Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Eland’

“A single day in Africa compares to the experience of an entire year anywhere else on the planet when it comes to long-range hunting.”

I’m no expert on the subject of long-range rifles, for that I have my good friends, Aaron Davidson and Garrett Wall from Gunwerks to fall back on, but I can tell you a thing or two about long-range hunting in Africa. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to have shared more hours in pursuit of African game with these two guys than any of us can remember. We’ve chased our fair share of “unicorns” as Aaron likes to put it on the odd occasion, but have succeeded in putting a fair number of those in the salt too. Our days in the mountains combined with the kind of banter that only close friends could handle has seen us build valuable experience over the years. Over time we have learnt a great deal about the Gunwerks system and the variables, such as tough wind-calls and difficult setups, that go along with the challenge, as well as African game and their behaviour at greater distances. Each year we learn something new and try to share that with fellow hunters around us.

This year proved to live up to expectation once again with two groups of hunters joining the crew from Gunwerks. Aaron and I teamed up for close on three weeks, while James Christianson joined us for the first half, before Aaron’s daughter, Electa, and Garrett joined us for the second leg of the trip. With them we’d host a number of hunters proudly sporting their Gunwerks rifles ready to take on Africa and whatever else came their way.

The father/son duo of Randy and Ryan Smith teamed up with PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, and tracker, Thanduxolo, for an unforgettable first trip to Africa. The guys were looking to experience as much as possible over the eight days of hunting, while making the most of the scenery and camaraderie around camp. While hunting would be their priority, they weren’t stopping at only making an impression on our wildlife through sustainable hunting, but would impact the lives of the local children in our community even more so.

The Smith’s together with Rich and Lynah Guild would take our John X Foundation to new heights through unchartered waters. As a team we have always carried aspirations of bigger projects each year, hoping to make a significant difference in our local community. With the identification of the Carlisle Bridge Farm School as our latest humanitarian initiative we set to work sharing our plans and dreams for the future. Within minutes of arriving at the school one could see the impact the dire situation of the school had on our hunters. They too, now understood why we chose to support this little country school on the banks of the Great Fish River.

 

Their support would provide funding for stationary and sporting equipment as well as a new well for drinking water. The existing well had not been in any kind of working order since the late 1960’s, with scholars collecting water from the river each day. A comprehensive solar plant was installed to provide electricity and a computer for the very first time in the schools history. The day when the lights went on things changed for the kids of our community. Words cannot describe the appreciation and gratitude towards these amazing folks. Thank you is the least we can say. Over and over and over.

With Mr. Rich and Mrs. Lynah’s work completed at the school they set off with PH, Ed Wilson, and tracker, Bongani, on the hunt for plains game. A Kudu, Bushbuck and Nyala were three BIG priorities for Rich. The spirals fascinated him and he was determined to work hard at hunting quality trophies on the desired spirals.

He duly did so and then made the most of a number of specialized Karoo species up in the north. Rich’s Gemsbuck in particular was one he worked extremely hard for, with the Springbuck being a certain must when hunting in South Africa.

His Sable however stole the show in more ways than one. Once a hunter lays eyes on the most striking and majestic of all on the plains it can be hard not to be in utter awe of these immense animals.

A superb bull it proved to be.

As for Stephen Beaudet and PH, Rusty Coetzer, it would be a collection of specialized East Cape species. They concentrated a fair majority of their efforts up in the Great Karoo, hunting the classics such as Gemsbuck, Springbuck and Hartman’s Zebra.

Stephen’s Gemsbuck in particular proved to be one of the picks from the safari amongst the guides. The sheer size of the bulls body combined with fantastic mass from bases to tips made him one impressive bull.

His Wildebeest, both black and blue, were hardy old bulls well past their prime on the downhill slope of life. Perfectly placed shots did the job on his Wildebeest while his collection of Springbuck was of top quality. Some cold and windy conditions added to the challenge, but the Gunwerks system came into its own once again delivering the goods.

