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Posts Tagged ‘Woodlands Safari Estate’

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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Johnny Posey, Eason Maykus, Todd Allen, Darren Vohs and Bruce Heikkinen joined us on safari during late June, right at the peak of the rut. It was great having Johnny back. He has become such a good friend and big supporter over the years, that hosting him with his friends at Woodlands during our opening season was a must for all of us at John X Safaris.

Our hunt would incorporate both our coastal region, hunting in and around Woodlands Safari Estate, as well as a trip to the Great Karoo, before joining the ladies down in Cape Town. Heather, Simone and Elise Allen, together with Sydney Posey, spent a few days with us on safari before heading down the Garden Route to Cape Town.

For first timer Darren Vohs, it would literally be a life-changing experience.

Darren teamed up with Professional Hunter, Lourens Lombard, and tracker Spinach, making for a formidable team. For a first timer Darren had set his sights on a number of “not so first timer” species, but we weren’t complaining. The rut was on and who doesn’t love a challenge when it comes to hunting?

A Kudu is always a top priority for any hunter to Africa, but apart from the elusive grey ghost the guys hunted hard for Gemsbuck, Impala, Nyala, Springbuck, Black Wildebeest, Mountain Reedbuck, Bushpig and Cape Bushbuck.

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The broad smiles and images pays tribute to what turned out to be an amazing first trip for Darren, very similar to that of Bruce Heikkinen.

Bruce was a late joiner to our hunt after overhearing Johnny tell a fellow hunting buddy about his upcoming safari to Africa. It kind of summed up Bruce in the way he did things. He goes big or goes home…. When he says he’s here for a good time and not a long time, you better know he means it!

Bruce joined PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, and tracker, Thando Xolo, for the first half of his hunt before teaming up with Ed Wilson for his last leg of his safari up in the Great Karoo.

A Cape Buffalo, Sable, Eland, Lechwe, Nyala, Waterbuck, Blue and Black Wildebeest, Zebra, Gemsbuck, Kudu, Impala and Bushpig made for a massive hunt. Not knowing much about Bruce up until meeting him on the first day of the safari we all soon learned the man could shoot.

Bruce proved to be not only a great shot, but a lucky hunter too. He however was not the luckiest hunter of all. That tag belonged to none other than Johnny Posey.

If you’ve done your time in Africa, it is said that the rub of the green starts leaning your way more often than not, but on this particular hunt it was more evident than ever before.

If our Sable and Lechwe were the starts PH, Carl van Zyl, and tracker Oluwhethu, were hoping for, then hold your breath for our Tiny 10 quest.

We headed out early one morning from Woodlands, striking a bearing south-east towards the ocean and the coastal forests Blue Duiker inhabit in large numbers along our rugged coastline.

We typically hunt Blue Duiker over Jack Russel Terriers, or make use of blinds over waterholes in the forest. On this particular occasion we opted for the blind option as conditions were dry and the Duiker were drinking regularly.

At times blind hunting can be something of a boring affair, but one thing you can be assured of when it comes to forest blind hunts, is that the bird life is jaw-dropping. The Turacos are particularly striking in both sound and colour.

While peering out of our blind, day dreaming about the various hunts we had shared over the course of the first few days, we noticed through the only hole in the forest, a red coloured animal feeding on the opposite ridge. At first we brushed it aside as a young Bushbuck female, but then our boredom got the better of us and we turned the spotting scope in its direction. And to our amazement we saw it was a Cape Grysbuck feeding in the morning sun. A rare sighting to say the least.

It was too far to tell if it were a male or female, but the opportunity required a closer look. We gathered our gear and made a dash for it. Knowing the Grysbuck would not be feeding out for too much longer we pushed hard, making up the distance between it and us as fast as our legs would carry us. Reaching the pre-determined ridge, we had plotted out previously as a good place to get a shot from, we crested too fast, spooking the Grysbuck in the process. Carl was mad for his silly error, but he had luckily seen it was a fantastic ram before the sly old guy disappeared into the undergrowth. Feeling despondent and ready to give up, knowing our chances were no more than 1/100, Johnny urged us to go on and circle back around.

And 1/100 is the only 1 we needed. This one belonged to Johnny. Through sheer determination we harvested the first ever Cape Grysbuck in daylight. An unheard of feat in the hunting world where Grysbuck are usually totally nocturnal.

