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Posts Tagged ‘Great Karoo’

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

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

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

We present The Manor at Woodlands Safari Estate….

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

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

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

First a Lechwe in the 28″ + class..

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

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

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

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

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

One could say she found the best trophy of all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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