long it was going to take for us to drive somewhere, or what time it was? I can’t tell you how refreshing that was. Our trip to Africa with the Horizon Firearms crew made me feel alive. I can’t decide if it’s sad or just reality that the majority of our lives are lived in a very small space. We drive the same routes, we follow the same schedule, we spend time with the same people, and we do the same things….. day in and day out. When you fly across the world and live life with people WAY outside of that space, something happens inside. Your heart explodes, your mind expands. It’s invigorating and fascinating, and returning to the mundane feels downright depressing. Don’t get me wrong, I missed my little boy with all my heart and couldn’t wait to hug his sweet body, and I missed my bed and my favorite people; however, going on adventures forces me to challenge the way I live and think, and it enhances my desire to plan for bigger and for more! An African safari of a lifetime will do that to you.

In Texas, we drive around on a ranch and get jazzed when spotting a whitetail deer or a hog. Usually the biggest question is how big the antlers were on the buck that was running away or standing in a sendero. With John X Safaris, you drive around and see a Kudu or Nyala or Wildebeest or Warthog or Reedbuck or Zebra or Mongoose or Meerkat or Monkey’s or Blesbuck or Impala or Steenbuck or Baboon or Hartebeest or Jackal or Ostrich or Gemsbuck or Eland or Springbuck or Giraffe or Bushbuck or Duiker … you get my point. “What is that? Did you see that? Look over there. Whoa, look at that thing!”  I believe that God’s creativity, sense of humor, and love for beauty in abundant wildlife is more evident in South Africa than anywhere else I’ve ever been. It is simply stunning.

We all look at life and people through a lens … a lens that has been crafted by our parents, our childhood experiences, our influencers, and the generally accepted ideals and behaviors of the society in which we live. When you travel internationally, you ‘aren’t in Kansas anymore.’ I love asking questions … probably at an annoyingly high rate. Stix and Ozzie thought they were going hunting, not educating a Texan “question-asker” about the history of South Africa, apartheid, Nelson Mandela, current political and cultural climates, the military’s engagement, Dutch and English influences, religious beliefs, racial differences, rugby and rowing, and boarding school (I still can’t get my head around children leaving home at age 5/6 for nine months of the year!). Right, wrong or indifferent, it’s not the same ballgame, and there are things to learn
and people to love all over the world.

Derrick always thanks me for giving stuff a try and having a pretty good attitude about it. I am fairly easily entertained and generally content in most situations. If I had 7 free days, would I choose to hunt during all of those days? Probably not. If I had the opportunity to spend 7 days with Derrick and some amazing new friends while hunting, would I enjoy it? Absolutely.

We took one day off from hunting to go on a photo safari at a nearby game reserve. The John X guys had said that the wives from past trips had gone on the excursion and loved it. It was nice – but it really and truly was JUST like a day hunting. We drove around in a truck looking for animals and got really excited when we found them. We actually saw way more wildlife species hunting with Stix than we did on the photo safari. I don’t think the wives who loved the photographic experience so much realized that they could have had just as much fun going out on the hunt … so ladies, you should try this hunting thing every once in a while. Be open-minded and give it a shot (no pun intended). I may never pull a trigger for the rest of my life, but I still find great joy in seeing Derrick get excited and being a part of the whole experience.

OK so John X Safaris … I have been on many hunts with Derrick throughout our years. We have never, ever been with an outfit like John X Safaris. Having been around the block a few times, I can say with confidence that John X Safaris really and truly is something special. As business owners and leaders, Derrick and I, were observing and analyzing the culture of excellence and family like atmosphere that they have created. Every need or desire was addressed before we even thought about it. From Trish’s pre-hunt correspondence to the arrival at camp. Our glasses were always full; the campfire always received an additional piece of wood when dwindling; a door was always opened for me. The young men who work at John X Safaris have been given some super lesson in style and service, and they were so genuine about it. Clayton even taught me how to Sokkie (African dance similar to our jitterbug) while Ben played the guitar in the “pub” for a couple of hours at the end of the day.

