Hunting the Tiny Ten
Not every hunter that goes on safari in Africa is looking for dangerous game, or large plains game. There is a group of tiny antelope called “The Tiny Ten” that range through southern Africa that some hunters lust after. Most of these animals are very small. The largest antelope in the group weighs less than 50 pounds. This causes a couple of problems when hunting them.
First, they present a very small target area. The best way to hunt the tiny ten is to aim for the largest part, and let the taxidermist repair the damage. Second, the proper firearm for hunting the Tiny Ten is very important. The rifle you use to hunt large African animals is usually way too powerful for such small antelopes. If one of the Tiny Ten is on your list, and you are mainly hunting larger animals like wildebeest, tsessebe, or similar, and only using one rifle, then your hunting rifle will have to do. The best bullet choice for the little animals would be a non-expanding solid. An expanding bullet from a .30 caliber rifle can really ruin a hide. Sometimes it is best to have your PH bring his .375 and some solids. Solids will do significantly less damage than an expanding bullet will.
If you are going to be hunting a number of, or all of the Tiny Ten, a rifle along the lines of a 6mm/.243 with 70-90 grain bullets would be a good choice to bring as a second firearm. You can hunt with a rimfire cartridge (where legal), or a shotgun. All the members of the Tiny Ten are extremely shy, and prone to run rather than freeze. Being on the bottom of the food chain makes hunting one a fast proposition. Also, all ten antelope cannot be found in one country, so trying to hunt all of them can take a dedicated hunter a bit of time. It is currently possible to hunt 9 of the tiny ten within South Africa, but the Damara dik-dik will require a separate trip to Namibia. Taking 9 of the tiny ten will involve hunting in at least three separate regions of SouAfrica. Should you wish to attempt to take all 9 at once within South Africa, contact Discount African Hunts to find out how to achieve this difficult goal.
We’ll cover each member of the Tiny Ten in alphabetic order, and list the countries in which they can be found. Throughout southern Africa, all the Tiny Ten are found in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Countries where found: Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Animal description: male weight – 8.5 lb. (females larger), height – eleven inches, horns ¾ - 4 inches.
The blue duiker is the smallest of the 19 duiker species, and the second smallest antelope behind the royal antelope found in Guinea and Nigeria. The blue duiker is most active at night and into the early dawn. Duiker pairs patrol their area and mark their boundaries to warn off other blue duikers. They tend to freeze and sound an alarm when frightened.
The blue duiker inhabits dense forests and is found primarily in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. To a lesser extent, they inhabit parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, and Tanzania. They stay near the forest, or thick brush for shelter and shade. Their habitat requirements are very specific, only living in areas that meet their exact requirements. So they tend not to be widely distributed.
They consume fruit, flowers, eggs and insects. In turn, they are preyed on by ground based predators, and raptors like the crowned eagle that will hunt them from above, using their large talons to make the kill.
It takes a lot of patience to hunt blue duiker. They spend a great deal of time either hiding in shrubbery, or in tall grass. They make very little noise, and seldom give away their position by movement. If you come up on one, it may freeze for a split second before darting off. This will be the best time for a shot. The blue duiker will be in sight only for a brief time, so the hunter needs to be ready to shoot. The best choice of firearm for these small antelopes is a shotgun in one of the smaller gauges like a 20 or 28 gauge.
Countries where found: South Africa
Animal description: male – 20 lb. (females larger), height – 20 inches
The Cape grysbok is a small antelope found in the Western Cape area of South Africa. It primarily inhabits the area between Albany and the Cederburg Mountains. Its habitat includes thick scrub bush and heavy grasses. During the day it rests out of sight in the bush. It sometimes feeds in the early morning, or after sunset. However, it is most active at night. If the Cape grysbok senses danger, it will freeze, not moving until it is almost trod on. When running, it will shift direction erratically while trying to throw a predator off its trail.
The Cape grysbok is a solitary antelope, only forming a pair during mating season. It relies on its own cunning and ability to evade predators. It primarily feeds on grass, but will eat fruit and young shoots when available. It can cause problems for a farmer if it can get through the fences around orchards and vineyards. The Cape grysbok is known to live near urban areas in the Cape Peninsula area where there are a large number of farms.
Lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas prey on the Cape gemsbok. If threatened, it will fluff out its fur on its hindquarters to look larger.
The best method to hunt Cape grysbok is by walking and stalking in a known area where its spore has been found. The best time for hunting is early morning or from one-half hour before sunset up to the end of hunting light. Don’t go by body size, as the female is larger. Good horns are anything over 1.5 inches. Any small caliber rifle will be suitable for hunting. Aim at the largest part of the animal, and be quick because it won’t be in sight for long.
