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Sustainable hunting is arguably the finest form of conservation in Africa today. Some species have been brought back from the brink of extinction while others have seen their numbers explode due to the demand created by hunters. Every single specie needs a sustainable value to thrive, but others are slighty more complicated when it comes their survival.

It goes without saying that our Rhino are in big trouble. With the ongoing poaching scourge leading to devastating losses throughout Southern Africa, and mostly South Africa, who boasts more than 80% of the Rhino population on the planet, we are sitting in a crisis unfathomable to the first world.

For our Rhino to survive we have created a value and means to protect their existence via the Vita Darting Experience, and that’s where our good friend Aaron Davidson came in adding his weight to the cause.  Aaron’s list of “don’t haves” has become smaller with each passing safari. Chasing the little guys can become somewhat frustrating at times, so when the vita dart idea came up we all jumped at it.

Electa had joined her Dad on her maiden hunt to Africa, following in the footsteps of her twin brothers, Danner and Derec, starting off with a few “first ups” to get into the swing of things.

Some of our “first ups” weren’t your traditional ones, but neither was Electa. Aaron has always expressed his desire to share Africa with his children, but he warned me that Electa would hunt us off our feet if given half a chance. And how right he was! She spotted the game and got set up faster than any other young girl her age that I’ve had the pleasure of guiding in the past. When tasked to make the shot, no matter how difficult it may have seemed, her response was always one of confidence and optimism, best summed up by her East Cape Kudu at over 700 yards. Don’t miss that show on Gunwerks Long Range Pursuit in the coming months.

Aaron added to our efforts with a pretty impressive Mountain Reedbuck while up in the north, before heading on to start our Vita Dart experience.

As to ensure the shooter would be familiar with the dart gun we setoff to get in some range time with the various scenarios and to prepare the shooter with what to expect. It’s an exhilarating means of hunting allowing the hunter to experience the thrill of stalking these pre-historic beasts to within thirty yards before letting a vitamin dart fly from a dart gun. Once the hunter has darted the Rhino with the prescribed vitamins, a licensed veterinarian immobilizes the animal from a helicopter, where after blood samples, micro-chipping, DNA ID’s, pregnancy tests and a number of check-ups, are administered as part of the management and well-being of the animal on an annual basis. This all sounds fairly straight forward in theory, but throw in a +-5000 LB animal and a game of cat-and-mouse and you’re dealing with an entirely different scenario, a challenging one at that.

Arriving at the range I noticed that mischief smile Aaron get’s when he’s up to something he hasn’t shared with me. I’ve come to notice over the years that he loves sending me a curve-ball from time to time. I was right. Alecta got out of the truck to see what her Dad was up to with the dart gun when Aaron handed her the gun. “You’re up young lady”; and that’s all it took to see a young girl live out a dream.

We spotted a crash of White Rhino off in the distance and started our stalk from about 800 yards out with the wind in our faces. During our stalk, as we approached cautiously, the feeding Rhino bedded down for their morning nap lapping up the sun’s rays on a chilly Karoo morning. With the Rhino fast asleep and a constant breeze in our faces we got to within 17 yards for Electa to make the shot.

At the last moment the Rhino sensed something was up and rose right in front of us. If the bull wasn’t already big enough, it now towered out above the dainty figure of Alecta whose heart could be heard thumping in her throat. She stood motionless for a second, took a deep breath to re-gather herself and yanked the trigger. I literally thought she’d pulled the trigger out of its casing as the bull took off in the opposite direction with two females in close pursuit. The vitamin dart was in and Alecta was smiling.

Next came the vet with our helicopter which was on standby, darting Alecta’s bull with the required M99 to put him down. From there it was time to step back and watch the experienced team go to work on the downed Rhino, finally giving Dad and daughter a few photo opportunities before waking the bull again. It was an experience I’m certain the two of them will never forget.

By this stage Alecta had pretty much achieved everything and anything she may have dreamt of in Africa, giving Aaron and Garrett the reins for the remainder of the trip. Aaron and I were still plugging away at our Cape Grysbuck, which by this stage was giving us a hiding second to none.