Our beds were turned down in the evenings. Our laundry was done every day. The food was A-mazing … seriously, every meal. Just as much effort went into presentation as taste. Thanks to Lee, Lindiwe, and their kitchen staff, we ate like kings and queens. Ever so thankful to them! I’m so glad Stix pushed us outside of our comfort zone and made us hike a few mountains to help burn some extra calories! The lodge is beautiful – a lovely new construction colonial themed complex centered around original late 1800s “ruins.” The rooms are stunning. The bar is always open. And they help create outings to experience shopping, photo safaris, spa treatments, taxidermist visits, and so much more. John X Safaris creates a destination for the whole family.

Stix was our PH (professional hunter). That’s a real, legit, educated thing over there. Stix is really, really good at what he does. I pretty much coined him Superman. And I can’t really imagine someone being better at what he does while still making every day as fun as he did. Stix is an anomaly of a person — rugged and capable in the world of hunting and wildlife, yet refined and charming in so many ways. He shared his love for Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and opera music, mixed in with some Eminem and Linkin Park. Educated at a high-end boarding school and studied at university to be a finance and accounting mastermind, he can spot a Vaal Rhebok on a mountain a thousand yards away like nobody’s business. He drinks green tea (and suffers much persecution for it from the rest of the PH’s), speaks three languages, kayaks marathons, and was “beaten by his English grandmother if he didn’t use the right knife at dinner.” I entered Derrick and Stix’ second year of friendship, and I hope I get to consider him a friend for life as well. His genuine character and kindness equally matches his ability to estimate a half-inch discrepancy on a Vaal Rhebuck horn from an adjacent mountaintop.

Ozzie – oh Ozzie! We were blessed with the addition of a pretty great cameraman from Got the Shot Productions, the filmmaker partner for John X Safaris. For Horizon Firearms, the video footage from a safari is one of the most valuable takeaways after the hunt is said and done. Real life long-range success helps build credibility and kick off conversations, and the budding partnership between John X Safaris and Horizon Firearms is best expressed through footage of our amazing hunts. Ozzie brought a whole new dimension to “Team Awesome” (as I liked to call us). From random video commentary about Frank the Happy Waterbuck and Samuel the South African Snowman, to serving as backseat iTunes DJ, Ozzie kept us laughing the entire week. His appreciation for beauty, his creative eye, his willingness to go above and beyond in all situations, and his mad drone flying skills have created great anticipation of the video we’ll be receiving at the end of the season. Oh and he’s a trail runner who runs 65K trail marathons to stay fit for packing his camera gear around the mountains – who does that?!

Jimmy, Olwethu, Puie, and Ivan were trackers, which is also a legit thing in South Africa. These fellas had been trained by PH’s to serve as their right hand men. Trackers make almost three times as much money as ranch hands (before tips) so their role is an honorable and coveted job in their culture. These guys are extremely valuable to any given safari. They are REALLY good at spotting wildlife (in our case, really tiny animals far, far away). They are also really good at climbing giant mountains as if they were child’s play. They help recover animals via sight, memory, blood trailing, or literally following vague tracks that were left by the hunted animal. Then they skin like a boss. The whole experience wouldn’t be the same without them, while observing how they live and interact with their world is a fascinating experience on its own. Jimmy is usually Stix’ head tracker, but Jimmy’s son had his “coming out” ceremony the week we were there. This process is the most important time in a young man’s life and occurs in their mid teen years. Apparently, they are beaten by their own tribesmen, sent into the wilderness for 3 weeks to survive, and occasionally visited by various men in their community who impart wisdom. If they survive, they are then circumcised (the old school way), declared a man, and receive a huge celebratory party. True story. So Stix engaged a variety of trackers during our time there.

Have I mentioned the stars yet? Try hanging out in the southern hemisphere in a place far from city lights … the stars will blow your mind. Ozzie stayed up till 2 am one night to capture a time-lapse of the stars for the Horizon Firearms video. I feel like we will be receiving a treasure. Ozzie used the cabin that Derrick and I stayed in as the fixed character in the time-lapse. As we slept, the millions of stars danced above us, moving in a perfect trajectory as the earth rotated on its axis through the night. Oh, and I saw the Southern Cross for the first time while Stix taught us how the sailors used it to find due south. Until the iPhone compass didn’t exactly agree, then we determined that the stars were broken!

