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Posts Tagged ‘GunWerked’

“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.

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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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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

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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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While out on safari up in the high country with Gunwerks owner, Aaron Davidson, during our 2015 safari, the topic of having a Gunwerks rifle in camp came up once again. Having witnessed the class and precision of their rifles, combined with an amazing user-friendly shooting system that simplifies the complicated science of long-range shooting, the matter of getting my very own Gunwerks rifle to Africa became a goal for 2016.

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With the help of Aaron and Garrett I picked out my choice gun during SCI’s annual Convention in Las Vegas – My gun was finally coming home to Africa.

Welcoming back the crew and my Gunwerks rifle to Africa

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As late July rolled in so too did Aaron with his sons, Danner and Derec Davidson, as well as Gunwerks customers, John Benbow, Sultan Kawarit, Paul Baird, and the Gardiner family.

For Aaron it would be a traditional return joining me on safari for what has become a highlight in my calendar each year. Knowing each other so well and enjoying so much of the same, we have built an enjoyable friendship through our adventures and time on the show circuit each year.

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This years hunt would prove to be a special one, as together with him, he brought his sons, Danner and Derec, for their first taste of Africa.

Some torrid cold conditions put the boys through their paces on the first few days up in the Karoo, but credit to them as they stuck it out and soon started mastering challenging conditions overhead. From huddling around a small camp fire with the trackers trying to keep out of the snow and cold, to blistering winds, and finally beautiful sunny days, giving the boys a bit of everything Africa could throw at them. And when it turned the boys turned up the heat with some world-class shots!

Of course Aaron got in on the action too, but it was not until we got back south to the coast that he and I finally found the kind of Warthog we’d been after for many years. It all kind of happened by sure coincidence, but we’ll take our luck everyday of the week! On previous safaris we had always concentrated on numerous species, with a Warthog never proving to be a priority. Over time a pig became somewhat of a priority, and more so – a big pig.

We had passed up a number of shooters over the years, but this time there was no second guessing.

We had passed up a number of shooters over the years, but this time there was no second guessing. A “Boss Hog” finally hit the salt!

Aaron’s Warthog proved to be his final trophy of the hunt, while the boys continued on in style harvesting Cape Bushbuck, Warthog and Zebra. Both the shots on the Cape Bushbuck and Warthog were fantastic setups with great natural shooting platforms due to the nature and the lay of the land, while the Zebra on our last day allowed the boys to get in close, once again proving the versatility of the Gunwerks system.

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While Aaron and the boys were enjoying every minute of their family hunt, so too was first timer John Benbow who joined the crew teaming up with Professional Hunter, Dave Burcy. John and Dave hit it off from day one going about their hunt in a quiet way, bringing home pretty loud trophies each evening.

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Each morning they’d head into the hills…

And each evening their quality spoke for itself…

It seemed this team had a trick up their sleeve each time someone else brought in something really good. What has become tradition over the years, has seen the team of Professional Hunters choose the best trophy hunted during the Gunwerks safari each season. The criteria is not set in stone, but the specie/animal hunted must carry the attributes of a gold medal class animal for that particular specie.

And so it came as no surprise that John hunted the trophy of the safari - A magnificent 43" Sable.

And so it came as no surprise that John hunted the trophy of the safari – A magnificent 43″ Sable.

Sultan Kawarit had previously hunted the East Cape, but this would be his first taste of what John X Safaris has to offer.

Sultan had previously hunted with PH, Martin Neuper, and was ecstatic to hear that Martin had joined our team, once again teaming up for another safari.

Sultan had hunted with PH, Martin Neuper, before and was ecstatic to hear that Martin had joined our team.

The two of them set out to not only tackle a variety of plains game, but a couple of mountain dwellers too. On Sultan’s previous safari he had hunted a number of species, so this time round he was after not only variety, but quality too. He had arrived at the right destination. The quality of Sultan’s trophies speak volumes of our areas, while the experiences provided by Martin will be lasting memories for both of them.

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There was however one particular hunt that will never be forgotten by all involved. The guys were after Klipspringer and had headed into the hills with a lunch pack for the day.

By mid-morning they had found a couple of pairs, but a heavy mist with sleet rain blew in from the north, covering them in a blanket of white and cold.

By mid-morning they had found a couple of pairs, but a heavy mist with sleet rain blew in from the north, covering them and the Klipspringer in a blanket of white and cold.

For three hours they held their position having identified a shooter ram. When the weather blew over the ram provided a shot at 480 yards.

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What a shot – What an effort – What a memory!

Sultan’s hunt proved to be a massive success with his Cape Eland over 1100 yards being one of the best and longest shots of the safari. While Sultan was pushing hard providing a competitive challenge to the rest of the hunters, it was Paul Baird, hunting with PH, Greg Hayes, and the Gardiner family guided by PH, Rusty Coetzer, that left us amazed.

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Paul was the first and only man whom we have ever seen taking long-range shots off standing sticks, and doing so successfully time and again. His confidence was a treat to observe – it’s hard not to admire a man who puts in that kind of practice and then to enjoy his success with him when the results pay off.

As for the Gardiner family consisting of Todd Sr, Alex, Gabriel and Todd-Gerald – these guys had very little to no experience with the Gunwerks system, let alone any long-range practice prior to their arrival. Their success and the speed at which they gained confidence once again proved why Gunwerks remains one of the best, if not the best, system in the long-range market.

With this being their first hunt to Africa – a great occasion to say the least – they booked GTS Productions to capture their experiences on film. Enjoy the journey with them and relive the emotions of what proved to be an exciting ten days with John X Safaris.

#GunWerked during 2016

It seems the more we use, enjoy, and hunt with the Gunwerks system, the more we take for granted. It has become the norm to accept that every single last Gunwerks rifle that has ever joined John X Safaris on a hunt has far exceeded our and our hunters expectations in not only precision results, but rewarding experiences for those who have had the privilege to shoot these amazing rifles. The fact that a seasoned long-range hunter or a beginner such as myself can achieve a certain level of success within a limited period of time speaks volumes for the system. That alone is a remarkable feat by Aaron and his entire team at Gunwerks, and for that they need to be congratulated.

I see the new #tag sporting the waves reads #GunWerked – Let’s rephrase that to #GunWerked2011,  #GunWerked2012,  #GunWerked2013,  #GunWerked2014,  #GunWerked2015  … And I can assure you #GunWerked once again in Africa during 2016. Take my word for it, I’m not merely guiding hunters enjoying the system – I’m shooting my very own Gunwerks 7 mm LRM.

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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