Stalking the Shadows
By Engee Potgieter

I sat with bated breath, listening to the faint sound of waves breaking on the distant shoreline. As I settled into my chair, my bow beside me, in the dark confines of the blind, I allowed the oppressive humidity and deafening silence of the coastal forest to envelop me. I was back in the picturesque Eastern Cape in search of a trophy blue duiker. Sharing this tranquil scene was my guide Dwayne Ford, who I would be hunting with for the next week.

More than a decade before I had unsuccessfully tried my luck at bowhunting a trophy blue duiker near the small Eastern Cape town of Stutterheim. I had spent seven fruitless days hunting every square inch of valley forest that outfitter Dave Bursey had available, only to catch fleeting glimpses of the deep blue form of blue duikers as they dove into cover. It was during these frustratingly fruitless days where I had learned some valuable lessons about how to hunt – or rather how not to hunt – diminutive forest species like blue duiker. These would serve me well in later years as I went after other pygmy antelope. Little did I know at the time, however, that it would be more than 10 years later before I would be able to return to the Eastern Cape in order to complete my quest for my favourite of antelope, the smallest in Southern Africa, as I have an absolute passion for hunting the many different pygmy antelope, especially forest species like the blue and red duiker. These diminutive species pose, in my humble opinion, the biggest challenge, even more so if you plan on hunting them with bow and arrow.

Pygmy antelope are, without a doubt, some of the wariest and most highly strung of all antelope, and have developed superb senses and lightning-fast reflexes – their only hope of not being made a meal of by a catalogue of predators, such as caracal, jackal, and python. A unique predator, however, is the Marshall Eagle, which often swoops down to catch and kill pygmy antelope and forest duikers. Interestingly, this is also the reason why I have found that hunting from a tree stand in these forests does not work at all, as the ever-wary blue duiker always keeps an eye out for any danger in the trees overhead.

To hunt these vast stretches of thick coastal forest in and around Port Alfred is an experience in its own right, and takes a while to get used to, especially if you are more accustomed to hunting the Zululand bushveld as I am. But when I imagine a blue duiker sanctuary, this is definitely the picture that comes to mind: Thickly overgrown sand dunes under the deep and dappled shade of the almost impenetrable canopy of trees and dense cover among tangles of vines. It is nearly impossible for a man to stand or walk upright – one rather spends most of the time hunkered over, or on hands and knees, peering through binoculars in the hopes of spotting the tiny antelope in the dense foliage. It seldom gives away its presence, if not for the tell-tale flicker of its white bushy tail.

Hunting in this type of terrain by walking through it is simply out of the question. You create way too much noise while trying to get untangled in the claustrophobic forest. It is more conducive to ambush hunting, where the hunter should try and position himself near a dung midden or a well-used trail. Alternatively, you could set up over a general travel corridor, as by nature, these skittish and highly alert little antelope usually move through a high-traffic area at least once a day, generally early morning or late afternoon.

The heavy silence of the coastal forest was surreal, and Dwayne and I were forced to sit absolutely motionless in the stifling humidity of the pop-up blind as the slightest shifting seemed to sound particularly loud. I checked my sight, nocked an arrow and carefully laid the bow across my lap. I had already allocated and cleared a small area directly in front of my chair that would allow me to quietly kneel in the soft, damp sand, draw my bow unseen and make the shot, should a blue duiker ram cross one of my shooting lanes.

Dwayne is the son of outfitter and professional hunter Jeff Ford of Lynx Safaris operating out of Port Alfred, and they have documented the majority of blue duikers across the vast expanse of their 35,000 hectare concession by utilizing a large number of trail cameras set up along a maze of trails and the few small ponds they had specifically built within the home territories of adult breeding pairs. It allows them to carefully monitor and select which old rams are no longer breeding successfully and can therefore be taken out. The past few months of trail cam photos had revealed that a particularly big and old ram and his ewe, depending on the weather and particular moon phase, moved through the corridor where we were anxiously waiting late in the afternoon. So, as the minutes ticked by inside the blind, the tension grew, and we both kept our eyes peeled for any movement in the forest before us.

My heart skipped a beat as, a few minutes after four, the female magically made her appearance, moving slowly, ever so cautiously across the front of the blind from the left to our right. She abruptly froze in her tracks every couple of yards in typical nervous duiker manner. Only the little shake of the fluffy white tail drew our eyes to her form, binoculars revealing her dark, almost iridescent coat.

It was difficult to restrain myself from trying to peer out through the other windows toward the area she had come from in the hopes of spotting the male. We dared not breathe too loudly, let alone budge a muscle in the fear of being heard by the ever-alert ewe standing within a stone’s throw of our blind. It was a treat to be able watch her going about her business, rummaging on the forest floor for something to eat, instantly stopping at the smallest of sounds, from birds fluttering in the trees overhead to rustling of the leaves.

Previously, my experience with these little antelope was watching helplessly as they would dart off through the cover of the forest floor after letting out their sharp warning sound when they spotted a foreign form. So I was delighted to be able to quietly watch this little female. I was still admiring her through my binoculars when Dwayne tapped me gently on my left knee. An immediate surge of adrenalin flooded my system. I knew he was signaling that the ram had arrived, as he had a better view of the left side of our blind, thereby giving me precious seconds to get ready before the ram crossed my window.

