Posts Tagged ‘Tiny 10’

We first met Sam Cunningham at the Dallas Safari Club Convention during January of 2014. Sam booked to join the Gunwerks crew on a hunt to John X Safaris that summer, where we got to know the man a bit better. Since then we have hosted Sam on four safaris spread across three different countries, coming away with a host of experiences and a bag of trophies ranging from plains game to big five.

Sam’s Zambian Leopard from 2016 being a certain highlight for both Sam and Stix.

What initially started as a client / PH relationship soon budded into an epic friendship between Sam and Stix, making for a formidable team out in the field. This year we welcomed Sam back to the East Cape, together with his wife, Tracey, and friends, the Smith’s.

For Tracey it would be her first trip to Africa…. and for that matter her very first hunt. She not only proved to be an excellent shot, but a really fun addition to have along on safari. When not behind the scope hunting personally, she turned out to be a trooper in supporting Sam as he came on a quest to continue his Tiny 10 collection, as well as going after the biggest too.

Sam’s Blue Duiker hunted from a blind, and his Oribi pursued along the dunes of the Indian Ocean, were great additions to his ever-growing pygmy antelope collection. It seems he has truly taken a liking to these elusive critters with plans for more in the future.

While up in the Karoo he completed his Springbuck slam from his previous East Cape safari, hunting a fantastic Copper Springbuck with our buddy Niel.

With the tiniest of the tiny in the salt the guys turned their attention to the largest plains game specie of all, the Cape Eland. With the acquisition of Woodlands at the end of 2016, unbeknown to us we had bought into an unbelievable gene pool of Cape Eland, with the population exceeding 150 animals on the greater property. This allowed us the opportunity to harvest a quota of six bulls for the season, with our ever conservative quota approach opting for no more than three bulls for the year.

Having looked at more than forty different bulls over the course of the hunt, with many world-class bulls being turned down, they finally settled on this monster. His dewlap hung at belly height, while his mop on the forehead gave away his age at over ten years. But what was the most amazing of all was his horns that boasted both length and shape. A rare combination for old Eland.

Joining Sam and Tracey were fellow Texans, the Smith’s, out on their first African safari.

Aubrey and Robin, together with their son, Tyler Smith.

For the Smith’s it would be a hunt of the ages. They joined professional Hunter, Carl van Zyl, tracker, Oluwhetu, and Jack Russel Terrier, Bongo. Pursuing a number of plains game species including; Wildebeest, Sable, Kudu, Zebra, Gemsbuck, Eland, Nyala, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Lechwe, and a host of others, making for an exhilarating first experience on the Dark Continent.

GTS Productions videographer, Ozzy, proved to be a great addition to the safari, not only capturing the entire hunt on film, but enhancing Aubrey’s experience through their common interest and passion in photography.

All in all we enjoyed a great week together, with the smiles and many trophy pictures, the result of hard yards under challenging wind conditions. The Gunwerks system once again came out on top, giving both the Cunningham’s and Smith’s, reason to smile not only about the quality of their game, but even more so the rewards of great shots.

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


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By Cherise Ratliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix” Hoole

As you look towards your next safari you may not be giving much thought to the Pygmy Antelope of Africa. There is a definite attraction to hunting these often lesser known species. Those whom have started their Tiny 10 collection will vouch for the addiction that arises once you’ve been introduced to the unknown. The collection will take one across various countries, incredible terrain, and cover numerous methods and aspects of hunting.


For me personally, as a professional hunter, not only are each of the members of the Tiny 10 unique, but the hunting methods involved when pursuing them are varied, keeping one honest as a guide. Not a day can pass when one can sit back and rest on your laurels thinking you’ve mastered the mountains both physically and mentally in the quest for Vaal Rhebuck and Klipspringer, only to be brought back down to earth in the pursuit of the minuet, Dik-Dik, Suni or Blue Duiker.


Suni are down right nippy, a flick of the tail and a sharp hissing blow and they’re gone. A Blue Duiker can see one sitting in a hide, waiting for as long as 4-6 hours testing your absolute patience, or giving chase with Jack Russel Terriers leaving ones heart racing with exhilaration. I truly believe that a safari incorporating a number of the Tiny 10 will give you, the hunter, the opportunity to see the best of “Africa’s unchartered territory”, but also leaving you with a sense of achievement having hunted a unique group of species that takes a bit more than your average hunt.