John Mercer had teamed up with Professional Hunter, Martin Neuper, hunting from both our southern and northern areas. These two got on like a house on fire, best summed up when one afternoon we met them on a blind bend down in a ravine, singing away to the chorus of some old country song from way back when.

The south treated them well with a number of memorable setups and long shots shared around the pub in the evenings. A broken horned Waterbuck was one of our favourites. Imagine the story behind the break? Looking at his sheer size and mass with the huge neck it left one wondering how old this bull truly was.

Up north they pursued Springbuck, coming away with the traditional Springbuck slam of Common, Black and White up in the Great Karoo.

John’s Cape Eland was however a highlight for all involved. It took a solid effort with a ton of luck and a superb shot when the opportunity finally presented itself. It summed up so much of how John’s hunt went… just superb in every sense of the word.

For Dennis Charleton it would be the hunt he had always dreamt of with his 7 mm LRM. Having met PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, at the Houston Safari Club show during the previous January, the two hit it off from the word go. After their initial meeting, and having discussed Dennis’s priorities, Stix asked Dennis to consider hiring the crew from GTS Productions along on their safari. Dennis didn’t hesitate and GTS did not disappoint…

With each hunting party going about their business in what we like to refer to the “Gunwerked” way, we finally turned our attention to Garrett and what he was after during his 2018 safari.

Garrett like Aaron, is a man amongst men, always putting the needs of others ahead of himself. I’ve lost count of the amount of opportunities Garrett has given up for others to enjoy and therefore the reason for my gift to Garrett this year. I wanted to introduce him to the Tiny 10 and the wonders of hunting these unknown species. I dully took him Blue Duiker hunting with the terriers…

We had a blast coming away with a great Blue and a superb Gemsbuck bull up in the north, to go with his already impressive Gemsbuck female from some years ago.

Of course there’s very little this team doesn’t do together, with Garrett’s Lechwe being a highlight of our hunt towards the end of our safari.

Aaron and I FINALLY broke our vudu with a Cape Grysbuck just as the bell rang for the final round. And then to top it off we finally got our 6″ Steenbuck. The “unicorn” I had hoped for in our Tiny 10 collection.

It had been three fantastic weeks with Aaron and the many friends of Gunwerks. We had given it our all and hunted hard to walk away feeling boastfully proud of our hunters and their results. Frustrating at times and optimistically over-confident at others, which is largely the reason why we hunt, not so? There will always be those that got away… And then there’s those that didn’t.

It was a certain pig that just about broke us in more ways than one. Talk about playing with our emotions. The one minute you’re in and the next you’re out. Giving one hope and then dashing one into a state of hopelessness.


Garrett’s turning into quite the “pig whisperer”…. how else can one explain his luck on the big ones at such a regular rate. This one however will take some beating in adventure and size. But more about that pig, the dig and the comical moments for another day. That was Gunwerks in Africa 2018. We can’t wait to start the adventure all over again during May/June 2019.

Want to join John X Safaris & Gunwerks on safari with your Gunwerks rifle during 2019? Contact us today for all the info. It’s going to be a big one with watershed opportunities.

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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With the first group of Gunwerks gunners headed back across the ocean we were in full stride ready to pick up on the high standards they had set over the course of their eight days in Africa. The teams were now in full stride. Any refreshing with the system that may have been needed was now at match fitness. We weren’t going to sit back on our successes, a new group of hunters with even bigger expectations were on their way to camp.


Aaron and Carl were still out on the hunt for Cape Grysbuck, which was proving to be a tougher hunt than expected. We spent countless hours and many nights in pursuit of what was starting to become our “Achilles Heel”. We did however bag a huge Porcupine on one of our late nights out. An interesting trophy not often seen by hunters travelling to Africa.

While the two of us kept plugging away at our Grysbuck, the rest of the crew welcomed Dennis Charleton, Richard & Beth Battaglia, John Mercer, Scott & Linda Marshall, T.K Ganesh and Garrett Wall. Traveling with Garrett was Aaron’s daughter, Alecta, who had come to link up with her dad to experience Africa for the very first time, like many of the group too.

