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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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As one meanders through the maze that is an outdoor show today, and one researches the internet or the various social media platforms looking at the variety of options available to the hunter, you could be forgiven for feeling slightly overwhelmed. Let’s face it, the risk vs reward on what you spend and what you get for your precious time away from your “real world” and your hard-earned dollars play a major role in the decisions you make. You want the very best experience that you can afford, yet you’d like to feel the reward at a level much higher than what money can truly buy.

Why Africa?

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

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

Why John X Safaris and not the Competition?

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

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

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

We’ve got a lot to offer….

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

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

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

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

So what should I hunt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Differentiator

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

Want to join us on safari?

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

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

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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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