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Posts Tagged ‘Best Safari Videos’

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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While out on safari up in the high country with Gunwerks owner, Aaron Davidson, during our 2015 safari, the topic of having a Gunwerks rifle in camp came up once again. Having witnessed the class and precision of their rifles, combined with an amazing user-friendly shooting system that simplifies the complicated science of long-range shooting, the matter of getting my very own Gunwerks rifle to Africa became a goal for 2016.

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With the help of Aaron and Garrett I picked out my choice gun during SCI’s annual Convention in Las Vegas – My gun was finally coming home to Africa.

Welcoming back the crew and my Gunwerks rifle to Africa

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As late July rolled in so too did Aaron with his sons, Danner and Derec Davidson, as well as Gunwerks customers, John Benbow, Sultan Kawarit, Paul Baird, and the Gardiner family.

For Aaron it would be a traditional return joining me on safari for what has become a highlight in my calendar each year. Knowing each other so well and enjoying so much of the same, we have built an enjoyable friendship through our adventures and time on the show circuit each year.

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This years hunt would prove to be a special one, as together with him, he brought his sons, Danner and Derec, for their first taste of Africa.

Some torrid cold conditions put the boys through their paces on the first few days up in the Karoo, but credit to them as they stuck it out and soon started mastering challenging conditions overhead. From huddling around a small camp fire with the trackers trying to keep out of the snow and cold, to blistering winds, and finally beautiful sunny days, giving the boys a bit of everything Africa could throw at them. And when it turned the boys turned up the heat with some world-class shots!

Of course Aaron got in on the action too, but it was not until we got back south to the coast that he and I finally found the kind of Warthog we’d been after for many years. It all kind of happened by sure coincidence, but we’ll take our luck everyday of the week! On previous safaris we had always concentrated on numerous species, with a Warthog never proving to be a priority. Over time a pig became somewhat of a priority, and more so – a big pig.

We had passed up a number of shooters over the years, but this time there was no second guessing.

We had passed up a number of shooters over the years, but this time there was no second guessing. A “Boss Hog” finally hit the salt!

Aaron’s Warthog proved to be his final trophy of the hunt, while the boys continued on in style harvesting Cape Bushbuck, Warthog and Zebra. Both the shots on the Cape Bushbuck and Warthog were fantastic setups with great natural shooting platforms due to the nature and the lay of the land, while the Zebra on our last day allowed the boys to get in close, once again proving the versatility of the Gunwerks system.

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While Aaron and the boys were enjoying every minute of their family hunt, so too was first timer John Benbow who joined the crew teaming up with Professional Hunter, Dave Burcy. John and Dave hit it off from day one going about their hunt in a quiet way, bringing home pretty loud trophies each evening.

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Each morning they’d head into the hills…

And each evening their quality spoke for itself…

It seemed this team had a trick up their sleeve each time someone else brought in something really good. What has become tradition over the years, has seen the team of Professional Hunters choose the best trophy hunted during the Gunwerks safari each season. The criteria is not set in stone, but the specie/animal hunted must carry the attributes of a gold medal class animal for that particular specie.

And so it came as no surprise that John hunted the trophy of the safari - A magnificent 43" Sable.

And so it came as no surprise that John hunted the trophy of the safari – A magnificent 43″ Sable.

Sultan Kawarit had previously hunted the East Cape, but this would be his first taste of what John X Safaris has to offer.

Sultan had previously hunted with PH, Martin Neuper, and was ecstatic to hear that Martin had joined our team, once again teaming up for another safari.

Sultan had hunted with PH, Martin Neuper, before and was ecstatic to hear that Martin had joined our team.

The two of them set out to not only tackle a variety of plains game, but a couple of mountain dwellers too. On Sultan’s previous safari he had hunted a number of species, so this time round he was after not only variety, but quality too. He had arrived at the right destination. The quality of Sultan’s trophies speak volumes of our areas, while the experiences provided by Martin will be lasting memories for both of them.

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There was however one particular hunt that will never be forgotten by all involved. The guys were after Klipspringer and had headed into the hills with a lunch pack for the day.

By mid-morning they had found a couple of pairs, but a heavy mist with sleet rain blew in from the north, covering them in a blanket of white and cold.

