By Laurence Jennings

More special than common, this species holds a special place in the heart of many hunters across the globe. The little buck is a first quarry for many hunters and, more often than not, they are overlooked as trophy animals. Join me in the 6th part of this series on my quest for my not-so-common duiker hunted in the coastal region of the Eastern Cape with Lynx Safaris.

These little animals usually appear in clearings for a split second before darting into thickets or giving you a heart attack when they suddenly jump up at your feet in the thick undergrowth. For many hunters this duiker is the first animal that they will harvest – or at least, among the first few. The sight of a duiker will take hunters back to those early years in the hunting veld. Common duiker is a great species to hunt for first-time hunters or youngsters. They are relatively easy to hunt and provide a good start in building confidence.
The term, the Tiny Ten antelopes of Southern Africa, has given the common duiker its rightful place in the spotlight. When hunted on foot, in a walk-and-stalk manner, the grey or common duiker of Southern Africa provide an extremely enjoyable and challenging hunt. Many hunters overlook them and won’t even stop to admire them on a hunt. However, if you want to complete your Tiny Ten trophy quest, it will be on your list sooner or later.
It reminds me of something my Mom used to tell me while I was growing up in South Africa. We still had the bronze one-cent coins with a depiction of two sparrows. When I was saving money for some or other animal or project I wanted to buy, I would always put these one-cent coins to one side. They took up space and, to be honest, how much could a one-cent coin help me get to the ‘massive’ amount that I needed. My Mom would then always say: “Remember, if you have 99 cents, you will need one cent to make up a rand.” These small coins were just as important as the larger denomination coins, and this applies just as much to the common duiker.
My quest to complete the Tiny Ten had already taken me to Port Alfred twice for blue duiker and oribi ­– and now my third trip was booked for common duiker. I would be hunting with Jeff and Dwayne Ford from Lynx Safaris, which is based in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape. Lynx Safaris is the main outfitter in the Kowie-Kariega conservancy and receives the majority of the permits on quota issued by Nature Conservation. This is probably one of the best areas to hunt blue and common duiker, as well as oribi in South Africa.
Dwayne and Jeff operate and undertake hunts out of the 42 000 hectare Kowie-Kariega conservancy, which is a protected area. Jeff is the primary predator controller for the conservancy and runs two packs of dogs that control caracal and jackal. This has had a tremendously positive effect on the numbers of duiker and oribi in the area. Populations of the species are extremely healthy and I believe this is a direct result of the anti-poaching and predator-control operation that Jeff and Dwayne run.
The common duiker is a shy and tiny antelope. It gets its name from the Afrikaans word duiker, which means to dive, and refers to the antelope’s habit of ‘diving’ away into thickets when it senses danger. Duiker are mainly active in the late afternoon and during the night but tend to have some periods in the early morning when they are active as well. With a lifespan of about 8–11 years, duiker are solitary animals with males and females sharing territories but hardly staying together other than for mating purposes. The colouration of the species varies widely as they are distributed over a vast geographic range. With fourteen subspecies, ranging from the forests of Angola to the coastal thickets of the Eastern Cape, they have coats which vary in colour from chestnut and grizzled grey to light brown in some areas. The under parts of the bellies are usually white. Most have a black band limited to the lower part of the face near the nostrils.

Adult males stand 500 mm at the shoulders and weigh about 15 to 18 kg. Males are territorial and smear gland secretions on rocks and branches to mark their territories. Females are about 20 mm taller and weigh a bit more at about 16 to 21 kg. Duiker breed year round and a female gives birth to a single lamb after a gestation period of about six months. Males carry two dagger-like horns but females have been known to grow horns as well. The overall success of this species stems from its ability to inhabit a wide variety of habitats and they are probably the most successful bovid species in Africa.
The days ticked by slowly and I couldn’t wait to board the plane to Port Elizabeth. Finally, the day arrived and after an early start I reached the sleepy little coastal town of Port Alfred in the early afternoon. Jeff and Dwayne picked me up and we headed off about 30 km inland. My first afternoon was spent looking for bushbuck, and harvesting a very good ram right at sunset set the mood for the hunt. We would spend the next two days looking for duiker.
This was my third attempt to harvest a common duiker of over five inches. On my first trip I passed up a ram of just over five inches and I have regretted that decision several times over the last three years. A big reason I decided to hunt my common duiker in Port Alfred was the fact that you can see so many animals during the day. Common duiker are very shy animals and tend to be nocturnal. In Port Alfred it is not uncommon to see between twenty to thirty duikers a day.
Jeff, Dwayne and I headed to an area where Dwayne had seen a very nice ram on a previous hunt. Our strategy was to drive to high ground and glass the opposite hills and valleys. In the late afternoon the duiker leave the impenetrable coastal forest and start to move around and graze on the edges of these forests. We were hoping to spot a ram and, with the help of Dwayne’s spotting scope, determine if it was a good ram and we would then plan our stalk. The view from these hills is amazing. It seems that the rolling green hills – that almost seem too green – continue forever, showing various shades of green in the valleys and forest below.
After about an hour of glassing, we decided to drive to the next hill. We had seen several females and young rams but no big rams that required a closer look. As we started our descent a duiker ram jumped up out of a patch of bushes in the middle of a clearing about 150 m from us. It ran over an open piece of ground and stopped right against the next forest thicket. It stared back at us and Dwayne, watching it through his binoculars, said: “This is a good duiker.” Dwayne and I got off the bakkie (pick-up truck) and moved in behind a small tree closeby. Jeff drove off with the bakkie and we hoped the duiker would think that we were leaving it in peace and quiet.
Using the spotting scope, Dwayne remarked that the ram looked as if it would make 5 inches – and my heart started to pound in my chest. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine an animal of this size would have such an effect on me. This is what makes hunting the Tiny Ten so special. The duiker was about 220 m from us, and I told Dwayne that I was going to go for the shot as soon as the ram turned broadside.
For this hunt I had decided to use my Remington model 700 chambered in .30-06 SPRG. I would be shooting 165 gr Sierra Game Kings at 2 780 fps. The rifle is topped with a Burris Droptine 4.5-14x42mm telescope and has a silent striker silencer. I get extremely good performance out of this combination and shoot great groupings at 200 m.