With our Grysbuck in the salt and our attitudes in a festive mood we headed back to our Blue Duiker blind. The day was still young and we weren’t about to give up on our original mission.

We had barely sat down for twenty minutes when in wondered this monster from the undergrowth. The hunting gods were smiling on us as much as one could have ever hoped for.

By noon we were heading back to camp to celebrate two of the most difficult critters of the Tiny 10. It turned out to be one of the greatest days we’ve ever experienced in guiding the Tiny 10, and not to mention doing it with Johnny, a more deserving friend than him would be hard to find.

With Johnny smashing records left, right, and centre, Todd was turning his very first African safari into a huge success with PH, Martin Neuper, and tracker Oluwhethu.

Starting off his hunt with a 31’’ Waterbuck set the benchmark high for what was to come.

Todd’s Kudu was the pick of the bulls on the safari, a beautiful animal, hunted for over the course of four days. His Nyala, Cape Eland and Cape Bushbuck wrapped up a spiral slam reeking of quality, while his Sable gave you the feeling of an old warrior.

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Todd’s pigs were however the pick for all of us guides. While we all know PH, Martin Neuper, is one of the best guides around, he sure has a knack of pulling the rabbit out of the hat from time to time.

Finding a Bushpig in broad daylight takes luck, actually hunting it successfully takes skill. Then top that off with a boss Warthog in trying drought stricken circumstances, and you’ve got yourself a hunt like few have experienced.

Todd came out tops when it came to pigs on this particular safari!

For Eason Maykus, a fellow first timer from Dallas, Africa provided an experience like he could not have imagined.

The mountains of the north in particular captured his imagination and set the spirit of Africa alive with in him…

Sharing his hunt with Johnny and PH, Carl van Zyl, he thrived in the tough conditions. Loving every step of the way to the top of the mountains. We harvested Waterbuck, Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest and Springbuck. Coming away with bag to be proud of.

Eason’s Gemsbuck took more than your average Gemsbuck, giving us the run around up in the high country. We had spotted the group early on during the course of the morning and we decided to concentrate on two or three individuals that had stood out in the spotting scope at 1500 yards +.

We climbed higher and higher as the day grew on, hoping to surprise the feeding group by coming over at them from above.At one point we had found a second group we had not spotted originally, making for a tricky situation on an already bare mountain. We decided to back off and allow the lay of the land and the feeding Gemsbuck to give us the opportunity we were after.

With patience our opportunity came, and with that an opportunity at a Gemsbuck to remember. Hunted for the hard way, up where the air is thin and the eagles soar, where memories and friendships were made for life. It was an epic hunt.

From the Karoo we headed back south for one last evening of fun at Woodlands, before saying goodbye to Bruce and Darren, while the rest of us, including Trish, joined the girls down in the wine country of the Cape.

We started off our visit to the Cape in Franschoek, a beautiful little town right in the heart of the wine country.

The setting was spectacular…

We spent the next few days exploring some of the well-known wineries, but mostly concentrating on the boutique style smaller vineyards. Both Johnny and Todd enjoy their wine tremendously, which allowed us all to learn a great deal about the various wines with their aging and flavouring processes.

Before we knew it, two days were up and it was time to make the short journey over the Helderberg Mountains to Cape Town. We most certainly weren’t ready to leave the wine country, but the mother city was waiting in all her glory.

By the time our ten days were up we had hunted in some of the most breath-taking areas the East Cape has to offer, the girls had seen the Big 5 and travelled down the picturesque Garden Route, before we all wrapped up a memorable safari in the Cape of Good Hope. It was one of our many highlights from 2017, shared with friends old and new in beautiful sunny South Africa.

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

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For the past 11 years, we at John X Safaris, have become a part of a very special community outside of Salt Lake City, UT. Nestled “just over the hill” from Salt Lake one will find the community of Eagle Mountain. It’s a quiet and peaceful area surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Each January, just after the worst snow storms for the year have hit and turned the mountains into postcard perfect scenes, I stop in for my annual visit with the fine folks who call Eagle Mountain home. I visit to meet interested hunters who have heard from the many others about John X Safaris, but more than anything, I stop in to visit my “family”.

This year proved to be no different from the many before, with the arrival of our Eagle Mountain group, right at the start of the rut in May.