As for Stephen’s Hartman’s Zebra… judge it for yourself. Just a gigantic stallion to say the least.

Jason and Lena Goodale together with PH, Martin Neuper, had a later start than the rest of the group. The Goodale’s had some pending business to wrap up prior to their arrival in Africa which took longer than expected, but they still made it out which we were most grateful for. Their time was limited but by the end of day two one would never have thought they’d arrived a couple of days late.

Two great East Cape Kudu bulls were in the salt before we knew it and they were out putting the hammer down on the rest of the competition. We could hardly keep up with them as they truly made the most of their limited time.

With our hunters hard at it and satisfied smiles around the dinner table greeting us each evening we thought it best we started hunting ourselves and get going on putting the new Revic through its paces in Africa.

Aaron and I don’t plan much anymore these days, we both know what we have hunted before, but we’re always open to an upgrade. Some of our previous trophies will more than likely be quite impossible to upgrade on, but we never rule out anything when it comes to our time together each year. The big bonus however was having James Christianson along.

For James it would be a first trip to Africa, and I’d be lying if I wasnt quietly envious of what that must have felt like.

James, like most, wanted a Kudu, Gemsbuck, and Zebra, with anything else being a bonus along the way. We hunted hard for his Zebra and then made the most of an old goat shed on his Kudu. A brute of a Warthog boar with only one tusk would be James’s final animal in Africa, but not before an epic hunt for Gemsbuck and a proper Springbuck at Niel’s up in the Great Karoo.

As for Aaron… Well we did find a piano out in the middle of a field one morning. A strange sight it was which inevitably led us to a great Caracal with the hounds.

Aaron finally got his long-awaited Bushpig after some serious commitment on a cold winters night. We’d been putting it off for a number of years now, but our trail cameras edged us on to make it happen this year.

The smiles from both Aaron and Clayton said it all. Here was one of the true monsters for 2018. Bushpig hunting can be such a hit and a miss at times, and no matter how much prep goes into it, there always seems to be a new challenge that arrises.

Towards the end of the first groups leg we got our Copper Springbuck up at Niel’s. A ram that ended up surprising everyone, including Niel. Talk about some “ground growth”. With a few of the most specialized East Cape species in the salt, and our list of “dont haves” becoming shorter by the day I knew we were in for a few tough hunts for the remaining leg of Aaron’s hunt. But first we would say goodbye to a truly remarkable group of hunters….

These people came to Africa to hunt, but left leaving so much more than just their footprint on the conservation of our wildlife. The impact of their contributions will be something spoken about for many years to come. We salute you and your desire to assist us in making a difference. You are not merely hunters and conservationists, you’re custodians of our hunting heritage.

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.

Read Full Post »

Part 3 Chris’ Story – Journey of a safari addict writing a new chapter

This is the last of the series of blogs by the “Three Amigos”.  It is my story about my journey on my safaris, about friendship and returning to Africa to write a much-needed new chapter of my journey in life.  And oh yes, it is about an amazing buffalo hunt.

The journey of friendship …

I met an incredible young man in 2007.  He was our PH on our first safari.  At the “tender” age of 24, he had already taken over the mantle of running the family’s safari business.  I had children older than Carl van Zyl, and I couldn’t fathom any of them taking over and running a business as complex as John X Safaris.  One thing for sure, his passion was both boundless and infectious.

They say that once you are bitten by the “safari bug” you can’t help but being drawn back to Africa.   Carl was the major reason we came back the very next year to celebrate our 35th Wedding Anniversary on safari in 2008.   From teaching my wife to shoot and hunt, to arranging fantastic photographic game drives for me, Carl was the consummate host in personalizing our experiences over the years.   Simply put, we were not “clients”, we became members of the Van Zyl family.

Carl and I sharing our Kudu experience in 2007. Notice that in 2007 we were both much younger and Carl’s old Jack Russel, Jack, was very much on the scene still!