When it was all said and done, I left a small piece of my heart in South Africa. I got comfy in my backseat spot in Stix’ truck, and I experienced the highs and lows of the hunt right along with the guys. While in Africa, Derrick kicked off his quest for the Tiny Ten by harvesting a Steenbuck, Klipspringer and Vaal Rhebok. He also added a beautiful Waterbuck, Common Springbuck and Black Springbuck. For the Vaal Rhebok, we journeyed to one of the highest points in the Karoo climbing the Sneeuberge mountain range. For the Klipspringer, we scaled a 1000 foot mountain to get 100 yards closer to the tiny animal. For the Waterbuck, we had a view of the bright blue Indian ocean and gorgeous sand dunes. We got skunked by the Common Duiker and heartbroken by the Mountain Reedbuck. And we enjoyed two gorgeous lodges, the wonder of the stars, lots of campfires and ridiculously good food. Ladies…. go on adventures. Have a great attitude. Meet new people. Ask questions to learn. Sympathize with new cultures. Challenge the norms of your life. Be your man’s best friend. Experience God in a very special way. Make memories and friends that will last a lifetime!

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 what has become something of a tradition over the past five years, we welcomed back Aaron Davidson and a number of Gunwerks customers during early June.

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Mike Kaelin and Murphy McHugh teamed up with PH, Greg Hayes, with the Enlow’s joining, Ross “Stix” Hoole. Maurice Nasr from Australia joined Michael LaBazzo forming a formidable team with PH, Martin Neuper. As per usual Aaron teamed up with PH, Carl van Zyl, but this time around we had our old hunting partner, Garrett Wall, back again after having missed our 2016 hunt.

From that first afternoon on the range the entire group made the most of not only the hunting, but the day-to-day experiences with their Gunwerks rifles. It has been said that a day in Africa with your long-range rifle acutes to a year anywhere else around the world. One just doesn’t get that amount of setups, glassing  vistas, and shooting platforms to gain invaluable experience. Combine these attributes with the fact that opportunities are unlimited, allowing the hunters to make the right decisions on what game to pursue in order to make an ethical kill, or to pass – it makes for an experience second to none.

Having checked all the rifles on the range, happy with the way they had traveled, we decided to introduce the guys to Woodlands Safari Estate. For myself personally it was an opportunity to share our new base with Aaron and Garrett. I wanted to climb the escarpment, to a certain viewpoint that provides a view of the greater property.What unfolded in a matter of mere minutes before sundown set us, and the entire group, up for a great eight days of hunting.

It was the kind of start that dreams are made of…

The crew from Got The Shot Productions have selected a few of the highlights to share with all you fellow long-range enthusiasts. Enjoy the action – it was non-stop!

Another memorable safari it turned out to be with new friends joining the Gunwerks and John X families.  So many great days were shared out in the field, with the common denominator being the smiles on the guys faces giving a good account of how much they enjoyed themselves.

We’ll be doing it again next year! Join the Gunwerks crew to Africa, the first date is already sold out and there’s only a last few remaining slots left in our second group for 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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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 Jose Miguel Hernandez Gomez

Cuando llegué a John X Safaris en abril de 2010, fui introducido a los misterios de la cacería de Vaal Rhebuck.  Éste es un animal muy especial debido al reto que representa cazarlo y desde el primer día que compartí con ellos en la montaña quedé enamorado.

Después de cazar algunos ejemplares con diferentes clientes, me di cuenta que todas las historias son verdaderas en cuanto a su gran sentido de olfato, visión y oído. Lo que me provocó un gran deseo de cazar uno. 

Este sentimiento crecía cada vez que estaba en las montañas, viendo al horizonte contemplaba el terreno tan basto y me preguntaba cuándo cazaría uno, sabía que éste era mi año, ¿…pero cuándo?

Llegó marzo y nos adentramos a las montañas con agente y amigo Brett Nelson, guías Carl van Zyl y Ed Wilson, y yo como camarógrafo con el propósito de cazar y filmar la cacería de un mítico vaalie, que superara las diez pulgadas.