“Bwana” Big Jim Smith headed up the group once again, with his wife, Chris, daughter, Cari, and friend, Mandy, joining him on this special occasion. Jim to date had hunted a number of our plains game species, but had never looked at a Cape Buffalo until this past January. Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, put in some serious leg work prior to Jim’s arrival, ensuring he had a full proof plan for the sneaky Cape Buffalo who roam the valleys and hills of Woodlands.

The plan was for the hunters to head out at first light each morning – Heading to the high points to glass for the weary “Dugga” boys as they fed out into the first morning rays.

Cari, Jim’s daughter, a serious hunter in her own right, tagged along on these early morning expeditions, making the most of oppurtunities along the way as the men continued their search for the perfect Cape Buffalo.

She had planned for a Kudu, Zebra, and a Blue Wildebeest, but came away with a few more than the initial wish list. Her Kudu was an especially rewarding one, as it was a gift from the team a few years ago when Cari was battling cancer. Our deal with Cari at the time was quite simple. Get up, get motivated, and beat the cancer! Get to Africa and choose what you’d like to hunt.

She beat cancer and chose her Kudu!

As for Big Jim, the hours of searching grew into days, but the excitement never stopped as the hunt built and built each day. Getting ever closer to a bull of Jim’s dreams.

The excitement at times was unbearable….

Then on day five it all came together. The quiet moments of frustration listing to Buffalo crashing through the undergrowth of the valley thickets as the wind shifted were suddenly all worth it. The excitement, the anxiety, and the years of dreaming, culminated into a moment that Big Jim will surely never forget.

A more deserving man than Bwana Big Jim I do not know. A bull like few….

All this time, Jim’s wife, Chris, asked for very little. She enjoyed quiet days on the verandah at the Manor playing Granny to her “African” grandkids with untold amounts of candy and kindness each day. She did however want a Copper Springbuck to complete Jim’s slam.

Jim dully did so…

And then ticked off a massive bucket list dream of his own..

A proper Cape Bushbuck to end off one memorable family hunt.

With Big Jim enjoying his hunt to the utmost, we welcomed first timers Bill and Nancy Jones. They teamed up with Professional Hunter, Rusty Coetzer, and tracker, Ou John, for their first taste of Africa.

The hunting party hunted on the coast for a day before heading to our northern camp up in the Great Karoo. Bill proved to be a great shot with numerous tough setups and shots earning him a fine reputation amongst the PH’s. From the Karoo the team headed back to Woodlands Safari Estate hunting both Black and Blue Wildebeest in the area with Nancy joining the fun each day.

Bill would come in each evening telling us how much fun he had, but also expressed how much he’d like to hunt a great old Warthog. He had come to Africa to find that big old boar, and headed out determined each day. The hunt was starting to come to an end, and we’d be lying if we were to say we weren’t getting nervous. Rusty and Ou John did all they could, heading out that last day to what Rusty likes to call “Hog heaven”. It was now or never.

A rain storm had hit that morning, but the guys kept at it. Conditions were terrible for the most part of the day, but in the end they did it. Bill was the happiest man in camp that evening – He had his pig!

Bill and Nancy’s son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Janelle, were out on safari with the group too, teaming up with PH, Martin Neuper, and tracker, Oluwhethu. Bob started out slow, enduring a few rough days before getting going with the adventure of a lifetime. From the plains and hills of the Karoo and finally onto the coast, Bob and Janelle hunted hard for a bag to be proud of.

Together they harvested some of the best trophies on the safari, but nothing could prepare one for Bob’s huge Gemsbuck bull or Janelle’s Cape Bushbuck.

What a bull in a setting and view hard to beat..

And a Bushbuck ram guided by the “Bushbuck King”, Martin Neuper. Most probably one of the trophies of the season.

With this group it wasn’t hard to see folks having fun, but few people I know, know how to enjoy themselves as much as Larry and Claudia Fullmer. Days with Larry are filled with a grin from ear to ear. He never stops smiling from the minute the plane touches down in Africa. He is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable hunters to have in camp, reminding one daily how good we have it.

Claudia is never far from Larry’s side, making the two one fun couple in camp.

This was Larry and Claudia’s second hunt with John X Safaris, with an Nyala and Warthog being the priority species of interest. The match with PH, Lourens Lombard, was one made in heaven, as the crew got on like a house on fire from day one. By the end of day two I was certain Lourens would be an adopted son by the end of the safari as the hunting started off with a bang!