Despite 30+ years difference in age, Carl and I bonded as friends who could talk about anything, including business.  Very few young people in their 20s will listen to an “old guy” about branding and marketing.   But Carl was different.   He was open, hungry and enthusiastic.   Over the next decade, we worked together on web sites, social media, safari books, and everything imaginable to build the John X brand.

From the very beginning, Carl had an uncanny instinct about what he wanted to create.  He often quoted the statistics about the thousands of outfitters competing for “clients”.  Carl wanted more than clients.  Carl’s passion was making John X different by focusing on the total experience.   Yes clients talk about their hunts, but the passionate remember the experience of being on safari and what they felt.  For Carl, John X would become all about how you felt about your “experience”.

You always remember the experiences and what you felt around the campfire … especially when you’re dancing with best friends and Craig Boddington’s family!

My return a decade later to see “vision come to life”

John X Safaris has been led by Carl for the past decade, but when the family bought their new base “Woodlands Safari Estate” at the end of 2016, Carl simply declared that I had to come back to see the latest developments.   He wanted me to experience what had been built over the last decade, and his vision of where it will go in the next decade.   How could I refuse a friend and family?

Needing to write a new chapter

After 35 years in my business, I grew stale.   Simply put I was not having any fun anymore.  I was dreading some of the upcoming life changes related to my retirement and closing down my business.  One of my daughters sent me a motivational quote …

My daughter was right.  I hadn’t written any new chapters in quite a while.  Nothing like getting off the grid to do some “editing of life’s perspective” in Africa.   With Carl’s compelling offer of a “life changing experience”, 2018 became the perfect time for a safari.   I followed my daughter’s advice and decided I needed to write a new chapter. What better way to do it than to celebrate your 66th birthday in Africa on safari!

Fulfilling the ultimate challenge as a hunter

For me and my wife, 2008 was a banner safari year for some amazing plains game trophies.  In typical fashion, I said that we were “done”, and that I was now going to focus on photography.

At one of those amazing campfire experiences on the 2008 safari Carl simply said:  “My friend you are never done with Africa … you have not yet experienced all she has to offer.  You must experience the “Tiny Ten”!  And, you haven’t lived until you have faced “Black Death” on his turf – I will make sure that you will come back for cape buffalo!”

Carl was right.  I had become a safari addict, and I did come back with family and friends.  Along the way I managed to collect a magnificent eland, klippy and even the elusive blue duiker.  Over the course of those hunts our friendship grew deeper.

Carl even acquiesced and participated in some of my passions for photography.  In the spirit of creating the ultimate personalized photo experience, Carl personally drove me on a road trip of 13+ hours to the Kalahari to photograph the famous black mane lions of the desert.

Nothing matches the photographic experience of capturing a pair of mating lions in the Kalahari Desert.

When 2018 rolled around, Carl said that photography was all well and good, but that I needed to get my passion back for a real hunting experience.   And since I had been talking about “new chapters”, he knew the perfect way to do that – cape buffalo hunting at Woodlands.

There is hunting … and then there is cape buffalo hunting.

The safari of 2018 was a decade of planning with Carl, but it was actually 6 decades in the making.   I started bird hunting with my father at age 6.   There is something about growing up in the outdoors with family that is difficult to explain.   It is the culmination of all those experiences that form an incredible bond, and adrenalin rush to be in the field.  Carl knew me all too well and said that I needed to get that passion back.

However, he also prepared me for hunting buffalo.   He stared in my eyes and said …

“Chris, you must understand that hunting cape buffalo is serious stuff.  You must be fully dedicated and focused.  It is nothing like hunting kudu.  When hunting buffalo, you will see me and the other PHs go into “another zone”.   Buffalo are called “black death” for a reason, and we will be hunting them in the bush at maybe 20 to 50 yards.  I am passionate to take you, but you must take this experience very seriously.”

