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Posts Tagged ‘Craig Boddington Endorsed Outfitter’

An introduction to the Three Amigos on Safari in 2018

As the unofficial “Leader of the Three Amigos”, I will take the liberty of kicking off this series of hunter blogs.  There will be a story from each of the “Three Amigos” in his own words.  Each has a unique tale to tell of their incredible hunts and experiences on safari.

This year completes my 8th safari with John X Safaris.   I’ve been asked many times why would you go on 8 safaris?  I’ve been asked more often why you would go back to the same outfitter on safari in South Africa?

To use a South Africa expression:  “Every safari with John X has been over the moon” and has exceeded all expectations.   More importantly, every experience consisted of completely different hunts, entirely different species in completely different areas, with new friends and family along on each journey.

One of the reasons for my multiple safaris is the great joy of sharing the safari experience with someone who has never been to Africa.   After three years toasting the prospects of chasing a great buffalo, two of my closest friends committed to a hunt with John X Safaris in 2018.  This, the first installment, is a story from the eyes of “Amigo Mike”, on his first ever African safari.

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” – Richard Mullin

Mike’s Story – An African Safari through the eyes of a “first timer”

Despite seeing the photos and hearing the stories, I’m not sure that you can ever be prepared for Africa.  The land is so vast.  There is so much game with so many species.  And the people are the most incredible hosts I’ve ever met.  Hopefully my story will give you some perspectives and appreciation of the experience from the eyes of a first timer.

 No one can prepare you for the first sights and sounds of Africa….


I met Chris through my lifelong friend Randy.  I started helping Chris take care of his acreage and we quickly became friends.  When we started gathering as couples to share weekend dinners, inevitably the guys would end up in Chris’ safari room.   Over many sessions of toasting his safari exploits with fine port, I continued to hear the incredible stories from Randy and Chris about Africa and their experiences with John X Safaris.

Like most hunters in the heartland of the US, I had always dreamed of seeing Africa.  Like most, I felt that I could never manage to go on a safari to hunt.   But after hearing about the incredible experiences, they seduced me into realizing my dream of going with them, and joining in “The Great Adventures of Three Amigos on Safari”!

I have been on a number of “guy trips” hunting and fishing.  Normally we fly into a very rustic cabin in the woods.  I was totally unprepared for the 5 Star safari camp of John X Safaris home base, Woodlands Safari Estate.   Incredible accommodations and even more amazing food.   I would quickly see why Randy and Chris brought their wives on safari with them.  The experience for the non-hunter/observer is just incredible.

Like most first time dreamers in Africa, my top species were kudu and gemsbok.   Carl assured me that we would get to those in the Great Karoo, as he wanted me to experience the challenge of hunting free range kudu in the high country.  I had no idea what I was in for.

Before hunting kudu, I had the opportunity to hunt plains game at Woodlands.  One specie that intrigued me was the bushbuck, I wanted to hunt bushbuck, the “mini kudu”.   I had no concept of how challenging it would be to find them in the bush.   After multiple days of stalking and belly crawling, my PH Clayton came through with a magnificent bushbuck that we truly earned!  And his 7 month old Jack Russel, aka “Beans”, saved the day by finding the bushbuck as darkness closed in around us.  As an aside, with no city lights you have no idea of how dark it really gets in the African bush!

Thanks to my PH Clayton and his perseverance! I had no idea of how challenging a bushbuck would be.

For a mid-west hunter in the US, you harvest a deer and you are done for the season.  It was incredible to go out every day and hunt for something new.  And the “hunt” was real in every sense.  The land is immense, filled with brush and rocks.  It is incredible to glass, finally find the animals, and then figure out how to stalk them, with no guarantee of seeing them after hours of perseverance.

This magnificent blesbuck is a beautiful plains game trophy and was an incredible hunt on the open plains.

As it turned out, Carl had the perfect plan for a first timer.  I had the opportunity to hunt and harvest bushbuck, blue wildebeest, blesbuck, and zebra before going to the mountains.  In retrospect, I would not have been ready to jump right into the challenge of a free range kudu from day one.   Each hunt provided a unique situation and much-needed experience before heading to the expanse of the Great Karoo.  My advice to a first timer is to allow yourself plenty of time.  There is no guarantee that you will see your preferred specie on any given day … my bushbuck took several mornings and evenings.

The Great Karoo – Big Sky Country and home of incredible Kudu and Gemsbok!

Spotting game is not the hard part, stalking them from over a mile away is a supreme Karoo challenge…

I’m told that South Africa is home to over 47 different species of antelope. But you quickly learn that different species require different habitat.  Since I wanted a gemsbok, we needed to head north, to the dry country where these beautiful animals thrive under harsh conditions. We packed our bags and headed north to experience an entirely new area, and completely different hunting conditions in the mountains. I thought I was fit, but as you can see from the photo, hunting this terrain takes everything you have.

I don’t begin to know how to describe the Great Karoo.  It is immense.  Truly BIG sky country.  The closest thing in the US is probably some of the elk country in the western mountains of the US.   In the Karoo you can literally see for miles … and the PHs often glass and spot the trophies you will hunt well over a mile away.  The stalk can literally take many hours, requiring climbing up and down rocks and valleys.  It is pure fair chase pursuit at its finest.

My PH Louwrence deserves the credit for an incredible stalk that resulted in a monster “pig”.

I did manage to harvest my gemsbok on my last day of hunting the north, along with a fantastic warthog.   Both were worthy hunts requiring long stalks and incredible stealth.  The gemsbok required a long shot of over 450 yards … there was just no other way to get closer across a deep ravine.   The entire camp had to literally pitch in and pack out the gemsbok in quarters.  Amazing teamwork was truly a large part of my safari.  Absolutely nothing went to waste.

There are hunts … and then there is hunting the Grey Ghost.

I was told that kudu are known as the“grey ghost” of Africa, because of their ability to vanish into thin air right before your eyes.  I can now testify how difficult it is to hunt kudu, especially in the Karoo.  While all my hunts were fantastic in their own right, my kudu hunt was literally a two-day long adventure!

I had the opportunity to hunt kudu with Carl, truly a master PH.  Our hunt included incredible spotting, stalking, and crawling to get into position. I literally had to pick cactus out of my backside for days after the hunt!  Then there was the anxiety of waiting for literally an hour to get a shot.   I can’t begin to describe the roller coaster ride of emotions that took place over the course of the hunt, and finally connecting with my bull up in the mountains.

And wow, what tremendous fortune to have Pierre (aka Ozzy) from Got the Shot Productions along to video the hunt!  He is an amazing videographer and athlete carrying the camera gear.   Fortunately, he put together video highlights so that I do not have to begin to try to tell the entire story of the kudu adventure.  I have not seen it yet, so I can’t wait to see the video shared for the first time in this blog.  Ozzy is a great editor, and his video will most assuredly tell the story and bring all the memories flooding back from that incredible day in the mountains.

Suffice to say that I now know why Chris has been on 8 safaris with John X Safaris.  I completed 8 hunts on my first safari, and all of them were uniquely different and exciting.  However, capturing a monster Grey Ghost on his turf in the mountains of the Karoo is simply beyond anything imagined. 

Special thanks to Carl, Louwrence, Ozzy, Clayton and all the amazing John X staff for my incredible experience.  I’ve been bitten, and smitten by the “safari bug”.   The trophies will be so incredible that I have already drawn up plans to build a safari room in my basement.  Now we will have another “slice of Africa” in Nebraska where we can drink fine port and toast the incredible memories with John X Safaris.