By day five Larry told me he had already claimed Lourens as his South African son, so I may have gotten that wrong by a couple of days, but what I did get right was team Larry up with the PH that had a plan for a big Warthog. Larry’s dream coming to Africa.

A big Warthog is an extremely challenging trophy to hunt. A pig takes long to mature, and with the years in age, comes serious experience of how to evade the ever keen hunters hoping to harvest a big boar. Even IF you know of a big pig frequenting a certain area, it seldom means that important slice of information will convert into a successful hunt. It takes luck, luck, luck, luck … and some more good luck.

This team it seems had it all!

After the hunt while enjoying the view from our verandah Larry shared this video with me. It’s just too good not to share.. Enjoy the running commentary as Larry approaches his downed monster. It’s moments like this that makes our job the pleasure it is.

With a group such as this and the atmosphere around camp it would be hard to see anyone not having the time of their lives. Jarred Wallace, our friend from a number of previous safaris, did the gentlemanly thing, offering to stay home to watch the rest of the kids, while his wife, Kim, and daughter Savanna, joined us for the very first time. Kim had hunted in Africa before, but never with us at John X Safaris.

They joined PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole and tracker, Thandu Xolo, for a ladies only affair.

For Savanna it was to be a hunt for the ages. Watching her getting ready for the day ahead each morning, and seeing her excitement as the anticipation of the days hunt dawned on her, made it a joy to observe. As for Kim, something tells us we’ll be seeing plenty more of her the next time Jarred heads back to Africa.

With everybody taken care of, and each team going about their days the John X way, I got going on a special hunt guiding two dear friends of ours, Brett and Shellie Wright. The three of us have always teamed up over the years, making for numerous great memories along the way. In time our relationship has become one where Brett gives me an idea of what he’d like to pursue, but left everything else in my hands. What he hunts seldom matters to him, it’s all about time together in the field making memories enjoying one another’s company.

This year I wanted to share our new home Woodlands with them, unbeknown to me that Woodlands was planning on sharing something special with us. With scenery, wildlife, reserve life and our first big thunderstorm making for a memorable safari…

Of course we hunted somewhat too… Lechwe, Common Duiker, Steenbuck, Blue Duiker, Impala, Waterbuck, and Brett’s special Bushpig with Clayton.

But so much of this hunt and the planning that went with it involved Brett’s wife, Shellie. Brett had expressed a desire for Shellie to hunt her dream trophy, a Sable, but it had to be a surprise and a gift for Mothers Day.

Two years in the making, BUT WOW was it worth it! Awesome bull Shell’s!

While Brett was planning the Sable surprise for Shellie, I was planning to redeem myself after we came up short on a Kudu on our previous safari together. With the Sable in the salt I turned our focus squarely onto Kudu. We glassed hard, saw a number of great bulls, but couldn’t get onto any of them on our first afternoon out for Kudu.

A couple of days later, still in search of a Kudu, we spotted a good-looking bull more than a mile off. We started a long stalk down a gradual valley bumping into a lone Dugga Boy Cape Buffalo along the way, which made for an exciting moment or two. At 367 yards we came out of a draw and with no more further cover, I edged over to Shellie and set her up for what was going to be a challenging shot.

To find the bull in her scope was going to be the first challenge, and then finding the optimum moment of a clear shoulder through the undergrowth would surely make it as a difficult setup as I could have thought of. Just as I was about to tell Shellie to let him walk, she whispered; “Can I take him?” I looked at her for a split second, suddenly realizing this was the most focused and relaxed I’d ever seen her behind the rifle, I turned to the bull with my Leica 10×42’s and told her to take him.

Shellie squeezed off the most epic shot! The bull barely made it 20 yards before piling up in a Spekboom (Bacon Tree).

As a young man I was privileged to guide a group of hunters from Eagle Mountain, and ever since then I’ve been taken in as one of their own. It has been a journey of friendships built around numerous experiences shared on safaris over the years, and ones that I will always cherish and appreciate beyond what words can describe.

You all know who you are, you were all there for me, my family, and my team. This year, with the opening of Woodlands, it was more important than ever to share our new home with you, after all, you all now know you have a home in Africa. Thank you. I’ll see you in January!

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

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

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

We present The Manor at Woodlands Safari Estate….

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

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

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

First a Lechwe in the 28″ + class..

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

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

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

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

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

One could say she found the best trophy of all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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