I don’t think that anyone is quite prepared for what it feels like up close with a dugga boy on his turf!

Ok!  Carl had my full attention.   He spent serious time with me on the range with the 375 H&H I was to use.  And I was dead serious about practicing what I needed to do. To say that it was a different hunt from the get-go would be an understatement.

I only had three requests of Carl:

  1. I did not want to just shoot a buffalo, I wanted to really hunt him on his turf.
  2. I just wanted a real experience; I did not measure it by taking a trophy.
  3. I did not come to Africa to die hunting buffalo.

I was certainly going to test John X Safaris moto of “catering to hunters of all ages and abilities”.  Due to recent health issues, I’m not the nimblest of foot.   Carl does not control where to find the buffalo, and they were in the deepest cover.  But he was incredibly patient in helping make the stalks possible for me through some difficult terrain.

Day 1 – The Buffalo Encounter

Many of the hunting shows depict hunts across vast plains and savannah.   Woodlands is entirely different. It is comprised of steep hills and ravines filled with brush.  And the herds stay in the dense stuff.  It took the better part of the first day just to find any buffalo.  I’m told that many buffalo hunts in this area can require a minimum of 5 days or more to even have an opportunity.

On the first day we finally found buffalo in the afternoon.  Carl was very patient and after a couple of hours stalking we were in a position above the herd about 110 yards away.  The big bull was bedded down and all we had to do was wait for him to get up when the herd moved.   After sitting in position for about 20 minutes a kudu cow rocketed out below us as the wind shifted slightly, busting past the herd.   Busted … buffalo flew everywhere.

In retrospect, I’m actually glad it happened that way.  It is classic to have something bust a herd.   And somehow it would not have been quite the same intense experience of being over 100 yards away sitting on a ledge above them.  Exciting, but not up close and personal as I had imagined.

Day 2 – Buffalo up close and very personal!

So you would think it would be easy to come back the next day and find the buffalo… NOT!   It took even longer the next day to find a herd, and it was probably a different one.   The stalk was even longer.   Carl finally whispered to me sternly:  “Stay focused – we are literally going to be in the herd!”

When Carl said “close” I don’t think even he realized how close.  We could see different parts of buffalo through brush, no idea of telling how many.  You could literally smell them!   So in all of this mass confusion Carl had to determine if there was a shooter bull.

I don’t think either of us was prepared for what happened next.  A young bull came out walking right toward us … stopping maybe 7 yards away staring at us!   My heart definitely felt the pressure.  Somehow Carl had the presence of mind to get the young bull to turn before he smelled us.

I don’t know how but he got us in position and me up on sticks. There was an opening of maybe 3 yards for a shot.  Carl literally had to make the call in less than two seconds and I then had to make the shot.   It was literally all a blur in slow motion … I managed to get a shot off before he disappeared.  When that shot went off, buffalo literally flew out of the canyon everywhere!

Day 3 – Discretion is the better part of valor, and the power of teamwork

Despite my best efforts, the first shot was not where it needed to be … a bit too far back.  Carl got us in the position for a second shot, but it was through some brush.  Dust flew and it looked like he fell, but made it to a ravine.   Carl made the right call:  “It’s growing dark, he is dark black … and night is not the time to pursue him on his turf”.

While the adrenaline rush was incredible, the agony soon set in.  How could I have missed the perfect shot at 25 yards?  Will we ever find him?   It is doubtful if I slept more than a couple of hours that night, and by morning light rain was falling on the roof of the lodge.   So I was sure that all sign would be gone and the buffalo would be lost.

Carl assembled his best team the next morning, and everyone had their game face on.  It has been mentioned many times, but to experience what trackers can do is amazing!  They found the tracks where the buffalo had stumbled and followed him through all the other tracks of the herd.   He actually hadn’t gone more than a couple hundred yards.

