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Posts Tagged ‘Mozambique’

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For six weeks long we have spent numerous days and countless hours trying to share the wonder and beauty of Africa. Trying to relay the feeling that stirs within when the dark continent creeps under your skin and into your soul. The onslaught on ones senses is like nowhere else on earth.

Even after all these years it seems the traveling abroad only gets longer and the longing for Africa greater. This year, like the many before, saw us once again embarked on our journey to secure the future and prosperity of Africa and her wildlife. The commitment from the American hunter is something that is spoken about often, but needs mentioning again. Without you and your support our wildlife would not enjoy the growth and security it has become accustomed to today. For that we are forever grateful. Thank you.

Record numbers were reached on the booking front this year. From Dallas to Las Vegas and the many stops in between – So many people to thank. So many to welcome on board as they look to embark on their first safari to Africa with John X Safaris. And of course, so many to be indebted to as they once again chose John X Safaris as their choice destination for 2017/18/19. The support, referrals, and recommendations from our returning hunters has left us astounded once again. It only drives us on to keep doing what we’ve been doing – ensuring our safaris are so much more than a hunt, but the complete African experience.

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The acceptance and excitement around Woodlands Game Reserve, our new base and home, combined with our renowned Karoo concessions, has seen us return home even more invigorated than before. The experience of 34 years in the safari industry and knowing the commitment it takes to ensure you as individual will enjoy a world-class safari, is not merely a given, but our word. The success and enjoyment derived from being a part of your safari is something we as a team gain much enjoyment from. It’s something we’re proud of and something that goes far further than the hunt.

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Our traditional season in South Africa will kick off in mid-April, at the completion of our new Colonial Safari Manor at Woodlands. This year will see hunters enjoy safari camps like no other, with our northern Karoo camp having enjoyed an upgrade too. While it had been dry for the most part of 2016, late summer rains have fallen across the majority of our areas, with the promise of more on the horizon each evening. The retention of our renowned coastal and Karoo plains game concessions, combined with Woodlands and the Big 5 dynamic that has added, will ensure our hunters enjoy arguably the finest hunting Southern Africa has to offer.

Between now and April we will be gearing up for the season ahead with scouting, building and planning being the focus in and around John X Safaris. There’s a lot to be done, but so much to look forward to.

Here’s hoping my team at home can get it done – As for me, I’m off to Cameroon to get our season off to a big start, and at the same time tick another adventure from my “half full” bucket list. It doesn’t get much bigger than a Lord Derby Eland for a hunter or for that matter, his Professional Hunter.

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In closing I’d like to thank you once again for your American hospitality, your continued support, and your unrelenting trust in John X Safaris is something we’re extremely proud of as a team. Our appreciation is something that goes beyond words.

Thank you!

Catch you in Africa – Carl & Team

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 Paul Brisso

When I booked my third safari with Carl van Zyl of John X Safaris for April of 2016, I had two primary objectives in mind.  First and foremost, I wanted Carl to help me introduce my wife Teresa on her first safari to the wonders and experience that makes Africa such a special place. And along the way, I wanted to hunt some animals that I had either not had the opportunity to hunt, or that had eluded me on my prior four trips to southern Africa.

Among these was the Cape Bushbuck.  Although a relatively common animal in much of southern Africa, my first two safaris in Namibia were too far north and west for Cape Bushbuck.  On my first safari with Carl and John X Safaris in South Africa several years before, we came up empty-handed after being outwitted by an exceptional Bushbuck.

On that previous safari, Bushbuck was fairly low on the priority list, to the point where we did not target it until late in the safari.  But on the last morning of the hunt we thought the hunting gods were going to be kind to us.  Glassing from a low ridge, we spotted a great ram feeding below our view-point following two females.  Dropping into the bottom, we worked our way towards the three shy animals, moving slowly and carefully to intercept them.

Everything seemed to go perfectly according to plan.  Mid to late morning we had worked into a location where we had a clear view of an opening along their route.  We set up on the shooting sticks, anticipating they would enter the lane about 80 yards away.  After 10-15 minutes, the first female fed into the clearing from our right, oblivious of our presence.  We could see glimpses of red-brown of the second female and the dark shades of the ram through the heavy brush.  After a few minutes, the second female fed into view, the ram would soon follow. Our excitement levels were building as we could still see glimpses of the ram though the brush heading our way.

“Get ready,” Carl whispered softly.  “Here he comes.”  He never did.  The two females continued feeding on contentedly through the clearing and back into the brush on the other side, oblivious to our much-anticipated ambush.  The ram apparently decided it was time to bed down and turned right, heading back in the direction he was coming from, never setting foot in the clearing.

We decided to pull out and return that evening, the last of our safari.  The wily and lucky old ram did not come out until almost very last light, and then he was too far away for us the get into position before darkness enveloped the bush.  We tipped our cap to our intended quarry and for years Carl and I have talked about the one that got away.

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On my second safari with Carl we headed to Mozambique for Cape Buffalo a couple of years later, where Carl and I got a small measure of revenge on Bushbuck by taking a very nice Chobe Bushbuck on that particular hunt.  But our longing for the one that got away and the continual discussion of it saw our urge for an exceptional Cape Bushbuck grow even more. We made an agreement – The next time we hunted together in South Africa we would prioritize a Cape Bushbuck.

So for my 2016 safari Carl had instructed me to fly into East London, rather than Port Elizabeth, which is nearer to his home base of Lalibela, so that we could pursue Cape Bushbuck in some prime country along the wild coast. Prior to our arrival in East London, my wife and I spent an enjoyable week of viewing wildlife, touring, and adjusting to the time zone difference, before flying from Durban to East London to commence with our hunting. We had purchased the photo safari at the annual California Wild Sheep Foundation fundraiser the prior year, making for a relaxing week as we acclimatized to Africa.

Upon arrival in East London we were met at the airport by John X Safaris head PH, Greg Hayes, whom joined us for a fantastic late lunch at a café overlooking the Indian Ocean, before traveling the 45 minutes to camp at Mpotshane Game Reserve where we met up with Carl.  Since we had done a photo safari first, for the first time I had decided to travel to Africa without my own rifle and use one of Carl’s for the safari.  That afternoon we moved into our room, sighted in the rifle, and settled into the lodge for our first evening.

It rained that night and the weather was still unsettled in the morning, but after breakfast we headed out to an area we would be hunting Bushbuck.  We met up with the landowner and set out in search of a ram.  We had quite an entourage—in addition to Carl, Teresa and me, we had Jose Hernandez doing some video work for Carl, Carl’s tracker, Greg and his tracker, and the landowner.

The country was ideal Bushbuck country—very steep and very thick with vegetation and very light hunting pressure.

The country was ideal Bushbuck country—very steep and very thick with vegetation and very light hunting pressure.

There was no doubt there were Bushbuck on the property that had never seen a human.  On the other hand, there was no doubt there were Bushbuck on the property that was humanly impossible to see.

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We covered a lot of country that morning and set up and glassed openings without success, other than a few females and one young ram.  The weather remained unsettled.  We were so close to Mpotshane that we decided to return for lunch, and then return again later in the afternoon. Sooner or later the weather would lift and the game would start moving.

By early afternoon the weather seemed to be clearing, and we crossed our fingers in the hope that the Bushbuck would be out and about.  We returned and commenced glassing from a spot we could see a substantial amount of country from.  The trackers had been placed on a couple of different points to glass, while the rest of us were together on a spot with a wide panorama.  There was so much country to glass, every set of binoculars focusing on far away ridges and gorges would increase our chances, but things remained slow.