An example of a typical tiny ten collection addition to your safari could start on the coast. Having risen the first morning at first light you get up high making the most of vantage points spotting for various species. An hour after sunrise, a big old Common Duiker ram steps out. You put in a great stalk skirting around a family of Warthogs and two Bushbuck ewes going about their business with the utmost discretion of secrecy.

He appears at 80 yards ahead of us and you bag your first tiny antelope for the safari.

Later that afternoon you spend time glassing for Oribi, but unfortunately an old ram is not spotted. The views of the Indian Ocean and the sound of crashing waves in the background sends you off on a day-dream to the following morning which sees you up at 5:00 AM. We head straight east, towards the ocean. Our tracker, Thandu Xolo, drops us off in darkness at an obscure hidden entrance into the forest. We stalk down a forest path, there is a pop up blind with two cushioned chairs and a rifle cradle already setup. We load the rifle as quietly as possible and sit in silence, knowing that half an hour before sunrise could see the first Blue Duikers active, visiting our strategic water hole.

Blue Duiker

With a stroke of good fortune and two hours later, a female is followed by a ram. Silently and slowly we take aim, the shot echos in the valley. You have just harvested the tiniest of the South African Antelope.

With much excitement we continue our safari adding some local specialities like the Cape Bushbuck, East Cape Kudu and Bushpig, before heading to the Great Karoo. Since you are a few days in now, the jet lag has worn off, and you’re feeling good to take on the high country after our much coveted Vaal Rhebuck.

Vaal Rhebuck

After two days of hiking around 5500ft and being busted on numerous occasions, having covered enough miles for your annual step-counter to be satisfied, we eventually earn a trophy animal worthy of centre piece in your trophy room. Keeping to the open plains we harvest a Steenbuck in the spot and stalk manner at last light, as the ever impressive Karoo sunset and a lonely African Night Jar welcomes the first signs of night fall and the thought of a crackling camp fire. We toast to your success as our safari draws to an end, with only the “bush TV” in the glowing embers of our dying fire seeing you drift off in thought already planning the next of your Tiny 10. Will it be a Klipspringer, Cape Grysbuck, or the Oribi we missed out on? Or possibly a visit to Mozambique for Livingstone Suni and Red Duiker, or a trip the Namibia for the Damaraland Dik-Dik? Who knows? You’re addicted and you’ll be back to complete the 10.

Having successfully guided every member of the Tiny Ten, the addiction didn’t stop at my hunters. My enjoyment of pursuing this select group of species bubbled over into a personal quest. During 2015 I opened my Tiny 10 account with a magnificent old Steenbuck ram, and ever since I’ve made a decision to pursue one of the ten annually.

Come the end of 2016 saw myself, Jose, and Ozzie from GTS Productions get together as friends for one last hunt of the year! I packed my .375, loaded it with 300gr solids, and sighted it in at 15 yards, and then headed out for a Blue Duiker.

GTS Productions captured the entire hunt as it unfolded – Conditions were terrible, but knowing this ram was so habituated to frequenting this waterhole, I hoped that habit was going to play a far more important role than weather. Sitting silently lamenting the heavy wind and now some drops of rain – the ram came marching in. I recognized the shorter horn immediately, made one check that Ozzie was rolling and took the shot.

I was shaking like a leaf admittedly, to my surprise. This was everything I could ever want in a trophy animal – old, missing teeth, heavy horns which were heavily worn, an indication that he was well past his prime. I was so excited and suffering from ‘buck fever’ that when Jose saw me his comment was; “Are we hunting Leopard here? Why you shaking so much!” Such an amazing trophy highlights the necessity of trophy hunting – focusing on taking out the old ram or bull, the ones past their prime, and still utilizing the entire animal, essentially immortalizing them on our wall so that they may be admired for generations to come.

Another world-class addition to my Tiny 10 collection. I’m not sure what will be next, but I’m certain it is going to be a lot of fun!

Why don’t you add one or two of the collection to your next hunt with John X Safaris… You won’t regret it!

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 with many of you, here in Africa, we too eagerly await our copy of Safari Club Internationals’ by-monthly magazine. It literally looks worn out and truly ragged by the time each PH has read the many stories and viewed the interesting pictures. As tradition would have it, it’s usually a mad scramble for the office once news of its arrival by snail mail, a mighty 3-4 weeks after most of you have received your copy, filters through to the teams in the field.