And then there was Bongo, Carl’s amazing Jack Russel.  I have grown up with Bongo on safari over the years, first his dad, Jack, and now him.  Despite his age now, he charged the buffalo and had him at bay in short order.   It was such a relief made possible by an incredible team.  Until that buffalo is down, there is no calm, even for an experienced PH…

Epilogue – The Power of feeling alive and writing new chapters

I could write more about my final hunt at John X Safaris.  But suffice it to say that Carl arranged a very special hunt after the buffalo for a majestic sable.  Just he and I together, alone like many hunts before.  It was that special touch of a unique experience that would complete the bond we have built over a decade.

A Sable for the ages..

I would rather use the remaining space to share some highlights of how truly special the John X team is at creating an experience beyond expectation.   Carl’s sister Lee runs a truly high class lodge, and she arranged a surprise birthday celebration that was most appreciated!

Special thanks to Lee for a special birthday on safari, and all that you did to make our safari a 5 Star Experience!

The John X PHs are the consummate professional with incredible hunting talents.  They also become your friends for life!   Stix (aka Ross Hoole) found out it was my birthday and brought his bagpipes to my birthday party, complete with full Scottish kilt.  I cannot begin to describe the feeling of hearing Stix play the magnificent Scottish ballads on the pipes around the campfire!

Thank you Stix! Who else has a bagpipe serenade on their 66th birthday from an amazing PH in full Scottish regalia!

And then there are the Lombards!   We had never met them before arriving to hunt in their magnificent mountain camp.  Louwrence was the consummate host.  His wife Jeanette literally drove untold hours on mountain roads in order to have a bottle of champagne and flutes available to toast a birthday of a stranger they had never met!  I will never forget these new friends and how I felt being toasted on my birthday at their campfire in the mountains.

Mission Accomplished – New chapter written and editing life my story as we speak

There are many reasons to go on safari, and hunting is certainly one of them.  Carl has a vision of creating an unmatched safari that you “feel” when you experience it.  He has already achieved his John X mission of creating a safari experience which is unmatched.  I can’t imagine what he will achieve in the next decade.

And then a toast to The Three Amigos on Safari – We had an adventure filled with memories that will not be forgotten!

I have completely written a new chapter in my life, with an indelible experience with my best buddies.  As I was leaving camp I thanked Carl for my “last great safari”.   He simply said:  “Don’t be so sure my friend … there are new chapters to be written and edited.”   Based upon my last decade with Carl, I would bet that he is probably right … my last chapter on safari has not yet been written.   Thank you my friend for everything!

Trust the next chapter, because I know the author!

Chris, Admitted safari addict with a whole new chapter on the journey of life

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

As what has become something of a tradition over the past five years, we welcomed back Aaron Davidson and a number of Gunwerks customers during early June.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mike Kaelin and Murphy McHugh teamed up with PH, Greg Hayes, with the Enlow’s joining, Ross “Stix” Hoole. Maurice Nasr from Australia joined Michael LaBazzo forming a formidable team with PH, Martin Neuper. As per usual Aaron teamed up with PH, Carl van Zyl, but this time around we had our old hunting partner, Garrett Wall, back again after having missed our 2016 hunt.

From that first afternoon on the range the entire group made the most of not only the hunting, but the day-to-day experiences with their Gunwerks rifles. It has been said that a day in Africa with your long-range rifle acutes to a year anywhere else around the world. One just doesn’t get that amount of setups, glassing  vistas, and shooting platforms to gain invaluable experience. Combine these attributes with the fact that opportunities are unlimited, allowing the hunters to make the right decisions on what game to pursue in order to make an ethical kill, or to pass – it makes for an experience second to none.

Having checked all the rifles on the range, happy with the way they had traveled, we decided to introduce the guys to Woodlands Safari Estate. For myself personally it was an opportunity to share our new base with Aaron and Garrett. I wanted to climb the escarpment, to a certain viewpoint that provides a view of the greater property.What unfolded in a matter of mere minutes before sundown set us, and the entire group, up for a great eight days of hunting.