Countries where found: Angola, Namibia
Animal description: male – 12 lb., height – 14 inches
The Damara dik-dik is a small antelope found in the bush of southern and eastern Africa, predominately in southwestern Angola and central and northwest Namibia. Its east-African name, “dik-dik”, comes from the sound it makes. The females are the largest of the species. Males have horns of roughly three inches in length that slant backwards. If alarmed, the Damara dik-dik will run in a series of stiff-legged bounds. The Damara dik-dik inhabits dry areas and lives in the bush where there is adequate cover from lions, caracals, hyenas, wild dogs and even monitor lizards. Just about every predator in Africa hunts the rabbit-sized antelope.
The best way to hunt Damara dik-dik is by walking and stalking areas where their tracks or droppings have been located. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon when the sun doesn’t have suck a harsh bite. During the day they hide in the bush, and due to their natural camouflage are quite hard to spot unless they move. Once their spore has been located, their tracking can start. Some of the best areas for hunting dik-dik in Namibia are the Kaokoveld region in the northwest part of the country, and the Grootfontein in Damaraland.
As far as firearms for the hunt, any small caliber rifle will work. If your safari is strictly for the Tiny Ten, you should have a rifle in the 6mm - .243 Winchester calibers. The antelope is so small that center of body mass shots are preferred. A head shot will not leave much for the taxidermist to work with. Aim for the chest, not the shoulder. Another good firearm choice is a small gauge shotgun with a load of #6 shot.
Countries where found: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Animal description: male – 45 lb., height – 20 inches
If you plan on hunting grey duiker, you should know that it is one of the most common duiker in Africa. It’s also known as the common, or bush, duiker, and is one of the smallest of the duiker family. Its habitat covers most of southern Africa, excepting rain forests in the center and west of the continent. Like others of the Tiny Ten, it prefers areas where there is sufficient vegetation for feed and shelter from the many predators that hunt grey duiker. It prefers woodlands, savannas and other grassy plains. Zimbabwe and the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa are known for their abundance of trophy of the grey duiker.
If needs be, the duiker will feed on leaves, fallen fruit, tubers, and small animals and reptiles like birds, insects, frogs, and pretty much anything that is smaller and slower than itself. The liquid in the vegetation it eats satisfies most of its water requirements. It is quite capable of existing for months without drinking water directly.
There are a number of ways of hunting grey duikers. The most successful is through opportunity. The antelope is most active during early morning and late afternoon. It spends the day hiding in heavy cover to avoid predators. Where permitted by law, the grey duiker can be hunted at night with spotlights. Trophy evaluation is difficult as the animal won’t be in sight for very long. Your only opportunity for a shot will most likely be a see-shoot hunt with little, or no time to evaluate horn size. Horns that stand as tall as the animal’s ears are between 3.5 and 4 inches in length.
It can be quite difficult to spot and shoot the antelope because it has an excellent sense of smell, and very rapid reaction time. Its brownish-grey coloration makes it hard to see when it’s in the bush. Firearm choice will be whatever you have in your hands at the moment. When hunting specifically for the Grey duiker, a shotgun in 20-28 gauge would be an excellent choice when the animal goes bounding off, and you have to make a snap shot.
Countries where found: Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Animal description: weight – 28 lb., height – 23 inches
The klipspringer derives its name from the Kiswahili word for “goat of the rocks” because it lives primarily on rocky kopjes (hills), and is well suited for climbing. It has a massive build for its size, and its rear legs are quite strong. It is mainly found in South Africa in the mountains of the Cape of Good Hope. Unlike other animal species, the klipspringer stands on the very tips of their toes. It is capable of putting all four hooves on a rock the size of a poker chip.
Only the male klipspringer has horns, ranging between four and six inches in length. It is a herbivore, and the vegetation it consumes satisfies all water requirements. It is quite territorial, and occupies a 20 to 120 acre territory for life. The ram is very vigilant, watching for danger by standing guard on high rocks. Should a predator approach the male, he will sound a whistling grunt, causing the ewe to bolt for the heights. It is capable of outrunning most predators on steep slopes and rocky terrain.
The klipspringer watches for predators approaching from above, so the best way to spot and stalk one is by hunting from below. Move slowly and watch upwards.
The klipspringer will bolt at the first sign of danger, but it will often stop and look back to see what’s behind. That’s the time to have your rifle ready.
Natal Red Duiker
Countries where found: Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Animal description: weight – 34 lb., height – 18 inches
The Natal red duiker, also known as just the red duiker or red forest duiker, inhabits the heavily forested areas of Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. They are mostly hunted in Mozambique and South Africa. Both sexes have horns, however the male’s horns are twice as long as the female’s.
Duiker in Africaans means diver. They picked up this name from their habit of diving into the brush at the slightest disturbance. They are active both morning and evening. They will become nocturnal if human habitations push into their territory.