Ésta era una muy ambiciosa aventura por la dificultad que representa cazar un Vaal Rhebuck y más aún conseguir uno que superara dicha meta.

Después de buscar por 3 días logramos cazar uno que superó la marca, estábamos increíblemente contentos por haberlo logrado y no solo eso… ¡Conseguimos capturar la cacería en video!

Con un día de sobra, Carl van Zyl me dio la oportunidad de cazar uno y yo con gran emoción deje la cámara, tomé el rifle y nos introducimos nuevamente en las montañas.

Nos despertamos temprano y aún muy emocionados por el éxito de la noche anterior, emprendimos la nueva aventura, ¡Ahora me tocaba a mi!

El primer grupo que vimos tenía un macho que no era aún lo suficientemente maduro por lo que decidimos dejarlo pasar. Al haber hecho tanto scouting para conseguir el vaalie de Brett teníamos ubicados otros grupos en la zona por lo que decidimos ir a perseguirlos.

¡Ahí están! me dijo Ed con su característico tono bromista. Después de evaluarlos por el telescopio decidimos hacer el intento, con mucha cautela empezamos a acercarnos. El grupo estaba en lo alto por lo que extremamos precauciones y decidimos usar el contorno de la montaña como escondite para evitar ser descubiertos mientras acortábamos la distancia.

Al salir al valle donde fueron vistos, nos dimos cuenta de que ya estaban bajando de lo alto de la montaña por lo que decidimos encontrar una posición cómoda y esperar a que se presentara la oportunidad.

Con la sombra de una roca como camuflaje, esperamos Carl, Ed y yo pacientemente a que el grupo de estos animales se acercara a un rango donde me sintiera confiado para hacer un tiro ético.  Pasaron treinta minutos (que se sintieron como dos horas) y la manada de pronto corrió hacia nuestra dirección deteniéndose a  unos 180 metros de distancia, Ed a mi lado izquierdo, susurro a mi oído “quita el seguro y dispara cuando se detenga… ¡ah y no se te ocurra fallar!” (utilizando un lenguaje más expresivo). Esto lo escuchó Carl que estaba detrás de la cámara y riendo me dice “Ed tiene razón”.Y bueno, lo demás es historia.

¡Que grata experiencia es compartir la montaña con amigos, y que bonito es cuando las cosas salen bien!

Cazar estos increíbles animales es un reto muy distinto a lo que uno se imagina al cazar en África, pero les aseguro que es una experiencia única y ampliamente recomendable.

Gracias a Carl, Ed y Brett por haberme dado la oportunidad, y a John X Safaris por hacerme parte de la familia.

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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There’s something profoundly exciting for even the most seasoned of African travelers when staring down at ones boarding pass for the day….Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg… A short lay over and then onto Libreville, Gabon, and finally onto Douala, Cameroon.

For Jeff Edland and Luther Dietrich, my friends from North Dakota, in the United States, it would take more than a day.  For them it would be Fargo to Minneapolis, then an international leg onto Paris, France, before catching the Air France connection to Douala to meet up with us.

Ahmadu, our driver, a tall man from the Fulbe tribe, and Simon our translator, were waiting for us upon arrival. Passport control and customs turned out to be another interesting take on a first world concept, practiced by locals in a third world country –  neither sure how or why they were required to perform the duties they were expected to perform. Let’s face it, a small booth in a large terminal manned by an individual staring at a blank screen pretending the computer’s power cord is somehow connected via blue tooth doesn’t instill the world of confidence in the system or concept. Maybe it’s job creation – who knows? Either way, there was no doubting, we had arrived in west Africa.

The locals are friendly, smiles abound, with a French dialect adding a certain sense of exoticness to the destination when spoken by Africans. The atmosphere of a busy African city is electrifying set upon a humid and stuffy climate. Modern skyscrapers play neighbors to run down slums. Small market vendors line the sidewalks, while the infamous Marche de Fleur ( Flower Market) takes a traditional African market to the next level. Anything from exotic reptiles sourced in the tropics, to grave robbed masks, and century old stone figures, are combined with aggressively negotiating Africans, making for one crazy shopping experience. Don’t go if you’re not willing to batter, it’s an age-old African custom, one they consider essential in every purchase.