The new Safari Addict, Mike

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By Cal Zant – The shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com

I’d never paid for a hunt in my life, at least up until a few months ago. I’ve been a die-hard hunter since I was big enough to carry a firearm, but I’ve only hunted small parcels of land owned by family. Over the past 20 years, I’ve spent countless days in the field and have taken a couple nice mule deer and whitetail that were big for my area, but I’d never hunted outside of West Texas.

A friend sold me on the idea of an African safari, and it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was especially rewarding as a long-range shooter. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what to expect in terms of what a safari would look like, what animals I could expect, how outfitters worked, or how much it might cost. But the trip changed my view of hunting, outfitters, and even long-range shooting. So I wanted to share my experience with you guys, because I wish someone would have told me about this stuff sooner!

Why Africa?

Last year, I attended Long Range University in Wyoming and Utah (view post). While there, I had the chance to pick the brain of Aaron Davidson, founder of Gunwerks and TV host on Long Range Pursuit. If you’ve seen the TV show, you’ve watched Aaron literally travel the world on one dream hunt after another. So we are worlds apart when it comes to hunting experience.

As I talked to Aaron about long-range shooting, I was very impressed. Not only does he have a ton of real-world experience, but he’s an extremely knowledgeable guy on the technical side of things (not surprising since he’s a Mechanical Engineer). What was especially refreshing was Aaron wasn’t overly dogmatic in his views. When I meet a knowledgeable person who is humble and doesn’t try to pass off their opinions as unquestionable facts, I tend to become more interested in what they think. My experience with Aaron was exactly that.

I eventually asked Aaron what his all-time favorite hunt was. I figured it was a question he got a lot, but he paused for a while as he seemed to run through hundreds of hunts in his head. He told me it was a hard question, because so many hunts were memorable or rewarding in different ways. But he went on to say if he had to boil it down to just one, it’d have to be a kudu hunt he was on in South Africa with John X Safaris. He said “As a die-hard backpacking DIY mountain hunter, I hate to admit that my favorite hunt is a South African safari. For a long-range shooter, a 10-day trip can get you 10 years of shooting experience. It truly offers the best training environment I can think of.”

Up until that point, the top of my bucket list was hunting red stag in New Zealand. I’d seen an episode of Long Range Pursuit where they went on the hunt I had in mind. Aaron told me there are a lot of cool hunts to go on, but there is something really special about an African safari. He said “You have to do Africa first. I’ll connect you with one of the very best outfitters in South Africa, and I guarantee it will be an experience you’ll never forget.” Remember how earlier I said Aaron wasn’t dogmatic? Until that, I’m not sure I’d heard him speak in absolutes. But after seeing the passion and conviction from such an experienced hunter, I was convinced.

Planning & Getting There

I invited a close friend of mine, Cory Cisco, to join me, and he jumped at the opportunity. Cory is a veteran hunter, and over this past year, he’s joined me for a few PRS club matches and started getting into the whole long-range thing. I was already planning to take my family to Kenya on a mission trip this year, so after looking at both of our calendars it looked like October 1st would be the most convenient time. Now if you could pick any time of the year to go, I’m told mid-April through July is the optimal time to go, since that coincides with the rut for many of the animals there. Cory had his first child during that window, but his wife encouraged him to go on “the hunt of lifetime” before they got too busy in this next season of life. (Sounds like she is a keeper!)

Aaron connected us with Carl van Zyl at John X Safaris, and we picked our dates and wired our deposit. Aaron recommended we hunt a full 7 days. He felt anything shorter may feel rushed or you’d wish you’d spent more time when you got there. So that’s what we went with. We flew into Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Oct. 1st, hunted Oct. 2nd-8th, and flew out on Oct. 9th. John X Safaris has many hunting concessions across several countries in Africa, but their home base is called Woodlands Safari Estate and it is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, which is just a couple hours northeast of Port Elizabeth.

Our Hunting Guides (i.e. PH’s)

Ross Stix HooleWe flew into Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where we were greeted by Ross “Stix” Hoole. Stix is a Professional Hunter (PH), which can be thought of as someone who has been professionally trained and certified to be a hunting guide. By the end of our 2 hour car ride to the John X home base, Stix had already earned my respect. I’ve been engrossed in long-range rifles at a high level for several years now, so I’ve naturally spent more time learning, reading, and talking about this than most people. Over time, I’ve learned to treasure moments when I can have a deep conversation with someone who is just as excited about topics like rifles, cartridges, and bullets. Stix is a very personable guy, but he’s also very sharp and knows far more than just hunting. For example, we didn’t just talk about the well-known cartridges like 300 Win Mag or 6.5 Creedmoor. Stix told me about a custom 28 Nosler rifle he was having built, and asked me about the 375 Lethal Magnum, which is a very new and even more niche cartridge used for extreme long-range shooting. We also talked bullets and terminal performance, and he shared his wealth of real-world experience. I could already tell I was going to enjoy spending 7 days with Stix.

When we arrived at the facilities we met Ed Wilson, the PH who paired up with Cory for the next 7 days. Ed is a guy that is fun to be around, because he always has you laughing. But, make no mistake; Ed is a serious hunter. Ed is a well-respected PH, who has consistently taken some of the largest kudu and other animals in the Eastern Cape.

The Hunt

Okay, on to the hunt! Our PH’s preferred that we start by sharing what animals were on the top of our wish list. I had asked Aaron for advice on this point, and he said the best safari experiences he’d had was when he didn’t fixate too much on one particular animal, but instead was more of an opportunistic hunter. He said that takes a lot of pressure off the PH’s and makes the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone. So we tried to take that perspective, but when pressed for the top animals, Cory and I both were hoping for a big, mature kudu as our #1, and gemsbuck as our #2. We ended up taking 7-8 animals each, but in our eyes, those were the most beautiful and iconic African plains animals, and if we were really honest we’d be disappointed if we didn’t return home with one of each.

The Locations

We hunted a full seven days, and over that time we hunted properties totaling over 100,000 acres. Some of that was low-fence, free range, and some was high fence. I was skeptical that a high fence hunt would be as sporting, but I didn’t understand how different those were in South Africa. Here in Texas, some high fence areas are less than 1,000 acres. But the smallest high fence area we hunted in South Africa was 25,000 acres, which is almost 40 square miles! So you may know there are trophy animals on the property, but good luck finding them!

We hunted from John X Safaris southern and northern concessions, stretching from the coastal region with its valley bushveld all the way to the Great Karoo with its mountains and plains. The terrain varied dramatically. I’m from west Texas, which is big country … but much of the areas we hunted were eerily familiar, with thorny brush and prickly pear cactus. We primarily used a spot and stalk approach, and glassed a lot of country every day. Most days consisted of starting fairly early, crawling in 4×4 vehicles along primitive ranch roads, and hopping out to walk ridgelines or hike through a valley to glass up into thick patches of cover.

The areas we hunted had at least 28 species of game on them, from plains animals to dangerous game like cape buffalo and leopard. One evening a few in our group heard the roars of a lion pride on an adjacent property. Even though all of those animals may coexist in an area, the hunting tactics and approach can vary dramatically depending on which you are after. It was intriguing to learn from the PH’s as we hunted different animals, and they told us about their ideal habitat, and feeding/movement patterns.

Most days we had a specific animal in mind, and we’d spend the majority of the day glassing and hunting that animal. But, our PH’s knew when it might be a waste of time to continue looking for one animal, and we’d switch to another for a couple of hours. For example, during the middle of a hot day, some animals will seek deep shade and stay put while some other plains animals are more acclimated to the heat and are more likely to still be moving. Or while we were glassing we might spot a mature animal that was further down on our wish list, but we might decide to audible and try to get in a position to take a shot.