One of the best areas for hunting them is the KwaZulu Natal Provence in South Africa. The best way to hunt Natal red duikers is by looking for spoor along roads, or in open areas where it is known to have been feeding. Hunters use animal calls to draw the duiker into range. A common way of hunting them is to locate their feeding area and then hunt from cover. Ranges are short, shooting is fast. A shotgun is the best choice of firearm. If a rifle is the method of choice, stay with the .243/6mm calibers.
Countries where found: Central African Republic, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Animal description: weight – 35 lb., height – 24 inches
Oribi prefer grasslands and forests where the vegetation is semi-open. They normally associate in pairs, but can be found in groups as large as seven animals. They are territorial and mark the boundaries. During the rainy season they consume young grasses. They eat shrubs during the dry season.
The Oribi give off a shrill whistle when alarmed. As danger approaches, they will freeze down in the tall grass. When the predator approaches to within a few yards, they run; bounding into the air every few yards with all four legs straight down and their back arched. This is called “stotting”.
Lions, jackals, leopards, caracals, and other predators, including crocodiles and pythons prey on oribi. Eagles and other birds will kill the young antelopes. Oribi feed during the cool hours, so they should be hunted during the early morning hours, or just before sunset. They have the same characteristic as others of the Tiny Ten. When alarmed, they will run a short distance then stop and turn to see what is behind them. Sometimes they will even walk back a few steps. That’s when you might get a shot.
Because of their small size, a large caliber rifle isn’t necessary. Anything in the usual .243/6mm range would do well. However, the shot may be some distance across an open plain, so a flat-shooting round is important. Ideal ballistics would be a 70-90 grain bullet travelling above 3,000 feet per second. A variable scope in the 3-9x range would let the hunter work up close in the bush, or out at 200 yards. Aim right behind the foreleg and one-third up the body.
Countries where found: Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Animal description: weight – 15 lb., height – 18 inches
The Sharpe’s grysbok is slightly smaller than the Cape grysbok. It is a small, secretive antelope that lives a solitary existence. Only the males have horns. It is an extremely timid nocturnal animal, and usually can only be found during the early morning, or towards the evening.
When frightened, the Sharpe’s grysbok will run quite a distance, without looking back, before stopping. They will sometimes hide in burrows when frightened. This type of behavior makes them difficult to hunt.
They are a bit of a curse for a farmer, as they are small enough to slip through fences surrounding crops and grape vines. The farmers hunt them as pests. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs hunt them as predators.
The best firearm for hunting this small antelope is a shotgun loaded with either $7 lead shot, or #5 or #6 steel shot. Try to make a dead silent stalk to within 40 yards before shooting. They can be hunted at night with a spotlight in areas where it’s legal. Again, the best time for hunting them if night hunting isn’t allowed is early morning, or around sunset.
Usually, these antelope are opportunity hunted while on a hunt for other plains game and carrying a larger caliber rifle. If this is the case, aim for the biggest part. Avoid head or neck shots.
Countries where found: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Animal description: weight20 lb., height – 20 inches
Steenbok is the most common of the Tiny Ten, and probably the easiest to hunt. It is diurnal and can be found anytime between dawn and dusk. Should civilization encroach, it can become nocturnal. It satisfies its water needs through the vegetation it consumes. If the day is cool, the steenbok will stay active. Hot days, it finds shade and rests.
Males carry 6-7 inch horns standing straight up off their skull. If they perceive a threat, they will drop flat to escape detection. If that fails, they will run in a zig-zag pattern to lose predators. It has the same habit as other Tiny Ten in that it will run a bit, then stop and look back. If the hunter is watching for this, a shot might be possible, but it will have to be fast.
Hunting for a trophy steenbok will require a slow stalk through high grass. Because it will lie flat until the last second, it can startle a hunter when it jumps and runs, which is guaranteed to give someone a healthy dose of adrenaline. Hunting the steenbok can be an intense experience. Like other small antelope, this one has excellent sight, hearing, and sense of smell. Add in its coloration, and its habit of holding until the last second, the steenbok hunt can be quite challenging.
Countries where found: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Animal description: weight – 12 lb., height – 15 inches
Suni antelopes feed on leaves, fruit, fungus and flowers. They drink no water; instead get all their requirements from the vegetation they eat. The suni have such excellent coloration that they are very hard to spot in their dry country habitat. Males are the only sex with horns. A good trophy would sport three to five inches of horn. This antelope emits a high-pitched barking cry when danger is present. Like other Tiny Ten, the suni will freeze when threatened, hoping its camouflage will confuse a predator. If that doesn’t work, it will run into deep underbrush. However, it has the same bad habit of running a bit, then stopping to look back.
Hunting suni is best accomplished by walking game trails where their spoor is present. More of these antelope are taken this way than fall to predators. The best choice of firearm for a suni hunt is a shotgun. Shots are going to be close, and very fast. The hunter will get a quick sighting of the antelope when it starts its run for the thick stuff, and then, perhaps a quick shot when it stops to look back.