An introduction to the Three Amigos on Safari in 2018
As the unofficial “Leader of the Three Amigos”, I will take the liberty of kicking off this series of hunter blogs. There will be a story from each of the “Three Amigos” in his own words. Each has a unique tale to tell of their incredible hunts and experiences on safari.
This year completes my 8th safari with John X Safaris. I’ve been asked many times why would you go on 8 safaris? I’ve been asked more often why you would go back to the same outfitter on safari in South Africa?
To use a South Africa expression: “Every safari with John X has been over the moon” and has exceeded all expectations. More importantly, every experience consisted of completely different hunts, entirely different species in completely different areas, with new friends and family along on each journey.
One of the reasons for my multiple safaris is the great joy of sharing the safari experience with someone who has never been to Africa. After three years toasting the prospects of chasing a great buffalo, two of my closest friends committed to a hunt with John X Safaris in 2018. This, the first installment, is a story from the eyes of “Amigo Mike”, on his first ever African safari.
“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” – Richard Mullin
Mike’s Story – An African Safari through the eyes of a “first timer”
Despite seeing the photos and hearing the stories, I’m not sure that you can ever be prepared for Africa. The land is so vast. There is so much game with so many species. And the people are the most incredible hosts I’ve ever met. Hopefully my story will give you some perspectives and appreciation of the experience from the eyes of a first timer.
No one can prepare you for the first sights and sounds of Africa….
I met Chris through my lifelong friend Randy. I started helping Chris take care of his acreage and we quickly became friends. When we started gathering as couples to share weekend dinners, inevitably the guys would end up in Chris’ safari room. Over many sessions of toasting his safari exploits with fine port, I continued to hear the incredible stories from Randy and Chris about Africa and their experiences with John X Safaris.
Like most hunters in the heartland of the US, I had always dreamed of seeing Africa. Like most, I felt that I could never manage to go on a safari to hunt. But after hearing about the incredible experiences, they seduced me into realizing my dream of going with them, and joining in “The Great Adventures of Three Amigos on Safari”!
I have been on a number of “guy trips” hunting and fishing. Normally we fly into a very rustic cabin in the woods. I was totally unprepared for the 5 Star safari camp of John X Safaris home base, Woodlands Safari Estate. Incredible accommodations and even more amazing food. I would quickly see why Randy and Chris brought their wives on safari with them. The experience for the non-hunter/observer is just incredible.
Like most first time dreamers in Africa, my top species were kudu and gemsbok. Carl assured me that we would get to those in the Great Karoo, as he wanted me to experience the challenge of hunting free range kudu in the high country. I had no idea what I was in for.
Before hunting kudu, I had the opportunity to hunt plains game at Woodlands. One specie that intrigued me was the bushbuck, I wanted to hunt bushbuck, the “mini kudu”. I had no concept of how challenging it would be to find them in the bush. After multiple days of stalking and belly crawling, my PH Clayton came through with a magnificent bushbuck that we truly earned! And his 7 month old Jack Russel, aka “Beans”, saved the day by finding the bushbuck as darkness closed in around us. As an aside, with no city lights you have no idea of how dark it really gets in the African bush!
For a mid-west hunter in the US, you harvest a deer and you are done for the season. It was incredible to go out every day and hunt for something new. And the “hunt” was real in every sense. The land is immense, filled with brush and rocks. It is incredible to glass, finally find the animals, and then figure out how to stalk them, with no guarantee of seeing them after hours of perseverance.
As it turned out, Carl had the perfect plan for a first timer. I had the opportunity to hunt and harvest bushbuck, blue wildebeest, blesbuck, and zebra before going to the mountains. In retrospect, I would not have been ready to jump right into the challenge of a free range kudu from day one. Each hunt provided a unique situation and much-needed experience before heading to the expanse of the Great Karoo. My advice to a first timer is to allow yourself plenty of time. There is no guarantee that you will see your preferred specie on any given day … my bushbuck took several mornings and evenings.
The Great Karoo – Big Sky Country and home of incredible Kudu and Gemsbok!
Spotting game is not the hard part, stalking them from over a mile away is a supreme Karoo challenge…
I’m told that South Africa is home to over 47 different species of antelope. But you quickly learn that different species require different habitat. Since I wanted a gemsbok, we needed to head north, to the dry country where these beautiful animals thrive under harsh conditions. We packed our bags and headed north to experience an entirely new area, and completely different hunting conditions in the mountains. I thought I was fit, but as you can see from the photo, hunting this terrain takes everything you have.
I don’t begin to know how to describe the Great Karoo. It is immense. Truly BIG sky country. The closest thing in the US is probably some of the elk country in the western mountains of the US. In the Karoo you can literally see for miles … and the PHs often glass and spot the trophies you will hunt well over a mile away. The stalk can literally take many hours, requiring climbing up and down rocks and valleys. It is pure fair chase pursuit at its finest.
I did manage to harvest my gemsbok on my last day of hunting the north, along with a fantastic warthog. Both were worthy hunts requiring long stalks and incredible stealth. The gemsbok required a long shot of over 450 yards … there was just no other way to get closer across a deep ravine. The entire camp had to literally pitch in and pack out the gemsbok in quarters. Amazing teamwork was truly a large part of my safari. Absolutely nothing went to waste.
There are hunts … and then there is hunting the Grey Ghost.
I was told that kudu are known as the“grey ghost” of Africa, because of their ability to vanish into thin air right before your eyes. I can now testify how difficult it is to hunt kudu, especially in the Karoo. While all my hunts were fantastic in their own right, my kudu hunt was literally a two-day long adventure!
I had the opportunity to hunt kudu with Carl, truly a master PH. Our hunt included incredible spotting, stalking, and crawling to get into position. I literally had to pick cactus out of my backside for days after the hunt! Then there was the anxiety of waiting for literally an hour to get a shot. I can’t begin to describe the roller coaster ride of emotions that took place over the course of the hunt, and finally connecting with my bull up in the mountains.
And wow, what tremendous fortune to have Pierre (aka Ozzy) from Got the Shot Productions along to video the hunt! He is an amazing videographer and athlete carrying the camera gear. Fortunately, he put together video highlights so that I do not have to begin to try to tell the entire story of the kudu adventure. I have not seen it yet, so I can’t wait to see the video shared for the first time in this blog. Ozzy is a great editor, and his video will most assuredly tell the story and bring all the memories flooding back from that incredible day in the mountains.
Suffice to say that I now know why Chris has been on 8 safaris with John X Safaris. I completed 8 hunts on my first safari, and all of them were uniquely different and exciting. However, capturing a monster Grey Ghost on his turf in the mountains of the Karoo is simply beyond anything imagined.
Special thanks to Carl, Louwrence, Ozzy, Clayton and all the amazing John X staff for my incredible experience. I’ve been bitten, and smitten by the “safari bug”. The trophies will be so incredible that I have already drawn up plans to build a safari room in my basement. Now we will have another “slice of Africa” in Nebraska where we can drink fine port and toast the incredible memories with John X Safaris.
The new Safari Addict, Mike