To give you an idea of what our day-to-day looked like, here is a summary timeline:

African Safari Timeline

This would become a book if I tried to tell you about each of the hunts, but I can tell you they were much tougher than I expected! My watch tracked my activity each day, and I ended up hiking over 50 miles! What’s obvious from the timeline is we spent the majority of our time looking for big kudu. While hunting kudu was time-consuming and very challenging, it turned out to be my all-time favorite hunt.

Kudu bulls are the most majestic animals I’ve ever seen, but they may also be the most elusive. Your best odds to out-smart an old bull is during the rut, but unfortunately that was in June … and we were there in October. I was told by a few veteran Africa hunters that the odds would be stacked against me, because the old bulls are often loners that time of year. Kudu blend perfectly into their surroundings. You may spot a group of them on a hillside grazing, but I found it almost impossible to spot a lone bull standing in the dappled shade of trees. Our PH’s knew mature kudu in October would be a tall order, but they were excited to join us for a challenging hunt.

Kudu in BrushAfter a few days, Cory & Ed, finally spotted a fully mature kudu. Ed got them in a great position, and Cory dropped it with one shot. But to show you how tough these animals are to spot, Cory snapped this photo of his kudu when he walked up to retrieve it. That’s hard to spot a few feet away, much less hundreds of yards away through binoculars! Like I said, kudu blend perfectly into their environment, which is a big part of what makes this such a challenging and rewarding hunt!

By the time we got to our 5th day hunting kudu, Stix and I had seen a lot of bulls. We had taken long looks at a couple of them, which were very close to being fully mature. Stix knew what the area had to offer, so I learned to trust his judgement as we passed on a few really good bulls in search of a great one. But after a few days of looking, we found ourselves mentioning the possibility of a “last day bull.” It was at that point that I knew for sure this was NOT a “canned hunt!”

After days of looking, we finally spotted a mature bull with “a full turn.” While my other 6 animals were taken at distances from 430-865 yards, this bull was closer to 100 yards. However, the terrain made it hard to find a spot to set up for a shot, so I ended up finding a clearing a little further back and resting my rifle on my tripod. I found the bull in my scope, and was waiting for him to step into the open when an even bigger bull stood up right behind him! I can remember actually hearing the pulsing of my heartbeat as I started to squeeze the trigger.

Our persistence and patience ended up paying off, with a 50” Eastern Cape Greater Kudu (meaning one horn measured 50” long)! It turned out to be the largest kudu bull they’d taken on their new property. The official SCI measurements totaled 117 7/8”, which is not only a record book kudu, but is gold level and represents the top 1/3 of all records for that species. It is an absolutely stunning animal, with beautiful markings and mane, and its horns have massive bases with deep curls. … and we got it in October, no less! What a satisfying end to a tough hunt!

I wish I could share all the stories and experiences from the trip! Cory and I took 7-8 animals each. Each of us ended up with 3 trophy animals that qualified for the SCI Record Book, and the rest were cull/management animals they allowed us to hunt at discounted prices. But the animals were just one piece of the experience, which were only amplified by things like listening to baboon calls echo through a valley, watching various pygmy antelope species dart in and out of bushes, hearing the deep bark of a big kudu bull 20 feet away, seeing giraffes and cape buffalo, and meeting interesting people with exotic stories. It’s simply too much to capture in a post!

Here are photos of a few of the animals we hunted.

Here is a summary of all the animals I took, along with distances and trophy measurements:

Animal Distance SCI Measurements
Gemsbuck (low fence) 526 yards 84 3/8” (35.4” length, 7.3” base)
Impala 430 yards 51 3/8” (20.5” length, 5.5” base)
Cull White Blesbuck 865 yards
Cull Impala 451 yards
Cull Kudu 725 yards
Trophy Kudu 100 yards 117 7/8” (50.1” length, 9.5” base)
Waterbuck 430 yards 70 3/8” (26.9” length, 8.4” base)

Each hunt was challenging in its own way. The terrain can make it difficult to even find the animal you’re after, but then you’re forced to read the wind and environment, figure out how to get in a position to take the shot, find your range and dope, and execute the fundamentals … all while trying to manage your nerves! Each time I got behind the rifle, it was the same rush of adrenaline. It really did feel like I got several years of hunting experience packed into 1 week!

African Safari Tradition & The John X Experience

Facilities

A few people asked me before the trip if we’d be staying in tents while we’re hunting, and I told them I really didn’t know what to expect. While I typically research things to death, I blindly trusted Aaron’s recommendation on this trip. He has hunted all over the world, so if he strongly recommended this place, I knew it must be “good” … whatever that meant! But, when we pulled up to the John X Headquarters, I was shocked. The facilities they’ve built over the past year is nothing short of a 5-star resort.

Cory and I each had private suites with king size beds, a nice bathroom and shower, central air conditioning, and a wood burning stove for ambiance. The landscape and views were the “Africa” we had in our head.

Food & Service

After staying there for a solid week, I can say the service and food was nothing short of a 5-star resort either. The four course meals each night would impress foodies, and compare to $100/plate meals here in the states.

The service was similar to a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. Here are just a few little touches to give you an idea what I’m talking about:

  • Complimentary daily laundry service. Just leave your clothes in a basket in the room, and they’ll be clean and neatly folded on your bed when you return.
  • Each night we’d enjoy appetizers at their bar, where hunters and staff would swap stories and jokes before dinner. They offer all kinds of complimentary drinks, but as a recovering alcoholic, I just asked for a Coca-Cola. Someone took note of that on the first night, because from that point forward there was a cooler stocked with cokes in our truck as we hunted.
  • Each evening when we came in from a hunt, the small wood burning fireplaces in our rooms would be freshly lit. The rooms had central air conditioning, but the fire just added some ambiance and on the day or two that it rained, it was a warm and welcoming touch.

I learned that, unlike other hunts around the world, traditional African safaris are built around exceptional service and hospitality. When Theodore Roosevelt went on his African safari in 1909 he was greeted with 265 native porters, horses, wagons, and 64 tents. He hunted hard during the day, but in the evening he drank from a wine glass and had a team of people catering to his needs. South Africa in particular takes hospitality very seriously. In fact, to become a certified PH there, you must prove you’re knowledgeable about the animals (i.e. biology, habitat, seasons, etc.), how to process an animal, and can care for the meat and hides. But they go beyond that, and require each PH to prove they can prepare a delicious meal and host a dinner for their guests.

Not only is South Africa serious about hospitality and service, but John X raises the bar even higher. They have a facility manager focused on providing an exceptional experience for guests, plus the PH’s themselves also go above and beyond. They wake up early to ensure the coffee is ready for their hunters, but also so they’re intentionally available for conversation if one of their hunters was ready a little earlier than expected. When they return in the evening, they don’t consider themselves “off-duty.” They are there to host their guests, and make their stay memorable. At John X, the staff takes professionalism to a whole different level, from everyone on staff wearing “John X” logowear the entire time to the PH’s polishing their boots each morning. Honestly, I’ve stayed at some nice resorts before, but the team at John X took service to a whole different level than I’ve ever experienced.

Our Hunting Rifles & Gear

I spent 10 days in East Africa with my family on a mission trip before Cory and I joined up in South Africa for the safari. Unfortunately, Kenya doesn’t allow you to enter the country with a firearm, so that meant I couldn’t bring my own rifle. Since Cory was flying directly to South Africa, he brought two rifles in his name and I borrowed one for my hunt. Cory bought a lightweight 7mm Rem Mag precision rifle for the trip, which is a pretty ideal rifle for the plains game we intended to hunt. My custom 7mm Rem Mag hunting rifle would have been perfect, but unfortunately South Africa has a law that prohibits one person from bringing in two rifles of the same caliber.

