Birds (and More) of Paradise: Hunting Hawaii Offers Surprising Diversity

Pacific islands have wealth of game and plenty of opportunities to hunt

Friday, August 11, 2017

By Emily Glaser

The Hawaiian islands promise a whole host of paradisiacal to-dos, from cliffside hikes to oceanside golf courses, but there’s one unpublicized to-do we very much want to do: hunting.

The rugged, unmarred landscapes of these islands offer an oasis for bird and game hunters alike. Lushly green and wild with breathtaking vistas and challenging terrain, this is the kind of hunting they used to write about in books. The hunt itself feels remote and age-old, but that doesn’t mean giving up 5-star perks and amenities at nearby hotels and resorts.

Six Hawaiian islands each offer their own unique hunting experiences and game, including Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the big island, Hawaii. On each island, you’ll find one or more state-designated public hunting areas called Hunting Units which are regulated and monitored by the government. There are also plenty of private ranges stocked with game mammals.

As with all hunting trips, it’s important to study the local laws and seasons before you go. In Hawaii, you must have a valid hunting license on private or public lands ($95 for non-residents), as well as a current year $10 Hawaii Wildlife Conservation Stamp. In order to obtain a license, you must prove that you successfully completed a hunter education course. Hawaii may be laid back, but their hunting laws are not lax.

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The six hunting islands provide a variety of fowl and beast for hunters shooting with bow and arrow or shotguns (those are the only weapons allowed, with the exception of BB or larger sized shot during the Spring Turkey Hunt). It’s also important that you register your weapon and ammunition with the local chief of police within 48 hours of your arrival.

Keep in mind, in the midst of the Pacific, these islands are at the whim of nature, and that can also affect hunting. Check in with the Division of Forestry & Wildlife before your trip to make sure your hunt is possible.

Now, for the good stuff. Bird hunters will find ring-necked pheasant, Japanese quail, spotted dove, and barred dove on all these islands. Those looking for rarer fowl will find Kalij pheasant and chestnut-bellied sand grouse on the big island of Hawaii and gray, black and erckels frankolin and wild turkey on a few of the islands, as well.

On the hunt for larger game? These isles have that, too. Feral goats and pigs can be hunted on all islands except Lanai (like other areas of the U.S., these feral pigs are a pest on Hawaii). You can also hunt mouflon sheep via a lottery system on Lanai and Hawaii, and feral and hybrid sheep on Hawaii. Some islands also offer axis and black-tail deer hunting with a special permit. If you’re hoping to bag a brush-tailed wallaby or wild cow, however, you’ll come home empty-handed; those animals are protected.

Though public Hunting Units are a great option on the islands, a true hunting experience and almost guaranteed success can be found with a private company. Take, for example, Hawaii Safaris, the oldest and most diverse outfitters on the islands. Across four islands — Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and Molokai — they have 110,000 acres of lands with free range trophy hunting for axis deer, mouflon and black Hawaiian sheep.

The best part of hunting with a private company like Hawaii Safaris is that the guides know the land. Born and raised on the islands, they understand the terrain and the wildlife well enough to just about guarantee you’ll head home with the trophy you’re dreaming of.

Any experienced hunter knows the toll a day on the hunt can have on the body. That’s just one more reason a hunting trip to Hawaii is the perfect escape. Alternate hunts with days spent on warm beaches, cocktail in hand. Now that’s what we call a hunting trip.