Posts Tagged ‘Mountain Hunting’

Part 2 Randy’s Story – The great lechwe and unexpected adventures

This is the second in the series by The Three Amigos.  As organizer of the great buffalo adventure, I started by recruiting Randy.  I met Randy by virtue of his marriage to Cherie, who is my wife’s niece.  Randy uses the term that we are “Family” – Great friends who happen to be family.  Over the past decade we have grown to be best of friends and hunting buddies.

After years of John X stories, we finally convinced Randy and Cherie to join us on their first safari in 2011.  They were hooked after that, with memories of epic hunts for kudu and gemsbok.  Their first experiences called them back to Africa a few years later for more hunting, incredible photographic experiences, and the very special camaraderie found at sundowners and around the safari campfires.

Nothing like learning to play African drums around a safari campfire! At the end of the day it is the perfect place to share stories of hunts and all that has been experienced during the day.

When I finally decided to fulfill my decade long dream of hunting a buffalo with Carl at John X Safaris, Randy was all in, especially for a “guy’s adventure”.   He immediately went to work on selling Mike to be the third member of Three Amigos on Safari.  Here’s Randy’s story of his adventures and of why John X Safaris keeps pulling you back to Africa.

Randy’s Story – A monster lechwe, and unforeseen opportunities

Going on safari with John X Safaris is always special, but what made my 3rd safari even more memorable was that I got to experience it with my two best friends, Mike and Chris.  When Chris started talking about a buffalo hunt in our safari room sessions, I was definitely all in on what would become a safari of a lifetime.

Chris, the main instigator of the Three Amigos, created a WhatsApp group prior to our departure from the US, so that we could share the entire experience with friends and family back in Nebraska.  It completely changed our safari experience.  It was as if everyone back home were right there with us, including the celebrations after the sun set on some amazing hunts.

The Three Amigos toasting one of the many great hunts was just one of the many photos shared with family and friends back home on our WhatsApp group. The family really enjoyed “almost being there” through the photos and daily updates.

Everyone back home was amazed at the quality of the trophies that the Three Amigos “put in the salt “.  We shared pictures of our hunts – beginning with Chris’s cape buffalo, and ending with the most beautiful sundowner that you could possibly imagine.  In between, Mike was able to take a brute of a warthog, a fantastic kudu, an unbelievable bushbuck, and finished with a magnificent gemsbok taken with an impressive 450 yard shot.  Needless to say, I have a few adventures of my own to share.

The new lodge at the Woodlands Safari Estate is truly 5 Star in every respect … especially the food and superb service!

Everyone back home was anxious to see pictures of Woodlands, Carl’s new camp. Having been with John X Safaris twice before I didn’t know what to expect with Carl’s new place, but I can honestly tell you that it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I liked it even better than before.  The intimacy of the camp, the quality of the accommodations and the food made us feel like we were at a five-star resort.  Lee and her staff did an incredible job to make everyone feel welcome. (Just be careful when you have a drink in the bar as you may start singing and dancing into the wee hours of the morning!)

Dream mountain hunts – a huge red lechwe & fallow deer stag in the rut

Everyone goes to Africa with a wish list of what they want to hunt most.  I managed to check one off the list and harvest a nice warthog along the Great Fish River.  However, at the top of my list was a red lechwe.   We had spent some days at Woodlands hunting in and around the region while Chris hunted for buffalo, before we headed north to a new area Carl recently signed up. My PH for this leg of our trip would be Louwrence, who personally guided me on his magnificent property in the mountains.  Even more special were the hours spent stalking with him while learning about the proud history of the land and the vision Louwrence and Carl had for this area in the future.

I was “over the moon” being able to harvest a spectacular lechwe with Louwrence.

Having enjoyed every moment of my lechwe hunt I soon turned my attention to my second priority, a fallow deer.  What made this hunt uniquely different from every other experience in Africa, was being able to hunt in the rut and hearing the stags literally “roar” around you as the valleys echoed in chorus.  In fact, if it had not been for the sounds of the stags in the rut, we probably would not have been able to find my stag.  It’s was an amazing experience being able hunt all alone with Louwrence who not only guides, but explains everything happening along the way.

A fallow deer is an underrated trophy often overlooked in Africa … it is an amazing hunt when stags are in full rut.

Always be open to unforeseen opportunities!

By my third safari with John X I have learned two key principles.  First, always trust your PH!  They are literally out there every day and know what makes a great trophy and a great hunt.  Second, be open to unforeseen opportunities that are not expected.   When Carl spotted a mountain reedbuck that he deemed a real trophy, it was time to take advantage of the unexpected and hunt a unique mountain species not originally on my priority list.