So although I’d prefer a 7mm, I had to either decide to go down to a 6.5mm or up to a 30 caliber or larger. I thought about getting a lightweight 6.5×284 from Gunwerks or even taking my 6.5 Creedmoor precision rifle, but I was concerned that it may not have enough stopping power for some of the animals like kudu and gemsbok. I’d hate to wound an animal that I couldn’t recover, so I decided to go up in size instead of down.

I recently bought a custom 300 Norma/338 Lapua switch-barrel rifle, but I designed it for extreme range shooting. It weighs 22 lbs. fully loaded (i.e. with optics, mount, bipod, etc.), which makes it extremely comfortable to shoot, but that’s far too heavy for spot-and-stalk hunting. I thought about spinning up a barrel for a 300 WSM that I could just screw on one of my custom short action rifles, but I couldn’t think of another time I’d use that cartridge other than this trip, so it seemed wasteful. One of my close friends suggested I take his Sako TRG 42 chambered in 338 Lapua Mag. While a 338 Lapua might be overkill for plains game … what does “overkill” even mean? Is there a risk of the animal being too dead?! So I went with it. Here are the two rifle setups we ended up taking:

Africa Safari Long Range Rifles

Cal’s Setup:

Cory’s Setup:

And I figure some guys might be wondering what other gear we went with for this trip. Traveling that far makes you think through what you need and what you don’t … and how to get it all as light and compact as possible. So here’s a brief summary of some of the other gear I lugged ½ way across the world! (Note: None of these companies “sponsored” me or asked me to publish this. I do a lot research before I buy, and just thought you guys might like to hear where I landed and what my experience was.)

  • Rifle Case: Custom version of the Americase Two Gun Safari Case (view custom drawing). I was anxious about flying internationally and handing over our rifles to airline baggage handlers. Once I knew I was headed to Africa, I ordered this case. It’s heavy, but it’s bullet-proof. I’ve also been using this to carry my primary and backup rifles to matches, and it has worked well.
  • Backpack: Kifaru X-Ray. This is Kifaru’s bestselling pack, because it’s a great size and is the smallest pack with an internal frame. Kifaru tailors each pack to the individual, so the fit is perfect. This is also my primary pack for rifle matches.
  • Binoculars: Leica Geovid HD-B 10×42. These binos feature top-shelf glass and an accurate integrated rangefinder. I ran a thorough field test of most rangefinding binos, and these came out on top … so they’re what I carry.
  • Rangefinder: Gunwerks G7 BR2 Ballistic Rangefinder. My Leica’s have a rangefinder, but I carry this unit because it has an integrated ballistic engine that is very accurate and easy to use for quick elevation and wind adjustments. This thing shines when you only have a few seconds between when you spot the animal to when you need to pull the trigger. I’ve verified the dope it outputs to 1,200 yards, and its dead-nuts on.
  • Tripod Setup: Gitzo GT1542 Mountaineer Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead, and Hog Saddle. This is a SUPER-lightweight tripod Aaron told me about. For their TV show, they must carry heavy camera equipment into the field, and he thought the weight to strength ratio of this tripod was the best on the market. After using it for more than a year, I agree. I can’t find a more lightweight setup that provides the same steady platform this does.
  • Ear Protection: ESP Stealth Custom In-Ear Ear Protection. I hunted with a muzzle brake on my rifle to minimize recoil and keep the carrying weight down. But firing a rifle with muzzle brake and no hearing protection can do permanent, irreversible damage to your hearing. I’m around rifles too often to not use hearing protection. I didn’t want to use big muffs or foam inserts for 7 days straight, and also didn’t want to waste time fumbling around for those when it was time for a shot. I’d been looking at some of these high-end, amplified, custom molded, in-ear models for a while, and this trip pushed me over the edge. Lots of competitive shotgun shooters use these, and they’re outstanding. I wore them for all day for 7 days straight, and they were very comfortable and heightened my senses. I love these things!
  • Clothing: Sitka Gear. This was the first time I ever wore high-end hunting clothes, and WOW! A layering system was a smart move. I had a light jacket, mid-weight vest, and thermal pull-over. At times I might have a shirt and all 3 layers, but as the day warmed up I could always find some combination of the 3 that was the right warmth/breathability for any condition. Yet all 3 items packed down to the size of a heavy coat. I also wore the Sitka Timberline Pants every day, and they were perfect: rugged, comfortable, and the removable kneepads were a must-have in some places we hunted. Sitka’s tagline is “Turning clothing into gear,” and it’s obvious they put a ton of thought into every square inch of their product.

Pricing

I realize most hunt articles like this never mention price, and doing so may be taboo. But I didn’t have a clue what a hunt like this would cost, and I was honestly surprised you didn’t have to sell a kidney to be able to afford it. So I thought it might be helpful for some of you guys to see a ballpark estimate for what a hunt like this might run. While I don’t want to offend anyone or come off as bragging, I do care more about being helpful to you guys than being “proper.” 😉

Cost Estimate for Africa Safari

On many big hunts like this, you’re required to pay a lot of money before you even start your hunt. Most of that is non-refundable, regardless of whether you harvest an animal or not. At John X there is a relatively small base price, and then you just pay for the animals you shoot.

The animals in the price summary above are just the ones that Cory & I were interested in, and some spend closer to $15,000, but it just all depends on what animals you are after. Here is the full list for costs on all their animals: John X Safaris 2018 South African Price Sheet. They also typically have some options for cull animals, which are deeply discounted, but the availability varies based on their management strategy and need at the time.

In case you’re like me and aren’t familiar with what “dream hunts” like this might cost, here are a few others for comparison:

  • 3 day hunt for 150 B&C score whitetail on King Ranch in Texas: $6,000
  • 4 day red stag hunt in New Zealand: $6,000-$12,000
  • 5 day elk hunt in Colorado: $6,500
  • 5 day mule deer hunt in Mexico: $13,500
  • 9 day grizzly bear hunt in Alaska: $14,000
  • 10 day moose hunt in Alaska: $15,000
  • 7 day desert bighorn sheep hunt in Mexico: $40,000-90,000

Keep in mind, all those hunts are for a single animal. Also travel and taxidermy aren’t included, and in most cases license, tag, rifle permit, trophy export fee, and other things aren’t included either.

We hunted several species of animals over 7 days with 1-on-1 professional guides, and each took multiple trophy animals that qualified for the SCI record book. We also had some of the best accommodations, food, and service I’ve ever experienced. I realize not everyone is in a position where they can afford these prices, but in comparison to other “dream hunts” … an African safari seems like a bargain.

Tips & What I’d Do Differently

Air 2000 Hunter Service

Cory and I had never traveled internationally with firearms, so we were a little nervous about the paperwork and getting through customs in country. Carl from John X told us about Air 2000 Hunters’ Support Service, which offers a “Hunter Meet & Greet” service. They help you obtain the necessary firearms permits in advance of arrival, then meet you in-person right when you get off the plane to assist you through immigration, baggage and firearms claim, firearms sighting by police and customs, and re checking the firearm and ammo to your destination. I can’t tell you how much that helped! It was just $180, and having a local expert made the entire process getting in and out of the country very smooth and stress-free. I’d highly recommend that service.

Time of Year

Our October hunt was the end of the season for the outfitter, and while the weather was amazing, it likely made it a little harder to find mature kudu bulls. If you hunt during the rut, mature bulls can be easier to spot because they’re often with groups of cows. It’s exponentially easier to spot a group than a lone bull. However, going in October made us the only hunters on the property most of the time. This meant we had free reign and could go anywhere we wanted. We didn’t have to worry about where other hunters or guides were, which gave us maximum flexibility on where/when we could hunt. I can’t say that I’m disappointed with our October hunt. Obviously, I believe it was the hunt of a lifetime! But the dates we picked were mostly out of convenience for our schedules and may not be the optimal time to hunt.

