A behind the scenes look at the Safari World of John X Safaris
What many hunters don’t realize when they come to Africa, the hunt for their trophy/s actually began months or even years before their arrival. As we wind down the season at John X Safaris, we are already out scouting for new concessions and quality trophies. Actually, our scouting never really ends … we are constantly looking for signs and visual sightings, even when we are out on safari with you.
Over the course of the past 30 years, we have been fortunate to secure over 3 million acres of concessions. Just because we have access to all that land doesn’t mean we’ll find top quality trophies everywhere. Areas run in cycles, with natural phenomena such as drought, rain, and disease, playing a mayor role in determining the cycle a particular area finds itself in at any one time. Apart from factors affecting the cycle we are constantly evaluating 4 major markers:
One of the best ways to hunt for quality trophies is to hunt areas that have produced superior quality in the past. Great genetics is essential in producing superior trophy quality. A major part of each of our PH’s jobs is to literally take inventory of the quality and quantity of mature bulls/rams on various concessions. By constantly accessing quantity and quality of herds, we can literally guide our clients to the best areas most likely to present top quality trophy opportunities for our hunters.
Management – One of the most important factors…
It does little good to identify top quality areas if there is not a sound management plan/policy in place. John X Safaris works exceptionally hard at establishing lasting relationships with concessions and game managers who enforce strict quotas on the number of animals taken from an area each year. As a member of PHASA(Professional Hunters Association of South Africa), John X Safaris is very mindful of conserving wildlife as a sustainable resource. While on safari, each PH makes a detailed assessment of each trophy. Hunter’s should not be surprised to hear their PH says: “We’re going to pass on this opportunity and give that animal more time to mature into the quality we’re after.”
While superior genes found in the very best areas can make or break a particular area, all lies to waste IF the management policy is not adhered to and followed without deviation. Sometimes that particular policy carries more weight than the standard rules of management, one that we may not always like at the time. One that says, a younger maturing world-class trophy needs to be passed up for the better of the area. As PH’s we’ve all been there, hunted hard all day, when in that last hour be bump into that dreamt about “monster”. Our client/hunter is chomping at the bit to have a crack at that bull/ram, but our duty and vision is to reason with that hunter as to why he/she should not hunt that particular animal at that moment. If we cannot protect the superior genes for the future, then why bother trying to achieve/pursue that trophy of a lifetime? Always keep in mind, someone else has done it for you long before an African hunt was part of your dreams, ensure your children can enjoy the same privilege.
Habitat, Forage, and Nutrition
What is probably least understood is the need for quality habitat and nutrition. Each species in Africa tends to prefer and require different forage. For example, Warthog prefer and eat different forage than say a Kudu, even though they are found in the same area. A Duiker lives in a different area than a Klipspringer because they require different habitat and forage to thrive in their environment. It sounds complicated, but when you’re blessed with 5 ecosystems and over 40 different species available to our hunters, there’s clarity in practice.
Importance of both Nutrition and Minerals
The Kudu in the opening photo is actually chewing on a bone. While it is part of a lion’s diet to chew and crush bones to get at the nutritious marrow inside, it is a warning sign to see a Kudu continually chewing on bone. This phenomena can be used by a particular specie/s to supplement certain minerals, but it should not extend throughout the entire area. It is a red flag worth more observation to determine if a particular animal/population is under stress, or whether the habitat generally lacks the minerals necessary to sustain the growth of a population in that area.
All animals need nutrients and minerals. While our African antelope do not grow antlers, they have “horns” which are retained year after year, and continue to grow over a bone core until the animal reaches maturity. On the other side of the world the need for nutrients and minerals is particularly well documented in North America with the Elk and Deer species. These species must literally grow bone to create new antlers each year. It takes a massive amount of minerals and nutrients to enable Deer to reach their full antler potential each year. While the need of minerals for African antelope is not as great, they still need the right nutrition and micro nutrients to maintain their health. Like hooved animals around the world, they must find what they need either in their diets, or at “mineral deposits”.
Furthermore, overgrazing and the deposit of tannin in plants are cause for mayor concern in areas over-populated. Keep in mind, it is not only the common known and larger spotted game that get affected by nutrient and mineral deficiencies, but many of the “smaller” species too. The below photo of the diminutive Blue Duiker shows that even the Tiny Ten are in search of minerals in their diet. They will search for “natural mineral licks/deposits” throughout the forest, often finding the required nutrients in the strangest of places. Proper nutrition for a Duiker or an Elephant is just as important as for a Kudu.
While there are many aspects in managing a successful area and its game, some are complicated, and others fairly easy to grasp, there is one extremely important factor to consider. If a particular area allocates 10 Kudu bulls on 10 000 acres per annum, barring in mind the population density is one that has been predetermined, one must grasp the concept of quota allocation.
It is said that 3-6% of a population is a sustainable trophy quota for that area/population. While the math should be fairly simple if all the variables are known, it is unfortunately not as simple as one might think. The unknown factor in any area is that of predation. While we may feel justified with the number we’re harvesting each year, and feel proud of our results, it will not be sustained if the predation factor is not brought into account during the allocation of huntable numbers. Now we’re not suggesting a scorched earth policy, where only us as humans enjoy the benefit of sustainability, but do consider what too many of these in the same area can do to any given population. It could be devastating….
So where does this all lead you to?
You don’t hunt Africa every day … Hire a Top Outfitter you can trust!
If you are booking your trip of a life time, or are interested in opportunities for top quality trophies … there is good reason that you book with a top quality outfitter. John X Safaris has literally been scouting for quality concessions and trophy quality for the past 30 years. It’s what we do. We live here. We watch for the little things, the signs that will ensure the difference between average and remarkable.
One more thing … trust your PH!
Your PH has literally spent hundreds of hours looking at hundreds of trophies and potential trophies all year-long. They have the experience to know what is a top quality trophy in the areas that you’ll be hunting. If they recommend that it is best to let a particular bull/ram walk, know that they are preserving the heritage and gene pool of that particular specie.
Hopefully, you enjoyed some of the behind scenes planning and activities of John X Safaris. We work all year-long to make sure that your safari and hunt will be the best possible experience you can enjoy while being our guests.
The booking season is upon us and 2014 is filling up nicely. Drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what is on your wish list for your next African safari. We may just spot it while out scouting …..
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