Having beaten the rest of the guys to the latest March/April ’15 publication, due to its EXTREMELY early arrival, we were delighted to see and read about one of our very own hunters on safari and their experience with John X Safaris. Congratulations once again goes out to Chris Petersen on his fabulous hunt and trophy.

But first, before we get into this epic tale, we wanted to share the video of this adventure. Photos and pictures tell an amazing story, but there is nothing like capturing your safari of a lifetime on film. If you’ll be joining us on safari this season or next and would be interested in having your hunt filmed, then mail us on info@johnxsafaris.co.za for further details.

Those of you who do not receive the SCI magazine, here’s our celebrated feature article from the SCI Safari Magazine March / April 2015 issue.

An epic tale of a “Monster Blue”…

Contributed by Chris Petersen, A confessed safari and photography addict.

Be forewarned, this is NOT a short story.  It has become almost an epic tale of an unbelievable safari adventure that is told to all who will listen.  It is about a magnificent trophy hunt … but it is more about all the incredible experiences that collectively make up what is simply called a “safari”.  It is also about a John X Safaris PH, who turned into one of my closest friends on this planet.   I hope that my story can begin to capture the experience for those of you who have been on safari … and to create a burning desire for those planning your first safari adventure.

I’ve never met anyone going on their first safari saying:  “I’m going after the small stuff”.  Like most first timers, visions of Kudu and Gemsbok filled my first safari dreams.  I had the good fortune of having Carl van Zyl from John X Safaris as my PH to help me earn my Kudu and Gemsbok.

On that first hunt, he also introduced me to the challenges of hunting South Africa’s national animal.  After chasing black, white and common Springbok on the open plains of the Karoo, that was about as small a target as I ever wanted to hunt in that big open country.  Some humbling misses made me appreciate the Karoo and Springbok!

Like many, both my wife and I were bitten by the safari bug and literally had to return the next year to celebrate our 35th Anniversary.  After her Zebra and Black Wildebeest the first year, my wife added a fine Hartebeest, Blue wildebeest and an Ostrich. I then decided to go even bigger with an amazing Giraffe hunt, followed by a beautiful Nyala.  Our second, supposedly “last” safari ended with an unexpected Bushbuck, which looked very small at 300 yards in the scope.

I ended up returning to Africa two years later with my brother and a close friend on a special photo safari.  But when you have 3 Eastern Cape Spiral horns, you discover that you need to complete the “spiral grand slam” of the Eastern Cape.  Again, John X Safaris and Carl provided an amazing hunt for a magnificent old “blue” Eland bull.  When you realize how big an Eland actually is, and you already have a Giraffe and many plains game filling your trophy room, it’s about the time that a sane hunter starts to ask questions … what else is there to hunt?  More importantly, where will I put the trophies?

Over the camp fire while toasting success on the Eland, I posed the “I have no more trophy space” dilemma to Carl.  He immediately said, “my friend I need to introduce you to the Tiny 10”.  By my third safari I was reading the John X Safari blog and I remember Carl’s article about the Tiny 10.  I knew that these species were the “small stuff” … literally the smallest members of the 27+ species of antelope in Africa.

Maybe it was by the 3rd (or was it the 4th?) glass of wine, or maybe it was the late night, but when Carl started rattling off the names of the Tiny Ten, they all sounded exotic.  But one specie in particular stood out from the crowd … the Blue Duiker.  It is the smallest of the South African antelope weighing in at a whopping 4 kgs … that’s just over 8 pounds for a monster!  After shooting an Eland weighing in at almost a ton, I decided then and there I wanted to hunt the smallest of the Tiny Ten and capture a “Monster Blue”.

There is a very good reason that you hunt with a top quality outfit like John X Safaris.  You quickly learn that trophy Blue Duiker are not found just anywhere.  John X Safaris has millions of acres of hunting concessions, but you also need at top outfitter that knows where the trophies are.  You need an outfit like John X Safaris and a PH like Carl who has the relationships with well-managed land, with strict quotas for quality trophies.  Well that meant some serious planning, which meant another safari … perfect!

What started as a lively discussion and education on the Tiny Ten around the Eland campfire, turned out to be a safari that was 3 years in the making.  I came to learn Blue Duikers are not only very small, they inhabit the really dense stuff … I mean thickets so thick that a big guy like me could never get through.  One of the reasons hunters don’t think about Blue Duikers is that you rarely ever see them!   So how in the world do you hunt them?