An unforeseen opportunity resulted in a mountain reedbuck, a great trophy that should not be overlooked.

I was fortunate to have hunted with Carl as my PH for my first African trophy, a magnificent kudu.  In subsequent hunts, I’ve been with the other great PHs from John X Safaris.  All of them are the consummate professionals, and it was great to experience their knowledge and skills on the various hunts that were all very different.

What was really unexpected on this safari was the opportunity one morning to go on a hunt with Carl for a nyala.   While I had considered a nyala, I didn’t think I would have an opportunity to hunt with Carl for one in his “own backyard” at Woodlands.  So I jumped at the chance. 

A chess match with a magnificent nyala….

My nyala hunt with Carl began a little later than normal, which was a welcome change for this weary hunter.  Most days started with a 5:30 wake-up, breakfast at 6:00 and out the door by 6:30am.  However, on this day I was able to sleep in as Carl indicated the day before that he wanted full sunlight before we would begin glassing for Nyala.

Having spotted a group of Nyala from a distant ridge we made our way in the general direction of where we felt the Nyala may be heading. There were a series of waterholes along a river creek that were dammed up after the rain and with every yard closer our vantage and view grew smaller as the brush started towering out above us. Carl selected one of the taller trees in our vicinity and climbed it to get the best possible vantage to re-locate the group of Nyala that were spotted earlier.  After what seemed like an eternity Carl spotted what he described as a magnificent Nyala, and so the chess match was on!

We slowly stalked in the direction that the Nyala was moving towards only to realize after several minutes that he had circled back and gone the other way.  I didn’t know it then, but I would soon realize how lucky I was to get some extra rest that morning.

The next four hours was like a chess match.  We would move one way and he would counter our move and go in the opposite direction. To say that the hunt was a challenge would be an understatement. Back and forth through the brush to get set-up only to find that this Nyala was playing a different game than us.

As the stalk continued Carl looked at me and said I have a gut feeling and we need to move……right now!  Back again through the brush we went.  As we slowly approached the embankment to a small pond, Carl peeked over the edge to see if his gut feeling was telling the truth. 

Like I said before, always trust your PH, and this was no exception.  Carl slowly got the sticks in place and motioned for me to get next to him.  The next few moments were a blur……Nyala spotted…..gun on sticks…..deep breath…..checkmate……the Nyala of a lifetime. What an awesome experience and one that I will never forget!

A nyala of a lifetime taken after a marathon chess match of spot and stalk through the bush.

Unforeseen and even more fortunate was that Ozzy from Got the Shot Productions was able to go along and capture this amazing hunt on video.   I have not yet seen any of the video footage, but hopefully he captured some of the incredible action I’ve described.  I am literally waiting for my story to get published so that I can see the video and relive the thrill of the chase!

Special thanks to Carl for my fantastic hunt, and coordinating everything for the Three Amigos.   Lee and staff deserve special recognition for providing five star meals and accommodations.   To Louwrence we can’t thank you enough for our incredible mountain adventures!  A special thanks to Clayton, our Woodlands PH that spent hours with Mike and me on various hunts that were both memorable and exhausting at the same time.

It’s not all hunting … sometimes it is just kicking back and relishing all the safari moments with your Jack Russel!

And last but not least, a special shout out to the “Wizard of Ahs”, videographer Ozzy, who captured my nyala hunt on video.  No one knows how a guy carrying all that gear through the bush manages to be just in the right place every time, without ever disrupting the hunt.

Nothing beats a final sundowner to celebrate another adventure … the sundowner smiles say it all … Thanks John X!

John X, we will never forget everyone who made our safari so special.  You made the Adventures of The Three Amigos on Safari the best ever!  I’m already ordering a stock pile of the finest port for our safari rooms … there will many toasts to the unforgettable experiences at John X!

Forever a safari addict, Randy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Horizon Firearms Derrick Ratliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re interested in joining the Horizon Firearms crew to Africa during 2018 then join us for Africa night, Friday, 12 January 2018. We’ll be at their shop in College Station, TX, sharing further info and details on the hunt. Be a part of the story on their next great adventure to Africa.

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

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During the latter part of July, right towards the very end of the rut in the East Cape, we welcomed Cable Smith to John X Safaris and Africa for the very first time. Cable owns the Lone Star Outdoor radio show, broadcasting throughout Texas on various local radio stations weekly. He is a passionate man, an outdoor enthusiast who speaks his mind, fearless of anti-hunters and that fraternity, making him an invaluable asset to hunters right around the world.

