Big Game on the Big Island, Maui, Lanai and Molokai
By Gary Lewis
Most people think of Polynesian boar when they think of hunting in our 50th state, but there are a lot of big game opportunities. Biggest are the Vancouver bulls, the wild cattle of Hawaii, gone feral for countless generations since their introduction. Then there are black Hawaiian rams, feral cross sheep and Spanish goats by the thousands, axis deer and even some wild, free-range mouflon.
For years, the name Pat Fisher has been associated with the big game and bird hunts on Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii. But now Fisher has returned to his roots as an independent outfitter, doing business as Hawaii Safaris (Tel. 808-640-0755, www.hawaiisafaris.com), and has expanded operations to include the Big Island (Hawaii), Maui, Lanai and Molokai.
Fisher likes to hunt axis deer (Lanai, Maui and Molokai) and mouflon sheep best of all.
Two of the new areas are on Lanai. For mouflon and axis, Pat books a three-day hunt on the north slope of the island. This is 30,000 acres of rugged ranch country where mouflon and axis are often spotted cross-canyon.
For the biggest axis bucks, Fisher recommends the two-day Palawai Basin hunt with a muzzleloader. Hunters go on foot with shooting sticks, safari-style, to intercept herds of deer on large flats. Here, Fisher finds the best trophies, deer whose racks run to 34 or 35 inches.
For hunters who wish to stay close to the ocean, Fisher recommends the Lodge at Manele Bay (www.fourseasons.com/lanai). If they want to stay closer to the hunting, Fisher suggests the Lodge at Koele (www.fourseasons.com/lanai) or a rental house in Lanai City (which Fisher can arrange).Fisher reports 100% opportunity and 98% success with rifle and muzzleloader on these hunts. Archers, he says, should consider Maui.
Maui is Fisher's home island. Near Piiholo, he hunts wild boar and axis deer from blinds and hides positioned along game trails. A two-day hunt, the best opportunities are in morning and evening when game is on the move. A hunter will see between 25 and 100 deer a day. "Anyone can have a reasonable shot at a deer. It's more a matter of what you want to hold out for."
To stay closest to the hunt areas, Fisher recommends the town of Kula. Nearer the ocean, Kihei and Wailea are good options.
For axis deer, April and May mark the pre-rut. "The peak of the rut is usually around June 1st. If I had to pick my favorite time, I'd pick mid-April to mid-June," Fisher said. "The pre-rut is a really good time when the bucks are searching and covering a lot of ground and they're not with the big herd yet. By mid-May to mid-June they're rutting pretty hard. They bugle so you can listen for them."
On my hunt in January, we based camp at the Outrigger at Keauhou Bay intending to hunt big mouflon on one of Fisher's leases on the Big Island. A wild fire was burning in the area, so we changed course and hunted a ranch 30 minutes south of Kona.
We located the sheep by following the sounds of the herd, a group that numbered about 20 animals. I shot the biggest male when he turned broadside, a ram whose horn, on the longest side, measured 23 inches.
That afternoon we hunted Spanish goats at the southernmost tip of the United States. The population on this particular ranch numbers, according to Fisher, 2,500 animals. They run in herds of 10 to 50.
On the goat hunt, we saw about 60 animals and took a goat with horns that measured 21.75 inches from tip to tip. Fisher has 56,000 acres under lease on the Big Island. On Maui and Lanai, he hunts a combined 42,000 acres.
Animals may be spotted from the vehicle, but most hunts are conducted on foot.
Binoculars are important. Fisher carries a rangefinder. Shots may present at 30 yards or out to 300. Bring a rifle or borrow one from the outfitter. Snacks, sandwiches, sodas and bottled water are provided. In the lava fields, good boots are a must. Properties start at sea level and run up to 7,000 feet.
- Axis deer are hunted March through October on Maui, Lanai and Molokai. Hunts start at $1,950 and are guided 1x1. There is a $500 trophy fee for bucks that have 27-inch or bigger main beams.
- For a Spanish goat, the hunt costs $900. For a trophy Polynesian boar, the hunt costs $800. A sheep hunt (mouflon or black Hawaiian) costs $1,250 with a $250 trophy fee for a ram with 30-inch horns.
- A hunt for Vancouver bulls, the wild cattle of the Big Island, costs $1,950. There is a $550 trophy fee for bulls with a combined horn length of 30 inches or more.
- The season for upland birds runs October through February. A half-day guided hunt costs $400. Turkey hunting (Rio Grandes) runs from March 1 to mid-April. A one-day hunt costs $650.
A Hawaiian hunting license costs $95 for nonresidents. To purchase a hunting license, nonresidents must have a Hunter Education Letter of Exemption from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. A hunting license from your home state is not sufficient proof that you have completed a hunter education program.
A three-day preserve license is available for $50 and nonresidents may hunt with Fisher (on three of his preserve-licensed ranches) without the hunter education class or exemption.
Licenses can be purchased at Walmart, hardware and sporting goods stores.
Big Island: Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort. Tel. 800-688-7444.
Lanai: Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. Tel. 808-565-2000.
Lanai: Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Koele. Tel. (808) 565-4000.