If you watch the hunting shows on the American sports channels, you might possibly have seen a Duiker hunt.  In fact Mike Rogers from SCI was filmed on a Blue Duiker hunt with John X Safaris.  Like most Duiker hunts, Mike and his PH stood by a trail in dense cover waiting for the Jack Russel Terriers and trackers to “push” the Blue Duikers past their position.  Rogers made an amazing “wing shot” with his shotgun on a streak of blue to get his Duiker.  And as I recall, it was a top trophy with horns exceeding 1 inch!  With Blue Duikers you have a whole new appreciation for the specie, and what constitutes a real trophy.

I have absolutely nothing against hunting with dogs in any way.  I have hunted with dogs for other species.  Dogs have been hunting with man since they joined at the campfire.  It is not an ethical issue for me at all.  For me it was a question of the quality of the hunting experience I was looking for.

I grew up as a North American whitetail hunter.  One of the absolute joys of the hunt for me is being able to see the animal in their habitat, study their moves, and have the time to determine if you will take the trophy.  I tried to explain this to Carl, and as a true sportsman, I thought he understood.

My quest for a “Monster Blue” was interrupted by another safari.  We were hosting Randy and Cherie DeFreece on their first John X Safaris hunt.  Of course we had to make a trip to the magnificent Karoo where they had their dream hunts for Kudu and Gemsbok.  I would refer you to the John X blog posts on “Catching a Ghost” and “She Safari” to get a feel for amazing Kudu and Gemsbok hunts.

During this Karoo safari I developed some severe back issues, and it was clear that I would not be doing any climbing, or even much walking.  Since Carl and John X Safaris practically live in the Karoo during hunting season, he was crafty enough to put me in a valley to take a wonderful Klipspringer without a painful walk.  He then guided my wife to a wonderful Steenbok.   Now that we had two of the Tiny Ten … we were definitely hooked.

The discussion about Blue Duikers continued over the course of the next two years.  Carl is a master PH … and it turns out that he listens extremely well.  He finally said, “Come back on safari for your “Blue”.  I’ve been scouting for three years and I have finally found a concession where we can hunt Blue Duiker from a ground blind.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it … both you and I will absolutely enjoy it.  In fact, we should be able to film the whole thing.”

As it turned out, the concession was literally by the ocean near Kenton-on-Sea where Carl’s parents live.  The concession is carefully managed and imposes strict quotas and hunting standards.  One first scouts for “middens” … small mounds of dung that the males use to mark their territories.  You then know where to set up in prime Duiker habitat.  Like Whitetail Deer, they actually use trail cameras to study Duiker movements and patterns.

A typical Blue Duiker midden.

A typical Blue Duiker midden.

After finding a prime location, they then build a very small watering hole.  Duiker definitely come to drink.  But, the water and some surrounding feed are prime ways to attract Vervet Monkeys.  Why are monkeys important?  Duikers tend to feed primarily on forage that drops to the forest floor.  Since the monkeys are always dropping left overs from forest canopy above, Duikers tend to follow the Monkeys.


As it turned out on our 2013 safari, we had brought some very close friends.  We had been touring with them, and even went Waterfowl hunting.  We also wanted to be with them as they took their first African trophies.  So we were down to just a couple of days for the Duiker hunt.  To say that I was anxious would be an understatement.  There would no room for error … I only hoped that the setup was as good as my PH described.

The morning of the hunt could best be described as an early fall Whitetail hunt.  We got up well before dawn, and made our way carefully down the trails.  The major difference was you could hear the waves of the Indian Ocean rolling in on the shore in the distance.

I was given explicit instructions about not spreading any scent and keeping noise to an absolute minimum.  In the dark we finally arrived at the blind.  That’s right … a popup ground blind exactly like you would use for deer or turkey hunting!  As the first rays of light began to penetrate the thickets, it began to look exactly like a deer trail and setup … but in miniature … like 1/10 life-size.


For any of you who have hunted in blinds, you know that the first light plays tricks on you.  You see things that are not there.  Then you catch of glimpse of movement or what you thought might be a Duiker.  I was told not to make a sound.  So I tapped Carl on the shoulder when I saw a Blue Duiker flash, proud that my old eyes could even make it out.  Carl gave the thumbs up, so the game was on.

As it turns out, my trusted PH was frustrated that I did not shoot.  But the Duiker had gone behind some heavy brush from my view-point, and I did not feel comfortable taking the shot.  The Duiker then faded into the bush.  I was told later that at least two other Duikers came and went that I did not see, but they did not present a shot.