Number of Days

We hunted 7 full days, and had a travel day on either side of that. I’m going to say that was perfect for me. I think anything shorter, I would’ve felt rushed and wished we stayed longer. If it was longer, I may have missed my family to the point it would have been distracting during the hunt. Seven days was the sweet spot for me.

Long-Range Friendly Outfitters

You should also know that not all outfitters are “long range friendly.” One of my best friends was going on a hunt in Alaska, and he asked the outfitter how far he’d be allowed to shoot. My buddy wasn’t wanting to extend the range past what was necessary, but was just wondering if there was some artificial limit in the guide’s brain. The guide told him he wouldn’t be allowed to shoot beyond 250 yards. My friend has qualified for the PRS finale, and finished in the top 10 at national precision rifle competitions. He’s clearly capable of putting a bullet where he wants at more than twice that distance, and his 300 Norma Mag has more than enough stopping power out to extreme distances. But the outfitter said 250 yards is the hard limit, because the guides couldn’t back him up beyond that. Other outfitters still have an old mindset that any long range shot on an animal is unethical. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should sling lead at a living animal at just any distance. My rule of thumb for what is the ethical limit for a hunter is what I’m going to call “The 10/10/10 Rule”:

Cal’s 10/10/10 Rule:
Ethical Limit = The distance the hunter would be able to get 10 first-round hits on a 10” plate out of 10 attempts. The size of the plate should represent the size of the vital zone for whatever animal you are hunting, but a 10” target is a good rule of thumb for most big game. The exact distance will vary based on environmental conditions, position, and accuracy of equipment (rifle, rangefinder, etc.). For example, I feel very comfortable that if there was no wind, I was able to lay out prone, and I had time to carefully range a target and calculate the ballistics based on the current atmospherics … I could take an ethical shot out to 600-900 yards, depending on the precision of rifle/ammo and ballistics of the cartridge I was using. Better shooters could extend even further, and it still be an ethical shot. But most people who never practice or have crappy equipment might struggle to get 10 hits on a 10” plate at 150 yards, so that might be their ethical limit in ideal conditions. On the other hand, if the wind was blowing 20 mph, I was shooting off a tripod, and I had to estimate the range … my ethical range might shrink to 200 yards. Requiring 10 for 10 may seem extremely conservative, but the fact is there are always obstacles or nerves in the field that will make it more difficult to execute a shot than in practice. The key is knowing what distance you’d have overwhelming confidence that your bullet will go where you want and result in a clean, humane kill.

The guys at John X have a mature view of long-range shooting, and have seen guys like the Gunwerks crew get clean kills at extended ranges. They started off by taking us to their private range where we could verify our rifles were still zeroed, and they also conveniently had steel targets setup so we could check our dope at distances from 400 to 1000 yards. They watched whether we could hit what we were aiming at. They also didn’t just let us fling lead at animals at long-range right off the bat. As the week went by, the PH’s learned more about our capabilities and allowed us to extend some of our shots accordingly. My point is that John X has a mature view of long-range hunting, and not everyone does. A good portion of their clients are long-range shooters, so for those reading my blog … they might be the right fit.

Choosing the Right Country & Outfitter

One last tip I’d give is to understand that not all African safaris are the same. Think about it: If you want to hunt whitetail in Texas, you could choose from 100+ different outfitters. Among those, your hunting experience could range from super-crappy to hunt-of-a-lifetime. The experience may not be precisely correlated with the price each outfitter charges, but in general we all know you get what you pay for. When it comes to Africa, there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. The Country: There are developing countries where you can find budget hunts, but I’d highly recommend hunting in South Africa (at least your first time). Everyone there speaks English, they are very welcoming and friendly to hunters, and it is a relatively stable and safe country. Those aren’t the case in most places in Africa.
  2. The Outfitter: While John X isn’t the cheapest outfitter, they also aren’t the most expensive. But I can say the experience is first-class, and the PH’s are true professionals. They never once pressured me into shooting something I didn’t want to, and more than once convinced me to hold off because we might be able to find a bigger animal. That isn’t how most outfitters work, because they get paid more when you shoot more animals … regardless of whether it represents the best of what that area is capable of producing. I’ve heard horror stories about how some outfitters pressure hunters to shoot the first animal they see, and they put the responsibility on the hunter to decide whether that is a good animal for the area or not. In contrast, I feel like our PH’s had our best interest at heart, and that is really why I’d HIGHLY recommend them to any of my family or friends. That’s also why 99% of John X’s business is from repeat customers. In fact, Cory and I were only the 3rd group of hunters this entire year that hadn’t hunted with them before. That extremely high return rate cuts through all the marketing and B.S., and says more about them than I ever could.

Cal & Stix Setting Up for Shot on Waterbuck

My New View of Hunting

I originally thought this would be a once in a lifetime hunt, but I already know I’m going back. I can’t stop thinking about this hunt. But, it’s also challenged how I think about hunting. It reminds me of something I heard Steven Rinella, one of my favorite outdoor writers and host of MeatEater, say once. Steven said he’d always believed a rifle was something that had to find you. It may have been handed down to you or inherited somehow, but then you worked to make the most out of what you had. But one day someone challenged that mindset, and Steven built a custom bolt-action hunting rifle. He was shocked at how much he enjoyed getting to customize everything about the rifle, picking the absolute best components money can buy, and striking the perfect balance between carry weight and precision for his particular application. Since that time, I’ve watched him carry that custom 7mm Rem Mag rifle all over the world on his TV shows. If you’re reading this, you probably know there is nothing like the confidence you can get from a really fine-tuned and proven precision rifle, and that’s what Steven experienced and realized he had been deprived of unknowingly for far too long.

Cal Zant with South Africa KuduI was from an old-school hunting mindset that says the most rewarding hunt is when you do all the work yourself and make the most of whatever land you have access to. You setup the food plots, cleared your own shooting lanes, and carefully studied the patterns of the local wildlife (where they bed, where they water, when they travel). Then you spent 10-30 days out in the field with a laser-focus on hunting the biggest animal you’d caught on your trail cams. That’s how I rolled for more than a decade.

But, I have to admit that the most memorable and rewarding hunt in my life was hunting kudu in South Africa. That certainly challenged my old-school mindset! This was an extremely challenging and fulfilling hunt, I ended up with the largest trophy animals I’ve ever taken, and all without having to do the 80+ hours of prep work before the season even began. I’m not saying that I won’t continue to hunt locally in a way similar to what I described, but this just opened my eyes to the fact that a great hunt doesn’t have to be that way.

Leave behind the familiar and embrace the wild adventures the world has to offer. No great stories are born from blindly repeating what you did last year. Experience something new! Set a course for an adventure you’ll tell your grandkids about one day!

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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When the matriarch of a family speaks, you listen. This was the case when Aunt Karen Nelsen approached me on the morning of April 7’th. She’s a grand lady, an old school woman with a certain class of style and grace about her that reminds me of my grandmother. Like each morning before, I headed down the verandah at Woodlands Safari Estate where she met me in mid-stride; “Carl.. On a scale of 1 to 100, this was a 1000.” And that’s all she needed to say.

It had been a marathon safari for the Nelsen’s starting with a tour down the Garden Route, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, before embarking on a short hunt from our southern base. The goal was to afford each family member, no matter how young or old the individual, the opportunity to experience something he or she wanted to experience on tour, and then have each hunt their first big game animal in Africa.

The Nelsen’s are no ordinary people. They’re a dynamic family led by Uncle Kevin, Jason and Phil. Aunt Karen, together with Tracey and Paige are the glue of this unit, and the kids are the true characters. Join them on their fun-filled 8 days at John X Safaris.

