Having met Derrick Ratliff at Dallas Safari Club’s annual Convention during January 2016 we immediately knew we were dealing with a passionate man. Walking up to his Horizon Firearms booth with our good friends, Glynn Underwood (aka “Super Hunter”) and Steve Travis, for the initial introductions, it became very apparent that the man not only knew how to build great firearms, but as importantly build great looking guns. The Horizon Firearms brand most certainly came across as something new and unique to say the least. At the time we had no experience on the guns, and had not seen how they would perform in Africa with the usual questions when experiencing a new product for the very first time.
Derrick had joined a great bunch of guys from Houston, Texas, forming an integral part of one of our funnest groups of the year. Teaming up with Professional Hunter, Ross “Stix”Hoole, and tracker, Thanduxolo, the guys set out on their quest to conquer Africa’s spiral horned slam and anything else that met their fancy on quality.
The hunting turned out to be nothing short of exceptional with Horizon Firearms passing their first test of Africa with flying colors.
Upon Derrick’s return home he opened his first newsletter for Horizon Firearms with a story titled Epic – Hunting in Africa. We wanted to share extracts from his story, giving you a front row seat to his first hand experiences.
What is epic? Is it a specific trophy animal? The great shot you made? The time around the campfire with buddies? Or is it just the hunt?
To me Epic was a term I learned in South Africa this year. I never really thought about it, but it was a term used a lot by my Professional Hunter (PH) “Stix”, and looking back that really was the only word that could describe Africa.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive the invite to go with a couple of great customers and friends of mine, Glynn and Steve. If it was not for their persistence and confidence in going with John X Safaris I would not have even considered it. And I would have missed out on a hunt of a lifetime.
It all started back at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, when I had a chance to meet with Carl and Ross “Stix” of John X Safaris. We had a booth there ourselves, and Glynn and Steve convinced me to meet with the John X guys. After one meeting I knew I had to go with them on the trip. I was impressed by their outfit and the confidence they had in the quality of their hunting land, without acting like a bunch of used car salesmen. I knew I could trust them.
Once the trip was officially booked, I was like a little kid counting down the days until Christmas. After months of paperwork, target practice and getting all my gear together, it was finally time to jump the pond. Not only was it my first overnight flight, it was my first international flight traveling with firearms. Man, was that an experience. It was definitely a learning experience and all I can say is that Ann and her crew at Air 2000 were lifesavers! We were in and out of all the checkpoints in about 1/3 of the time of all the hunters that were on our flight. [Side note: Well worth the value of their service, for anyone traveling to Africa contact Ann and tell them Horizon Firearms sent you.]
Once in Johannesburg, we decided to lay low for a day to sleep off the jet-lag before hopping on one more flight to Port Elizabeth. During the hustle and bustle of getting the guns cleared through the police station, we were greeted by Carl and his crew of PH’s. [Side note: It is very nice to have an outfitter that speaks the local African languages well so that you know what is going on when traveling with firearms in a foreign country.]
After the guns were cleared, we loaded our gear into their sweet safari Toyota trucks and headed off for the Karoo. It took us about three hours to get there. Thank goodness I don’t get motion sickness because the South African roads, and the driving on the opposite side of the road, is enough to make your head spin. Once we arrived at camp, we headed out to the shooting range and got everyone dialed in for the morning to come…
The rest of the trip is more than I can talk about in one post. Every day was filled with a new adventure and every evening filled with amazing food and camaraderie around the campfire. In saying this there’s not a whole lot that can really prepare one for the first morning waking up in Africa.
For now, I will say this: nothing, or no one, can prepare you for that feeling. Everyone will tell you about the mind-blowing diversity, the vast amount of land, the hundreds, if not thousands, of animals you will see – but you won’t believe it. It’s nothing short of EPIC.
GTS Productions joined Derrick on his hunt, capturing all the action along the way. Enjoy his safari with him as he relives those first emotions of Africa.
For those interested in learning more about Horizon Firearms and the great firearms they build, feel free to contact Derrick and his crew on firstname.lastname@example.org . Derrick will also be sharing a number of short stories about his trip and any suggestions about traveling to Africa on his Horizon Firearms Newsletter over the coming months. Feel free to follow his stories and suggestions as he plans his return on a second hunt to John X Safaris during July 2017.
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