As often happens in blind hunting, things went dead.  Well that’s not entirely true.   Some amazing birds came to visit the waterhole as light filtered through the trees. We continued our wait, I was given strict orders to stay alert and keep the gun up on the sticks, because you never know when “it” will happen.

And then it happened.  There they were … the Monkeys!  Climbing and chattering all over the trees above the water hole.  Carl came to full alert as did Jose who was manning the video camera.

About two minutes later there they were … it was like a pair of Duiker just materialized out of thin air.  To say that they were jittery, twitchy little creatures would be an understatement.  They looked like two small, dark Chihuahua dogs in constant motion.

When one finally stopped broadside in front of the miniature watering hole, Carl gave the signal to shoot by tapping my leg.  Somehow out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other one literally jump over the standing trophy and land in front of it.  Somehow I managed not to squeeze the trigger until the intruder had cleared.  It turned out that it was the female of the pair who bounded in front.  She finally drifted off and left the “Monster Blue” standing in front of watering hole just 25 yards from the blind.

I was using a shotgun, as is typical with hunting Duiker due to all the brush.  When the shot went off, the roar was deafening and I think everyone jumped, especially me.  When the dust cleared, no Duiker!  How could anyone possible miss with a shotgun at 25 yards?

To say that Carl was nervous would be an understatement!  He scrambled from the blind to see what had happened.  As it turned out, the momentum of the shot had carried the tiny Duiker into the miniature water hole so that he was out of sight from the ground blind.

Once Carl discovered the trophy, there were shouts and high fives all around. We had an amazing “Monster Blue” with horns measuring 1 7/8 inches, with great solid bases.  Forget all the measurements … it was truly a monster trophy because of the amazing experience.


As you can see from the photo this creature is small.  That is a 12 gauge shotgun shell by the Duiker!  Blue Duikers are truly the tiniest of the Tiny Ten.  But what they lack in size, they make up for in character.  Simply an amazing animal that I had the privilege of observing in its native habitat for an entire morning. In fact, like I said, we were lucky enough to have Jose capture the entire hunt on film!

I don’t know if it is possible to have a bad African safari.  I do know that the quality of the outfitter and your PH can make the experience absolutely incredible.  I simply cannot thank Carl and John X Safaris enough for working for over 3 years to find a way to hunt Blue Duikers from a blind.   Based on my experience, I know that you could actually take a trophy Blue Duiker with a bow from the blind setup I was in with John X Safaris.  You do not have to settle for a Duiker hunt with dogs and drivers.

As I sit and write this, I’m in my trophy room sitting under my Giraffe, across from my monster Eland.  I’m reliving my whole safari experience by sharing it with you.  The hardest part will be waiting until spring when the Monster Blue mount arrives from Splitting Image Taxidermy in Africa.

What will be the trophy room favorite?  As you can tell by this epic tale, the Monster Blue is at the top of the list.  But you know what, we now only have 30% of the Tiny Ten.

We might not be done just yet with the journey they simply call “safari”!  If you haven’t booked yours yet, what are you waiting for?

If you’re not a member of SCI, then become one today and receive their various publications. Or to receive the Safari Magazine go to the Safari Club International web site.

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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By Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole

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Mid winter in John X Safaris’ Great Karoo northern areas are characterized by frosty mornings, windless days, and dry rugged conditions. The crisp mornings and dry vegetation are synonymous with exciting days high above the world at 6000 feet, where the cold forces even the shy to venture out catching the first morning rays, making the early morning climb well worth the effort getting into a high position to view game basking below.

Bo Tripp

On this particular hunt was, Bo Tripp, a seasoned North American Sheep Hunter who shared the same passion as I, always looking to hunt the higher undisturbed areas in search of that exceptional trophy that may be hiding up there. We were on our last hunting day of the safari and had taken many exceptional trophies, including a brute of a 55″ East Cape Kudu, but both decided on taking one last hike to look for a Klipspringer in the mountains.

The Klipspringer forms part of the Tiny Ten and is a big trophy in any hunters collection.

The Klipspringer forms part of the Tiny Ten and is a big trophy in any hunters collection.

We left camp at dawn and by first light we were more than half way up Spitzkop, a mountain which had gained an infamous reputation during the Anglo Boer War. In the early 19th century it was used by the Boers as a lookout in spotting the platoons of English soldiers in their red coats as they crossed the Karoo plains in search of these “guerilla fighters” who had made a living as farmers in the region prior to the English and the arrival of their taxes.