Could there be a better family vacation?

 

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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When the fist rains hit during late September last year and continued throughout the summer and into the new year, a true sense of optimism began brewing as the start of our season drew ever closer.

By the time early March arrived the East Cape was in full bloom to welcome Kevin Fain, his son Hunter, and Tim Rainwater with his sons, Connor and Austin.

Kevin had hunted with us previously many years ago, but this time round the focus was on Hunter. Like many first timers, Hunter was focused on plains game, with no specific preferences, hunting hard and taking what Africa gave him. Needless to say he enjoyed tremendous success on a superb bag of animals.

Kevin on the other hand wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity of a lifetime when a huge Sable stepped out late one afternoon.

A well placed shot after a long stalk dropped the old brute in his tracks. And what a beauty he turned out to be.

While the Fain’s were hard at it, the Rainwater’s weren’t being left behind for one minute. As first timers to Africa their interests varied tremendously between the three of them making for an extraordinary safari in variety of both species and hunting terrain.

Tim and Austin were interested in the traditional big hitters, namely Kudu, Gemsbuck, Impala, Zebra and Wildebeest, which they dually achieved great success on.

Of course there were the usual unexpected ones, such as the ever impressive Nyala, and the crazy experiences along the way that makes the safari a memorable one. Don’t ask us…. Ask Austin about his exciting Kudu hunt.

But there was one particular hunt that blew us away, and that was Tim’s massive Cape Eland. It is very seldom that one finds an Eland bull in this class. The rare combination of color, dewlap, mop and horns, makes him the standout trophy of the trip for many of us. An incredible animal to say the least.

With Tim and Austin spending most of their time on the traditional species, it was Connor who surprised us most. Here was a youngster on his first safari to the dark continent… you’d expect him to be interested in Kudu? Right? Wrong! Not this young man. Instead he could tell you all about the biggest and the smallest, with an addiction for the Tiny 10.

We’d be driving along from one type of habitat to the next during the course of the safari and without ever discussing it he’d confidently share his knowledge on why that particular terrain or habitat would be an ideal spot to search for a particular specie. It was incredible seeing his passion for Africa. Something we had not witnessed in over 35 years of guiding.

So it was only fitting that he started off his African hunting career with a beautiful old Giraffe bull.

And from the biggest he went to the smallest. Hunting his first two species in his Tiny 10 collection. Both his Steenbuck and Common Duiker reached the magical 5” mark. No small feat on such small critters.

With that the safari was slowly but surely coming to an end. Everyone had just about achieved what they were wanting to when the second last evening rolled along. It was time for the much-anticipated Springhare hunt the boys were promised when they first booked the safari.

During midday the boys headed off with the trackers and cut their very own hunting sticks and then at nightfall we headed out with a spotlight for an evening of fun and laughter.

The proudest hare hunters in the world! All we can say is how relieved we were that no bones were broken along the way, but the stomach muscles are still the worse for wear after a comical evening watching the boys chase down the springhares on foot.

It proved to be the highlight for these three with the many others captured by the crew from Got The Shot Productions.

There were far too many experiences along the way to mention or have captured them all, but for these two Dad’s it would be about their boys and the privilege of time spent together in Africa. We salute you for quite literally “passing the buck” to the next generation of hunters by affording them this unique opportunity. Neither you or they will forget their first big hunt. After all isn’t that what it’s all about?

Enjoy their safari with them. We couldn’t have asked for a better start…

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 published in Gunwerks Long Range Magazine / Fall 2017 / Volume 3 / Issue 1

Over the past year I have come to notice a faction within our hunting community. It may be that it has always been there and that I have come to notice it even more so than before. Having purchased my very own Gunwerks 7 mm LRM it’s something I feel which needs tackling.

As an active African Professional Hunter/Outfitter I thought it fitting to share my view, in that matter my views, on the ethics around long-range hunting. It is and has become the Elephant in the room. Hunters are murmuring about it around camp fires, deer blinds, camp sites and safari lodges.

As a whole we have so many factors working against us as a collective hunting community that we cannot afford to ostracize hunters within our ranks. The very point of ethics is a hot topic of debate no matter where you find yourself around the world.  What is ethical for one may not be for another. Working out the exact science of ethics is something more personal than factual based, therein the reason for the debate.

Had you put me in the hot seat a mere five years ago and asked me for an opinion on the matter, I’m pretty sure my answer would have been something much different to what it is today. Back then I’m pretty certain it would have been something along the lines of what the greater community traditionally finds ethically acceptable. Will my opinion differ in ten years time?  Who knows? Time will tell.

At present I’m privileged to be guiding a number of long-range hunters each year, and one who has more than likely guided more than the average guide when it comes to long-range hunting.  With Africa’s unique specie options, lengthened hunting seasons, and varied terrains and countries on offer, I get around and have come to find an acceptable ethic within long-range hunting for myself, and it seems for many of the hunters I share a camp fire with.

Since getting my 7mm LRM I’ve spent more time at the range than the previous twenty years. I’m pretty certain I’ve shot out 600/700 rounds trying to prepare for that exact moment when everything stops and its only me, my rifle, and a certain Klipspringer I’ve dreamt about hunting for a long time. In all this time I’ve been trying to envisage the feeling my hunters experience when being guided onto a great trophy out on safari. How does the guy who comfortably shoots 250 or 500 yards feel before he breaks the shot? Let alone those who have mastered the 750 range and the true class acts who continuously exceed the 1000 yard mark. It’s not easy – That I can assure you.

These guys are practicing harder than ever before. They are mastering their skill and combining it with world-class technology pushing them to the next level. They are not pitching on a hunt and flinging lead across the country side at any given target – they’re calculated in their approach and tactic. I have seen those who refuse to use their Gunwerks rifle beyond the 300 yard mark as that is their comfortable ethical range. They don’t bend the rules just because their weapon is capable of performing beyond a 1000 yards. There are those who treat a 1000 yard shot as if it were a 200 yard setup. They continuously produce one shot kills year in and year out at those astounding ranges. That has become their ethical range.

What the Gunwerks long-range system has done for the trophy hunter is something quite unimaginable to describe, while it has opened the doors for many hunters at the twilight of their safari careers to continue traveling, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors. It has often revived experiences that may not have been possible until now. Having personally witnessed the growth in Gunwerks as a company, a philosophy, and a people with ambitious developments, one can only imagine what more there is to come.

The exciting developments that Aaron and his team keep working on to enhance their product, and ultimately your experience, will see the boundaries being tested with a system that will only perform better and more efficiently going forward. What you choose to do with that technology will ultimately be up to you as an individual. Each and every one of us, who considers ourselves to be responsible hunters, will know and acknowledge our personal capabilities and choices to ensure an ethical kill is achieved at the end of the day. How you approach that journey and what you gain out of that experience will be up to you.

Is there a right or a wrong? An acceptable or unacceptable? My answer is a most definite no. Will I squeeze the trigger on that dream Klipspringer if the opportunity presents itself? I may or I may not. It won’t matter to me what a fellow hunter may think of my choice, it would ultimately all depend on the journey I personally took to arrive at that “right” setup. Would it matter to me at that moment if my Klipspringer was 50 or 500 yards out? Never! But that’s just me personally, and if you’re a hunter, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

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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Back by Popular Demand – The most popular shots from last season…

With our travels across the US in full swing we have been blown away by the sheer popularity of the past season’s safari videos. The fine balance between the actual hunt and the overall safari experience is one that at times can be very hard to capture, as one cannot always predict the precise moment when something amazing is about to be witnessed. Wildlife has a way of surprising one when you least expect it. BUT in saying that, more often than not the unexpected just happens and those are the true moments that shout out AFRICA louder than any.

