We don’t only do hunting. We do experiences. We do fun. We do laughter. We do adventure. We do beautiful sunsets. We do good food. Really good food. We do friendships. We do tears. We do generosity. We do wildlife. We do sites. Breathtaking sites. We do campfires. We do stars. We do long days. We do memories. We do chocolate. Lots of chocolate. We give. We receive. We’re grateful. BUT most of all we do it together.
For almost fifteen years we’ve been doing it together and this year proved to be an exceptional year for not only the quality of the hunting, but the quality of the people involved. From the daintiest of the Tiny 10 to the grumpiest of Cape Buffalo we took the time to fill the buckets, ticking off one dream at a time for our friends from Utah.
Bwana Big Jim Smith has become somewhat of a legend around these parts. Jim has hunted far and wide with us over the years and from time to time brings along a Jr Hunter who shares his passion for Africa. This year proved to be no exception as he invited along young, Isaac Allen. Teaming up with PH, Greg Hayes and his trusty tracker, Bless, the team set off on producing a once in a lifetime experience that Isaac would not soon forget.
Isaac started first up with a great Impala getting his hunt well and truly underway. Bwana Jim was after a few mountain dwellers as well as a gigantic Cape Eland if the opportunity arose. The mountains proved to be as tough as ever with gale force winds testing the hunters to their limits. Having spotted a truly exceptional Vaal Rhebuck the guys were set on him or nothing less. In the end the mountains won but Isaac made the most of the time in between.
All this time Bwana Jim was bidding his time. This wasn’t his first hunt and it most certainly would not be his last. Taking a great old Blue Wildebeest and Common Reedbuck saw him open his account in the salt pit, but the hunt only truly got underway when at last they spotted the Cape Eland of Jim’s dreams. There’s nothing quite like it until you’ve witnessed it on the hoof. The color, sure size and character combined with years of experience eluding hunters makes it one of the ultimate trophies. Jim would not be disappointed.
As for Chris and Colette Ashcroft it was a return for yet another laughter filled trip with PH, Ed Wilson. Chris would be trying something new on this safari, sporting the latest in cross-bow technology hoping to make the most of the many opportunities Africa presents. A Cape Buffalo was his goal, but first he wanted to get comfortable and settled before taking on black death with a crossbow.
Having settled his nerves on all else black the team started their quest for Cape Buffalo. Woodlands Safari Estate is fast becoming one of the premiere Cape Buffalo destinations in South Africa, something the Ashcroft’s got to experience first hand over the course of their ten days. They spotted good numbers and tried getting into some great bulls, never quite getting that quartering away shot they were after. When finally the moment came Chris weaved his arrow through nearly the impossible to bag a truly world-class Cape Buffalo.
Randy and Kris Fox would join PH, Carl van Zyl and trackers, Sandile and Spinage, for their first taste of an African safari. Randy had served his mission in South Africa back in the early 1980’s which made for one memorable trip down memory lane. Randy’s gift for language was a remarkable talent to witness as he picked up on his Afrikaans as if he spoke it yesterday last. His love for hunting and especially the Gunwerks 7mm LRM made for one dream combination. An East Cape Kudu on the first morning set the team off on a memorable run both in the south and north. Their Springbuck slam proving to be one of the highest quality slams in a long time.
Kris’s commitment to be by Randy’s side every step of the way as a “non-hunter’ was commendable, but nothing like her and the entire groups efforts in our John X Foundation. For more than a year we have strategically planned how best they could assist our Foundation and the Carlisle Bridge Farm School. Then in January we set our focus on gathering enough Ipads and stationary to supply the schools budding technology lab. The group not only gathered the Ipads and stationary, but donated a new freezer and filled it with Impala for the schools kitchen.
With so much excitement surrounding our little school one could have been forgiven to have been distracted away from the hunting, but Jarod, Kim and Savanna Wallace were hard at it with PH, Ross “Stix” Hoole, his tracker, Jimmy, and hunting dog, Pepper. This team was after a few specialized East Cape species, most notably a select few which they had not previously pursued.
Kim has had her heart set on a Black Impala for a long time. Her patience got rewarded with a magnificent specimen on the very first day and then it was her daughter, Savanna’s turn to take the opportunity of a lifetime. Having previously run out of time hunting East Cape Kudu on her last safari with us, the Wallace’s were determined on spending time to achieve her goal on this occasion. Day two of their hunt would be a day and Kudu Savanna would remember for a very long time. The bull of dreams stepped out and gave her everything she had ever hoped for.