It was the kind of start that dreams are made of…

The crew from Got The Shot Productions have selected a few of the highlights to share with all you fellow long-range enthusiasts. Enjoy the action – it was non-stop!

Another memorable safari it turned out to be with new friends joining the Gunwerks and John X families.  So many great days were shared out in the field, with the common denominator being the smiles on the guys faces giving a good account of how much they enjoyed themselves.

We’ll be doing it again next year! Join the Gunwerks crew to Africa, the first date is already sold out and there’s only a last few remaining slots left in our second group for 2018.

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.

 

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The setting was spectacular…

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

With our season in full swing I found myself around the camp fire at our new base, Woodlands Safari Estate, in deep conversation with an old friend from the US. He and I have shared many a camp fire across four of Southern Africa’s premiere hunting destinations, having hunted most of the big 5. We were reliving many of those hunts, when he came to the conclusion, that while each of those experiences were amazing in their own right, at times they lacked variety. It was not that they didn’t live up to expectation, but more so the question of “IF” one would return on a second or third hunt to any one of those destinations without having to repeat the same species or the same experiences. Here he was back in the East Cape on his 4th hunt with us, and still he had not experienced everything on offer.

Since then it got me thinking, of course all are familiar with our infamous plains game hunts in the East Cape, not to mention the Cape Buffalo hunting which is gaining a huge reputation as we speak. I thought about how best to share what we were talking about, and came up with a few recent hunts over the past two months at John X Safaris.

The bird hunting in the East Cape is nothing like Argentina or the Dakota’s in the US, but they’re an experience of variety on their own. The Tzavellos family from Greece were after a safari that would entail bird hunting, as well as a Big 5 photographic experience, and a tour down the Garden Route to Cape Town.

They started off their hunt from the coast, staying at Sibuya Game Reserve for the Big 5 up close and personal, giving those who wanted to view game the opportunity to do so on morning or evening game drives, while at the same time giving Apostollos the opportunity at birds on nearby concessions.

From the coast they headed north to the Great Karoo, staying at Samara Private Game Reserve. Samara is a beautiful reserve located on the outskirts of Graaf-Reinett with vistas stretching over the horizon as far as the eye can see. Irini, Elini, and Stelios, joined Appstollos for a day in the mountains above 6000 feet for Grey Wing Partridge over English Pointer.

Tim van Heerden and his hard-working Pointers are a sight to behold.Nothing quite prepares you as one is often caught in mere awe of these amazing dogs.

From the Karoo it was onto Mossel Bay and a meander down to Cape Town along the Garden Route.

Finally saying good-bye to Africa from the slopes of Table Mountain.

From birds, Big 5, and touring we got cracking on one of our most successful concepts to date. We take youth hunting serious. In fact we believe it’s so important for the future of hunting that we’re willing to put our money where our mouths are at. Since 2007 we’ve been promoting #gettingtheyouthhuntingatjxs . Our theory is quite simple, if you’re willing to buy him/her a flight to Africa, we’ll comp the day fee! It has been ten years since that first season of getting more youngsters on safari to Africa and to date it has seen more than 50 youngsters falling in love with Africa and our hunting in the East Cape. It has been a success beyond words.

Arturo Jr on Safari…

Arturo Malo took us up on our offer, flying out from Mexico during May with his son, Arturo Jr. They were after a variety of plains game with either bow or rifle.

Arturo Sr proved that patience and endless perseverance combines well when you can handle a bow like a pro. A Waterbuck, Zebra, and Eland all fell to his bow, with his Eland being a particular favorite. A brute of an old bull, well beyond making it through this winter. The absolute perfect Eland to harvest.

Jr on the other hand was taking in every sight and sound that Africa had to offer.

As a father and son they came away enriched with their experience, with no distractions from the outside world, just one on one – connecting through hunting and the great outdoors.