Having met Cable via our great friends, Glynn Underwood and Steve Travis, at the Dallas Safari Club convention during 2015, we soon got talking about the Dark Continent. Cable had heard so much about the destination and his friends were adamant he had to get to Africa.

Soon plans were put in motion and before we knew it Cable had touched down in Africa, joining PH, Carl van Zyl and team, on safari in the East Cape.

Sporting his custom-built, Horizon Firearms 7 mm, we set off after plains game, hunting a variety of both Carl and Cable’s favorite species.

Of course there would be a Kudu on the wish list, but first we started off from Woodlands Safari Estate hunting our Southern Concessions for Impala and Zebra.

The Kudu were done rutting in the south, with reports of bulls still chasing cows in the cold country, which had seen a later start to their rut this season. With that we headed north up into the hills, climbing the escarpment to 4500 feet. Our main goal was to hunt Kudu, with anything else coming as a bonus along the way. We got up high and found ourselves a beauty!

With a Kudu in the salt, and the pressure well and truly off, having got lucky on our first morning in the north, we decided to stay a few more days. Carl wanted to scratch around for a nice Warthog. If only we knew what that scratching would literally mean, let alone the next few days harvesting not only a superb pig that turned out to be one unbelievable adventure, but a Mountain Reedbuck like we’ve never seen before.

With a feeling of accomplishment we headed south again. The salt pit was full and so too were our appetites. In the coming days we would be after Africa’s biggest and one of Africa’s sneakiest.

An Eland, a couple of Wildebeest and a Hartebeest, would consume the remainder of our time on safari. Of course it was only a matter of time before we hit a blank, which proved to be our Cape Bushbuck. Our safari had run so smoothly, with pretty much everything we touched turning to gold, except for the Bushbuck which we’ll try for again in June 2018 and that pig… Oh did I mention that adventure turned out to be a rodeo. You want to see this to believe it….

Any Lone Star Outdoor Show fans and interested hunters wanting to join Cable on safari come 2018, can do so by contacting Cable on lonestaroutdoorshow@gmail.com or Carl on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za . Our dates are set for 22-30 June 2018, with only a couple of remaining spots left.

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

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By Jose Miguel Hernandez Gomez

Cuando llegué a John X Safaris en abril de 2010, fui introducido a los misterios de la cacería de Vaal Rhebuck.  Éste es un animal muy especial debido al reto que representa cazarlo y desde el primer día que compartí con ellos en la montaña quedé enamorado.

Después de cazar algunos ejemplares con diferentes clientes, me di cuenta que todas las historias son verdaderas en cuanto a su gran sentido de olfato, visión y oído. Lo que me provocó un gran deseo de cazar uno. 

Este sentimiento crecía cada vez que estaba en las montañas, viendo al horizonte contemplaba el terreno tan basto y me preguntaba cuándo cazaría uno, sabía que éste era mi año, ¿…pero cuándo?

Llegó marzo y nos adentramos a las montañas con agente y amigo Brett Nelson, guías Carl van Zyl y Ed Wilson, y yo como camarógrafo con el propósito de cazar y filmar la cacería de un mítico vaalie, que superara las diez pulgadas.

Ésta era una muy ambiciosa aventura por la dificultad que representa cazar un Vaal Rhebuck y más aún conseguir uno que superara dicha meta.

Después de buscar por 3 días logramos cazar uno que superó la marca, estábamos increíblemente contentos por haberlo logrado y no solo eso… ¡Conseguimos capturar la cacería en video!

Con un día de sobra, Carl van Zyl me dio la oportunidad de cazar uno y yo con gran emoción deje la cámara, tomé el rifle y nos introducimos nuevamente en las montañas.

Nos despertamos temprano y aún muy emocionados por el éxito de la noche anterior, emprendimos la nueva aventura, ¡Ahora me tocaba a mi!

El primer grupo que vimos tenía un macho que no era aún lo suficientemente maduro por lo que decidimos dejarlo pasar. Al haber hecho tanto scouting para conseguir el vaalie de Brett teníamos ubicados otros grupos en la zona por lo que decidimos ir a perseguirlos.

¡Ahí están! me dijo Ed con su característico tono bromista. Después de evaluarlos por el telescopio decidimos hacer el intento, con mucha cautela empezamos a acercarnos. El grupo estaba en lo alto por lo que extremamos precauciones y decidimos usar el contorno de la montaña como escondite para evitar ser descubiertos mientras acortábamos la distancia.