Scott and Linda Marshall teamed up with Professional Hunter, Louwrence Lombard, for an experience they would never forget. Scott would do the hunting while Linda joined him out in the field daily taking in the sights and sounds of the Eastern Cape. Starting from our southern base, Woodlands Safari Estate, they went after a number of spirals and a select few plains game species up in the north. Scott’s Kudu in particular was one of the best of the season, and having witnessed the hard work that went into that bull, I can assure you Scott earned it.

Upon their return from the Great Karoo, Scott approached me one evening; “Carl”, Scott started at me, “Do you possibly have any Cape Buffalo quota available for the year?” There I was thinking Scott’s pulling my leg until Linda walked over and stared at me anxiously waiting for an answer. Turns out they were serious and before we knew it we were all on the hunt for a Cape Buffalo.

With time running out we pooled our efforts and threw men and binoculars at any known Cape Buffalo hideouts. Soon the spotters started calling in Buffalo sightings and the team had something to work on. From high up on a ridge one could see a beautiful bull feeding along with a group of cows going about their business unaware of the hunters viewing from above.

The guys snuck down to about 100 yards and then waited for the bull to feed out into a shooting position. Seconds soon turned into minutes and what felt like an eternity was amplified by the fact that this was a Cape Buffalo. One of Africa’s most dangerous. When the opportunity finally came Scott pulled the shot ever so slightly, sending the group of Buffalo crashing off into the undergrowth.

The bull was given some time to bleed out, giving the hunters a moment to clear their minds for the best possible follow-up in the situation they were in. Doing the wisest and safest thing, Louwrence called in PH’s, Ed Wilson, Ross “Stix” Hoole and Clayton Fletcher together with their trackers. Together they combined more than eighty years of hunting experience and dogs, setting off on a blood trail leading down into a nasty looking thicket.

Scott positioned himself with Ed up on the opposite ridge, where all felt the bull would break cover at, while the rest of the crew and trusty trackers got going on the track. Soon the dogs were into the bull, baying him at close quarters at the bottom of a ravine. Scott and Ed made their way down towards the commotion and got another shot into the bull. Taking off yet again the hunters set off after him with the dogs in hot pursuit, finally coming to a standoff with a charging bull at twenty yards.

It took a team to get it done, but you’d agree those smiles say it all – What a hunt and what a superb Cape Buffalo!

With the Marshall’s knocking it out of the park you’d be forgiven for wondering what the rest of the group could have been up to facing such stiff competition. They weren’t doing badly themselves, in fact everyone was keeping up and giving one another a good standoff in the salt shed each evening.

Richard and Beth Battaglia would team up with PH, Greg Hayes, and tracker, Bless, hunting hard, but making time for a sundowner or two along the way. Beth enjoyed the luxuries of the Manor at Woodlands Safaris Estate, while the men got after a few beauties.

What was not to like about Rich’s magnificent East Cape Kudu, Waterbuck and Cape Bushbuck. Talk about a solid neck on the Bushbuck. But few would argue with Rich’s Nyala. Sometimes words are not enough…

Rich’s Nyala proved to be a bull for the ages. The sheer beauty of an Nyala is a given, and when spotted at first will leave even the most experienced of hunters in awe, but the flare and the protruding ivory tips makes this bull a truly special one.

With such high quality Nyala making their way into the shed it was hard to think anyone could possibly match either Scott or Rich for quality. That was until T.K Ganesh joined PH, Ed Wilson, and tracker, Bongani.

T.K had purchased a number of Gunwerks rifles prior to his arrival with us in Africa and was excitedly sporting his Gunwerks 7 mm LRM on this maiden hunt to the dark continent. Having only spoken to T.K via telephone, never meeting him in person until his arrival, I knew we were in for a fun-filled eight days with this man and his sense of humour. Never a shy one to crack a joke, extremely polite, and above all a first class gentleman who appreciated every second out there. It was such a pleasure hosting him and having the crew from GTS Productions along was a bonus. Ozzy and his team captured the true essence of this wonderful experience hunting in South Africa.

