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Big game hunting may be the last thing that comes to mind when someone says “Hawaii.” The name and the place conjure images of swaying palm trees, crystal blue waters, and languid sunsets (and, perhaps, a colorful cocktail with a tiny umbrella and a pineapple wedge in it). Not camo-clad hunters, biding their time in hunting blinds for the 10-point buck that will land them on the cover of Field & Stream, right?
But we do have big game hunting in Hawaii, on all of the major islands, and with a variety of animal species you probably wouldn’t expect, deer and rams included. All are feral, and in some parts of the state they’re a nuisance and threat to endangered native species. Game animals have no natural predators in Hawaii and their numbers can grow quickly, so limiting their populations is important to the preservation of Hawaii’s natural environment.
Most hunters from Hawaii would likely agree that trophy hunting is simply distasteful and most if not all kills are consumed, but trophy hunting is not uncommon among visiting hunters. Some hunt with dogs, others with bow and arrow, other, more adventurous hunters use knives. Hunting with guns is also not uncommon.
Feral pigs are the quarry of choice for most Hawaii hunters (can’t have a luau without kalua pig!). Pig hunting is centuries old in Hawaii, and it continues to be an important cultural and economic pursuit for thousands of Hawaii families.
Visitors may be surprised to learn that there are wild deer in Hawaii. Two species, in fact. The axis deer was introduced from India to Hawaii in 1867 as a gift to Kamehameha V. They were first released on Molokai, but are now found in the thousands on Lanai and Maui as well. Columbian black tailed deer were introduced on Kauai from Oregon in 1960, and there is now a growing population of over 700 in Waimea Canyon.
The black Hawaiian ram is another sought after quarry for Hawaii hunters. This is a bit of a misnomer, as there are no ungulates native to Hawaii. It’s actually a kind of mouflon, or sheep, introduced to Hawaii in the 1950’s. They are fairly abundant in parts of the Big Island and Lanai.
For visitors interested in big game hunting in Hawaii, it’s best to go with a reputable outfitter. Hunting is heavily regulated. The Division of Forestry & Wildlife’s Rules Regulating Mammal Hunting is 56 pages long. For those who are inclined, hunting in Hawaii can be an exciting and fulfilling adventure. Hawaii outfitters are humane and environmentally sensitive. Because of the damage that these introduced species do to native plant, insect and bird species, hunting them in Hawaii can actually be an act of environmental preservation.