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Posts Tagged ‘East Cape Kudu’

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

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

We present The Manor at Woodlands Safari Estate….

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

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

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

First a Lechwe in the 28″ + class..

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

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

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

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

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

One could say she found the best trophy of all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 six weeks long we have spent numerous days and countless hours trying to share the wonder and beauty of Africa. Trying to relay the feeling that stirs within when the dark continent creeps under your skin and into your soul. The onslaught on ones senses is like nowhere else on earth.

Even after all these years it seems the traveling abroad only gets longer and the longing for Africa greater. This year, like the many before, saw us once again embarked on our journey to secure the future and prosperity of Africa and her wildlife. The commitment from the American hunter is something that is spoken about often, but needs mentioning again. Without you and your support our wildlife would not enjoy the growth and security it has become accustomed to today. For that we are forever grateful. Thank you.

Record numbers were reached on the booking front this year. From Dallas to Las Vegas and the many stops in between – So many people to thank. So many to welcome on board as they look to embark on their first safari to Africa with John X Safaris. And of course, so many to be indebted to as they once again chose John X Safaris as their choice destination for 2017/18/19. The support, referrals, and recommendations from our returning hunters has left us astounded once again. It only drives us on to keep doing what we’ve been doing – ensuring our safaris are so much more than a hunt, but the complete African experience.

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The acceptance and excitement around Woodlands Game Reserve, our new base and home, combined with our renowned Karoo concessions, has seen us return home even more invigorated than before. The experience of 34 years in the safari industry and knowing the commitment it takes to ensure you as individual will enjoy a world-class safari, is not merely a given, but our word. The success and enjoyment derived from being a part of your safari is something we as a team gain much enjoyment from. It’s something we’re proud of and something that goes far further than the hunt.

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Our traditional season in South Africa will kick off in mid-April, at the completion of our new Colonial Safari Manor at Woodlands. This year will see hunters enjoy safari camps like no other, with our northern Karoo camp having enjoyed an upgrade too. While it had been dry for the most part of 2016, late summer rains have fallen across the majority of our areas, with the promise of more on the horizon each evening. The retention of our renowned coastal and Karoo plains game concessions, combined with Woodlands and the Big 5 dynamic that has added, will ensure our hunters enjoy arguably the finest hunting Southern Africa has to offer.

Between now and April we will be gearing up for the season ahead with scouting, building and planning being the focus in and around John X Safaris. There’s a lot to be done, but so much to look forward to.

Here’s hoping my team at home can get it done – As for me, I’m off to Cameroon to get our season off to a big start, and at the same time tick another adventure from my “half full” bucket list. It doesn’t get much bigger than a Lord Derby Eland for a hunter or for that matter, his Professional Hunter.

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In closing I’d like to thank you once again for your American hospitality, your continued support, and your unrelenting trust in John X Safaris is something we’re extremely proud of as a team. Our appreciation is something that goes beyond words.

Thank you!

Catch you in Africa – Carl & Team

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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