From Douala we caught the Camair flight to N’Gaoundare where we were met by an old friend and Professional Hunter, Mike Currie. Mike was the reason we were in west Africa. I had the privilege of sharing a couple of seasons with him when he joined us in the East Cape some years ago, and ever since had become great friends. He had first come to west Africa in 2005, starting with Club Faune in CAR, before moving to Cameroon after the rise and spike of activities by the Sudanese Ivory poachers had reached its climax in 2007. Like Mike says, it’s was no fun tracking Giant Eland to a chorus of AK47 rounds popping in the background. He moved just in time.

From Ngadoura we started our journey north, traveling via road, dropping off from the Adamaoa Plateau heading towards the Chadean border. A 7 + hour journey on something that resembled roads, going at no more than 40 miles/hour, proved to be an experience of its own. Our bearing was set for the Djibao hunting concession, neighboring the eastern boundary of the Bouba Njida National Park.

The area is made up of Terminalia Woodland, with either a rock base or clay surface that has been baked rock hard by the blistering sun or countless bush fires. Large earthworms push rounded mounds, very similar in size to a golf ball, which scatters the landscape, making for interesting walking. The Lord Derby or Giant Eland, together with Roan, Nigerian Bohor Reedbuck, Western Kob, Harnessed Bushbuck, Western Hartebeest, Oribi, North-West Buffalo, Warthog, Red-flanked Duiker and Western Bush Duiker call the area home.

Evenings are pleasant with cool mornings, before temperatures start spiking towards midday. Each day will see the gauge read 100+ Fahrenheit, with the only respite coming once the Harmaton from the Sahara desert settles in. The dust fills the air in a haze of white blocking out the sun, giving the place the atmosphere of a semi-lunar eclipse. One could be forgiven for thinking the moon was up instead of the sun, with only the  excruciating heat jolting one back to reality.

Millions of sweat bees follow both man and beast, attracted to anything with a slight glint to its surface. The irritation factor varies in scale from moderate to highly irritating on any given day. That combined with the heat, hazed dust cloud, and the burning breeze makes for one challenging setting. Never the less that is what makes everything worth while when spotting your first Giant Eland. The moment takes your breath away… it is truly a watershed one.

Nothing, not even the hundreds of pictures and limited available videos studied beforehand, could possibly prepare one for it. It is said that in life the journey is often far greater than the destination. That is most certainly true, but my fellow hunters, Luther and Jeff, will agree, that the destination is just as sweet when it came to our quest for Giant Eland.

This was no ordinary hunt. It is not for everyone, neither will anyone be able to take this hunt on successfully without being able to withstand serious heat, long days, and great distances on the feet each day. It has been our dream in the making for the past four years. Enjoy it… It has been one rewarding journey…

Special thanks must go out to Mike Currie, without Mike none of this would have been possible. I would also go as far as recommending that anyone foreign to west Africa should not take on a journey such as this without someone as experienced as Mike. Mike’s crew on the ground, consisting of our local PH, Churton Wright, who played a valuable role on this hunt, making for not only a good PH, but a highly entertaining one at that. Our driver, Jean-Benard, trackers, Amadu, Benjamin “Binoculars”, Bubba, and Basa. You gentleman take tracking to the next level. Thank you.

To Ozzy, the guy who arrived as a “green horn” cameraman a couple of years ago, to one of the best in the game today. Your filming and attitude to work, combined with your sense of adventure ensures there’s never a dull moment on the road. Thanks for your continued push to  getting the best shots on film time and again.

Last but not least, to three special friends, Brett Nelson, whom could not make it, then Luther Dietrich and Jeff Edland, you guys epitomize not giving up. When we reached 96 Kilometers of tracking after 13 days, with both Eland finally in the salt, we all knew how deep you had dug to achieve each of your goals. It has been a pleasure guiding you for the past ten years, and I’m privileged to know I’ll be guiding you for many more. Thank you for the trust. Thank you for the friendship. We did 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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