Al salir al valle donde fueron vistos, nos dimos cuenta de que ya estaban bajando de lo alto de la montaña por lo que decidimos encontrar una posición cómoda y esperar a que se presentara la oportunidad.

Con la sombra de una roca como camuflaje, esperamos Carl, Ed y yo pacientemente a que el grupo de estos animales se acercara a un rango donde me sintiera confiado para hacer un tiro ético.  Pasaron treinta minutos (que se sintieron como dos horas) y la manada de pronto corrió hacia nuestra dirección deteniéndose a  unos 180 metros de distancia, Ed a mi lado izquierdo, susurro a mi oído “quita el seguro y dispara cuando se detenga… ¡ah y no se te ocurra fallar!” (utilizando un lenguaje más expresivo). Esto lo escuchó Carl que estaba detrás de la cámara y riendo me dice “Ed tiene razón”.Y bueno, lo demás es historia.

¡Que grata experiencia es compartir la montaña con amigos, y que bonito es cuando las cosas salen bien!

Cazar estos increíbles animales es un reto muy distinto a lo que uno se imagina al cazar en África, pero les aseguro que es una experiencia única y ampliamente recomendable.

Gracias a Carl, Ed y Brett por haberme dado la oportunidad, y a John X Safaris por hacerme parte de la familia.

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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Rising well before dawn, still living off the previous day’s excitement, we headed out to a set of mountains just east of camp. As the crow flies it was a mere three miles to the base, but a Land Cruiser doesn’t fly, and so we crawled and bumped our way along until we reached the foot. All of us were on cloud nine, still in awe at the Vaal Rhebuck we had harvested, with Steve still boasting a smile from here to Cairo.

Having enjoyed watching Hunter, Steve’s son, come through the ranks on our previous safaris together, it gave me great pride knowing both Steve and I had worked hard at instilling great ethics when it came to Hunter in the field.

We had always enjoyed our fair share of luck when hunting together, none more so than our hunt for Cape Bushbuck in July of 2012. That particular ram was the most magnificent ram I had ever seen, and since have not seen one more impressive.

This time round we had discussed a couple of specie options with Hunter. Zwayi and I knew of a massive old blue Eland bull we had spotted on a recent hunt in a set of hills not far from camp, but Hunter wanted a mountain challenge. Which had brought us to the foot of massive mountain at the end of a bumpy track.

From there we set off on foot in search of Klipspringer - one of the most exciting species to pursue up in the high country.

From there we set off on foot in search of Klipspringer – one of the most exciting species to pursue up in the high country.

Ozzie our GTS Productions Videographer joined us for the hike, bringing along his still camera capturing every shot along the way.


And WOW! It was beautiful!

We had spotted a pair of Klipspringer enjoying the first rays of the morning sun high above the cliff line, closer to the peak of the mountain.


They were too far to judge at that distance, so we asked Steve and Zwayi to keep an eye on them while we tried to close the distance.


Within hours we had them spotted, but the pair was still 457 yards out…

We discussed a number of options, knowing full well we were gambling from here on in. We had reached the edge of cover and 457 was a long shot on a target that small. And then suddenly the Klipspringer forced our hand. One minute they were feeding without a care in the world, and the next they were bounding along the ridge to a higher point before coming to a halt. The male immediately started feeding, as the female took up a sunny position on a large boulder. I looked around for further options to close the distance, but there were none.


Hunter, never one to shy away from a challenge, dully took up his position to make the shot.

At the crack of the shot the Klipspringer took off along the ridge having dodged the first shot falling low. Hunter re-chambered and squeezed off another just as they came to a halt between rocks, this time the bullet hit wide. Miss again. I explained to Hunter where his shot had landed, and once again he re-chambered. Again the shot just missed by mere inches. By now the animals were at 550 and I cautioned Hunter to consider the next shot. He gave me that look I had seen before, re-gathered himself and squeezed of the most perfect shot I had seen at 550 in a long time.


Reaching Hunter’s Klippie, still not completely certain of its quality, as things happened fast, and sometimes one just follows ones gut, we were relieved to find a magnificent old ram. His secondary growth was immense – the true sign of an old warrior of the mountains.

We took our time to study Hunter’s downed Klipspringer before taking an array of pictures high above the world. Then we gutted the ram and loaded it into Hunters back pack for the descent.


And then one last moment was taken to enjoy the view and savor the moment before heading back down to the rest of the team.

