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Posts Tagged ‘Ladies on safari’

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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A John X Safaris experience for over 100?

Contributed by Cindi McNair, proud new member of the She Safari Sisterhood

I have not hunted game my entire life.  So I was certainly not a lifelong hunter who dreamed of going on safari as the ultimate adventure.  My husband Mike and I were introduced to “safaris” through our good friends Chris and Martie Petersen.  Mike and Chris met in a goose blind many years ago, and they have been hunting together ever since.  While sharing drinks by the fire in their trophy room, the Petersen’s have spent many a night retelling the tales of their African adventures with John X Safaris.

The sessions in the Petersen’s safari room always seemed to end the same way:  “You guys should go on safari … why don’t you join us!”  While the trophies and tales of their safaris created visions of Africa, my husband always responded the same way:  “Africa is just too far … I can’t stand a plane ride that long.”  And this was a hunter talking … one who quite literally grew up hunting as a kid.

Wilson_01

What my husband Mike did not know is what I have on my “Bucket List”.  On that list of lifetime achievements, one of my top things to do was:  “Ride an elephant in the wild”.  After four years of “drinking about safaris” with the Petersen’s, they began to get the upper hand.  When Chris mentioned that John X Safaris customize their safaris to visitors individual needs … and can even book elephant rides … I was hooked!  Let’s just say, when wives set their sights on Africa, they have ways of convincing their husbands that no flight could be too long, especially when there are elephants to ride on the other end.

So plans were made for the Petersen’s and McNair’s to go on that mystical adventure called a “safari” in the US summer of 2013.  And I have to admit, a major part of the fun was all the planning and preparation.  Of course my husband had to practice shooting from “sticks” and plan which trophies to hunt.  They even convinced me to participate in shooting practice.  I have done some target shooting, so it was fun to learn how to shoot a rifle.  Although, I was not convinced I would actually hunt in Africa.

“Wilson” goes to Africa

Professionally, I am the Director of a large senior living community, where 150 independent, educated seniors live.  Once the story got out that I was going on safari, all the residents wanted to “participate”.  They were insistent that I brought back plenty of photos so we could re-enact a fun Safari Night together, and they could experience our safari through pictures.

I’m not exactly sure how I came up with the idea, but as I began to picture our Safari Night, I didn’t want it to be just a bunch of pictures running as slides.  I wanted a story to tell, with some fun and from a different perspective.  So, by sure coincidence I found a little bendable figure symbolizing “Joy”.  He was it … he would be my African safari and photo buddy.

Meet “Wilson” … My safari and photography buddy in Africa.

Meet “Wilson” … My safari and photography buddy in Africa.

And he had to have a name…remember Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway”?  The washed up Volleyball he named Wilson?  That was it, my little yellow guy would be named Wilson.  My plan would be to take photos of Wilson while on safari so that I could share the stories with my senior residents back home.

Wilson went everywhere with us on safari …

Wilson went everywhere with us on safari …

When John X Safaris says that they personalize their safaris to your needs and desires, you have no idea of what that means until you get there!  I thought I was going on safari to ride an elephant.  Indeed, I can successfully cross that off my bucket list!  What an amazing experience to not only ride the elephants, but feed them up close and personal by hand!

Wilson was absolutely with me as I crossed off my Bucket List … Riding an elephant in the wild of Africa.  Look close he’s in my left pocket!

Wilson was with me every step of the way as I crossed off my Bucket List … Riding an elephant in the wild of Africa. Look! He’s in my left pocket!

My Bucket List never envisioned being able to literally put food in an elephant’s mouth.  Amazing!

My Bucket List never envisioned being able to literally put food in an elephant’s mouth. Amazing!

Wilson went on fabulous game drives to witness the wildlife splendor unfold.

One of Wilson’s Big 5 game drive highlights … Elephants at a watering hole at sundown.

One of Wilson’s Big 5 game drive highlights … Elephants at a watering hole at sundown.

One does not immediately think of oceans when going to South Africa.  It turns out that John X Safaris base camp is situated in the coastal region of the East Cape.  With our close proximity to the ocean, we made various excursions, including a couple of visits to the warm Indian Ocean.  In addition, Wilson and I even had a chance to dip our toes in the Indian Ocean!  Who would have guessed?  On Safari!

Another Bucket List achievement for Wilson … walking in the Indian Ocean surf!

Another Bucket List achievement for Wilson … walking in the Indian Ocean surf!

Wilson truly went everywhere with us, including a special safari evening dinner held at the “boma”, which is an enclosure literally in the middle of the African bush.  Nothing can quite describe the experience of dining on South African cuisine under starlit skies around crackling campfires.  This was certainly a night never to forget.  Both Wilson and my husband, Mike, had more fun than should be allowed dancing around the fire.

Wilson and husband Mike, Rock it at the boma!

Wilson and husband Mike, Rock it at the boma!

“The thrill of the hunt” are words I never thought would apply to me.  But my time with John X Safaris proved me wrong!  I can’t begin to describe how exciting it was to hunt my first big game animal.  I proudly took my impala on my first shot … “Animal Down”!  And, suddenly I realized all of the emotion and joy of big game hunting in Africa.  And once again Wilson was there at my side as I became a proud “She Safari” member of the Hunting Sisterhood.

Wilson was in my pocket when I became a member of the Safari Sisterhood and took my impala … my first ever game trophy.

Wilson was in my pocket when I became a member of the Safari Sisterhood. My impala … my first trophy.

On my Facebook page I posted “Wilson goes to Africa” several days before our adventure.  It started as a fun way of documenting our journey and provided terrific photo opps to tell our story on safari.  Everyone at John X Safaris came to know Wilson, and Wilson became the ultimate fan of “sundowners”.  Our trusty ranger, Kelly, seemed to always have our favorite drink and snacks in hand as Wilson and friends watched the sun set on the African plains.

Wilson and Ranger Kelly get us prepared to drink about it on another great Safari Sundowner!

Wilson and Kelly gearing up for Safari Sundowner patrol!

Wilson’s journey to Africa ended up providing untold laughter, and a way of bringing a great story back home.   In fact Wilson went back to Iowa and was the Star of his own Safari Night Adventure where we shared our stories with all the seniors at our retirement community … literally a hundred plus residents “went on safari” with John X that night and had the time of their lives with Wilson.

Africa is an incredible place which is hard to describe.  The beauty of the “bush”, the variety of animals and birds create an amazing experience in the wild.  I came to ride my elephant, and experience many lifetime memories.  I also hunted my first trophy which was an incredible experience in itself!  And Wilson was there for every minute of it.

Ladies out there, if you know someone going on safari, don’t stay home.  Lead the way!  The entire John X Safaris team went out-of-the-way every day to ensure that we all had a fantastic experience that exceeded any of our expectations.  Whether it is hiking the coast, riding an elephant, watching the Big 5, or hunting your own trophy … going on safari is an amazing experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

The thrill of Africa wildlife literally unfolds before your eyes on amazing game drives like this one.

A special shout out to my PH, Carl van Zyl, who was more than our guide … he and his family became our friends.  Ranger, Kelly, is simply the “best” who will show you Africa like no other.  Thanks to friends old and new who made our first safari to South Africa a trip of a lifetime.   And finally, I thank my husband Mike, he was my true champ!  He gave me my elephant ride, and didn’t complain for one minute about the length of the flight home!

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our Website!

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