Our crew on the ground from Got The Shot Productions headed up by Ozzy filmed and produced some of the most amazing scenes during 2017, capturing the true essence of a hunt with John X Safaris. By popular demand here are a few of our most viewed safari videos from the past season.

Starting us off is Cable Smith on his first safari to the Dark Continent. Cable is the host of Lone Star Outdoor Radio and a guy we’ve come to know a whole lot better since his safari. Join him as he got to experience Africa from a first timers perspective, and don’t miss his Warthog “rodeo”. It’s been one of the most asked about hunts from 2017!

Or join the Smith family as they braved some extreme elements hunting plains game from both our southern and northern concessions. This father/son duo made the most of our youth hunting initiative and came away with a host of experiences hard to match anywhere else in the world.

Or jump on board with us as we leave the East Cape in South Africa and travel to West Africa. Cameroon and the Giant Eland has been a bucket list safari for many of us for as long as we can remember. Our old friends, Luther Dietrich and Jeff Edland, joined Professional Hunters, Mike Currie and Carl van Zyl, on this hunt of a lifetime. Hunting Lord Derby Eland is not for the faint hearted…

These are just a few from 2017, there are a whole bunch more on our YouTube Channel to enjoy over the coming weeks.

If any of our booked hunters for 2018 would like to have their safari filmed then don’t hesitate to reach us on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za . GTS Productions are at your service every step of your hunt, shot for shot, sight for sight, and sound for sound. Take Africa home with you as you share your experience with family and friends.

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 Horizon Firearms Derrick Ratliff

It was well before daylight when we woke up the morning of the Vaal Rhebok hunt — the earliest morning of all of our hunts. It was also very cold. We had an hour+ drive to reach the 22,000-acre, low-fenced free range area that boasted some of the highest mountain tops in the Sneeuburg range of the Great Karoo. We drove an hour over roads that don’t really compare to anything we have in the States. The closest comparison I can think of is bump gate roads in West Texas. It felt like we were on private property, and some of the time we were, but they were public dirt roads.

We arrived at a secluded property and my PH, Stix, went into the main home to let the owner know we were there. Our primary reason for stopping was to pick up Puie, the farmer’s ranch hand who lived on the property with his family. Puie had spent his entire life on the ranch and knew it better than anyone. We left the homestead and flatlands to head up into the mountains. Stix had warned us that some of the switchbacks required three-point turns, and sure enough, he wasn’t joking. A standard truck purposefully backing down cliff-faced roads added a bit of adrenaline to the hunt!

Vaal Rhebok hunting starts with glassing huge expanses of land, and fairly quickly, we spotted a group with about seven “Vaalies.” I got set up and waited for Stix’s instructions. Unfortunately (but kind of fortunately) there was no ram in the group. We watched the group cross the face of a mountainside and then continued on.

This Vaalie hunt was absolutely a team effort. We all spread out over the mountain to glass different areas. Stix spotted two females down near a canyon, but we couldn’t see very much of the land surrounding them so Stix took off on a “casual” run down the mountain to get a better angle. Not sure how far he ran, but the long steep incline was no walk in the park. This unnecessary but helpful and exhausting round trip stood out to us as just one of the many ways that the John X Safaris team members went above and beyond for us during our time in South Africa.

There was no ram in the canyon’s proximity, but in the meantime, Puie had spotted a ram on the other side of the summit. Once Stix got back, we hightailed it to Puie’s position, but by the time we got there, it was gone. Our group had been up wind from the ram, and we’re pretty confident he had winded us.

Fortunately, we had a big group that day and Stix’s tracker, Olwethu, had spotted the same ram running down and around the mountain. SO … we packed up again and took off for the other quadrant of the hillside. We got to a rocky vantage point and spotted the ram at 510 yards. Stix was almost frantic at this point — for him, this hunt was personal. This same ram had been missed the year before by a different John X hunter and two weeks before by Stix’s client in 60 mph gusting winds. This area had been inaccessible for the previous couple of weeks because of rare snowfall. Stix was amped about this ram.

We set up so quickly that I ended up using my binoculars standing on end as the rear support on my rifle. I held .75 MOA of wind with my 6.5 Creedmoor and fired at 510 yards. The Hornady 143 gr. ELD-X ammo did the job; it was a perfect hit. I’ll never forget how emotional the next few minutes were. Stix said, “I was almost yelling at you because I was just frantic panicked because he’s such a big ram!”  High fives were flying every which way – between me, Cherise, Stix, Ozzie our cameraman, Olwethu our tracker, and Puie the ranch hand, we had the best and most excited team in the country.

We hiked down to see the Vaal Rhebok up close and discovered the unique qualities of this Tiny Ten species. Their hair is more akin to fur — he felt like a fuzzy jack-rabbit. Their eyes are disproportionately big for their heads giving them excellent eyesight. My ram’s horns were 9” and 8.75”, which for a Vaalie is about as good as it gets.

As we were celebrating and taking photos, we got another adrenaline shot when Puie spotted a Jackal running across the hillside above us. In a “not sure what just happened” flash, Stix grabbed the 6.5 Creedmore, swung around, and dropped the Jackal at 250 yards. Jackals are extremely destructive predators so Puie was thrilled, and we got to see a Jackal up close for the first time.

Two of the funniest moments from this hunt include the making of Ozzie’s random smart phone video introducing his handmade Samuel the South African Snowman as well as Puie’s first ever experience with a drone. As Ozzie attempted to get beautiful, natural footage of the recovery, Puie was in awe of the drone and kept trying to look at it in the sky with his binoculars. Stix tried to explain to him in the Xhosa language that there was an eye inside the contraption that could see us and film us. Oh, what we take for granted these days.

The Vaal Rhebok hunt will go down as one of the most unusual and memorable hunts I’ve ever been on. Standing at 7,000 feet altitude in South Africa with 100-mile views to the south, 50-mile views to the north, and wildlife I’d never seen before has a way of resetting perspective and embedding gratitude deep in our hearts.

South Africa is an epic place and my Vaal Rhebok will always be a special trophy. Join us on our hunt as we relive Africa 2017…

Did you enjoy Derrick’s story/video and would like to read more on Horizon Firearms adventures to Africa? Then here’s a few more you’ll enjoy..

Hunting in Africa – Klipspringer  /  Hunting in Africa – Cape Bushbuck   /  Hunting in Africa – Caracal Cat  /  Hunting in Africa – Nyala  /  Hunting in Africa – Kudu  /  Hunting in Africa – Eland  /  Hunting in Africa – Black Wildebeest  /  Hunting in Africa – Epic

If you’re interested in joining the Horizon Firearms crew to Africa during 2018 then join us for Africa night, Friday, 12 January 2018. We’ll be at their shop in College Station, TX, sharing further info and details on the hunt. Be a part of the story on their next great adventure to 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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As one meanders through the maze that is an outdoor show today, and one researches the internet or the various social media platforms looking at the variety of options available to the hunter, you could be forgiven for feeling slightly overwhelmed. Let’s face it, the risk vs reward on what you spend and what you get for your precious time away from your “real world” and your hard-earned dollars play a major role in the decisions you make. You want the very best experience that you can afford, yet you’d like to feel the reward at a level much higher than what money can truly buy.

Why Africa?

The options are plentiful. From the vastness of Alaska to the breath-taking beauty of New Zealand, or the endless birds of South America. The hills of Old Mexico, or the plains of the mid-west to the outback of Australia or the forests of Europe. There is an array of destinations entwined in a lifestyle that reeks of adventure as one plans one trip after another. There is a bug that bites the traveling hunter, one that knows no cure, with Africa biting the worst of all.