There was local talk of a big Klipspringer up there, however, it had not been seen in at least a year…

We got to the top of the sharp peak and immediately saw reasonably fresh tracks. Bo and I left the trackers Rudi and Thanduxolo on one side to spot, while Bo and I walked over to the other side. There was continued alarm barking from distant baboons with a few fairly close by. I had joked with Bo about them being potentially aggressive and that a big male was fairly close above us on the cliff, no sooner were my words out of my mouth when a baboon hopped up on a boulder right behind us! A few more were not even 10 feet below too!


Wild troops like these living in the mountain ranges are very wary of humans and usually spots you a mile off – making it quite special to see them so close.

To our benefit they flushed a female Klipspringer which came hopping below us and stood at 150 yards. Klipspringer are almost always in pairs so I was very optimistic about a ram coming along the same path. We ranged a few distances to be prepared, and continued waiting motionless. Bo was shooting a .300 ultra mag, the ultra mag is too much gun for this little antelope, but it was his sheep gun so he was confident shooting it out at longer ranges.

On the other side, one of the trackers was changing position, moving further around the peak to a blind spot we couldn’t quite see. He hadn’t even had a chance to sit down and spot when that unmistakable Klipspringer alarm call sounded. Within minutes the ram came hopping rock to rock below us.

Now at 250 yards, a target not much bigger than a jack rabbit, standing just briefly after being spooked is for one, impossible to judge horn size, and two, impossible to get into your scope quick enough for a shot. Luckily the hunting gods smiled on us that day, for by chance my spotting scope just landed on the ram the first time at 60x zoom and Bo was on it at the same time without assistance. It took 3 seconds from the moment it hopped up on a rock to judge it and for Bo to make a seriously tough shot from the top of the cliff!

Bo Tripp

Bo’s little Klipspringer was massive.

Physically one of the biggest I’d ever seen which measured deep into the tail end of 4 3/4 inches. A lucky man indeed!

As we look towards the start of the new season with excitement, envisaging the many days out in the field, we are reminded all to often of the beauty and wonders around us and how we at times take it all for granted. Be it a noisy baboon at 10 feet, or watching the sunrise at 6000 ft on a frosty morning, or taking that exceptional trophy after working hard for it. It’s a privilege to be a part of the safari life – and one I can’t wait to experience for yet another season.


Cheers – Hunting season has begun, I’ll see you on safari…

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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It’s the modern Big 5 of Plains Game. In a world where everything is changing and high standards become the norm, so does the urge of our hunters.

Hunters from around the world are looking for new opportunities to test their skill and wit against the often forgotten “small” species of Africa. The funny thing about these “small” species and hunting them – they may be small in size but not in CHALLENGE.

Which species belong to the Tiny 10 and where does John X Safaris hunt them?

The Eastern Cape on South Africa’s east coast boasts a wide variety of terrain, habitat and opportunities, giving the hunter the chance at hunting 7 of the Tiny 10.

Our Coastal Area consists of grassland savannah and deep valleys filled with coastal forests running down to the Indian Ocean.

Up on the savannah you will find Oribi, Common Duiker and Cape Grysbuck, while Blue Duiker can be hunted in our Coastal forests.

The Oribi is a magnificent trophy and a collector’s delight. Usually hunted along our coastal belt, but can also be hunted in Mozambique. Solids are recommended to minimize damage to these fragile trophies. The management of Oribi populations is of extreme importance if one were to maintain a sustainable population. Oribi succumb to predators very easily and areas with good Oribi populations are usually very well predator controlled. When hunting these shy animals always search for pairs or groups, as one is bound to find males not too far away from females. When judging the trophy quality always ensure the tip of the horns are in line with the top of the ears or greater. Any hunters wanting to hunt Oribi should indicate this when booking their safari, as Oribi quota is limited and permits have to be applied for well in advance.

The Common or Grey Duiker is seen by many hunters as an opportunistic species. Duikers are usually hunted during the early morning, late afternoon or at night.

The Cape Grysbuck is a magnificent trophy and a personal favourite. Hunting Grysbuck will require many nights of hard hunting. When hunting these shy animals always search for pairs, as one is bound to find males not too far away from females. When judging the trophy quality, take your time, as it will usually be at night in tall grass. Grysbuck do not tend to stand still for very long with the outsides of their ears being black often resembling the shape and color of the horns. Be certain that there is at least 2 ½’’ of horns sticking out before making the call.

