With the month of May coming to an end, and a wet early season dominating procedures, combined with bouts of cooler weather, we have seen a peak in the rut earlier than usual. While a peak may have been reached, there are tell-tale signs that it should be here for a couple more months. There have been bouts of cooler weather, but it has most certainly not been cold as to date. And if the old heads’ theory stands for anything, it should mean that the main rut is yet to hit.
With the warmer weather lasting longer than usual, it has provided our hunters moderate conditions with breath-taking scenery prior to the winter dull. The current condition of the wildlife is something worth mentioning – the animals are in immaculate condition across the board, with even the older game boasting rounded bellies and shiny coats. It is most certainly a paradise in the East Cape at the moment.
Looking back at the months results, one asks oneself how it could get any better? But then again it all lies in the planning, and that’s not only from the teams side, but our hunters too. Our entire May was booked up more than three years ago. We knew it was going to be a busy one, but Trish and I often have to pinch ourselves to realize its all real. Yes, hard work and dedication goes hand in hand, but the support from our friends in Utah has been a humbling experience to say the least.
Having met a group of guys from Eagle Mountain on their first safari some eight years ago, it would be fair to say not them or I thought our friendships would prosper to the point of family. With time I’ve come to know a special group of people, people who have become my extended family in the US, whom have taken in my entire team as their own from day one. To Bwana Big Jim Smith, Chris & Collette Ashcroft, Brett & Shelie Wright, and the many past hunters from Eagle Mountain, I don’t know if there are enough words to express our gratitude for everything you do year in and year out.
Knowing you the way I have come to know you, a simple thank you would be sufficient. BUT you all deserve more than that – I truly hope we as a team have produced the results and experiences that shows our gratitude and says more than just thank you.
To our new friends; the Hamilton’s, Edwards’s, Heaton’s, Wilson’s, Terry’s, Wallace’s, Maxwell’s, and Fullmer’s – the latest additions to the John X family. Welcome – Enjoy the memories… Our journey together has only just begun….
After all the dust had settled on the last evening and beaming faces enriched with new experiences had gathered around a cozy dinner table, the entire group decided to each share a fond memory/experience from the hunt. Of course there was the usual banter and laughter that can only be shared in a hunting camp, and there were some emotional stories too – not because anyone was sad, but more so the emotion of gratitude.
I had personally shared a funny story about my old friend, Chris Ashcroft, whom had brought me close to tears with laughter after witnessing a sequence of funny mishaps on his Impala hunt. But in the moment I had forgotten about one particular experience – I’d like to share that story with the entire group and you the reader.
While hunting up north one day, I had the privilege of witnessing something truly special – something that reminded me, and many of my guides and team members, why we wake at sunrise each morning.
Kelly Edwards and I were done hunting for the day and decided to lend a hand and spend some time with Larry and Claudia Fullmer, together with PH, Sean Cromhout. Larry was after an Eland, and as tradition would be with most big things, the better the quality of trophy, the harder it is to achieve. To cut a long story short, Larry, Sean, and Claudia made an epic stalk on a group of bulls we’d spotted earlier that morning. The bulls were feeding in a valley below their final position, and as the hunters popped their heads over the top of the cliff we saw Larry’s gun go up and the immediate rapport of the shot. The bulls took off at a pace, while Larry’s bull slowed to a walk before going down.
The smiles all round told of a succesful hunt and an experience enjoyed by all. It was only much later, after the bull was back at the skinning shed that I for the first time realized that the grin on Larry’s face which had been there since the moment we collected them at the airport was even broader than before. Larry quietly stood in awe as the old gun steel-blue bull was hoisted high above his head. He just stood there smiling with a glimpse of a tear not far below the surface. He was speechless.
I decided to step back for a minute too – and to enjoy the moment. The scene unfolding in front of me was as rewarding as I had ever witnessed or experienced before. Here was a man whom I had only met on two prior occasions, before spending the first part of the hunt together – we knew very little of one another. Yet through the age-old tradition of hunting we had come together like old friends and could enjoy the silence between us more so than any words could ever have spoken.
It was the experience of that moment that saw me rise at 4am the following morning. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I wanted to be the first to see the sunrise – to greet the day and count my blessings…..