SOUTH AFRICA: Hunt Report: John X Safaris and Splitting Image Taxidermy

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports' started by desertloper, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. desertloper

    desertloper AH Veteran

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    For a year now, I've looked forward to sharing our safari experience. First, I'm fortunate and thankful to have been able to take something like this on and I am grateful for the advice the members of this forum have given me. Hopefully my experience and shared insight will help others better prepare for and enjoy their safaris. We are all hunters and conservationists-and are unfortunately a super minority in this world, sharing our experiences with others, especially non-hunters will help ensure others are able to enjoy the same experiences.

    Cheers.

    Outfitter: John X Safaris John X Safaris Web Site - John X Safaris
    PH: Carl van Zyl
    Location: East Cape South Africa
    Date: 18-28 April 2012
    Airfare: Lori Ginn, Travel Express
    100% Hassle Free-Lori did a great job I've used her for business arrangements as well
    Firearm Assistance: Hunter's Support/Air 2000
    Money well spent. Excellent service-Zero issues.
    Taxidermist: Splitting Image Taxidermy Splitting Image Taxidermy | Splitting Image Taxidermy
    Great communication, great quality, well packaged, good turn around on the mounts, nothing more I could ask for. I was able to tour their facility during our safari and the operation appears to be top notch. They have their own in house tannery as well.
    Freight Shipper: Safari Cargo Systems
    Actual freight costs were substantially higher than initial quotes. Shipped via cargo ship.
    Receiving/Importing Agent: Fauna & Flora
    Cleared Customs/USFW with Zero issues.
    Hunt Recap: John X Safaris, has a great blog site John X Safaris | South African Professional Game Hunters where they keep their followers up to date with safari action throughout the year, so I'm taking the easy route and sharing our story below. We enjoyed an absolutely amazing experience. The accommodations and staff were nothing short of 5-Star. We enjoyed numerous photo safaris in their Big 5 Game Reserve in between our hunts; we were even able to participate in darting a Cheetah, which was being transferred to another reserve! The quality of our trophies for some will be testament enough-for me our decision to choose John X was based on conversations with their past clients. The main things that set them apart, in my mind, include having their own Big 5 reserve with multiple camps (for photo safaris when not hunting), their emphasis on trophy quality, extremely large and diverse hunting areas, and also the fact that we were never treated like guests..we were treated as family. Without a doubt, I hope to be able to return to Africa-and this time I won't have to spend so damn much time researching an outfitter!

    Our Safari:
    Over the course of our last safari with Pete and Elizabeth, it was decided we'd keep our readers up dated on a daily basis via our John X Safaris Facebook Fan page. Elizabeth was kind enough to accept the responsibility of sharing their highlights along the way, inviting the reader along on their journey of discovery.
    If you've been missing out on the news and would like to stay connected with us while we're out in the field, then become a John X Fan today! It's easy to join and you've have front row seats to weekly trophy picture updates!
    For those who have been following their safari on our John X Fan page, some of the below news may be old, but rest assured, you have not heard it all?.
    Part 1 Working for our Kudu

    Upon our arrival we headed north to the Great Karoo, the hunt was on for Kudu, Impala, Black Wildebeest or Gemsbuck. A number of Kudu were spotted, but nothing took our fancy. It was not until late that first afternoon that we found a small group of Gemsbuck with two great bulls accompanying five or six cows and calves. Our focus soon shifted from Kudu to Gemsbuck. A strategy of approach was discussed, before starting our stalk up a dry river bed.
    We hadn't gone 100 yards when Pete leant over and whispered to Elizabeth; walk like an Indian. It cracked us up! Both Zwayi and I just about fell down laughing, we'd never heard a better description for watching where you豎 e going and go quietly! After re-gathering ourselves I pressed on, leading the party ever closer to the un-expecting Gemsbuck.

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    Once in position, we waited patiently while the Gemsbuck fed into a clearing above us. At 150 yards the desired bull stepped out and Pete earned his first African trophy.
    The following morning we were up at 5.30am on the lookout for East Cape Kudu.

    A number of bulls were spotted, but still not quite what we were after.
    We headed back to camp for brunch at eleven that morning, the sun was sitting well overhead, and the midday heat was taking its toll on both game and hunters. After brunch we headed out for Black Wildebeest, it would be Elizabeth's one and only trophy on their safari.

    After spotting a decent bull we headed up a dry ravine.

    We leopard crawled into position and settled onto the sticks.

    We had a herd of Zebra off to our right, Springbuck in the background, and a group of Eland feeding off to our left. The pressure was on. At the crack of the shot, the bull jumped into the air, raced around in circles and collapsed in a heap from a well-placed heart/lung shot.

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    The smile says it all!
    That afternoon we were determined to find a Kudu bull the hours plotting and glassing would most certainly start tipping the scale in our favor.