Also known as “Puti” in the Xhosa language, the Blue Duiker acts as the main source of prey to Caracal and Eagles alike along our Coastal Forest belts. Both males and females make for a super trophy. This is a real specialized collector’s hunt. Hunts are conducted by finding a suitable path in the forest, while moving the animals around by Jack Russell Terriers. A 12 gauge shotgun is best suited for these fleet-footed masters of the forest.

From the beaches to the mountains, the quest for variety of the Tiny 10 continues.

An amazing world awaits you when you get up and into the clouds….

Klipspringer and Vaal Rhebuck can be hunted on the high ground from our Northern Areas, and the ever-present Steenbuck can be found racing across the plains of the Karoo.

For any hunter who enjoys the mountains and the challenges that come with mountain hunting, they will find this hunt a must. The art in hunting these fleet-footed masters of the rocks is to get into glassing positions without being detected. Once in position, take your time to glass all surrounding rocky ridges and outcrops in the area. Once a good male has been spotted be sure to approach with utmost caution, as any kind of alarm will set the Klipspringer, usually in pairs, off over the next horizon. Hunters can expect shots to be long with steep gradients at times. Klipspringer’s have sensitive skins and hair slip is always a factor. Hunters must ensure they have a good flat shooting caliber with a solid bullet as to damage skins as little as possible.

Vaal Rhebuck are considered by most as the most challenging South African antelope to hunt. This wonderful species occurs on the high ground. Hunters must be prepared to be patient, walk great distances, and at times make the above average long shot. Not all hunters have this species in their collection and many hunters have often expressed their disappointment of not having hunted this species in their younger years, when getting up and down mountains was much easier. The trophy quality of a Vaal Rhebuck is determined by the overall length of the horn. The best indicators are the ears which stand at a height of 6 inches when erected to attention, always look for something an inch or more above the ear. Hunting Vaal Rhebuck is a must to any hunter who wants to experience that much more, who relishes the hardship in the journey, and who enjoys the success of harvesting a good male, while sitting back and enjoying the view while you’re on top of the world.

The Steenbuck is one of the most beautiful of the ten. A hugely underrated trophy. This is mainly due to its size or the fact that so few people notice them. Few have the time to study them before they disappear over the horizon or into the dead of night. The Steenbuck gets its name from the very first Dutch settlers who traveled to Africa. The word “Steen” means brick, as you could well imagine the color of the Steenbuck resembled that of a red building brick, and thereby getting the name Steenbuck.

While the East Cape boasts with 7 of the Tiny 10, the journey must continue onto Namibia where we hunt the Damara Dik Dik, and finally onto Mozambique to complete the slam.

The magnificent Damara Dik Dik – The ballerina of the bush. Strangely the Damara Dik Dik is named after an area where it does not even occur, Damaraland, Namibia. Characterized by thin dainty legs and an elongated snout. A trophy one will be required to hunt hard for, but certainly one to savour.

Red Duiker can be found throughout the forests and savannah areas of Mozambique. Often spotted as a glowing ember in the forest, with its rich red colour moving swiftly over the shaded forest floor. The stockier of the 3 Duiker species in the Tiny 10, and surprisingly difficult to judge the difference in sex. Apart from heavier set horns and head, look for an oversized scrotum hanging between the back legs often stretching to below the knee line.

Last but certainly not least, the tiny Livingstone’s Suni. Considered by many the most difficult to hunt of the 10 and will often be the last remaining species outstanding in many Tiny 10 collections. This may have been the feeling in the past. Today we are privileged to hunt the finest Suni area in Africa. Mozambique’s Zambezi Delta with its scattered sand forest boasts unbelievable numbers of Suni. Many a hunter whom we’ve guided to this area has been as dumb founded as what we were the very first time. These tiny animals live in a special place and can be considered a highlight in any hunters hunting career.

The Tiny 10 – What’s the BIG fuss about?

It may be the fact that they’re not always noticed or known. They’re certainly not found everywhere and those who start pursuing them usually become addicted to hunting them. I’m not entirely sure what it is that has got me addicted?

Best you ask the rest of those Tiny 10 addicts out there and join us on the hunt for something different…..

For further details regards hunting the Tiny 10, visit our John X Safaris Website @ www.johnxsafaris.co.za or drop us a mail on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za . We’ll be glad to assist with your addiction.