Then to sum it up best one needs to look no further than two very special people who have become an integral part of our John X family. It’s not often that one has the opportunity to host a couple over a period extending more than a decade. Try adding in four countries plus six return trips to the East Cape, and you get the picture. John and Lynn Nowlin joined us on their 10th safari this season. A privilege and compliment that we pride ourselves on.

By this stage they’ve hunted just about everything on offer, so a Barbary Sheep in the mountains of the north proved to be a big interest on this particular safari.

Hunting these weary sheep are a challenge not taken lightly and one any hunter would revel in.

While the sheep and a number of plains game species would be of interest to Mr. John, it was the quest for a big Kudu that would be the focus.

It has been the Nowlin’s focus for more than ten years to hunt a Kudu of magnitude proportion. They have hunted numerous bulls, with a number reaching that magical 55″ mark, but a bull closer to 60″ has eluded them over the years. After all they’re not called the grey ghosts for nothing…

We had found an area along the Great Kei River that had introduced Southern Greater Kudu more than twenty years ago, and with an extremely strict management plan, offering a mere two trophies a year, had seen monsters coming from this area in the past few years. The area is owned by the Rance family, who kindly offered us one of the two tags for 2017, the other as per tradition was reserved for their family.

The terrain is steep and the vegetation thick, offering both hunter and Kudu an environment to thrive in.

Numerous bulls were spotted from day one, with many giving the hunters serious headaches on passing or hunting. Decisions.. decisions…

And then after scratching their heads for long and often enough, Ed made the call…

And 10 safaris all came into one for not only the Nowlin’s, but Ed and I too.

It has been their quest for so long, and it has given us sleepless nights trying to achieve the ultimate goal, like we do for every single one of our hunters, to finally achieve what we had hoped for.

59 1/8′” – A Southern Greater Kudu of magnitude proportion.

A hunt for a Kudu like this comes around once in ten safaris. It’s not your everyday kind of opportunity, but it proved what my friend and I were discussing around the camp fire. What the Tzavellos family and the Malo’s experienced were two different safaris on their own, and if the Nowlin’s could hunt the East Cape on six different occasions, and re-booked for a 7th during 2018, then that my friend tells us..The East Cape is no ordinary safari destination.

Will we see you during 2018?

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.

Read Full Post »

There’s something profoundly exciting for even the most seasoned of African travelers when staring down at ones boarding pass for the day….Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg… A short lay over and then onto Libreville, Gabon, and finally onto Douala, Cameroon.

For Jeff Edland and Luther Dietrich, my friends from North Dakota, in the United States, it would take more than a day.  For them it would be Fargo to Minneapolis, then an international leg onto Paris, France, before catching the Air France connection to Douala to meet up with us.

Ahmadu, our driver, a tall man from the Fulbe tribe, and Simon our translator, were waiting for us upon arrival. Passport control and customs turned out to be another interesting take on a first world concept, practiced by locals in a third world country –  neither sure how or why they were required to perform the duties they were expected to perform. Let’s face it, a small booth in a large terminal manned by an individual staring at a blank screen pretending the computer’s power cord is somehow connected via blue tooth doesn’t instill the world of confidence in the system or concept. Maybe it’s job creation – who knows? Either way, there was no doubting, we had arrived in west Africa.

The locals are friendly, smiles abound, with a French dialect adding a certain sense of exoticness to the destination when spoken by Africans. The atmosphere of a busy African city is electrifying set upon a humid and stuffy climate. Modern skyscrapers play neighbors to run down slums. Small market vendors line the sidewalks, while the infamous Marche de Fleur ( Flower Market) takes a traditional African market to the next level. Anything from exotic reptiles sourced in the tropics, to grave robbed masks, and century old stone figures, are combined with aggressively negotiating Africans, making for one crazy shopping experience. Don’t go if you’re not willing to batter, it’s an age-old African custom, one they consider essential in every purchase.