It is the dark continent… the original destination of adventurers and explorers. A place of rich culture, abundant wildlife, unimaginable landscapes and bright orange sunsets. A place where the hunter can marvel in the opportunities of a bygone era and become a part of something impossible to describe. It’s a deeper understanding, yet a greater mystery at why Africa remains the ultimate hunt of all.

Why John X Safaris and not the Competition?

After 35 years we’ve come to know a thing or two about safaris, in particular YOUR hunt. We’re not merely talking the talk without walking the walk. We’ve spent two generations perfecting the balance between results and experiences.

We’ve taken the cream of the industry and combined them into a team that is envy of the competition. We challenged ourselves to think bigger, hunt smarter and conserve greater. We took 1 million acres and said it wasn’t enough to take us where we want to go with your safari. We extended ourselves to take on more land than what we envisaged, to ensure we not only met your expectations, but exceeded them.

We’ve invested, established and sustainably covered the entire East Cape, SA. From the coastal forests along the Indian Ocean, to the unsurpassed beauty of the Great Karoo, and the breath-taking mountains of the north. It’s a diverse combination of landscapes, vegetation and wildlife, together making for a unique destination for the safari enthusiast to Africa.

We’ve got a lot to offer….

We’re an outfit that welcomes all hunters, no matter what your age, physical condition or hunting capabilities. We offer both plains and dangerous game in large fenced or free range areas. Our lodging is second to none, giving you or your group the choice of three different lodges/areas in the East Cape. This allows us to offer the game in their natural environment where they are naturally of better quality.

We cater to the traditional hunter, the bow enthusiast or the long-range addict. We do so under fair-chase principles, ensuring both you and us are proud of how we conduct ourselves as passionate hunters.

We want you to bring along the family, welcoming observers and prioritizing their experiences as much as we do yours. We enjoy sharing your hunt with you and we get excited about your better half or the youngsters taking up this past time we hold so dear.

We’re quite capable of filling the salt pit to your requirements, but we prefer the quality of your hunted game to be our trademark and the given, while the experiences created far outweigh that of the shots fired. It’s not about today, it’s about tomorrow and the sustainability of our wildlife for future generations.

So what should I hunt?

You’re a beginner, start with plains game on our Single or Multi Area Hunts – Make the most of our traditional 7/10 Day Hunts in the East Cape. Our hunts are offered at a daily rate basis, allowing you to tailor-make your very own safari as per your specie choices or preferences.

Why not bring the kids along? We’re passionate about the next generation of hunters. In fact, we’re so passionate we’ve taken it upon ourselves to match your investment in their hunt, ultimately our hunting future, by matching the cost of getting them to Africa. We figured if you were willing to buy the flight we’d be happy to sponsor the day fee with our Get the Youth Hunting Initiative – Bring your son/daughter/any minor along on their spring/summer break and we’ll comp his/her day fee. Only pay for trophies.

You’ve hunted plains game and you’re ready for the Big 5. There’s no better place to start than Cape Buffalo from our main base Woodlands Safari Estate. Arguably the best Buffalo hunting in the EC, the area comprises of 30 000 acres of hunting territory. Our package comes in at $15000 (All Inclusive + 1 Trophy Cape Buffalo) for either 7 or 10 days of hunting, your choice. Feel free to add or subtract any extra game as you wish.

So you enjoyed the plains game to begin with, you loved your Cape Buffalo hunt, so what’s next? Could there possibly be anything more to hunt in the East Cape? Most certainly! You haven’t started with the Tiny 10 have you? We’re the team hunters turn to when it comes to their Tiny 10 collections. From Oribi to the elusive Blue Duiker and everything in between.

Then there’s the mountains. It’s addictive and we live for Mountain Hunts in Africa – You’re an altitude hunting enthusiast? Then we’ve got the hunt for you in Africa. Vaal Rhebuck, Klipspringer and Mnt Reedbuck. There’s no one with more experience and larger/better areas when it comes to hunting the high country in Africa. Our track record speaks for itself.

You’re three or four hunts in with John X Safaris so where to next? You’ve built up a friendship through experiences with your PH that speaks louder than words, you’re not ready to just say goodbye to your family in Africa. Why not join us on one of our Out of Country Hunts? We’ve got the contacts and the know-how, it’s taken us more than thirty years, but we’ve got the areas and the game you’re after. Best of all your best friend, and African PH, will be going along to ensure you achieve the results you’ve become accustomed to with us over the years. Choose from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Congo, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia or Mozambique.

The Differentiator

We’re not for everyone. We prefer not chasing the numbers, but rather the experiences, in that manner the numbers take care of themselves and the sustainability of our wildlife. We’re not trying to be the biggest, but merely the best. We’re not interested in treating you like a client and your hunt like a business, it’s about you and your passion and the friendships built through camaraderie on safari in Africa. This is who we are.

Want to join us on safari?

We’d like to hear from you on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za or alternatively call Carl Van Zyl on US Cell +1 682 226 2202 or PH Ross ‘Stix’ Hoole on +1 806 316 6060. We’d gladly assist by dropping you a mail, giving you a call or visiting you in your home state.

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 only you could see Africa this morning… The rains have come, the drought has broken and the summer has arrived. The world is looking fresher than ever before. The young have started dropping, the first sign that it’s time to reflect on the year that has been.

If we look back at where we were on 18 November 2016 and fast forward the clock to 18 December 2017, then it would be hard to imagine we could have done what we have done without the support of so many of you. We re-located to a new base, an unknown piece of land that looked promising, but held no guarantees.  

Of course we had done our homework on the game, but our first aerial census as to ascertain a scientific quota, threw in a couple of unexpected surprises. For more than twenty years we had invested and spent countless man hours to achieve something like this at Lalibela. Here we were a mere two hours into our first flight at Woodlands…

The natural game numbers were high, in some cases too high, but the presence of Leopard, and the fact that we spotted a large Tom on our maiden flight proved to us how wild Woodlands really was. We found valleys and large tracks of land that had not seen man for many years. We saw great herds and superb trophies. The all-important “Wildlife” box was ticked in a big way.

From the wildlife we turned our attention to the lodging and what infrastructure there was. Roads and natural water sources had to be built or repaired, all during the worst drought in living memory. We were caught in a “catch 22”. There was so much that needed to be done before the first hunters arrived in late April. Without the water there would be no wildlife, and without the lodging there’d be no hunters to sustain the wildlife. We had no choice. 18 Hour days, 7 days a week became the norm.

It took a mammoth effort by a special team to pull it all together. In the end it proved to be worth it….

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From the very first hunters in April to the last in December, the acceptance and excitement around Woodlands Safari Estate, combined with our renowned Karoo concessions, has seen us looking towards the future even more invigorated than before. The experience of 35 years in the safari industry and knowing the commitment it takes to ensure you as individual will enjoy a world-class hunt, was not merely a given, but something we took to heart even more so this season.

You and your lust for adventure on the dark continent afforded Africa’s wildlife the opportunity to be bold. It allowed us to take on new areas and to grow through sustainability. This year you chose South Africa, Cameroon, and Tanzania. You chose to hunt more than 55 species. You chose plains game. You chose big five. You chose to support your passion.

The success and enjoyment derived from being a part of your safari was something we as a team gained much enjoyment from. It’s something we’ve looked back on proudly. This year’s achievements are a celebration of bold new beginnings at John X Safaris, and most importantly, a celebration of each of you and your adventures. Truth be told… Without you none of this would have been possible. Thank you.

May this festive season be a joyous one filled much laughter, love and celebration.

Until your next safari – A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Carl & Family

John X Safaris will be closed for our annual shutdown and will re-open on 2 January 2018. We will not have access to emails daily, but will respond to your messages as soon as possible. See you at the shows!

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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