Dad, Jarod, had his heart set on a number of the Tiny 10, which would mostly be hunted up north. A Steenbuck in the south and then a Common Duiker, Klipspringer and Vaal Rhebuck in the north would be a great start on his Tiny 10 mission.
Kim would hunt a pretty impressive Kalahari Springbuck up with Niel in the Great Karoo while Savanna added a Common Impala to her pile in the salt shed. With the days ticking away Jarod closed off their safari with an unbelievable experience. Something few have experienced on our team.
Still out on the hunt for Tiny 10, Stix and Jarod, came up onto a ledge at Woodlands Safari Estate, glassing the valley below for any movement. Soon they spotted two old Cape Buffalo bulls feeding away below them unaware of their presence. Finding nothing else of interest the pair took a closer look at the bulls. Turned out one of the bulls was uniquely different to Jarod’s first Cape Buffalo, sporting impressive hooks with a solid boss. The Tiny 10 hunt soon escalated into a Cape Buffalo hunt and the rest like they say is history.
With the ladies dominating so much of the hunting within the group it was only fitting that our old friend Cari Smith would hunt one of the most impressive trophies on this years safari. Having had her heart set on a Cape Hartebeest for quite some time Cari was holding out for the right bull. For years she has looked over Hartebeest on her previous hunts, but this year PH, Dave Bursey, found an exceptional bull up in the mountains of the north. He not only had exceptional length, but impressive mass too. Add to that an impressive Black Impala and superb Kalahari Springbuck and Cari more than achieved her goals on this safari.
Cari as always had her trusty camera at hand capturing the many sites and scenes along the way. There were some unbelievable images, many already shared above, but her Giraffe image truly stood out. The color, contrast and setting captured a beautiful scene in a brief moment away from the hunting.
As for Kevin and Jill Hamilton it would be the safari they had hoped for and planned for, for so long. Having spoken about Cape Buffalo for the better part of five years the team joined PH, Martin Neuper, and tracker, Thandi, on the quest for Cape Buffalo.
As always they first started off on a number of Kevin’s plains game species of interest to ensure the “jitters” were out-of-the-way before pursuing Cape Buffalo. Having hunted a brute of a Cape Eland and East Cape Kudu on his previous safari with us some years ago, Kevin was after the rest of the spirals to complete the slam on this hunt. Both his Nyala and Cape Bushbuck proved to be fun hunting with the Cape Bushbuck in particular giving the guys a pretty good workout over the course of their safari. A huge East Cape Kudu stepped out on one of their Cape Buffalo days, and Kevin needed no second invitation. A truly impressive bull to say the least.
The Buffalo hunting as always proved exciting, with so many “near” moments where success and failure so often walk hand in hand. There were three or four days of regular excitement until finally the stars aligned. In the end it proved to be a team effort as a number of Kevin’s friends and their PH’s by sure coincidence worked together to achieve Kevin’s ultimate goal.
Kevin was beyond delighted with his Cape Buffalo and the entire experience surrounding his hunt. He had dreamed of a bull in this class and achieved it while having the time of his life.
It seemed Kevin was not the only one walking around with a big grin on his face from the morning to the night. Bob and Jaynelle Jones had joined our friends from Utah on a previous safari with us a few years ago and while they couldn’t make it on this trip they sent along their daughter, Kennedy, on her first African hunt.
What started out as a shy young lady soon blossomed into a competent young huntress proving her maturity well beyond her years. Her East Cape Kudu was not only a magnificent bull, but one of the most dramatic pictures of the year thus far. Sometimes the African sky can produce some amazing backdrops.
And if her Kudu wasn’t enough her Cape Eland sure did knock everything out of the park. On the rare occasion one gets to hunt a Cape Eland that not only sports a mop and color, but impressive horns too. Bulls of this age usually would have worked down their horns into blunt daggers, but this bull had it all, including age.
Then on the last night, as what has become something of a tradition, we all sat in a circle at the campfire sharing a few memories of our time together. Just a brief story of what each one of us would have the fondest memories of. We all went around in our order until we came to Cari. Like only Cari can she spoke from the heart… “It’s hunting BUT it’s different.” That’s all she had to say. Nothing more, nothing less.
It had been an exciting ten days with our friends from Utah. Ambitions were pursued and dreams were made. Bucket lists got filled and goals were achieved. BUT more than anything, we did it together like we did before and we’ll be sure to do it again.
For more information on our hunts feel free to mail Carl directly on firstname.lastname@example.org . For current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Instagram connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website.