As we reflect on the Marshall’s, Battaglia’s and T.K’s safari and the quality they were able to achieve one must make mention of the system that made it all possible. Very few of their shots were beyond 400 yards, and yet even if the gun was capable of that, it was seldom needed. But what the Gunwerks system did do was allow the hunters to enjoy the assurance of a 300-350 yard shot with the same confidence as a 80 yard shot under regular circumstances.  And if you’ve never experienced that feeling of confidence then you’re missing out on more than you should be.

Join us again next time as we continue on the hunt with the remainder of the group as well as getting up close and personal with a crash of White Rhino on a vita-darting experience closer than usual….

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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If you have ever visited John X Safaris at SCI’s National Convention over the past ten to fifteen years then you may have had the pleasure to meet Brett Nelson. He’s the quiet guy with the big smile, always there, but never wanting to be in the way, while we tend to the many friends who stop by to say hi or book their next adventure. He’s the kind of guy every succesful team needs. Nothing is too much to ask and the word “no” is not part of his vocabulary. He’s that guy you call.. when you only have one call.

He has become such an integral part of our family that he has his very own slot on our calendar each year. During the early season, towards the end of March, when you could just about assure him the summer rains had come and the areas have been undisturbed since the end of the previous season. It’s been like that for as long as we can remember.

Brett is an avid hunter who hates traveling alone. His enjoyment of sharing his piece of paradise with fellow hunters is what gives him great pleasure, while personally after eleven safaris to the East Cape, it would be fair to say the hunting is no longer his number one priority. He’s all about the camaraderie, the fun and laughter along the way, and the experiences with the many friends he has brought along on safari over the years. This year proved to be no exception with a crew made up of old friends returning on their second safari, as well as a few first timers.

Todd Ingstad was back on his second hunt to John X Safaris, teaming up with PH, Martin Neuper, making for a formidable team. Plains game would be the oder of the day, while Todd took his opportunities on a number of fantastic animals.

His Cape Eland would ensure the amazing start we have enjoyed on this specie for 2018 would continue on in style. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen or hunted bulls like this. Todd quite literally made a “pig” of himself with his epic Cape Eland.

This is not your everyday kind of bull. For the Eland connoisseur it will leave you in awe, grasping for both words and air, while at the same time trying to fathom the sheer enormity of this animal. A dream trophy…

For Luther Dietrich it would be a return to his happy hunting grounds. A certain 10″ Vaal Rhebuck on a previous safari with PH, Carl van Zyl, had built a close bond between these two which has taken them on numerous safaris throughout Africa, with the most recent being a Lord Derby Eland in Cameroon.

This year there were many highlights, including an Impala that had us in jitters and a Sable that changed our plans without us even realizing it. It’s not hard to see why we couldn’t pass it up. Then there was the amazing Bushbuck hunt up in the forests of the high ground, and finally…we got our Ostrich. The “bird hunting” just about gave us the slip after a serious run-around for a number of days.

Luther also always adds a fun twist to any safari, this year, adding a Aoudad to his hunt. Most will be amazed to learn there are a number of Aoudad strongholds in the East Cape, most notably being a free-ranging herd of +-500 animals in the Stormberg Mountain range of the East Cape.

The sheep are spread out in groups all over the mountains and it is seldom that one will not see as many as 300 in a morning. They’re everywhere, but hunting them is a major challenge in an outer worldly kind of terrain. Huge rocky outcrops rise up above the lush green valley floors below with some rock ledges extending over a couple of miles without a break in the rock. Professional Hunters, Carl van Zyl and Ed Wilson, did their best to capture both the terrain and scenery as best they could via their PhoneSkope’s, as to give you an idea of the kind of hunt it is. The footage is the best we could muster up between us while trying to hunt these weary mountain dwellers. It’s an experience like few out there…

While Luther was making the most of the mountains, first timers Dan and Kathy Cotter, were embarking on their first hunt to Africa. Dan and PH, Rusty Coetzer, hunted hard from our southern and northern areas, while Kathy enjoyed a day visiting Addo Elephant Park with Trish. It’s been a long time since the ladies have seen so much on a single outing, making for a memorable trip.

For Dan and Rusty it would be early mornings and late evenings as they toiled hard to achieve their goals. Dan’s Warthog most certainly proved to be one of his and our favorites.

As for first timer Jack Cripe or fondly known as the “instigator”, there wouldn’t be much that could stand in the way of this man and fun. Jack epitomized someone who had decided he’d be having the time of his life before he even arrived. It’s rewarding guiding someone in that kind of mood, which intern gave PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, the opportunity to provide an experience hard to plan, let alone know where next the journey may take one.

It provided Jack with a superb harvest of trophies combined with rewards from sun-up to late in the night each evening. It provided surprises along the way, most notably one of the trophies of the safari.

A beautiful Nyala with width, color and magnificent length.

Jack’s old friend, Scott Fontaine, who had joined us last on safari during 2013, teamed up once again with his PH and partner in crime, Greg Hayes. Scotty and Grego could be referred to as the “naughty kids” of the group, always getting up to mischief with untold amounts of fun along the way! They hunted hard, but they played even harder, in between racking up a superb bag of trophies.

And for the man who put this all together, who gave us the opportunity to share ten wonderful days on safari, the hunting gods came smiling as he took on a few more than usual. Together with PH, Ed Wilson, Brett hunted a superb Scimitar Horned Oryx, an old dark Giraffe bull, Vita-Darted a White Rhino and brought down the largest bird in the world, which Ed kindly reminded us cannot fly and for that reason did not count. No ways Wilson. Anything at 400 yards counts!

BUT the cherry on the cake was Brett’s Bushpig. Finally after having passed up on numerous opportunities over the years, always giving his fellow hunters the first chance at pigs, he committed to the process and Clayton’s unrelenting efforts and got his boar.

And what a pig it turned out to be!

Like we said, there was “some” hunting done by a fun-loving bunch of pranksters who left us grinning from ear to ear with stomach muscles in tatters from all the laughter along the way. They filled their tags with distinction and gave it horns from sun-up to well after midnight each evening. They lived, laughed and hunted, like there was no tomorrow.

And we can’t wait to do it all again come March 2019!

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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There are very few hunters in this world as lucky as Glynn Underwood. Maybe there’s something to be said about being a nice guy attracting great luck? Or may it be the fact that going more often than most affords you more opportunities than others may experience? It is something we as a team have often discussed, wondering how this man and PH, Greg Hayes, keeps turning everything they touch to gold. They have made a habit of coming out on top time and again, to the point where we have nicknamed Glynn, “Super Hunter”.

They are notorious for being the most comical team around. There’s not a minute that passes that you will not be entertained by these two,  day and night! I mean how do you explain the following to anyone without a sense of humour…

Some years ago, a couple of safaris ago to be precise, Greg and Glynn, had as per usual made the most of the evening around the campfire when they rolled out of camp a half hour after the rest, on the hunt for Cape Bushbuck. By this stage Glynn had hunted two world-class Bushbuck rams on previous hunts with John X Safaris, and now was once again pursuing one of his all-time favourite species. Upon arriving at the hunting area they sat up on some high ground to start glassing. Soon the previous evenings activities came rumbling along to Greg and he excused himself for a bit of “bush relief”. Picture the scene, I know its hard.. but there Greg was admiring the view, when suddenly a shot went off. As hastily and dignified as he could he made his way back to Glynn and tracker Bless.

Well… there they were proud as could be with yet another 15″ Cape Bushbuck.

It’s just the way they role. It’s an infectious camaraderie to be around on safari and a certain highlight for us each year. Glynn is a great believer in taking what Africa gives you. This year Glynn returned once again with his wife, Jane, and son, Woodson, as well as in-laws, Darrel and Paula Koleman.

They took part in a vita-dart, hunted a bunch of amazing plains game and then just smashed it with a Cape Buffalo of magnitude proportion. Join them on the hunt…

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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