As cautiously as I could, I slid down into a kneeling position and clipped on my trusty Scott trigger to the d-loop. I had no sooner done this when the deep-blue, and noticeably smaller-bodied ram came into view. He was surprisingly very relaxed, and casually followed female on the same trail she had used only minutes before. As he stopped and turned away from the blind to nibble at something in the clutter of leaves, I drew back my 80# Elite Answer and firmly anchored. The ram was now facing almost straight away from me, so the moment my tiny green pin came to rest just ahead of the nearest back leg I touched the shot off, sending the arrow toward the unsuspecting ram. A mere split second later the Muzzy-tipped Goldtip arrow impacted with a loud thwack! It passed clean through the ram after severing the spine at the base of the neck, delivering instant death and a dignified end to such a noble little creature.

I was beyond words as sheer elation and utter disbelief washed over me. I had for so long hoped and prayed for this day, I could hardly believe it was all over. Dwayne left the blind and made his way back along our footpath to radio his father as I walked over to where the old ram lay. As I knelt next to him, a mix of emotions flowed through me and I gave thanks to the Creator for the incredible privilege and wonderful opportunity to have been able to take this magnificent little antelope. I don’t recall just how long I sat there, stroking the smooth coat and admiring every detail of the tiny antelope before me. Suddenly, Dwayne’s voice behind me brought my attention back to my surroundings.

It turned out that the ram was one of the oldest blue duikers both Jeff and Dwayne had ever taken with a client. Its teeth were worn down almost to the gum line, and very long, delicately ridged and heavy little horns protruded from the signature tuft of hair on top of his head. We later learned that, not only was I fortunate to have been able to take such an incredible little antelope with bow and arrow, but its longest horn finally measured an incredible 2 ¼”. This was not only truly spectacular for a blue duiker, but it was one of the largest blue duikers ever to have be taken by a hunter with a bow – a rather unexpected bonus and something for which I will be forever be grateful.


Professional bow hunter and part time outdoor writer, Engee Potgieter, was born and raised in the picturesque Zululand region of South Africa. He had developed a great passion for the outdoors from a very young age and Engee quickly became an accomplished rifle and handgun hunter from very early on, but his first love always been bowhunting and archery. He is also a long time Pro Staffer for Elite, Muzzy, Winners Choice, Gold Tip, Bee Stinger and VaneTec.


I recommend you choose a bow that is not only superbly quiet, but also very forgiving, as this type of hunting calls for exceptionally accurate shooting. Not only is your shooting lane likely to be obscured with a clutter of branches, leaves, vines and other foliage, but the vital area on these antelope is scarcely larger than a golf ball. It would be a good idea to increase your overall finished arrow weight, as it will help to absorb the energy created by the bow, thus making it quieter. A heavy arrow is far less likely to be bumped off-course should you hit an obstruction.

An ultrafast bow generally has its merits, but it is the actual sound of the bow as it is shot that can make animals “jump the string”. You will never get the arrow to your target before the sound reaches it, so concentrate more on quietening down your setup as opposed to bolstering overall speed. I prefer a good-quality fixed blade broadhead to a mechanical. Models such as the Muzzy Trocar or Muzzy Phantom SC are perfect for lightly-boned small antelope, as these broadheads will enable you to make the shot regardless of the angle at which the antelope is standing. With a large mechanical you run the risk of the blades deploying before it reaches its target if the arrow should come into contact with any bushes or twigs along the shooting lane.

Although it may seem like overkill, I suggest that you shoot the same (albeit high) poundage bow you would otherwise use for much larger game. The reason for using a heavy bow setup is simple, and ties in with the reason for shooting heavier arrows. You will most often have to shoot under, over, past and even through light foliage in order to connect with your tiny trophy, and a “heavy” 70 to 80 pound bow pushing a 500-plus-grain arrow just handles these stumbling blocks better than a lighter, faster setup would, allowing you to confidently take any shot, even if the ram is screened by some plant material.

I cannot over emphasize the importance of being able to draw the bow as inconspicuously as possible, with little to no lateral or horizontal movement, because any hint of danger will send these shy and reclusive antelope scampering for cover. You might not always be afforded the luxury of being able to hunt from the security of a pop-up blind which would allow some degree of movement without the fear of being spotted, so it is better to prepare for the likelihood that you will generally be “still-hunting”, where you will quietly take up a position with your back up against some cover with only your camouflage or “Leafy Suit” to conceal your presence. Lastly, most relatively clear-shot opportunities will likely be in the region of 20 yards or closer, with shots of 30 yards or more being very few and far in between, so I suggest you use a quality 3-pin sight with “wrapped” fibre optic for nice and bright pins, which is perfectly suited to this type of low-light hunting.

PHOTO NO: 1 – Scanning the underbrush in the hopes of spotting Blue Duiker before they are aware of you is par for the course. I would recommend that you use premium quality optics for their optimal light gathering properties in these deeply shaded forests.

PHOTO NO: 2 – The tiny spoor left in the damp coastal sand betrays the presence of a mature Blue Duiker, the 125gr Muzzy MX3 broadhead, which is also a great choice for this type of hunting, is used for scale.

PHOTO NO: 3 – Dwayne and Jeff Ford rely on a number of Trail Cameras set up over small cement waterholes they have built themselves in order to monitor the numbers and quality of their Blue Duiker numbers across the massive 35,000 hectare concession.


PHOTO NO: 4 – Success! A beautiful, mature Blue Duiker ram, measuring an astounding two and a quarter inches.

PHOTO NO: 5 – The author with the trophy Blue Duiker taken with bow and arrow.