Extending my bipod, I moved in behind my rifle and took aim at the duiker. The ram was slowly grazing between some small trees on the edge of the forest, and gave us a glimpse of him every now and then. Studying the area in front of the duiker, I saw that he would have to cross a clearing. I decided that that was the perfect spot for a shot and I readied myself for when he would come into view. I could see him moving through the bush towards the clearing. And then, all of a sudden, there was no movement and no duiker. I looked at Dwayne in disbelief. “Where is he?” I asked.
Apparently the duiker had decided to bed down just before the clearing! What horrible luck – and to make things worse, time was running out as it was getting dark. We decided to try and stalk the duiker but we never saw him again. I was gutted as we returned home that night but at least we had one more day.
The following day a really strong wind came up in the afternoon. Dwayne decided to change tactics and to hunt next to the coastline. I had thought the hunting areas of the previous days were beautiful, but I was in for a surprise! We were hunting right on the coastline, in between the ocean and the coastal forest. The area was more sheltered from the wind, due to the hills being a bit higher with more cover on them. The duikers use this to their advantage and graze in between the thick forest patches. It was awe-inspiring to be walking on these amazingly beautiful green grass slopes, surrounded by the coastal forest and hearing the ocean in the background. Almost immediately we came across bushbuck, oribi and several duiker females.
Starting on the southern part of the property, we hunted in a northerly direction, glassing the hills and edges of the forest. There were green ‘fingers’ of open grass reaching into the forest – some 20 or 30 yards long and wide, and others a few feet. These open spaces between the wall of trees and bushes were ideal hideaways for the duikers.
As we walked slowly into the wind towards the southern section of the property, we started to see more and more duiker. We continued up a hill, keeping to the edge of the forest, which dropped away down the other slope that was still out of view. From there we would be able to see several grass ‘fingers’ on both sides. As we made the summit, we came around a bush and the hill dropped away, and made a ‘finger’ of about 120 m long and 30 m wide to our left.
I was about two steps behind Dwayne. He suddenly stopped in his tracks and lifted his binoculars. “That’s your duiker, Laurence. Get ready!” he exclaimed. Without looking at the duiker, I stepped past Dwayne, extended my bipod and was flat on the ground in seconds. The duiker was grazing right next to the tree line, unaware of us. Dwayne told me to wait as he wanted to double-check the horns. He was happy and suggested that I should take the ram. I studied the ram through my telescope and was amazed at the size. I glanced towards Dwayne and told him I was going to take the shot as soon as the duiker turned broadside. We had the higher ground and the ram was slowly grazing at about 120 m from us. It started turning broadside and stopped at a quartering angle to us. Adjusting for the downward angle, the crosshairs of my Burris found the spot where the neck meets the shoulder and my finger started the squeeze automatically. The .30-06 jumped back into my shoulder and I heard the smack of the bullet. When I looked up the duiker was gone – but Dwayne was looking at me with a big grin!
We walked over to the spot and found my duiker exactly where it had stood. The 165 gr Sierra Game King had done its job quickly and cleanly. I was in awe of this little animal. After my third attempt I had finally harvested my duiker.
Back in Johannesburg, we measured the ram at 5⅛” – a trophy ram of a lifetime and all I could ever have wished for. What a great and amazing privilege it is to practice this sport of hunting! It is a sport that we should protect for younger generations, and one that we need to teach them about as well. ASM

Just before the shot on my duiker

Dwayne and I with my ram