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With the two professional hunters, Jose, the landowner, and me glassing various areas, Teresa—on the first day of her first safari – calmly said “There’s one.”  She had spotted a ram in a small opening on a steep hillside about 250-300 yards away. It was precisely the break we were after. The cooler weather and scattered thunder showers had pushed the animals into the deep cover, but now that the sun was starting to make its appearance again, not even a weary old ram could resist a few warm rays.

Carl quickly confirmed it was not only a ram, but an exceptional ram. We quietly moved into a shooting position a little over 200 yards away across the canyon and I touched off the shot from the 300 Win Mag. As the shot rang out the ram immediately reacted. “You’ve hit him just perfect Paul!” Carl whispered excitedly; “Did you see him jump up into the air and somersault into the brush?” unfortunately I hadn’t seen all of this as the recoil of the gun had obscured my view for a couple of seconds, but that didn’t matter, my shot was true and all indications pointed towards a downed ram.

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Man were we excited when we found him!

Tracking a wounded Bushbuck in that steep and heavily wooded country would have been a challenge beyond words.  Even so, with a confirmed downed ram we still needed a dog to help us find the animal in the thick brush.

Having found our ram was one thing, getting him out was another. Luckily for us we had a strong tracker, Bless, along to pack my ram out of the steep canyon.

With a feeling of content I watched on as Carl and the crew put together the final touches that would immortalize my trophy for the rest of my life. Pictures carry our stories beyond the adventures – Carl and his crew ensures that those pictures are always taken with the utmost care to capture that exact memory.

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I had my Cape Bushbuck!

Back at Mpotshane that evening, we celebrated and toasted our first day success and the skill of our rookie game spotter with cocktails and another great dinner.  The next day we would move on in an attempt to locate what Carl termed “a right proper Eland.”  But that is an entirely different story for another day.

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 Ron Machado

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My professional hunter (P.H.), Poen van Zyl, squatted slightly, and motioned me to his side.  He turned to face me and said quietly, “The buffalo is laying down about thirty yards in front of us.  Can you see him?”  I could see a dark shape in the dense undergrowth, but not the buffalo.  Poen handed me his field glasses; looking through them, I could see the buffalo.  I could make out his shape through the foliage and see the heavy breathing caused by my lung shot nearly three hours ago.

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I had taken the first shot just before six a.m. and followed it up with two additional shots. We could see the animal hunch up with all three shots. He continued to follow his herd, falling behind, but made it to the forested area bordering the large pan where they were watering and feeding.

Once we entered the forest, I fully expected to find him but he continued to move.  Sometimes he was with the herd, and sometimes would fall behind.  When the buffalo was with the herd, we needed to follow slowly.  If he left without us seeing his track, we could lose him.  Our tracker, a local by the name of Gorchie Santos, was exceptional.  We slowly followed the buffalo where I could see no tracks or blood.  I did question our direction, when I could not see any blood for a period of time.  Then, within a few minutes, Gorchi pointed out a few drops of blood on a leaf or low branch.

While we moved quietly, we did push the herd when they would sense us.  Once the buffalo sensed us, they moved off fast crashing through the forest.  We reached a spot, where they had bedded down where I saw large sprayed areas of blood.  As time went on, this continued to increase.  My lung shot was causing great blood loss to the buffalo.  The animal was losing blood with each step.  The floor of the forest was covered, as if a person was cleaning a paint brush by swinging it to the ground.  This is when Poen called me to him and pointed out the bedded buffalo.

The buffalo’s head and front shoulder were partially covered by branches and brush.  The only shot I had was in the middle of its body.  Poen told me to take whatever I could, as the more lead in him the better off we were.  I tried to keep the shot as far forward on the body as I could, without hitting the foliage.  I did not want the shot to be deflected.  At my shot, with the exception of the wounded buffalo, all of the herd animals rose and burst into the forest.  He moved to our left and stopped under a low tree.  I removed the spent shell in my .458, topped off my magazine with a fresh 500 gr. solid, and walked forward with Poen and Gorchi.

In a flash, Gorchi, poor Gorchie, who had no gun, fell flat to the ground and looked back at us, trusting us to end the buffalo’s rampage.  Poen yelled that the buffalo was going to charge.  With that, the buffalo broke through the branches and brush and came directly at us.  When he burst out from under the branches, his head was held high.  I can only say what my mind saw.  The buffalo truly looked ten feet tall.  My first shot was followed up by my P.H. shooting, but the buffalo continued to come.  I am sure he was making some kind of noise, but I did not hear anything.  I fired, again, and the buffalo turned slightly and stopped, but only for a split second, he lowered his head and turned on us.  I fired the last shot in my gun, as Poen fired also.

The buffalo fell to the ground less than three yards in front of us.

The buffalo fell to the ground less than three yards in front of us.

I managed to get two rounds into my rifle, as we circled the beast.  There was no need for an additional shot, as one of our shots had hit the buffalo one inch below its right eye.  During this brief encounter, I felt no fear.  The thought of running never entered my mind. After my buffalo was on the ground, my emotions broke free.  I let out a yell that could be heard a mile away.  I felt alive; the sense of facing one of the most dangerous animals in Africa was extraordinary.  As my senses returned, the area came into view.  I could see the colors, smell the buffalo, everything was clear.

Professional Hunter, Poen van Zyl, and Ron with Ron’s trophy Cape Buffalo.

Before the hunt, I had told anyone who would listen that I wanted a specific horn shape.  From my first shot, until the animal was on the ground, I never looked at the horns.  I am happy beyond belief.  Everything about this hunt was exceptional, from the tracking after my first shots to the closing in on the animal, and the tunnel vision of its last and final charge.  They will be imprinted on my mind forever.

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The day I took my buffalo was November 3, 2010, the fourth day of my hunt in Mozambique, with John X Safaris.

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Carl – I have been home for a few days now and the reality of my last safari to Mozambique still hasn’t sunk in. It feels like a dream. I think back to it many times a day, and fall asleep remembering all the great memories. My last hunt with John X Safaris saw me accomplishing everything I dreamed of and more.

It had not been an easy hunt, the wind wasn’t perfect and the day had been long. Numerous Crocs had been seen, two of them meeting the requirements we were after, but nothing had come from endless patience. We had given up, called it a day, and then no more than a mile from our landing site there he was. Jeff made another telling shot – this time at 70 yards off sticks – and if you’re thinking what’s the big fuss at 70 yards? Go try hitting the centre out of an Oreo cookie at 70 yards without a dead rest. It’s tough!

From the beautiful little antelope in the sand forests, the tremendous amount of game on the vast flood plains, the beauty and culture of the Zambezi River, to the harshness and challenges of the swamps. I loved every minute of it.

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This truly was the greatest adventure of my life. The only word I can think of to describe it is epic! I would like to thank you, Trish, your family and the entire John X team for making this adventure possible. You and your staff are true professionals.

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We may have had some very good luck on this safari with our first night Leopard, but I believe that luck comes much easier when you are well prepared, work hard and book with a professional. You surely were all of that.

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My life truly is richer for having experienced this epic adventure! Thank you very much.

Until our next adventure!

Jeff Edland

To view more photos from the Edland Safari click here.

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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Ivan Carter once wrote – “The photos and trophies we collect are merely a representation of what it took to actually get those photos and trophies…. It is the hunting experience as a whole, that’s what keeps us coming back to those campfires.”

