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Posts Tagged ‘BLue Wildebeest’

During the latter part of July, right towards the very end of the rut in the East Cape, we welcomed Cable Smith to John X Safaris and Africa for the very first time. Cable owns the Lone Star Outdoor radio show, broadcasting throughout Texas on various local radio stations weekly. He is a passionate man, an outdoor enthusiast who speaks his mind, fearless of anti-hunters and that fraternity, making him an invaluable asset to hunters right around the world.

Having met Cable via our great friends, Glynn Underwood and Steve Travis, at the Dallas Safari Club convention during 2015, we soon got talking about the Dark Continent. Cable had heard so much about the destination and his friends were adamant he had to get to Africa.

Soon plans were put in motion and before we knew it Cable had touched down in Africa, joining PH, Carl van Zyl and team, on safari in the East Cape.

Sporting his custom-built, Horizon Firearms 7 mm, we set off after plains game, hunting a variety of both Carl and Cable’s favorite species.

Of course there would be a Kudu on the wish list, but first we started off from Woodlands Safari Estate hunting our Southern Concessions for Impala and Zebra.

The Kudu were done rutting in the south, with reports of bulls still chasing cows in the cold country, which had seen a later start to their rut this season. With that we headed north up into the hills, climbing the escarpment to 4500 feet. Our main goal was to hunt Kudu, with anything else coming as a bonus along the way. We got up high and found ourselves a beauty!

With a Kudu in the salt, and the pressure well and truly off, having got lucky on our first morning in the north, we decided to stay a few more days. Carl wanted to scratch around for a nice Warthog. If only we knew what that scratching would literally mean, let alone the next few days harvesting not only a superb pig that turned out to be one unbelievable adventure, but a Mountain Reedbuck like we’ve never seen before.

With a feeling of accomplishment we headed south again. The salt pit was full and so too were our appetites. In the coming days we would be after Africa’s biggest and one of Africa’s sneakiest.

An Eland, a couple of Wildebeest and a Hartebeest, would consume the remainder of our time on safari. Of course it was only a matter of time before we hit a blank, which proved to be our Cape Bushbuck. Our safari had run so smoothly, with pretty much everything we touched turning to gold, except for the Bushbuck which we’ll try for again in June 2018 and that pig… Oh did I mention that adventure turned out to be a rodeo. You want to see this to believe it….

Any Lone Star Outdoor Show fans and interested hunters wanting to join Cable on safari come 2018, can do so by contacting Cable on lonestaroutdoorshow@gmail.com or Carl on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za . Our dates are set for 22-30 June 2018, with only a couple of remaining spots left.

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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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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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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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!

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