The following morning we headed south, back towards the coast and our base at Lalibela. Along the way we stopped off at Bankfontein, a famous property in our part of the world, previously owned by Peter Flack, the renowned writer and hunter.


Peter had invested in Cape Mountain Zebra, very similar to ourselves, but had done so some 15 years ago, and since have seen the population more than double to reach a sustainable off-take. We at John X Safaris had never before hunted one of these Zebra, and duly set off with Steve into the unknown.

We made it quite clear to Steve that there was no legal procedure for him to import the Cape Mountain Zebra trophy into the United States, as US Fish & Wildlife still to date has an import ban in place. Steve understood the situation at hand, but still wanted to hunt the Zebra. An approved permit by our South African Nature Conservation authorities ensured the hunt was a legal one, but then the wait would be on to see how well our friend, John Jackson, could do in Washington as to keep fighting the good fight in getting the ban lifted and removed altogether. We have been able to hunt and export Cape Mountain Zebra to Europe, Mexico, and Canada, for many years now, but still US Fish & Wildlife will not accept any of these fantastic specimens as trophies. We can only hope they would come to their senses sooner rather than later as to understand the importance of sustainable utilization for the future of the Cape Mnt Zebra.


We ended up hunting a massive stallion late that afternoon after numerous foiled attempts on these weary critters.

Now the wait would be on for Steve as he closely follows developments headed up by the various hunting organizations in the US, hoping for a change in law as to finally have his Cape Mnt Zebra proudly displayed in his trophy room. Until then he will be proudly displayed in my office as to be enjoyed by all, and to further create awareness of the good work hunters continue to do for conservation each day out in the field.

For our last day on the coast we continued on with a tradition started many years ago with the Robinson’s. It would be a day of opportunistic hunting. I opted for an area boasting fantastic Warthog, Bushbuck, Kudu, Nyala, and Blue Wildebeest. None of them in any particular order, but all great to hunt.


By mid-morning the sun was starting to push the spirals back into the forest and we had not spotted a pig worth writing home about yet, so we opted for taking a closer look at a herd of Blue Wildebeest. Having closed the distance between us and the herd to 120 yards I edged Hunter forward onto the sticks. “Take the bull on the right, quartering us slightly”, I whispered in his ear. The shot rang out and the herd stampeded off in a storm of dust. We called in the dogs for back-up.

Bongo immediately took off at a pace with Chili in hot pursuit. We gave them the standard five minutes or so before starting our search for blood. We picked up the blood trail and headed in the direction where we had last spotted the dogs and Blue’s disappear in. After some time the dogs returned, clearly having lost the bull’s scent among the many other hooves of the herd.

We worked the blood trail slowly, finding a small drop from time to time. Each time Bongo would race ahead, as if he had found it, but each time he returned, working harder to find the scent he was after. In all this time Chili seemed to enjoy the role as an observer learning from the older experienced dog as much as she could. From time to time she would work as hard as any dog I’ve seen scenting before, nose flat to the ground, and veering off to our right into the adjacent forest leading over into a large gorge. After a couple of times, and not having much luck on our trail, Zwayi finally couldn’t take it much longer and decided to take a closer look – giving her the benefit of the doubt. Turns out Chili was no longer observing, she had the trail, but not the confidence to pursue on her own. We called Bongo off his scent and put him onto the correct one.

Within minutes all hell broke loose, as the dogs came into full voice in the gorge below. They had clearly bayed the bull, allowing us to close the distance for a finishing shot. Nearing the chaos in the undergrowth we edged forward until all came into view a mere 15 yards ahead of us. Hunter picked a gap in the undergrowth, being mindful of where the dogs were, and touched off his follow-up shot. The bull turned and stumbled over the dogs before gaining momentum once again down the ridge. One could hear the dogs chasing in hot pursuit, stopping from time to time, as the bull turned to fight.


Finally two miles later the dogs bayed the bull in a small stream. Hunter crept to the edge above the stream and put in the final shot, bringing one heck of an exciting hunt to an end.

What a hunt our short unexpected safari turned out to be. When we had last seen each other in early February at the end of SCI’s annual convention, there was no way or manner possible for the Robinson’s to have squeezed in a trip to Africa during 2015. And look at us now….


Take the opportunities life presents you and do the things you’ve always dreamt about. You never know how things will turn out unless you go. Who knows? You may just find yourself sitting on a horse in Africa, with a view like no other, sharing a hunt with friends for the trophy of a lifetime….