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And it is in those experiences that we are proud to present another unforgettable season. We have tried to capture the true essence of John X Safaris. The hunts, campfires, camaraderie, and breath-taking areas. The legendary scenery that goes along with an African safari, and the rewards of world-class results enjoyed by satisfied hunters.

We started our season in January, somewhat earlier than usual, and finished off our last hunts in mid-November. We once again enjoyed hunting our renowned East Cape concessions in South Africa, as well as Botswana’s Kalahari desert, Mozambique’s Zambezi Delta, and Namibia’s Damaraland.

We welcomed a number of new comers to the Safari World of John X Safaris this year, eager to see and experience Africa for the very first time. By all accounts the smiles and number of fantastic mails received upon their return home, told us that their experiences with John X Safaris may have been their first, but most certainly not their last.

Many were back on their second or third hunt, while there were a few nearing the tenth trip mark, enjoying the variety of destinations on offer. The fact that more than 60% of our hunters have been returning clientele over the past three years gives us faith in the quality of our product going forward. Your vote of confidence in John X Safaris is a compliment to the entire team, one we’re extremely proud of.

Some joined mom and dad, while others had the privilege of spending time with grandparents on safari. Our commitment to getting the youth to hunt through our young hunters initiative has come on in leaps and bounds, seeing more and more parents taking us up on our offer of free hunts for the youth. The number of young ladies joining us on safari has skyrocketed from previous years, a truly promising sign for the future. Many of the young guns made the best of their opportunities, often coming away with some of the best trophies from the past season, not a bad showing for hunters on the rise.

Each hunter came away enriched in their experience, leaving behind a small piece of their heart, sure to return again someday…for there is never only a once to the dark continent, Africa captures the heart leaving one longing to return.

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Without every single one of you who joined us this season, and the many whom have joined us on safari before, we cannot thank you enough for your continued support – ultimately your faith in John X Safaris. Without you and your contribution to conservation through hunting we would not be where we are today.

Glancing back over this years monthly reports you’d agree special mention needs to be made  of our teams in the field, they, together with our loyal agents, trusty lodge crews, and long-standing team members, have once again proven why they’re considered some of the finest in the industry. Without their continued perseverance we’d never reach our goal of not being the biggest, but certainly the best.

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Head PH Greg Hayes

 

This year also saw our head professional hunter, Greg Hayes, earning the prestigious nomination as one of the finalists for the Basie Maartens award. This award goes to the top South African Professional Hunter annually. While Greg just missed the award at a recent PHASA(Professional Hunters Ass of SA) convention, the nomination by his peers, clients, the industry, and friends, speaks highly of him as a world-class professional hunter. We’re extremely proud of Greg’s nomination and look forward to him leading the team by example once again next season.

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After the amazing success of John X Safaris’ first Safari World publication during 2010, we’ve continued on with the popular tradition. This year’s book has seen Trish leading the way, most certainly the reason why this years book looks to be our finest to date – a must for any past, current or future John X hunters’ Christmas sock! Feel free to purchase “The Safari World of John X Safaris 2014” at John X Safaris Books .

Looking towards the future and 2015, bookings are coming in at a steady pace and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible during our upcoming travels. Next year sees one of our newest members to the team, Ross “Stix” Hoole joining Carl on his travels across North America. Ross will be coming on board adding value to not only our show schedules, but together with Carl, will be heading up all our out of country hunts too. Mozambique, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and the exciting new addition of our Namibian operation, will fall under his responsibility.  Carl will as per usual, be running with all our South African hunts, with many new areas being added to an already impressive 3000 000 acre setup. Together with this we are in the process of creating one of the finest Buffalo hunting destinations in South Africa, a project in its infant stages, but one which will be well worth the wait in the future.

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Below is a quick reminder of our 2015 show and travel schedule. If you or any of your friends may be interested in meeting with us, please drop us a line, we’d be glad to fit you or them into our schedule.

USA – January/February 2014

Dallas Safari Club Show – Dallas, Texas: 15-18 January 2015 – Both Carl and Ross will be at the show.

Salt Lake City / Eagle Mountain, Utah stop-over: 19-21 January 2015 – FUN EVENING with all our friends from Eagle Mountain, 20 January – Both Carl & Ross will be in Eagle Mnt.

Pleasant View, Utah stop-over: 21 – 23 January 2015 – FUN EVENING with the Nelsen brothers, 22 January – Both Carl & Ross will be in Pleasant View.

Bismarck, North Dakota stop-over: 23– 25 January 2015 – Carl will be visiting our good friend Dave Kjelstrup.

Amarillo, Texas stop-over: 23– 25 January 2015 – Ross will be visiting our good friend Sam Cunningham.

Burlington, Wyoming stop-over: 26 – 28 January 2015 – Both Carl & Ross will be visiting with our good friends from Gunwerks.

Omaha / Kearney, Nebraska stop-over: 28 – 31 January 2015 – COCKTAIL EVENING with De Freece’s in Kearney, 30 January. Carl will be visiting with our good friends the Petersen’s, as well as Steve & Jill Evers.

Jackson, Mississippi stop-over: 28 – 31 January 2015 – Ross will be visiting with our good friend Mike Jarvis.

Safari Club International – Las Vegas, Nevada: 4-7 February 2015 – Both Carl and Ross will be at the show.

SPAIN – March 2014

CINEGETICA Hunting Convention – Madrid, Spain: 19-22 March 2015

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In closing both Trish and I have some fantastic news to share with you. Trish will be expecting our second child during April 2015, something we’re extremely excited about!

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone who has been a part of the Safari World of John X Safaris during the past year – it has been a privilege hosting and having you on safari. Your support and friendship means the world to both of us.

Until we meet again on a dusty track in Africa – A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Carl, Trish and Brett Van Zyl

Lalibela, December 2014

Please note – John X Safaris will be shutting down from 10 December 2014 until 5 January 2015. We will be checking mail on a weekly basis during the festive season. For any urgent bookings or safari related inquiries, contact Carl on hunting@johnxsafaris.co.za

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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With our season coming to a close we find ourselves spread across Southern Africa. Carl and Greg headed up a group from Houston, Texas, on their first visit to Mozambique, while Rick came out of retirement to join our old friend, Ron Machado, in Namibia. Back home in the south, Stix wrapped up what has been one of our busiest seasons from the past ten years.

Steve Travis, Joe Capobianco, and Smith Underwood touched down in Beira, Mozambique, on October 20th, ready for what turned out to be an epic adventure. Having collected our bags and guns, we cleared customs before connecting onto our one hour charter into camp. Within an hour these three guys, including Greg, whom had never visited the Delta, would be touching down in one of Africa’s greatest hunting concessions. A treat that they could never have envisaged….

There were too many highlights to mention them all, but each and every Buffalo was a story on its own. A special highlight for all was our two nights spent in fly camp, camping on the edge of the swamps. The adventure of camping in the vast wilderness of the Zambezi Delta proved to be a once in a lifetime for the guys, but the sight of four downed Cape Buffalo the following day was a sight not even I had seen before.

The herds were massive, in excess of 1000 Cape Buffalo – spread across the horizon and into the distance. The quality of bulls we saw blew us away, and after more than a dozen safaris to Mozambique over the past seven years, I recon we saw more old and mature Buffalo than ever before. While the Buffalo were there, and the work was done to get the guys into shooting positions, the guys sure did not disappoint.

