Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Horizon Firearms’

By Cherise Ratliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

giraffe

As I started my final forward from Lalibela during late September, I found myself gazing out over the game rich plains deep in thought… the moment had finally come for us to say goodbye and close a chapter on twenty memorable years. I would be lying if I were to try to convince you that at that moment I was not feeling overly sentimental or emotional. Twenty years of dreaming, sacrifice, hard work, and achievement. It had been a journey like few.

If we were to rewind the clock by twenty years, to be more precise, October 1996, and I were to tell you about that first sunny afternoon on Hillside Farm, Sidbury, East Cape, South Africa, you would have been excused for being a pessimist like the many others. Rick and Sue van Zyl had just acquired the first property in what would become today’s world-renowned Lalibela Game Reserve, and the home of John X Safaris.

At first it was a meager colonial homestead turned into a “rustic camp” for the few loyal hunters, who unbeknownst to them were playing a major role in getting the dream of a wildlife reserve off to a slow, but gradual start. Soon the first lodge, Lentaba, was completed, giving our hunters a taste of what was to come. With the acquisition of more land and the re-introduction of 22 game species and the first White Rhino, things started coming together nicely.

With 20 000 acres, a lodge, one of the Big 5, over 3000 head of game, and an eager team we set off to launch Lalibela to tourists in the summer of 2002. The concept was a brilliant one; our hunters would occupy and utilize the winter hunting months, while the tourists would take up the summer months, when hunters preferred to stay home for their traditional northern hemisphere hunting season.

By 2003 a second lodge, Mark’s Camp, was completed, the very year both Elephant and Cape Buffalo, joined the White Rhino as members of the Big 5, once again roaming free where they had not set foot for over a hundred years. A masterstroke in developments it turned out to be, with the reserve taking an even bigger step with the introduction of free roaming Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah in the early part of 2004. With the addition of a further 10 000 acres and completion of our flagship lodge, Treetops Luxurious Tented Camp, a first of its kind, during September that same year, Lalibela had established itself and was now a successful brand in both the hunting and tourist industries respectively.

Throughout the years and the numerous developments we have been privileged to have grown as a family, calling a place such as Lalibela, home. It is something that we have not taken lightly in our responsibility to the land, wildlife, our people, hospitality, and business. Your support and safari contributions have allowed us to build and live an extraordinary life – one we could not have been a part of without each and every one of you – after all, Lalibela only became a reality because of you and your commitment to conservation through hunting. It has been a journey we are immensely proud of and an achievement of a goal reached through untold sacrifice and hard work.

With that said we had reached for the stars and fallen amongst them, but something was lacking, it was time to move on… time to let go of the familiarity. It was time to go back to the beginning, to our people, to John X Safaris and the most enjoyable years of our lives.

New Beginnings – Woodlands Game Reserve

“And suddenly you just know… it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings…”

Woodlands Game Reserve – 30 000 Acres, big 5, plains game, over 2500 head of game, 20 + species, rifle, archery, wing shooting, and a brand new colonial safari lodge opening in March 2017 + the very same trusted team – Dedicated to hunters and hunting only. 

We will still be offering our multi-area option safaris in both the coastal and northern Karoo regions, like we’ve been doing for the past 33 years, with Woodlands becoming our coastal base. Those hunters who have booked safaris can rest assured that Woodlands will be everything and more of what Lalibela could have ever offered as a destination.

We have found our new home. It’s a hidden gem like no other, and you’re invited to join us on your next safari as we turn the industry on its head and launch the greatest hunting destination the East Cape has ever seen.

Until your next safari – We thank you for being a part of the Safari World of John X Safaris during the past year and the many before. It has been a privilege hosting and having you on safari. Your support and friendship means the world to us. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Carl & Family

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!

Read Full Post »

Having met Derrick Ratliff at Dallas Safari Club’s annual Convention during January 2016 we immediately knew we were dealing with a passionate man. Walking up to his Horizon Firearms booth with our good friends, Glynn Underwood (aka “Super Hunter”) and Steve Travis, for the initial introductions, it became very apparent that the man not only knew how to build great firearms, but as importantly build great looking guns. The Horizon Firearms brand most certainly came across as something new and unique to say the least. At the time we had no experience on the guns, and had not seen how they would perform in Africa with the usual questions when experiencing a new product for the very first time.