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During late May we published a story, The Obsession Continues, about Luther Dietrich and Professional Hunter, Carl van Zyl, going after the holy grail of Vaal Rhebuck hunting. On that hunt the guys finally reached that magical 10″ mark that all Vaal Rhebuck hunters strive to achieve. It was a dream come true for all involved and one we didn’t think could be repeated soon again. It had taken Carl more than ten years to achieve the goal – he wasn’t counting on finding another monster in that class over the course of the next few years, let alone during the course of the same season.


Our good friend, Luther Dietrich, with his Vaal Rhebuck of a lifetime.

It was a beautiful morning during mid June, when hunter, Lawrence Trunk and I, were on the hunt for Vaal Rhebuck. On that particular day we had spotted a number of Vaal’s, but none within range for Lawrence to feel comfortable in making a clean shot with his handgun. As the day wore on so the wind picked up from the west and within hours the mountains were starting to look dangerous, with a huge front brewing in the distance. We had been off on a hike taking a closer look at a ram we had spotted from higher up the ridge, when out of nowhere the storm hit.  I’d never experienced anything like it in Africa before – it surrounded us within minutes and soon the world was white with sleet.


The wind picked up to gale force speeds and the snow was literally knocking us back as we tried to make our way back to the truck as fast as our legs would carry us. We weren’t prepared adequately for that kind of weather, and so bore the brunt of an icy storm.

While the storm taught me a lesson I soon won’t forget, I did however come out of it better than having entered it. During our retreat to the truck I had spotted a small group of Vaal Rhebuck, as confused and panic-stricken as us, and with them I thought I saw a huge ram through my snow-caked binoculars. Having a look through the spotting scope under those circumstances was out of the question, and as soon as they had appeared it seemed they disappeared even sooner. The storm engulfed the group and with that visions of my imagination. I truly wasn’t sure what I had seen, it’s hard enough judging Vaal Rhebuck on clear days – in that kind of weather there was no chance.

Not wanting to instill false hope into my hunter, and knowing that the chance of us getting up onto that mountain after the storm was near impossible and not recommended – I put it off to a Professional Hunter imagining things he’d like to see every time he glassed for these masters of the mountains.

It was only some two weeks later when the snow had melted on the lower ridges, with mountain tops still white, that I finally made it up to where I thought I'd seen the big ram in the storm.

It was only some two weeks later when the snow had melted on the lower ridges, with mountain tops still white, that I finally made it up to where I thought I’d seen the big ram in the storm.

Cresting the valley I envisaged the area the ram would more than likely have staked out his territory in, we soon found the small group again. They were resting in some short stuff littered with boulders at the base of a fountain, well camouflaged to the observers’ eye. At first we couldn’t find the ram, and then there he was – in all his glory, quietly dozing some thirty yards off to the left of the group.

I groveled in the back pack for my Swarovski spotting scope and soon found him on 60 power magnification. He was mind-blowing – and this time I knew what I was looking at. With a 10″ ram under the belt for the season already, I immediately knew this ram was bigger.

With Lawrence having left Africa ten days previously, my mind started turning towards whom to call. Who could make it before the close of the season? It was already July and I needed to find a hunter who was willing to make it before the end of the month. I dialed Reno – hoping to reach my good friend Steve Robinson.

Reaching Steve’s office I was told Steve was away on a mountain hunt in Azerbaijan, and wouldn’t be back until that following weekend. In my most polite tone I urged the friendly young lady on the other end of the line to tell Steve to call me the minute he touches base with his office or gets back. Within days I received a satellite call from Steve.

I explained the situation and then calmly told him to get home, collect his son, Hunter, and head to Africa within mere days of arriving back in the U.S.  Luckily Steve had got what he was after and was already on his way home. He had expressed his desire for a Vaal Rhebuck in this class over the course of four previous safaris with me, and we had done our fair share of traveling and hard hunting all across South Africa in pursuit of a big Vaal – Steve got the picture, and was on his way to Africa.

Arriving in Port Elizabeth we immediately set course for the Karoo – there was no beating around the bush – Steve was here for one reason, and one reason only. Would we finally hunt that 10″ ram we had dreamt about so often before?

That first night in camp was a restless one – my nerves were shot. I had convinced a very good friend to take on a long journey within days of getting home from an Asian hunt, and there were no guarantees. We all know it’s an unspoken rule – how could there be guarantees when it came to hunting, but it doesn’t make it any easier for the guide. We’re expected to perform, that’s why we can earn a living from doing so, but this was different – Steve, Hunter, and I, had spent enough time together in the mountains to know this was it.