By mid-morning they had found a couple of pairs, but a heavy mist with sleet rain blew in from the north, covering them and the Klipspringer in a blanket of white and cold.

For three hours they held their position having identified a shooter ram. When the weather blew over the ram provided a shot at 480 yards.

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What a shot – What an effort – What a memory!

Sultan’s hunt proved to be a massive success with his Cape Eland over 1100 yards being one of the best and longest shots of the safari. While Sultan was pushing hard providing a competitive challenge to the rest of the hunters, it was Paul Baird, hunting with PH, Greg Hayes, and the Gardiner family guided by PH, Rusty Coetzer, that left us amazed.

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Paul was the first and only man whom we have ever seen taking long-range shots off standing sticks, and doing so successfully time and again. His confidence was a treat to observe – it’s hard not to admire a man who puts in that kind of practice and then to enjoy his success with him when the results pay off.

As for the Gardiner family consisting of Todd Sr, Alex, Gabriel and Todd-Gerald – these guys had very little to no experience with the Gunwerks system, let alone any long-range practice prior to their arrival. Their success and the speed at which they gained confidence once again proved why Gunwerks remains one of the best, if not the best, system in the long-range market.

With this being their first hunt to Africa – a great occasion to say the least – they booked GTS Productions to capture their experiences on film. Enjoy the journey with them and relive the emotions of what proved to be an exciting ten days with John X Safaris.

#GunWerked during 2016

It seems the more we use, enjoy, and hunt with the Gunwerks system, the more we take for granted. It has become the norm to accept that every single last Gunwerks rifle that has ever joined John X Safaris on a hunt has far exceeded our and our hunters expectations in not only precision results, but rewarding experiences for those who have had the privilege to shoot these amazing rifles. The fact that a seasoned long-range hunter or a beginner such as myself can achieve a certain level of success within a limited period of time speaks volumes for the system. That alone is a remarkable feat by Aaron and his entire team at Gunwerks, and for that they need to be congratulated.

I see the new #tag sporting the waves reads #GunWerked – Let’s rephrase that to #GunWerked2011,  #GunWerked2012,  #GunWerked2013,  #GunWerked2014,  #GunWerked2015  … And I can assure you #GunWerked once again in Africa during 2016. Take my word for it, I’m not merely guiding hunters enjoying the system – I’m shooting my very own Gunwerks 7 mm LRM.

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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During late July, together with the Gunwerks crew, we welcomed first timers Mark Simpson and Bob Phillips on their first safaris to the Dark Continent.

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Shooting their custom-made Gunwerks 7 mm’s the guys set out with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix” Hoole, on the hunt of a lifetime. Both men proved to be excellent shots, and more importantly as we’ve come to learn from the Gunwerks system, they made for a competent team. The success of any long-range hunt lies with the spotter as much as with the capabilities of the shooter – neither can function without the other.

The guys started in the north - hoping to get off to a solid start with open vistas and countryside that stretches as far as the eye can see.

The guys started in the north – hoping to get off to a solid start with open vistas and countryside that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Enjoying the open terrain with numerous long-range opportunities on a daily basis, saw the team being put through their paces within days. The cold weather allowed for some challenging shooting at times, but the crisp quiet after the storm allowed for amazing long-range conditions.

Having mastered the Karoo it was time to hit the coast – A new set of challenges with a complete exchange in specie options. Gone were the big open plains that provide such a target rich environment, it was now the challenges of our coastal forests and the small clearings with limited visibility and quick opportunities. Blink and they’re gone, concentrate and stay focused, and you’ll not believe how much game moves in and about our forests.

Here patience is the name of the game... And you better be ready.

Here patience is the name of the game… And you better be ready.

With persistence and first class shooting, and a system like few, these guys achieved phenomenal results. Both the Waterbuck and Zebra shots were outstanding, but Bob’s shot on his Nyala was out of this world!

A fantastic safari it proved to be with amazing scenery, guiding, shots, and setups – GTS Productions went along and joined them on their safari.Enjoy their hunt as we relive 10 action-packed days with Gunwerks and John X Safaris in the East Cape, 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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