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

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By: Paul A. Brisso

Daylight was fading fast and another fantastic day on safari was drawing to a close. Carl van Zyl, my professional hunter and owner of John X Safaris, and I sat side-by-side on the ground overlooking a small grassy valley just outside a heavy line of brush. Even thought I had taken a very nice Nyala two days before, we were hoping another would appear. My good friend, Steve Dahmer, wanted a beautiful Nyala in the worst way and in three days he had not come up with much. Carl and I had staked out an area known for good Nyala, hoping to spot one for him while Steve and his professional hunter searched elsewhere.

The day started with a bang for me – literally. Caracal was on our menu, and Carl induced me with tales of baying hounds, dumping off into steep ravines, crawling through nearly impenetrable brush in the heat, trying to catch up with one of the elusive little cats. The houndsmen were going to start at first light, and Carl and I would meet them a couple of hours later, hopefully with the hounds on the fresh track of a cat.


Sometimes things work out too well. We were still on our way to meet them when we got a call that the hounds already had a Caracal treed. We arrived at their location on a pineapple plantation to find the cat treed about 20 yards off a road in a creek bottom that wasn’t all that steep. The setting looked much more like tropical Hawaii than South Africa. It wasn’t quite the experience I was expecting or hoping for, but if a hunt is going to be atypical, better an easy, successful hunt than a long, hot, difficult day that comes up empty.
On a plains game hunt in South Africa, it is not uncommon for some hunters to take three or four animals in a single day. I never have been a multiple-trophy day hunter, partly because I don’t have the budget for an unlimited number of trophies and I don’t want to end my hunting with several days left in my safari.

But another part of me thinks it is almost disrespectful of the trophy you have just taken to rush out and immediately shoot a couple more. I like to savor the trophy in the salt and wait another day to resume hunting in earnest. Thus, after my quick Caracal hunt, Carl and I decided to meet Steve and his professional hunter, see what their luck held, and maybe help them scout out a Nyala. As we were leaving the plantation, we met a truck over-loaded with fresh pineapple and several farm workers. After a brief conversation, Boy, our tracker, talked the laborers out of a few pineapples.


Late morning we met Steve, his wife Lisa, his professional hunter, Juan McDonald, and their trackers on a ridge overlooking a wide area of brush and fields. We spent several hours enjoying the day, doing some glassing and eating lunch and bonus fresh pineapples. We spotted a Bushbuck and some Nyala that were not yet big enough, some Zebra, and a very respectable Waterbuck. The Waterbuck was lucky that Steve did not have one on his trophy list and that I had taken a magnificent Waterbuck in Namibia a couple years before that would be very difficult to better.

As the afternoon progressed, Carl, Boy and I left the other hunters and headed to the area Carl planned to watch for the last hours of the day. We left Boy with the truck, while Carl and I worked our way downhill and through brush until we arrived at the place we would sit until nightfall. We slipped just out of the heavy vegetation and sat with it to our backs, watching the little valley.
There were Zebra and impala in the valley that did not see us ease into position and the wind was perfect. We first had Zebra, and later Impala walk by us at less than 20 yards without a clue we were there. We enjoyed the scene and animals as the late afternoon transitioned into evening, although a Nyala for Steve never made an appearance. I knew it was about time to head back to the truck. It was an amazing experience even though I had not fired a shot.

Carl turned to me and whispered, “I think its time we head back.” However, looking past me, he added, “There’s a Duiker, right there. It looks like a pretty good one.” Looking to my left, I saw a Duiker that had come out of the brush, not more than 20 yards away. Carl raised his binoculars for a detailed examination. “That is a magnificent Duiker,” he said after a quick evaluation. “I don’t know what you think about these little antelope, but if I were you I would take him,” Carl said.


In a couple of prior plains games safaris, I learned that often the key to taking exceptional trophies is to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. And within a few days hunting with Carl, I quickly learned to trust both his ability to judge trophies and his high standards for what he recommended to harvest.

I slowly twisted to my left and rested my rifle on my knee. It was a bit of an awkward position, but the range was so close. I touched off my .300 Winchester Magnum, which was overkill for the tiny trophy. As we gathered up the little antelope and took some pictures in the fading light, Carl mentioned that it was the best common Duiker taken by a John X hunter in probably five or six years.

Every day on safari is a unique and precious experience. You quickly learn to expect the unexpected and realize that something wonderful can happen up to the last possible second of shooting light. I have the Caracal and Duiker mounted together in a chase scene, always bringing back fantastic memories of the start of a magnificent day and the last moment magic, plus everything in between.


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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