The following morning we made our way up into the mountains, met up with the landowner, Kobus, and settled in for a cup of steaming black coffee around his kitchen table. There had been another bout of cold weather leading up to our hunt – there was no way the truck would get us to where we needed to go before starting the long hike. Horses were our only option.


Slowly making our way up the slippery tracks lined with snow the world started coming into view all around. The higher we climbed the more breath-taking the view. As we reached the top we looked back in awe – how could one not be inspired with scenes like this?


Steve settled into his saddle and with a broad smile of a man content no matter what the outcome of the days hunt, whispered to us; “You know there are millions of people out there that will never feel this alive their entire lives. They will never experience a day like this or even consider the possibility of experiencing anything as exciting as this. This is an adventure – Thanks for making it possible.” It was then that I knew I was sharing my piece of heaven with not only a friend, but a great one. Mountain hunts are not for everyone, but those who find their inner peace high above the world share a common bond and passion for all places high, where the reward is not only the opportunity of hunting an elusive animal, but the thought of knowing that the effort it took to get there was worth every step of the way.


Reaching a predetermined plateau having spotted three different groups of Vaal Rhebuck on the way up, we left the horses in the care of one of the trackers – from here onwards we’d walk with caution. I knew the group we were after wouldn’t be far from where I’d seen them on the two previous occasions. We had to take it easy, ensuring they didn’t spot us first.

Soon we found them, but as so often happens, they’d spotted us first. We chatted about a possible approach with limited options. The Vaal Rhebuck had us in a “check mate” situation at 500 yards out. Steve came up with a great plan, which would see us leaving Hunter, Ozzie, Zwayi, and the local ranch hand in clear sight of the group while he and I snuck out of view to close the distance between us and them with a blind rise off to our left.

The plan worked like magic! In fact it worked too well, as soon we were too close, and by the time we realized it the group had disappeared over the ridge’s edge to the valley below. Steve and I hurried after them, knowing they’d run a couple of hundred yards before stopping to peer back at these strange-looking intruders in their valley.  We got to the edge and peered over, but they were nowhere to be seen.

Without much option we continued down the ridge in the direction we’d last seen them heading, hoping to find them again within range. Continuing with utmost caution we stumbled upon two wild horses and an inquisitive Jackal shadowing our every move from the cliffs above. This Jackal had clearly never seen human beings this high up before – its behavior was quite disturbing when one considers their usual hasty retreat at the sight of a human.  It felt like we had become the hunted. As for the horses, they were quite magnificent, but extremely wild.


Legend has it that during the Anglo Boer War which had taken place in these parts over 100 years ago, Boer soldiers had often left behind some of their weaker horses loaded with stones in saddle bags as to lead the English on a wild goose chase while trying to track the retreating Boers who had become masters of guerrilla warfare. This tactic frustrated the English commanders to no end, with them finally ruling that all stray horses were to be shot on sight if they could not be used – they clearly didn’t get them all. These horses, like in many other parts of the world, had taken to the mountains away from humans as to live without bother.

Keeping a close eye on the horses, knowing they would have spooked if the Vaal’s had passed their position in haste, I knew they weren’t far off. We had a clear view of the slope above and below, with a partial view of the opposite ridge, which I was sure they were heading towards. With the two of us approaching the last blind hollow on our slope I steered us towards a large boulder, as for us to climb to gain a better view of the terrain ahead.

Without knowing it and only realizing it with a mere thirty yards to go to reach the boulder, our approach had been hidden by the sheer size of the rock, and now the Rhebuck were a mere 200 yards out. We hugged the boulder, scaled it to a certain degree and then both crept over. The Vaal Rhebuck immediately spotted us, as alert as ever, but paused for a mere second too long. With the ram off to the right of the group on his own, presenting a clear broadside shot, the words weren’t clean out of my mouth when Steve touched off his shot. The ram reared up onto his hind legs before crashing down. I had clearly forgotten how fast Steve shoots.

Steve and I walked up slowly, both as nervous as the other. Was this the same ram I had seen previously? Did we finally have what we had hunted for, for so long? With fifty yards to go our excitement got the better of us and we both picked up our pace to a canter, each trying to reach the downed ram first.

We could hardly believe our eyes. He was more than we could have envisaged…


He is without a doubt the most beautiful Vaal Rhebuck I had ever seen. The mass, length, light grey color of his coat, and large rubbery nose, made him the trophy of a lifetime.

He measured a magical 10 4/8

He measured a magical 10 5/8″.

Millions of pictures later it was time to pack him out and head back down before nightfall caught us. It was time to reflect on a great hunt and to savor the moment around a crackling campfire beneath the brightest stars on earth. The following morning we’d pursue one of the Karoo’s greatest mountain dwellers for Hunter.

Lying in bed that evening listing to the rustle of the Acacia tree branches on the roof above I found myself wondering if the days events were a mere dream? Twice in the same year? Could the obsession be cured? You must be joking! The mountains are far to beautiful for that….

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

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I’ve grown up hunting the Eastern Cape my entire life. As a young boy I followed my dad where ever the road less traveled took us. I’ve been fortunate to guide almost every region that could be considered game rich areas and find pride in the fact that John X Safaris evolves each year, always on the lookout for new areas – hoping to find “that” something special that separates a fair area to a good area. We feel confident that after 29 years we know our backyard better than most. That was until now.

As one leaves the lush forests of the coastal belt and travel towards the interior the land becomes increasingly more arid, and game surprisingly abundant. Then you head east for a couple of hours more before setting a northern bearing once again. As the Toyota reaches its cruising speed and civilization gets left behind you find yourself entering a new world.

Hundreds of small villages, all decorated in the brightest pinks, greens and blues jump out of nowhere and you find yourself in the centre of the traditional homelands of the Eastern Cape. Tribal Xhosa kings rule the land here, with subsistence farming being the only means of survival.

 After an hour or so you can clearly start hearing the trucks’ engine starting to take strain, the climb to 9000 feet has begun.

And the scenery becomes breathless….

 As the climb continues the world becomes a blanket of green with rocky outcrops dominating the mountainous landscape. You now find yourself at the foot of the Southern Drakensberg. A neatly thatched mountain cabin adds to the splendor of this rustic environment, there’s something romantic about being a mere 16 kilometers from the border of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. I’ve hunted many impressive mountainous landscapes in my time, but this place allows the spirit to soar. I’m sure the mountain hunters of the world can relate to my spirit at this time.  There’s something about the mountains that I find hard to explain, I’m told you either hate it or you become an eternal addict. I guess I’m the latter.

Many will wonder what draws me to this place. Why here and not somewhere else? I’m after Vaal Rhebuck and Mountain Reedbuck – I’m after finding an area that boasts these species in abundance, and more importantly, in their natural environment. It’s all open country up here, dominated by stock farming, Ronald Small continues, I’m the 6th generation of my family farming up here and as far as I know there has never been a Vaal Rhebuck hunted in over 40 years. We harvest 10-12 of the fleshier Mountain Reedbuck each year to stock our freezers, that’s about all the hunting that happens around here on our 25 000 + acres of land. Our neighbors do about the same Ronnie Sr. ads.

During the course of the three days Ronald and I covered as much terrain as possible. A heavy down poor with an electrifying lightning display kept us off the steeper ridges that first day, but we made the most of our time and met with neighboring ranchers to broaden our scouting area to well over 50 000 acres. I found out more about the area and what other opportunities it presented the adventurer who was willing to travel to this mountain paradise.

Wild trout thrive in the natural streams, with an afternoon of fly fishing being a certain highlight of my visit. Then there’s Grey Wing Partridge over English Pointer from horseback for the connoisseurs of wing shooting. And to top things off there’s the chance of hunting a Mountain Reedbuck, Black Wildebeest, or one of South Africa’s hardest game species the Vaal Rhebuck. Needless to say – An experience well worth it’s while!

Grey Wing Partridge over English Pointer…

Fly Fishing for wild trout in natural mountain streams…

Mountain Reedbuck by the hundreds…

And the chance at hunting the elusive king of the mountains – Vaal Rhebuck.

This hunt is not for everyone. The hunting is tough and camp is comfortable, but rustic. Weather plays a major role in the success of the hunt and mountain tracks are limited depending on weather conditions. Horses are available for hire to those hunters interested in hiring horses for their time in the mountains. Snow fall is extremely common in winter, so come prepared.

Camp is nestled in a secluded valley overlooking a crystal clear mountain stream.

John X Safaris has secured exclusive hunting rights to the area, with extremely limited quota. Due to the fact that the area is all free range, one can only hunt this region during open season each year, 1 June – 31 July.

If you’re interested in being one of the VERY FIRST to hunt this new and exclusive area, then send us an email to hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za Hunters wishing to add 3 – 5 days hunting this area can do so as a combination between our Coastal, Northern and Mountain Areas.

Don’t be left behind. Be a pioneer. Offers like this don’t crop up every day.

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook and visit our website!

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