    That afternoon we did spot a shooter, probably too late to pursue. In the end we decided to let him go the setting sun was way to good to pass up and the thought of a cold beer washing down the days dust seemed more rewarding than the hunt itself.
    Back at camp that evening we looked at the map to determine where we hadnéž glassed for Kudu yet. While we were seeing a large number of bulls, it seemed we were missing the older bulls. I knew they were around, but where they were hanging out proved to be a mystery.
    The following morning Elizabeth decided to take it easy and enjoy a relaxing morning while the men once again headed out after Kudu. That morning we finally started spotting a few shooters, not all were of the desired class or quality we were after, but things were looking up. One particular bull caught our attention more than any other, unfortunately he was bedded in a wooded thicket, an approach would be near impossible. We decided it best not to disturb him; we'd be back later that afternoon.
    At midday we jumped into the truck and headed 35 miles up the road to Niel's for Springbuck.
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    Another cracker of a ram provided just the opportunity we were after. It proved to be one of Pete's favorites on their hunt.
    For the remainder of the afternoon we searched high and low for the bull we'd left bedded that morning. He'd disappeared into thin air, then again what were we expecting? They are the ghosts of Africa. My frustration was starting to get the better of me, we had been hunting hard, extremely hard, we'd spent countless hours glassing, but still no reward was on the horizon. I decided the following morning would be our last in the north. I needed to make a move to improve our fortunes and get Pete closer to his dream Kudu.
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    While on the hunt for Kudu on our final morning in the north, we bumped into a great Impala. Pete made a telling 300 yard shot earning a super Impala.
    Part 2 Earning our Kudu
    Up until this point Kudu had been our priority species, while it may have been our focal point, it certainly never detracted from us enjoying every minute of our safari. We had achieved great success on a number of species, which both Pete and Elizabeth could be very proud of. In the end the all important Kudu was sitting in the back of our minds bugging us.
    When/ How/ Where Would we find the desired bull? AND Could we/ Would we Make it count when it would be most needed.
    Arriving back south we were greeted by gusting stormy weather. The storm was about to break, not exactly what we were hoping for. I mentioned to Pete that it wasn't all bad. Once the weather had set in, it would force the Kudu into selected sheltered pockets which we could then concentrate on, and once the weather had settled and returned to bright blue sunny skies, they'll all have to concentrate their feeding habits, causing a rush of activity. Maybe this was just the break we needed.
    That following morning we left camp at 5am. Conditions were overcast and a moderate westerly wind was meant to pick up to gale force by midday. I remember driving out, not having the heart to tell Pete we豎 e wasting our time, conditions were terrible for Kudu hunting. I put the thought to the back of my mind, reasoning there wouldn't be any Kudu spotted from the deck at camp. If we wanted a chance, we'd have to get out there.
    At sunrise we found ourselves descending along a muddy ravine, carefully approaching a lookout point. We immediately started spotting Kudu, Warthog and Bushbuck. It seemed we'd found the perfect sheltered spot. By 10am we hand't seen a shooter yet, but our spirits were high, the sun was starting to break through the overlying cloud cover.
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    While glassing for Kudu a beautiful Cape Bushbuck stepped out from the shadows across the valley. Pete needed no convincing or second invitation. A lucky ram under tough conditions!
    Conditions took a turn for the worst at midday. Winds had picked up to 40 miles and hour and overcast clouded conditions were closing in on us once again. We pulled up to a new glassing position and enjoyed a picnic lunch. Quite a number of Kudu were spotted over lunch, but still nothing worth pursuing. At 15.00 I decided to make our final move of the day, the timing had to be perfect.
    We pulled up to a high point, free wheeled the truck out of sight and settled in for a serious glassing session, we were desperate. We were all studying two kudu cows below our glassing position when I noticed something different in the corner of my eye. About 900 yards off to our left, I noticed something shinning, it looked big. I settled the spotting scope on the exact spot where I last saw the reflection and waited. Suddenly a big bull stepped out from behind a bush and right into my spotting scope. I waved Pete down, told him to crawl to the nearest cover, load, and wait. I gave Zwayi a few brief instructions, and then joined Pete.
    The bull was feeding up towards our position along a cut line, the wind wouldn't be in our favor, the longer we took the more chance we had of being busted, I explained to Pete. The chance of the bull feeding along the cut line for long enough while we circled around to allow for the perfect wind was very slim. The wind was blowing slightly across us, but I was sure some of it was being funneled down the cut line. It was time to gamble.
    We took off at a run call it a gallop, I told Pete to go as quiet as you can, but do it fast. We hugged the cutline's right edge for the first 100 yards before reaching some blind ground. We then sprinted the next section before hugging the right edge again. As we crested I spotted the bull once again, still 150 yards to gain, only then could we consider a shot. As we approached our predetermined spot, I gave Pete the go ahead and set up the sticks before stepping back into cover. Pete stepped out, just as he was about to touch off his 7mm, he paused and asked; which bull? What? I asked. I stepped back out and saw how close this mix up really was.
    In the few seconds it took me to set up the sticks and get out-of-the-way, another bull had stepped into the clearing between our bull and us. Luckily Pete had seen enough Kudu to realize the closest bull was not a shooter. It took us a few seconds to clear up the confusion before giving Pete the go ahead on the back bull.
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    And what a bull it turned out to be! Pete had hunted hard, been patient, and never lost faith along the way He had certainly earned his 50" East Cape Kudu.
    An overjoyed and relieved crew headed back to camp. That evening we celebrated with vigor, the only interest Pete still had was a Warthog and we had 4 days left to hunt a good pig.
    The following morning we took it easy, the pressure was off, we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast before heading out after Warthog. We saw a number of pigs, but very few boars at first. As the morning grew warmer the world around us became alive with Warthogs, Impala, Red Hartebeest, Nyala, Blue Wildebeest, Bushbuck, Common Duiker, and Kudu.