From Douala we caught the Camair flight to N’Gaoundare where we were met by an old friend and Professional Hunter, Mike Currie. Mike was the reason we were in west Africa. I had the privilege of sharing a couple of seasons with him when he joined us in the East Cape some years ago, and ever since had become great friends. He had first come to west Africa in 2005, starting with Club Faune in CAR, before moving to Cameroon after the rise and spike of activities by the Sudanese Ivory poachers had reached its climax in 2007. Like Mike says, it’s was no fun tracking Giant Eland to a chorus of AK47 rounds popping in the background. He moved just in time.

From Ngadoura we started our journey north, traveling via road, dropping off from the Adamaoa Plateau heading towards the Chadean border. A 7 + hour journey on something that resembled roads, going at no more than 40 miles/hour, proved to be an experience of its own. Our bearing was set for the Djibao hunting concession, neighboring the eastern boundary of the Bouba Njida National Park.

The area is made up of Terminalia Woodland, with either a rock base or clay surface that has been baked rock hard by the blistering sun or countless bush fires. Large earthworms push rounded mounds, very similar in size to a golf ball, which scatters the landscape, making for interesting walking. The Lord Derby or Giant Eland, together with Roan, Nigerian Bohor Reedbuck, Western Kob, Harnessed Bushbuck, Western Hartebeest, Oribi, North-West Buffalo, Warthog, Red-flanked Duiker and Western Bush Duiker call the area home.

Evenings are pleasant with cool mornings, before temperatures start spiking towards midday. Each day will see the gauge read 100+ Fahrenheit, with the only respite coming once the Harmaton from the Sahara desert settles in. The dust fills the air in a haze of white blocking out the sun, giving the place the atmosphere of a semi-lunar eclipse. One could be forgiven for thinking the moon was up instead of the sun, with only the  excruciating heat jolting one back to reality.

Millions of sweat bees follow both man and beast, attracted to anything with a slight glint to its surface. The irritation factor varies in scale from moderate to highly irritating on any given day. That combined with the heat, hazed dust cloud, and the burning breeze makes for one challenging setting. Never the less that is what makes everything worth while when spotting your first Giant Eland. The moment takes your breath away… it is truly a watershed one.

Nothing, not even the hundreds of pictures and limited available videos studied beforehand, could possibly prepare one for it. It is said that in life the journey is often far greater than the destination. That is most certainly true, but my fellow hunters, Luther and Jeff, will agree, that the destination is just as sweet when it came to our quest for Giant Eland.

This was no ordinary hunt. It is not for everyone, neither will anyone be able to take this hunt on successfully without being able to withstand serious heat, long days, and great distances on the feet each day. It has been our dream in the making for the past four years. Enjoy it… It has been one rewarding journey…

Special thanks must go out to Mike Currie, without Mike none of this would have been possible. I would also go as far as recommending that anyone foreign to west Africa should not take on a journey such as this without someone as experienced as Mike. Mike’s crew on the ground, consisting of our local PH, Churton Wright, who played a valuable role on this hunt, making for not only a good PH, but a highly entertaining one at that. Our driver, Jean-Benard, trackers, Amadu, Benjamin “Binoculars”, Bubba, and Basa. You gentleman take tracking to the next level. Thank you.

To Ozzy, the guy who arrived as a “green horn” cameraman a couple of years ago, to one of the best in the game today. Your filming and attitude to work, combined with your sense of adventure ensures there’s never a dull moment on the road. Thanks for your continued push to  getting the best shots on film time and again.

Last but not least, to three special friends, Brett Nelson, whom could not make it, then Luther Dietrich and Jeff Edland, you guys epitomize not giving up. When we reached 96 Kilometers of tracking after 13 days, with both Eland finally in the salt, we all knew how deep you had dug to achieve each of your goals. It has been a pleasure guiding you for the past ten years, and I’m privileged to know I’ll be guiding you for many more. Thank you for the trust. Thank you for the friendship. We did it.

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: