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Posts Tagged ‘Swarovski’

“A single day in Africa compares to the experience of an entire year anywhere else on the planet when it comes to long-range hunting.”

I’m no expert on the subject of long-range rifles, for that I have my good friends, Aaron Davidson and Garrett Wall from Gunwerks to fall back on, but I can tell you a thing or two about long-range hunting in Africa. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to have shared more hours in pursuit of African game with these two guys than any of us can remember. We’ve chased our fair share of “unicorns” as Aaron likes to put it on the odd occasion, but have succeeded in putting a fair number of those in the salt too. Our days in the mountains combined with the kind of banter that only close friends could handle has seen us build valuable experience over the years. Over time we have learnt a great deal about the Gunwerks system and the variables, such as tough wind-calls and difficult setups, that go along with the challenge, as well as African game and their behaviour at greater distances. Each year we learn something new and try to share that with fellow hunters around us.

This year proved to live up to expectation once again with two groups of hunters joining the crew from Gunwerks. Aaron and I teamed up for close on three weeks, while James Christianson joined us for the first half, before Aaron’s daughter, Electa, and Garrett joined us for the second leg of the trip. With them we’d host a number of hunters proudly sporting their Gunwerks rifles ready to take on Africa and whatever else came their way.

The father/son duo of Randy and Ryan Smith teamed up with PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, and tracker, Thanduxolo, for an unforgettable first trip to Africa. The guys were looking to experience as much as possible over the eight days of hunting, while making the most of the scenery and camaraderie around camp. While hunting would be their priority, they weren’t stopping at only making an impression on our wildlife through sustainable hunting, but would impact the lives of the local children in our community even more so.

The Smith’s together with Rich and Lynah Guild would take our John X Foundation to new heights through unchartered waters. As a team we have always carried aspirations of bigger projects each year, hoping to make a significant difference in our local community. With the identification of the Carlisle Bridge Farm School as our latest humanitarian initiative we set to work sharing our plans and dreams for the future. Within minutes of arriving at the school one could see the impact the dire situation of the school had on our hunters. They too, now understood why we chose to support this little country school on the banks of the Great Fish River.

 

Their support would provide funding for stationary and sporting equipment as well as a new well for drinking water. The existing well had not been in any kind of working order since the late 1960’s, with scholars collecting water from the river each day. A comprehensive solar plant was installed to provide electricity and a computer for the very first time in the schools history. The day when the lights went on things changed for the kids of our community. Words cannot describe the appreciation and gratitude towards these amazing folks. Thank you is the least we can say. Over and over and over.

With Mr. Rich and Mrs. Lynah’s work completed at the school they set off with PH, Ed Wilson, and tracker, Bongani, on the hunt for plains game. A Kudu, Bushbuck and Nyala were three BIG priorities for Rich. The spirals fascinated him and he was determined to work hard at hunting quality trophies on the desired spirals.

He duly did so and then made the most of a number of specialized Karoo species up in the north. Rich’s Gemsbuck in particular was one he worked extremely hard for, with the Springbuck being a certain must when hunting in South Africa.

His Sable however stole the show in more ways than one. Once a hunter lays eyes on the most striking and majestic of all on the plains it can be hard not to be in utter awe of these immense animals.

A superb bull it proved to be.

As for Stephen Beaudet and PH, Rusty Coetzer, it would be a collection of specialized East Cape species. They concentrated a fair majority of their efforts up in the Great Karoo, hunting the classics such as Gemsbuck, Springbuck and Hartman’s Zebra.

Stephen’s Gemsbuck in particular proved to be one of the picks from the safari amongst the guides. The sheer size of the bulls body combined with fantastic mass from bases to tips made him one impressive bull.

His Wildebeest, both black and blue, were hardy old bulls well past their prime on the downhill slope of life. Perfectly placed shots did the job on his Wildebeest while his collection of Springbuck was of top quality. Some cold and windy conditions added to the challenge, but the Gunwerks system came into its own once again delivering the goods.

As for Stephen’s Hartman’s Zebra… judge it for yourself. Just a gigantic stallion to say the least.

Jason and Lena Goodale together with PH, Martin Neuper, had a later start than the rest of the group. The Goodale’s had some pending business to wrap up prior to their arrival in Africa which took longer than expected, but they still made it out which we were most grateful for. Their time was limited but by the end of day two one would never have thought they’d arrived a couple of days late.

Two great East Cape Kudu bulls were in the salt before we knew it and they were out putting the hammer down on the rest of the competition. We could hardly keep up with them as they truly made the most of their limited time.

With our hunters hard at it and satisfied smiles around the dinner table greeting us each evening we thought it best we started hunting ourselves and get going on putting the new Revic through its paces in Africa.

Aaron and I don’t plan much anymore these days, we both know what we have hunted before, but we’re always open to an upgrade. Some of our previous trophies will more than likely be quite impossible to upgrade on, but we never rule out anything when it comes to our time together each year. The big bonus however was having James Christianson along.

For James it would be a first trip to Africa, and I’d be lying if I wasnt quietly envious of what that must have felt like.

James, like most, wanted a Kudu, Gemsbuck, and Zebra, with anything else being a bonus along the way. We hunted hard for his Zebra and then made the most of an old goat shed on his Kudu. A brute of a Warthog boar with only one tusk would be James’s final animal in Africa, but not before an epic hunt for Gemsbuck and a proper Springbuck at Niel’s up in the Great Karoo.

As for Aaron… Well we did find a piano out in the middle of a field one morning. A strange sight it was which inevitably led us to a great Caracal with the hounds.

Aaron finally got his long-awaited Bushpig after some serious commitment on a cold winters night. We’d been putting it off for a number of years now, but our trail cameras edged us on to make it happen this year.

The smiles from both Aaron and Clayton said it all. Here was one of the true monsters for 2018. Bushpig hunting can be such a hit and a miss at times, and no matter how much prep goes into it, there always seems to be a new challenge that arrises.

Towards the end of the first groups leg we got our Copper Springbuck up at Niel’s. A ram that ended up surprising everyone, including Niel. Talk about some “ground growth”. With a few of the most specialized East Cape species in the salt, and our list of “dont haves” becoming shorter by the day I knew we were in for a few tough hunts for the remaining leg of Aaron’s hunt. But first we would say goodbye to a truly remarkable group of hunters….

These people came to Africa to hunt, but left leaving so much more than just their footprint on the conservation of our wildlife. The impact of their contributions will be something spoken about for many years to come. We salute you and your desire to assist us in making a difference. You are not merely hunters and conservationists, you’re custodians of our hunting heritage.

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

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Ten years have passed since last I visited Tanzania. We hunted the famous Selous Game Reserve on that particular safari, coming away with a host of great animals, most notably the biggest Cape Buffalo hunted in the Selous that year.

A brute of a bull breaking the magical 45″ mark, finally scoring 47″.

After that initial hunt, things changed in Tanzania, with the dramatic up listing of rates and various tax laws playing the biggest role to why we had not returned to hunt this breath-taking country again. Over the course of those ten years our hunters chose South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Namibia, and Zambia.  But then 2016 came around and I received my annual “hunt planning” mail from my great friend, Steve Travis.

“I’m turning 50 buddy! I want to go Tanzania. I’ve always dreamt about it. Can you put something together?”

This was the big 5!0! Soon we had some options on the table and then we booked the hunt with Jaco Oosthuizen from Game Trackers Africa – our hosts in Tanzania.

We planned to hunt the Moyowasi/Kigozi Game Reserve, situated in Tanzania’s north-western corner up against Burundi and Rwanda. Our block would be the Kigozi unit with its miombo forests and central flood plain playing host to both big 5 and plains game. We were booked and now the waiting game began as we ticked off the days and months leading up to late September 2017.

Hunting has a way of picking you up, giving you hope…. and then spitting you out.

We had arrived to Dar Es Salaam on September 15, I had flown in from South Africa, while Steve came via Europe, stopping over in Nairobi, Kenya, along the way.

With plans set for us to catch a charter out the following morning we were thrown a massive curve ball by United Airlines, who had left Steve’s bags and ammo in Chicago, while they sent the rifles along without a hassle in the world. As ridiculous as that sounds, but there we were – stuck in Dar waiting for luggage.

Meanwhile Steve’s wife Haylee was being a champ back home working the airlines overtime trying to speed up the bag delivery. By noon that first day we made a call to fly out commercially to Mwanza, situated on the shores of Lake Victoria.

We finally got in late that evening and woke the next morning to the amazing sights and sounds of the largest lake in Africa – and then caught our charter to Kigozi. The bags would follow in days to come.

The first few days saw us exploring the area and getting to see the various species of game. We spotted East African Kudu, Topi, Roan, Sable, East African Bushbuck, Lichtenstein Hartebeest, Giraffe, Spotted Hyena, Bohor Reedbuck, Honey Badger, Sitatunga, Warthog, Bushpig, Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Oribi, Duiker, plenty of Bush babies on our way back to camp in the evenings, and of course Cape Buffalo.

The place is beautiful with amazing sun rises and sunsets, and is a game rich area compared to many other Tanzanian concessions. Seeing game does however not mean you’re killing game when it comes to concession hunting. By the end of day four we had not bothered the skinners yet. Let’s say we were desperate for action. The entire crew were working extremely hard, trying everything possible to break our run of bad luck.

Most mornings we would rise at 4:30 am, getting back in the evenings between 21-22:00. Sleep was not a priority, but still our luck wouldn’t break.

On day five we decided to give the plains game a break and concentrate on Steve’s all-time favourite, Cape Buffalo. We stuck to our routine, wasting no time on any other game along the way and headed deep into the swamp.

And just when you thought you had been spat out, the hunting gods smile down on you…

We hadn’t spotted much until about noon, when suddenly three old Dugga boys appeared on the distant horizon. Desperate for action we set off on a long stalk.

Soon we were in range and then all hell broke loose. First the bull on the right, then the bull in the middle, and then the bull on the left. In a matter of two minutes Steve had done it again.

He had tagged out with three Buffalo in the matter of twenty minutes on the flood plains of Mozambique, and now had done so again in Tanzania. A feat I thought I’d never see, let alone see repeated again by the same guy.

With the Buffalo firmly in the salt plans took a whole new course. We now had meat, lots of it, and a Leopard suddenly became a hot topic of debate.

Soon we were hanging baits, a Leopard was on the cards.

With the baits hung we headed back out to the swamps for Sitatunga, giving the various baits time to attract our desired quarry.

It turned out to be a long morning in the swamps with no opportunities on the much-anticipated Sitatunga, it did however provide us with magnificent pictures of these shy, and rarely photographed animals.

Before leaving camp that morning we had made an arrangement with Dennis, the camp manager to clock in at 11am via satellite phone. We had left Baraka and Chumani to check baits.

After only one night we had a hit. Baraka was excited, urging us on to get out of the swamps and start heading towards the struck bait. He on the other hand would start collecting material to get the blind built. It would be a race against the clock. The guys knew this old Tom well. He first came to bait 3 years ago, at that stage he was already a big cat. He had a habit of feeding constantly for the first two to three evenings, but then became sporadic. We needed to get in that evening.

The team pulled together like a well-oiled machine, and by 17:00 we were in the blind.

As the birds went about their business like they do in Africa each evening, getting ready for the night ahead, we sat in silence, listing for anything that may give away the Leopards presence. At first it was the Spur Fowl and then the Guinea Fowl, they sounded nervous, he was here … but we couldn’t see him. We sat in silence, barely breathing as the sweat dripped from our brows in the blistering hot blind.

And then just as we started wondering if he’d be in during the required day light hours, the sound of nails digging deep into the bark of a tree broke the silence around us. He was on the bait.

He paused for a second, looking around nervously, and then confidently lay down and started feeding. There were two cats in the area, a male and female, and while this cat looked like a beast, we still had to make certain he was a legal male, giving Steve the opportunity to enjoy viewing this beautiful animal.

I’m sure it was mere minutes, but it felt like hours, he just lay there feeding, and all this time the sun was setting. Legal shooting time was running out. And then he got up and there was no doubting it was him.

Steve got the go-ahead. At the thunder of his 416 Rigby the Leopard disappeared out of sight, and all we could hear was the sound of the grass breaking in our direction with a few deep grumbles. And then there was silence. We sat quietly giving him time, making sure he was down. A wounded Leopard is no walk in the park, and we weren’t up for a walk with an irate cat.

Steve had hit him two inches back, taking out both lungs, and in the process earning a cat of some magnitude.

A beast well past his prime, carrying the battle scars of a Tom on his way out. Down in condition he still weighed in at over 170 pounds with a tip to tail measurement of 8 feet 9″. A once in a lifetime cat.

With our cat in the back we headed to camp in the chorus of the crew chanting away “Kabubi-Kabubi!” The festivities had begun!

We woke the following morning still in awe at what we had achieved. So much had changed in two days. At the start of day 5 our spirits were down and out, now Steve was back – he had to dig deep inside to really find out how badly he wanted it. He found it. And we went back Sitatunga hunting.

Our efforts once again came up empty-handed, but we did manage to hunt a great Topi on the way back to camp that evening.

With time running out we gave the Sitatunga our all on day nine. Many a hunter has left Africa without a Sitatunga. We weren’t planning on Steve being one of those. Their numbers were excellent in the area we were hunting, we just needed to find the right patch of papyrus.

After two drives we hadn’t seen a big bull, when Triphone, one of the trackers suggested a small patch of papyrus off in the distance. He had a good feeling about it. We went with his gut instinct and Steve literally became one of the luckiest hunters I know.

Our last day was spent looking for a Hippo, with a nice Lichtenstein Hartebeest crossing our path late that last afternoon, but the swamps proved to be too tough a terrain to hunt a weary old Hippo bull. We had used up our luck you could say. And that was fine for all involved. That’s why we hunt. You enjoy the good times when the hard yards had you doubting yourself and the process involved. It was time to catch our charter… western Tanzania had spoiled us for quality in both scenery, wildlife, and experiences.

In closing I’d like to thank Jaco and his crew. You guys were professional and a pleasure to work with in the field. From Suleiman, who met us upon arrival in Dar Es Salaam to Dennis our camp manager and Baraka our Masai tracker, aka the Dugga Boy. Thomas was our driver, come mechanic, come magic man. This guy will put any first world mechanical workshop to shame right in the middle of nowhere with a tool box and a couple of bottles of oil for good measure. Chumani who ran the other truck daily, putting in as much effort as every crew member on our truck, never once stopped smiling, making him an asset to all around.  Our senior tracker, Ntacho, aka the boss, as we fondly renamed him, was a man cut from a different cloth. At 62 he could run, climb, jump, drive Sitatunga and Hippo all day long through the papyrus infected swamp, while still providing us with untold laughter and fun along the way. We’re still hoping to convince him to part take in the Senior Olympics – a special guy to say the least. There were so many more to thank who kept the show on the road, but these guys made all the difference daily. Thank you so much.

Then last but not least, to a friend like few, Steve Travis – Happy birthday mate. This one tested us to the point of breaking, but once again we met the challenge head on, coming away with an experience worth a 50th celebration. Thanks for the memories… here’s to you and many more.

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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