    We hadn't sat glassing for an hour when out stepped a monster Kudu bull.
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    We were, however, 500+yds away.
    I immediately realized this bull was something special. I needed to convince Pete that Elizabeth should consider the bull. Elizabeth wanted none of it, she wanted Pete to hunt a Warthog, and it didn't look like I'd get them to budge. After half an hour with the occasional urging from my side, Pete turned to me; how big is he? Right now I was in a pickle. Pete had shot an exceptional 50" bull the previous day, I knew this particular bull was 50"+, but I wouldn't dare mention it. If Elizabeth knew how big it was she螢 start stressing even more, as I knew Pete was now strongly considering trading a Warthog hunt for a Kudu.
    He turned to Elizabeth, whispered something in her ear. She went ghost white while Pete gave me the thumbs up go ahead.

    We stalked down to the cliff's edge and settled into the prone position. At 250 yards the bull stepped into a clearing?
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    Of course she made the shot! It was her longest shot she'dever attempted, and to date, my biggest bull with a lady. The rest is history, but the celebration will continue on for many years to come!
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    Our bull measured in at just over 53 A gold medal out-and-out.
    Towards the end of our safari the Pete & Elizabeth took part in our John X Safaris Humanitarian Initiative 2012. We travelled into Grahamstown and visited Nomzamo Pre School. We commend and thank them for their generosity.
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    THANK YOU Pete, Elizabeth, Tom and Ellen! We appreciate all the supplies!
    After all had settled down and we had re-gathered our emotions it only dawned on us what we had achieved. Not only had we hunted a large variety of trophies, all of a high standard, including 2 East Cape Kudu of 50?, we had shared in the safari experience and built a camaraderie that will for long be the bond between strangers from completely opposite ends of the world.
     
  2. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    what a ripper write up .
    thanks for sharing this great hunt
    some nice stalks and sensatational animals all put together with great photography
     
  3. BnC 04

    BnC 04 TITANIUM SUPPORTER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Great story! Sounds like an awesome trip through and through. Well done to you both.
     
  4. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Great hunting report, thanks for sharing!
     
  5. Buff-Buster

    Buff-Buster GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Great write-up! Thanks for sharing with us and congrat's!
     
  6. observe

    observe CONTRIBUTOR AH Fanatic

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    good story
    well done!
     
  7. Nyati

    Nyati AH Legend

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    Congrats on your great experience and nice trophies !

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  8. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for the hunt report and pictures, you got some really nice animals!!
     
  9. oddsix

    oddsix AH Member

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    Great kudu! Thanks for sharing!
     
  10. Jaco Strauss

    Jaco Strauss AH Elite

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    Great Report!!!!!! Rick has been around for a long time, I started with John X in 1999, Carl is all grown up now and seems to be a hell of a professional hunter :) A beautiful part of the country to hunt and I am sure your memories will stay with you for a very long time.... Or at least until you return... Congratulations.

    My best always,.
     
  11. desertloper

    desertloper AH Veteran

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    Glad you all enjoy it. I wanted to wait until everything had returned so I could post an A to Z report. YRC dropped our taxidermy crates this week, so we've been busy unpacking and hanging...more pics to follow.
     
  12. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    looking forward to it mate
     
  13. desertloper

    desertloper AH Veteran

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    With only a 7' ceiling-we had to get creative.

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  14. garyleach

    garyleach AH Veteran

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    Great mounts and job getting them in there, i am faced with the same challenge.... but thats half of the fun!
     
  15. Nyati

    Nyati AH Legend

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    Nice mounts !

    I don t have much space, so I have to settle for euro mounts.
     

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