While Cape Buffalo was our priority, the guys weren’t losing out on some world-class plains game too. A gnarly old Bushbig gave Smith a great opportunity to earn one of these rarer trophies from Africa, while Joe enjoyed his pursuit for Nyala, coming away with a beauty. For Steve and I it was like old times, we just enjoyed Africa and the many blessings that go hand in hand on a safari, lucking into a number of world-class trophies. For Steve a Sable was an important addition to his ever-growing trophy room, which I was glad we scored success on – a great bull it turned out to be.

In the end if I had to pick my favorite I’d have to say it was Steve’s Chobe Bushbuck. Steve is the luckiest Bushbuck hunter out there!

This particular ram only adds more class to an already insane Bushbuck collection!

This particular ram only adds more class to an already insane Bushbuck collection!

When all was said and done it was agreed that the week in Mozambique turned out to be a safari for the ages. I have no doubt that Smith, Greg or Mike would ever forget the local villager who so kindly offered his assistance in tracking a weary group of Buffalo whom frequented his section of forest. While his tracking skills could be compared to that of a world-class poacher, if that ever existed, and doing so without shoes should be commended, but the sight of him extracting a two-inch thorn from his foot with a machete will be edged into their stories forever. The experiences were endless and the stories will be enjoyed for many years to come, or at least until we all gather around a crackling campfire in the not to distant future, as who knows where our next adventure will lead us?

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Further south saw Stix and Dylan wrapping up one of our busiest seasons from the past ten years. It would be Gregorio’s first trip to the East Cape, one he most certainly enjoyed. Joining Gregorio was his daughter, Leslie, making the best of our renowned Big 5 photographic opportunities, coming away with a number of fantastic pictures.

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As is custom this time of year down south, the rains had arrived, making for a couple of  wet days. Neither hunter nor the game were complaining as our Karoo areas most certainly needed rain. A dry snowless winter has left us with concern for some of our northern areas, but with some luck the rains will continue quenching the lands thirst and transforming it into a wonderland.

Gregorio enjoyed success in hunting Sable, Gemsbuck and Springbuck in the Karoo, before getting back to the coast for a Cape Bushbuck and Red Hartebeest.

A fantastic 26" Red Hartebeest proved to be the last trophy on his safari, and so too the last trophy of our season in South Africa - it was fitting that a bull of such class would close off a world class season in the south.

A fantastic 26″ Red Hartebeest proved to be the last trophy on his safari, and so to the last trophy of our season in South Africa – it was fitting that a bull of such class would close off a world-class season in the south.

With things drawing to an end we saw Rick coming out of retirement to join our old friend, Ron Machado, on his hunt to Namibia. Ron, has been hunting with John X Safaris for as long as I can remember, becoming a permanent member of the family.

As per usual his safari started in South Africa with a few days of R&R at Lalibela before we headed up to the Karoo for a Copper Springbuck with Niel. Not only did Ron make a long shot count on his Copper, he did so under tough conditions too – a remarkable shot on a superb ram. As always Ron’s camera is close at hand, capturing some remarkable pictures of our newly acquired Burchell’s Golden Gemsbuck – a future must for all serious collectors.

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As our southern leg of our safari came to an end we bid farewell to Ron and Rick as they headed off to Namibia for Ron’s main reason for his safari – A Damaraland Dik-Dik.

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From Windhoek, Namibia , the guys travelled north to Damaraland, right up to the border of Etosha National Park. Gunter and Reinhild Scwhalm would be our hosts for the hunt, sharing their impressive areas and facilities.

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As expected when visiting a new area for the very first time, we felt anxious to see the game, hoping the hunt would prove a success. . Damaraland Dik-Dik are tiny, they form part of the tiny 10, and the terrain they inhabit can make a hunters life difficult if rains were late, leaving more cover than usual during the late season. With much anticipation they headed out that first afternoon.

That evening I received the report from Rick – Great area, super hosts, and plenty of Dik-Dik! That’s all I needed to hear.

Within three days Ron had his Dik-Dik - A magnificent ram of over 3", easily qualifying as a gold medal, and a fantastic addition to his Tiny 10 collection.

Within three days Ron had his Dik-Dik – A magnificent ram of over 3″, easily qualifying as a gold medal, and a fantastic addition to his Tiny 10 collection.

With the all important Dik-Dik in the salt the guys visited Etosha National Park for a day of touring before heading onto Windhoek, Luderitz , and Walvisbay.

Touring the famous Skeleton Coast and small traditionally German towns proved extremely interesting. While the desert is a harsh environment it was interesting to see the wildlife that thrive in such rugged conditions.

In closing this months report, I wanted to share a special picture with you. It’s not everyday that one has the opportunity to give someone who has given so much of himself to John X Safaris, something he has truly dreamt about.

You all know our head Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, the big bubbly guy whom likes hunting more than anyone you know. The same guy who arrived at John X Safaris more than twenty years ago, and still guides with the same enthusiasm as his first day on the job. For many of you he’s the reason you come back year after year – to be a part of his safari.

Now Greg and I go back a long way, as you could imagine, as a young boy with only a sister, I latched onto Greg like a big brother.  Needless to say we spent a lot of time together, having fun and causing untold headaches for Rick and Sue over the years.

So while up in Mozambique I pulled a few strings and called in a favour or two…..

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What a privilege to have guided Greg on his Livingstone Suni! From long hot days hunting Springbuck in the Great Karoo to a Suni in the Zambezi Delta, who knows what’s next?!

What a fantastic month it proved to be – a fitting end to what has been a world-class season.

Until next time, from both Ron and us... Ciao!

Until next time, from both Ron and us… Ciao!

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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As Johnny and pilot, Craig, disappeared into the direction of Beira, I saw a dejected Temba crossing the runway in my direction. With that look of a beaten man he stared at me before uttering;” I’m sorry.” I stood there for a minute taking in what had just happened, then realizing that he had turned and was heading towards his sleeping quarters, I shouted after him;”I’m sorry too.”

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Here was a man I respected more than most, a proud Zulu tracker, a dedicated team player – but most of all a fine man. A man whom could be relied on when starring danger in the eye while facing a charging Cape Buffalo, yet he possessed a deep sense of humanity, a quiet ear to listen, and an uncanny ability to offer advice in the most subtle manner. He had sat out on the hood night after night, determined to spot a track – his “want” for a successful hunt was as strong as all of ours, yet he felt the urge to apologize for his part he had played in the failure. It felt good knowing my team was as invested as I was in the drive for success – it gave me hope knowing my old buddy, Dave Kjelstrup, would be landing in a couple of hours.

 

Dave was back on his third trip with John X Safaris, and this time we were after a number of species he hadn’t hunted yet, including an all important Leopard.

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Stix had met up with Dave in Johannesburg, escorting him all the way to camp in the Delta, joining us on our hunt to gain further experience in Mozambique. And what an experience it proved to be for both Stix and Dave – starting off with a truly world-class Litchenstein Hartebeest.

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With Dave cruising along like he always does, we were soon into a number of exceptional trophies, including a fantastic Chobe Bushbuck.

With our daily hunts going better than expected we turned our attention to Coenraad and Stix, whom had each formed their own teams’ for the night shift. Each crew would head out after sundown each evening patrolling their selected “clean” roads. Coenraad was determined in hunting down the now legendary Crocodile Pan cat, while Stix covered a heavily baited area which boasted good leopard activity.

 

Having pursued the same cat on and off for five consecutive nights, Coenraad felt he was catching up to the tom. He was figuring out a pattern. Our daily early morning get-togethers around the campfire with a steaming cup of coffee brought new information to the front, while our notes and pictures in the sand became more elaborate each morning. We were plotting his route, while trying to determine where his territorial boundaries lay. Natural boundaries such as rivers, old tracks in the forest, water holes, and dry pans, were important to consider. Past hunted cats were as important as the fresh signs of this tom, as Leopard often take over another cats territory if it suddenly disappears. Finding scratch posts were basically impossible with the vastness of the forest, but known posts were considered in our analysis. We were a team of guys banking on every ounce of experience to outwit the Crocodile Pan monster.

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Having overcome the disappointment of chasing this exact same cat with Johnny, having lost it in a fresh burn during the final stages of that chase a mere 8 days earlier, Coenraad and Live, were zoning in on their quarry. It was night six of Dave’s hunt, and Coenraad had predicted the toms movements to a precise area that morning. He had made a big call the night before, having found a fairly “old” track, one from the early evening, then deciding there wasn’t enough dark hours left in the night to pursue the tom, he let him be. He did however leave the track in a favorable area and now was in hot pursuit.

Head dog Karrel was as frustrated as any, she too had done her job every evening, and at her age with a certainty of distinction too, she too knew she was close, the cat was no longer walking, he was running, they had finally put him up. At last! Soon the younger dogs would take over with their youthful spirits and enduring speed, before the packs “convincer”, Virgo, would use her size and temper to convince the tom to tree.

At one stage Coenraad felt the tom may have treed as the dogs were constant, remaining in the same area, intensifying their barking. Together with Live they slowly approached, cautious in every movement, a cat of this size and age would not be an easy customer in a tree. They say for every second a Leopard spends mauling you it’s responsible for  an average of 140 stitches… There’s good reason for the cautious approach and respect.

With a mere three hundred yards to go the brewing storm that had been threatening overhead all day, opened its heavens and drenched all with a torrential downpour. Needless to say our hunt was over. In the dead of night the tom escaped yet again…. How many lives did this cat have?

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That morning saw camp in a somber mood, most too tired to be awake, but to disappointed to sleep.

For the next four days it rained. It felt like we were stuck in a Forest Gump movie with Tom Hanks, enduring every kind of rain imaginable to man.

From time to time the clouds would clear and the sun would come through for a couple of hours before closing in again. During these times we made the most of our opportunities, hunting what we could when we could without getting stuck.

Having done what we could, having made peace with the fact that we could not change the weather, we rose that last morning to a beautiful day.  This would be it – tonight would be the night, surely any sane cat would head out hunting that evening? Having endured four wet nights we felt the cats had to walk.

Four enthusiastic crews left camp at sundown that last evening, hoping to make Dave’s hunt the success we hoped it would be by finding his elusive Leopard. Up to this stage we had enjoyed a hugely successful and enjoyable hunt, only coming up short on his Leopard. Throughout all this time Dave had stressed how much he appreciated the endless perseverance and effort by the team, and was happy with what would be, would be. He was an experienced hunter, knowing full well one cannot win every time one headed out on a hunt.

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In the end we limped back to camp in dribs and drabs at sunup, having experienced  one of the quietest nights of the entire three weeks spent in the Delta. All of us were back, with only Coenraad still out at sunup… There was still some hope. And then the familiar diesel drone came into earshot. As he rounded that last bend into camp it was final… No screeching tyres, excited hounds, or the adrenalin rush of a fresh Leopard track, just the look of a tired and disappointed man. Our hunt was over.

The heart break … When the gods are just not fair…

The day we left the Delta there were a couple of German hunters from Blaser in one of the other camps within the concession. They kindly asked our hounds man , Coenraad, if he’d give it one last go before he headed back to South Africa the following day , a long and tedious journey through Zimbabwe and finally into SA. Coenraad agreed half heartedly, he knew of old “Murphy” and its mysterious laws.

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The next morning I received the following from Coenraad first, then Mark;” Sorry mate… We shot a big Leopard last night.” The heartbreak just about got the better of me, let alone my two great friends, Johnny and Dave, who had invested not only emotionally in the pursuit, but had spent a fair penny on the opportunity to pursue a Leopard.

It was not that we weren’t happy for the German hunter who hunted a beautiful Leopard in one of my favorite parts of Africa, but the reality that one never knows when it comes to hunting. We had given it our all and then some…. Who knows? Maybe next time the hunting gods may smile down on us more favorably and shower us in luck.

Appreciation of the crew… Giving credit where it’s due.

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While every single hunt at John X Safaris is planned with meticulous precision, with every member of the team driven to ensure the desired success of any given hunt, one can never take success as a given. Over time I have learnt I can however control the odds of success by selecting and investing in the right areas, with the right clientele, and the right team. Each one of these three aspects going hand in hand to ensure the success of any given safari.

But sometimes when the going gets tough and the stakes are down one gets reminded of how important it is to surround oneself with good people, after all without them there would be no team at all. In this sense, more than just good people – good animals.

To the guys and girls whom I had the privilege to call my team in Mozambique over the past month – I cannot thank you all enough. Mark, Mike, Poen, Stix, Anton, “Donkey Kong Little Craig”, Temba, Staff, Zandre, Sarah, Roundy, Shorty, Nazoua, Gotchi, Albino, Mfana, Domingo, and Dagga Boy – thank you.

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Then to Coenraad and Live, your endless perseverance and never say die attitude is what sets you apart from the many other houndsman out there. I don’t know how you do it night in and night out!

Lastly, but certainly not least, to our four-legged fury friends – Karrel, Botswana, Boesman, Virgo, Pepper, Daisy, Ice, and even Spotty – you girls are all in a league of your own. Your excited pants and echoing barks ringing out into the night air gives one goosebumps of excitement and anticipation. I can’t wait to join you ladies soon again!

So what if I told you I’d love a rematch tomorrow? I’d like to get out there again…right now. The critic in you may question my sanity in being so determined to pursue the Crocodile Pan cat again, after all we did fail miserably with a bunch of rotten luck.  You may also question my claim of success being a 50/50, but consider our past success rate of 100% on Leopard, then taking into account the last two missed cats, the average is still very much in the high 80’s. But let’s not get caught up in the figures, what does a Leopard know about averages? It’s like my old mate Lou Hallimore always says;”Leopard hunting is a 50/50 – you either get a cat or you don’t….”

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5

It had been another all “nighter”, the stakes were high and the odds had not been in our favor. Four trucks had been out looking for tracks for the last four nights, an additional two from the usual schedule for the past 17 nights – we were determined. No one likes losing, least of all losing two in a row. As the rising sun made a spectacular entry from the east, I knew we were beaten – humbled by one of Africa’s most mysterious creatures.

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Within hours we were taxiing along Mungari Rio, Runway 16-34, a secluded bush strip in the middle of the Zambezi Delta, Mozambique. Our pilot Josh revved the engine for the last time before easing the Cessna 206 into a south-easterly direction. Within minutes we had covered the 25 miles to the swamps, enjoying the view of hundreds of Cape Buffalo and Elephant, before turning west along the coast towards Beira. As the terrain skid by below us our minds drifted off into a forgotten era, Africa’s wilderness had left us in awe – romanticized by her raw beauty. We may have come up empty-handed on a couple of Leopard, but not in the journey that is the true essence of a safari.

But let’s rewind the clock by three weeks, I had my good friend, Johnny Posey, desperately trying to get comfortable on the sticks as the weary old Nyala entered the shooting lane. He had been in and out of the forest, with Johnny, Mike, Temba, and myself, closing the distance between us and him as fast and quiet as possible.

As the bull cleared Johnny squeezed off his 338, the bull lunged and took off at a rapid pace disappearing into the undergrowth. We tracked him for about 100 yards before finding him piled up with a well placed lung shot. A magnificent bull to say the least!

As the bull cleared Johnny squeezed off his 338, the bull lunged and took off at a rapid pace disappearing into the undergrowth. We tracked him for about 100 yards before finding him piled up with a well placed lung shot. A magnificent bull to say the least!

Together with a world-class Nyala , Johnny hunted a selection of Zambezi Delta specific species, with one of my favorite being his Livingstone Suni. An important member in his growing Tiny 10 collection.

 

So while our days were being filled with plains game hunts it was our nocturnal activities that kept us riveted, patiently waiting for that leopard track to show. It was not until night five, when the PH’s and trackers clearly showed signs of anxiety that our luck began to turn.

A track had been found by one of our trackers and the hounds were released immediately. First it was Karel, the head dog of a bitch only pack, then it was Botswana, Boesman, and Daisie, with the rest coming up the rear. For much of the way the track proved to be a cold track, and it probably was as the hounds never sang in one voice, a fairly disjointed chase. Either way, as Coenraad and Live, our hounds man neared a tree, passing beneath it, they noticed that the hounds had lost the track – with that cold sickening feeling Coenraad peered up with his headlamp. Right above him, mere meters away, a Leopard sat quietly peering down at the activity below. Lights were switched off immediately and they moved away until all were in position.

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We regrouped and went in for a closer look – this time ready to take the shot if it turned out to be a good Leopard Tom. After closer investigation it was agreed that in fact this was a female – and most certainly not what we were after. We all moved out quietly, while Coenraad returned on his own to call off the hounds.

From about 80 yards out we witnessed one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever witnessed with hounds over the years. Coenraad walked within 20 yards of the tree, blew out a loud whistle before shouting;”loss hom!” And then it was as if someone had turned off their barks – silence fell within the pack with those two simple words, directly translated from Afrikaans as, “leave him!” Anyone who has had the privilege of hunting with a well-trained pack will agree with me that even the best trained hounds take some convincing to leave their quarry in one single command. If only I could have captured it on camera, but unfortunately the sound without any light in the dead of night would never have been able to relay the experience like being there that night.

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A special night it proved to be – we had left the beautiful female to rest at the top of the tree, not bothered with a thing in the world. Come to think of it now, she never showed any sign of aggression, which is strange for a Leopard, but then again I’d question her understanding of the danger? Had she ever seen or heard a hound before? The wilderness she calls home knows no such animal such as a domestic dog, due to the Tsetse fly, the carrier of sleeping sickness, and the few humans that do live there would make an encounter opportunity fairly rare.

Having put a cat in the tree, saw a change in fortune and attitude. Desperate looking trackers and PHs regained that measured look like a team mere days away from success – drooping shoulders and tired eyes were a forgotten hindrance.

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The team was back on the horse – or more like back on the hood looking for tracks!

The following two evenings saw no further signs of cats, but on day eight, things took a turn in the right direction. Anton, one of the other PHs’, had found a Leopard kill that morning and suggested we take a closer look. The Leopard had killed a mature warthog and had dragged it for more the 200 yards, before covering it with foliage. That evening we returned hoping to find it had returned and that a clear track had been left.

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As we had hoped for, the cat had returned, eaten a lot for a Leopard, and left the biggest track I’d ever seen in the Delta. This was a huge Leopard. Excitedly we released the hounds – this was it. Within seconds there was more than enough voice from the hounds to indicate that this cat had recently been in the vicinity. They all disappeared into the night for the next 6 hours.

After 6 hours a dejected team returned to the truck, the sun was mere hours from rising – we had lost the track after it had crossed a freshly burnt area. A bushfire proved the determining factor between us and our prized cat. It was time to catch some shut-eye. We were all exhausted.

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Over the course of the last three nights of the hunt we pushed harder than ever – checking baits on a regular basis hoping for any activity

A couple more female tracks were found and for one last time, the warthog killer too, but this time the track was just too old, the dogs couldn’t do much with it after the early morning dew had settled over it. All scent had dissipated.

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Johnny left Mozambique gracious in defeat, appreciative of the effort, but disappointed. So were we. As a team, we had done everything we thought possible – dragged the roads, hung baits, spent every night out in the bush – searching for that elusive track, but in the end we came up short. It just wasn’t meant to be….

BUT before Johnny left Mozambique an unbelievable opportunity presented itself in the form of a Selous Zebra. Now all of you would have heard about a Zebra, most of you would have enjoyed the opportunity to hunt one along the line somewhere in Africa, if not with John X Safaris. Few people realize there are three main Zebra species, namely the Burchell’s, Hartmann’s Mountain, and Cape Mountain Zebra. There are also a number of sub-species, with the most common ones being the Chapman’s, Grant’s, and Grevy’s, but very few would have heard of or seen a Selous Zebra before. Reason being they’re EXTREMELY rare.

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In fact they’re so rare they only occur in the Sofala and Gaza provinces of Mozambique. They have clean black-and-white banding without the brown shadow stripes, which extended down the flanks and over the entire body, including the shins all the way down to the hooves. The upper half is covered with horizontal stripes, with the belly partly striped. At the conclusion of the war it was believed there were a mere 100 animals left in the Marromeu district of the Sofala Province, but soon after more animals were found with improved censor techniques.

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Today, 20 years later, and thanks to the safari community of Mozambique, driven by hunters from all over the world, their numbers have returned to a sustainable figure, allowing a quota of two Zebra per concession per annum. Johnny just happened to be in the right place at the right time scooping up the opportunity of a once in a lifetime trophy!

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8

If you thought 2014 couldn’t get any better, then don’t feel alone, I was sitting on the banks of the Zambezi River a mere three weeks ago counting my blessings and wondering how the remainder of the season would pan out? I’ll be honest, at that moment I was sipping a cold locally brewed Mozambican 2M with my good friend Jeff Edland, savoring the success of the days hunt. At our feet lay a known man-eater, at 14 foot in length and more than a meter at the belly, one could understand the fear the locals had for this Crocodile.

It had not been an easy hunt, the wind wasn’t perfect and the day had been long. Numerous Crocs had been seen, two of them meeting the requirements we were after, but nothing had come from endless patience. We had given up, called it a day, and then no more than a mile from our landing site there he was. Jeff made another telling shot – this time at 70 yards off sticks – and if you’re thinking what’s the big fuss at 70 yards? Go try hitting the centre out of an Oreo cookie at 70 yards without a dead rest. It’s tough!

It had not been an easy hunt, the wind wasn’t perfect and the day had been long. Numerous Crocs had been seen, two of them meeting the requirements we were after, but nothing had come from endless patience. We had given up, called it a day, and then no more than a mile from our landing site there he was. Jeff made another telling shot – this time at 70 yards off sticks – and if you’re thinking what’s the big fuss at 70 yards? Go try hitting the centre out of a Oreo cookie at 70 yards without a dead rest. It’s tough!

Jeff not only enjoyed success on a huge Crocodile, but a first night Leopard over hounds had set our safari off on the right foot. Our hounds man Coenraad had expressed his concern over rain that was expected later that week, and he wanted to give it a go on that very first night. We trusted our man on the ground and within hours had a big tom treed.

To say that it was a relief would have been an understatement! Forget the success rate ratios - As described to me by a friend of mine, the famous Zimbabwean Leopard hunter, Lou Halimore, " It's a 50/50 - Either get one or you don't!" We had ours! And at that a beauty!

To say that it was a relief would have been an understatement! Forget the success rate ratios – As described to me by a friend of mine, the famous Zimbabwean Leopard hunter, Lou Hallamore, ” It’s a 50/50 – Either you get one or you don’t.” We had ours – And at that a beauty!

And that’s the way our Mozambican hunt went… The trophies speak for themselves and the adventure enjoyed with our old friends and hosts, Poen and Zandre, was a treat and as good as ever. Poen, together with our local trackers, Gotchi and Albieno, have become an extension of John X Safaris in Mozambique. Seldom does a day pass without unexpected adventure, with the quality of the hunting a given…

Back south in South Africa, we welcomed Steve and Charlene Galas, as well as the father/son duo of Dan and Jake Tomcheck. For both parties it was to be their first hunt with John X Safaris, enjoying both our coastal and northern Karoo areas.

Steve and Charlene teamed up with Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole, hunting a variety of plains game. An outstanding Gemsbuck and Kudu hunt was some of Steve’s favorites, but a certain highlight for us was Steve’s Waterbuck. From time to time one stumbles upon an interesting trophy, one that sees one becoming addicted in its pursuit.

For Steve and Ross it turned out to be a superb Waterbuck, the only catch, this bull had broken its right horns’ tip during the course of their hunt. It was now more than “just” the hunt, there was a story… In the end they did get him, and while many would wonder about their quest in turning down so many good bulls to hunt this particular bull, I and others who knew what they were after could appreciate their dedication. He may have had a broken tip, but the broken horn still tipped off at 27”, while the other 32”. A trophy of a lifetime in my eyes, and story to go with it.

For Dan and Jake Tomcheck, joining Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, it was to be a truly special safari. Since the start of our father/son hunts we’ve been overwhelmed by the response of so many of you. But the added bonus that was not expected has been the reward of seeing fathers and sons spending quality time together, and ultimately rekindling relationships and family bonds without external distractions.

The hunting proved to be a treat under the guidance of Greg and tracker, Bless. From the coastal forests, to the plains of the Karoo, and finally up onto the mountains in the north…

With early July rolling on it was time to welcome our extended family from Reno, Nevada. Over the years we at John X Safaris have been privileged to host many hunters from around the world, some come on that once in a lifetime safari, others a couple more times, then there are those who form part of the family, coming every other year. They bring their kids, their friends, and families – ultimately bringing them home to Africa as often as they can.

One such family is the Robinson family. Steve had first joined us on safari with our good friend, Rich Adams, many years ago and since has shared a number of memorable safaris with us. Since that first hunt, Steve has introduced his wife, Linda, as well as kids, Ashley, Hunter, and Kaley, to African safaris. Our families have grown together, enjoying many trips throughout southern Africa.

This year proved to be one of our most enjoyable safaris to date. Together with the Robinson’s, we welcomed the Pitts and Tripp families. The plan was for the entire group to spend four days at Lalibela, and then the girls would head down to Cape Town with Trish, while the boys headed to the Karoo for some more hunting. From there we would all meet for the last two days of our safari down in Knysna on the Garden Route.

An action packed safari it proved to be with a number of record-breaking trophies hitting the salt. A 55 3/8’’ East Cape Kudu for Bo Tripp was the trophy of a lifetime, not to mention an awesome Klipspringer and Waterbuck with the family. Arnie and Hunter Pitts made for quality entertainment with some trick shooting, with humor like no other. My team of Steve and Hunter were as solid as ever, with Steve hunting a magnificent Kalahari Springbuck of 17’’, while Hunter stole the limelight with an epic old Bushpig we’d been after for quite some time.

 

While the “seasoned” hunters may have dominated the hunting in numbers, it was the junior hunters whom most impressed us. Two very special young ladies reminded us what it was all about and why we enjoy our passion for hunting. To Kaley Robinson and Abie Tripp – Congratulations on some exceptional shooting and a great bunch of trophies!

Meanwhile down in Cape Town the girls were warming up to their new-found slogan of “Living on the Edge”…. Yes folks adventure sport junkies to say the least! From the V&A Waterfront to the Nelson Mandela Apartheid Museum, Cape Point to Table Mountain and Paragliding off Lions Head, to Great White Shark cage diving. That and so much more…

All in all it proved to be a mammoth safari to say the least. The combination of hunting, Big 5 photographic safaris, and the Garden Route to Cape Town sight-seeing tour, provided for first class vacationing. The fun and games never stopped from the minute the group arrived to the day they left.

As mid July rolled along we welcomed our partners from Blaser, Marc Hillerman, and hunter, Jan Bredensen. They joined Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole, for a week of mountain hunting. Over the course of the week the guys hunted hard, enjoying long hikes with hours of glassing, hoping to find what they were after.

During their quest they hunted a variety of species including a Caracal with hounds, Blesbuck and Common Duiker, but their mountain species is what they had come for, and wow were they impressive…

A 9 3/8’’ Vaal Rhebuck...

A 9 3/8’’ Vaal Rhebuck…

A 7 4/8’’ Mountain Reedbuck...

A 7 4/8’’ Mountain Reedbuck…

And 4’’ Klipspringer.

And 4’’ Klipspringer.

Eat your hearts out all you mountain dwellers! These three would be the pride of any mountain hunters’ trophy room.

I’m still in awe at a number of trophies from the past three weeks. As I said before, who would have thought it could get any better, considering the season we’ve had to date, but our areas keep producing the goods and the teams on the ground keep providing world-class experiences.

As I sign off this month’s report, we find ourselves spread across the Eastern Cape. In the north we have our old friend Mike Grier, together with Tom Lincoln and Tyler Geer, back on his third hunt with John X Safaris, while Jose, Trish, and I, are giving back to the industry with our annual PHASA donated hunt. We’re looking forward to a busy period running into early August before we set sail to Mozambique once again.

Until next month – Enjoy the outdoors and do so responsibly.

Until next month – Enjoy the outdoors and do so responsibly.

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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Combined diary entries by Carl van Zyl & Paul Brisso

Day 7 – September 16 – The Bushbuck gods came smiling………

Carl owed me a good Bushbuck, and not just because of yesterday.  When I hunted with Carl a couple of years ago in the East Cape, South Africa, a Bushbuck was the one animal on my “wish list” where we came up empty.  Late on the last morning of our hunt I was on the sticks waiting for a magnificent Cape Bushbuck. He was following two females and was about to take two more steps forward to clear a bush and present an easy shot, when he inexplicably deserted his companions and melted into the heavy brush to bed down for the day.  We returned that evening and he came out too late and at the wrong place .  Carl still claims he has that same ram waiting for me and a return match.

I was frustrated with my shooting. The previous day was not good and I couldn’t do anything but blame myself.  The rifle I brought for plains game seemed ok at the initial sight-in on day one, and I had written off my fatal, but high right shot on the Red Duiker to operator error.

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Fortunately Carl had more confidence in my shooting ability and ran us to the range before setting out this morning.  I was surprised to find my rifle  was shooting considerably high and right.  After a few rounds we had the rifle dialed in. A fairly good excuse for the poor shooting was a confidence builder.

We spent a slow-morning cruising the forests looking for Bushbuck without much success.  After an early lunch, Poen suggested we wait out a pan for the afternoon as one in particular was the favorite watering hole for a number of good rams.

I am not good at sitting, but was willing to follow the decision of the PH’s.  About noon we were in position.  Carl and I were situated in camp chairs, me with a book and Carl with his diary.  Poen and the trackers were perched above us on a termite mound watching the pan.  Not 15 minutes had elapsed before Poen saw “the” Bushbuck returning from a midday drink.  After some maneuvering and detailed guidance by Carl and Poen on how to find the ram in the heavy brush we had him down.

The entire crew was extremely excited by my Chobe Bushbuck, I’m glad I made it count when we most needed it.

The entire crew was extremely excited by my Chobe Bushbuck, I’m glad I made it count when we most needed it.

Day 8 – September 17 – Unchartered virgin territory….

With our Bushbuck success fresh in our minds we headed out with great anticipation after Sable. Poen had a plan for today.

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Up until this stage we had seen and hunted areas I’d personally seen before on previous trips to Mozambique. I had asked Poen if he knew of an area in the concession that seldom saw people. He knew of just the area.

As we traveled we found areas overgrown with old dead grass, grass of this nature provides very little nutrition for the wildlife and one seldom finds any game in these areas.

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By burning off the dead grass, one revitalizes the soil and germinates the dormant seeds. Within weeks this once unpalatable grass will be a maze of green flourishing with fresh growth and the arrival of wildlife.

Later in the day we came upon a rural village in the bush. We showed Paul how the locals lived and lent a hand where it was needed.

What a day! 100 kilometers of off-roading later and we had seen unbelievably wild country side. Started the biggest bushfire I’ve ever seen, and stalked up to 180 yards of a great old Sable bull watching over a herd of 70+ females. In the end Paul turned him down. He was a classic, great shape and hook, but he lacked depth and we still had three days left to hunt. It was Paul’s call, I sure hope it doesn’t come back to haunt him.

Day 9 – September 18 – A sad day….

Yes, today was a sad day. We had hunted so hard for a good Sable. Our efforts had come up short on numerous occasions, but we continued on knowing our luck would turn sooner rather than later. It had to come.

When it came, it came with anger, disappointment, and a sense of loss. It sucked every emotion out of the entire team. Hollowness engulfed us as we watched the magnificence of such a majestic animal ……so helpless.

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He didn’t deserve this. To be caught in a poachers gin trap.  He had given so much more to the world he lived in, his mere existence was more than we could have asked for. Hunters had ensured the sustainability of him and his kind, poachers had robbed both us and him of a fair contest.

With heavy harts we walked up to the bag of bones and gut wrenching smell, his leg had started rotting away in the blistering Mozambican sun. Paul had put him out of his misery.

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Now you may ask or question the trophy pictures? Simply – respect. This old bull will be treated in the same manner as any other trophy hunted. He will be given his dues, skinned out, the meat processed as best we can, and he will be mounted. He will come to rest in California where he will grace the walls of Paul’s home, and will not be forgotten.

He will also be a symbol of hope, but for that we need some time. The wheels are turning; plans have started falling in place for one of the biggest private anti poaching fundraisers to date.

January 2014 will be an important period for Coutada 11. Mark and his team together with Craig Boddington, will be hosting a special fundraising auction in Dallas, TX. Without a moments doubt or hesitation I’ve assured Mark that John X Safaris will also be involved.  We’ve come a long way since those first safaris in Mozambique all those years ago, Coutada 11 has become a favorite of both ours and our clients. But more on that in a month or two’s time.

Day 10 – September 19 – A hint of desperacey has set in, but hope is not far off the horizon.

With time running out and still no Sable for Paul we’d be lying if we said we weren’t all starting to become increasingly anxious. While Paul had put the old bull out of his misery yesterday, it still wasn’t Paul’s Sable. We had two days left, and no PH likes entering the last day short on a major specie on license.

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Our bearing we chose today was a gamble, but we needed to do something different to change our fortunes. And change they did. At mid morning we bumped a great Sable, but were unable to get onto him prior to seeing him disappear into the forest. We immediately set off on his tracks.

Within two hundred yards we found him bedded in the very next clearing. Cautiously Paul maneuvered into position, found a small shooting lane in the foliage and readied himself for the shot. Surely we had this bull, he was only 60 yards away, oblivious to our presence.

And then for no reason or rhyme he just got up and strolled away. We all sat there in a haze of Mosquito’s amazed at our run of bad luck.

We moved on for lunch onto the edge of the flood plain and watched Poen and our tracker, Gotchi, pickup on fresh poacher tracks. Soon they were running on the tracks hoping to find a poachers’ camp and capture the culprits responsible for the old Sables broken leg.

A couple of days earlier Gotchi had noticed freshly cut papyrus and had a suspicion of poacher’s recent activity at a waterhole. He had asked us to hang back while he checked the path for any gin traps.

And what a great gut feeling it turned out to be.

And what a great gut feeling it turned out to be.

He literally had the shooting sticks snapped out of his grasp a mere yard away from his leading foot.

He literally had the shooting sticks snapped out of his grasp a mere yard away from his leading foot.

In the end their time and fresh tracks ran out, and we continued on into the afternoon.

At dusk we spotted a lone Sable bull, making his way from the edge of the flood plain into the forest for the night. We all took off at a brisk run, hoping to reach a predetermined palm before he crossed the last clearing. It felt like a now or never moment.

With seconds to spare we made it, got Paul steadied on the sticks and waited for the Sable to reach the clearing. He strolled along, continuing in the same direction as before, before coming to a halt behind the only small tree in the clearing. Only one more yard and we’d have a shot.

And then he was off, a group of Liechtenstein Hartebeest had winded us off to the left. We were fuming.

Gathering our gear we headed back to the truck, and then suddenly our luck changed. That’s hunting for you, when you drop your head and feel like giving up; a lift is not far around the corner.

A monstrous Common Reedbuck stepped out and turned a frustrating day into one memorable one.

A monstrous Common Reedbuck stepped out and turned a frustrating day into one memorable one.

We were back! Heads up, tomorrow will be our last and final day, we need to make it count.

Day 11 – September 20 – To close for comfort!

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This morning we were met by a theory from Gotchi. Gotchi reckoned the hunting gods had given us a Sable and Paul had turned it down. Our lack of success was our punishment. He was set on his belief, but did make mention of the fact that Paul had also done a very good deed by putting the old poached bull out of his suffering. In his eyes a fair trade, noting in his cheerful manner; “Mushie Baas, Mushie”(Great boss, great!) Well I’m glad one member of the team felt things were great and the deal was done?!

By mid morning we’d bumped a couple of nice bulls, but the presence of other game gave our position away once again, and by midday we were desperate. I was somewhat beyond – to be frankly honest. I couldn’t send Paul home without a Sable.

And then at 17:15 we finally got our bull. The relief was overwhelming.

And then at 17:15 we finally got our bull. The relief was overwhelming.

A bit too close for comfort!

Lying here quietly in bed looking back over our safari, Mark is being his usual busy self across the room. In the distance one can hear the rhythmic chirp of a nightjar, only to be rudely interrupted by the shriek of the ever-present Bush-babies in the Mango tree above our room. Staring out through the open door, we can see the moon rising in the distance, bright and red…. “The Buffalo will be on the move again tonight”, Mark interrupts the silence, “Yes my friend, much like Paul and I in the morning.” It’s time to head home.

Like all good things, our blissful Mozambican days had to come to an end, but the spirit of Mozambique will live on for many years to come.

Like all good things, our blissful Mozambican days had to come to an end, but the spirit of Mozambique and our adventure will live on for many years to come.

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