IMG_2630

Fast forward to three months later and Derrick had touched down in Africa.

Derrick had joined a great bunch of guys from Houston, Texas, forming an integral part of one of our funnest groups of the year. Teaming up with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix”Hoole, and tracker, Thanduxolo, the guys set out on their quest to conquer Africa’s spiral horned slam and anything else that met their fancy on quality.

The hunting turned out to be nothing short of exceptional with Horizon Firearms passing their first test of Africa with flying colors.

Upon Derrick’s return home he opened his first newsletter for Horizon Firearms with a story titled Epic – Hunting in Africa. We wanted to share extracts from his story, giving you a front row seat to his first hand experiences.

What is epic? Is it a specific trophy animal? The great shot you made? The time around the campfire with buddies? Or is it just the hunt?

To me Epic was a term I learned in South Africa this year. I never really thought about it, but it was a term used a lot by my Professional Hunter (PH) “Stix”, and looking back that really was the only word that could describe Africa.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive the invite to go with a couple of great customers and friends of mine, Glynn and Steve. If it was not for their persistence and confidence in going with John X Safaris I would not have even considered it. And I would have missed out on a hunt of a lifetime.

It all started back at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, when I had a chance to meet with Carl and Ross “Stix” of John X Safaris. We had a booth there ourselves, and Glynn and Steve convinced me to meet with the John X guys. After one meeting I knew I had to go with them on the trip. I was impressed by their outfit and the confidence they had in the quality of their hunting land, without acting like a bunch of used car salesmen. I knew I could trust them.

Once the trip was officially booked, I was like a little kid counting down the days until Christmas. After months of paperwork, target practice and getting all my gear together, it was finally time to jump the pond. Not only was it my first overnight flight, it was my first international flight traveling with firearms. Man, was that an experience. It was definitely a learning experience and all I can say is that Ann and her crew at Air 2000 were lifesavers! We were in and out of all the checkpoints in about 1/3 of the time of all the hunters that were on our flight. [Side note: Well worth the value of their service, for anyone traveling to Africa contact Ann and tell them Horizon Firearms sent you.]

Once in Johannesburg, we decided to lay low for a day to sleep off the jet-lag before hopping on one more flight to Port Elizabeth. During the hustle and bustle of getting the guns cleared through the police station, we were greeted by Carl and his crew of PH’s. [Side note: It is very nice to have an outfitter that speaks the local African languages well so that you know what is going on when traveling with firearms in a foreign country.]

After the guns were cleared, we loaded our gear into their sweet safari Toyota trucks and headed off for the Karoo. It took us about three hours to get there. Thank goodness I don’t get motion sickness because the South African roads, and the driving on the opposite side of the road, is enough to make your head spin. Once we arrived at camp, we headed out to the shooting range and got everyone dialed in for the morning to come…

The rest of the trip is more than I can talk about in one post. Every day was filled with a new adventure and every evening filled with amazing food and camaraderie around the campfire. In saying this there’s not a whole lot that can really prepare one for the first morning waking up in Africa. 

For now, I will say this: nothing, or no one, can prepare you for that feeling. Everyone will tell you about the mind-blowing diversity, the vast amount of land, the hundreds, if not thousands, of animals you will see – but you won’t believe it. It’s nothing short of EPIC.

GTS Productions joined Derrick on his hunt, capturing all the action along the way. Enjoy his safari with him as he relives those first emotions of Africa.

For those interested in learning more about Horizon Firearms and the great firearms they build, feel free to contact Derrick and his crew on derrick@horizonfirearms.com . Derrick will also be sharing a number of short stories about his trip and any suggestions about traveling to Africa on his Horizon Firearms Newsletter over the coming months. Feel free to follow his stories and suggestions as he plans his return on a second hunt to John X Safaris during July 2017.

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.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: