Monday, April 2, 2012

Hunting Hawaii

Driving up the slope of Mauna Kea, with Mauna Loa in the distance.

The Kohala Coast is to the right in the photo, obscured by the fog.

The view from the first hunt location. Rams were constantly calling in the distance and a lone black ewe was just to the right of the field, hidden behind a tree. Glen crept down the slope towards her, but she spooked and bolted when a flock of turkeys started gobbling. What are the odds?

This is an archery-only area, with the exception of shotguns for bird hunting.

We did see three different groups of turkeys, but I could not identify any toms before they ducked down and made a run for it. These are truly wild turkeys, not like the farm turkeys. Considering that it was the last week of spring gobbler season, we were extremely lucky to even spot them.

Around noon, I spotted a group of six sheep from the truck. Of course they bolted - down the hill - and apparently when wild sheep spook, they don't stop running for several miles. We quickly drove back down the path in an attempt to cut them off. Glen hiked the area for about an hour but they had veered south, and that was the last we would see of them.

Prime wild sheep country, at about 7500 feet (and up!)

The second and final turkey sighting came around 1 pm, at 8000 ft, when I spotted two red faces peaking above the grass. They would duck down for a minute, then pop up again, probably trying to see if I was carrying a gun.
By the time I had loaded up and focused my binoculars on the flock, they decided it was time to get out of there. Running turkeys are not much slower than wild sheep when they actually try, and the last we saw of the flock was a dozen skinny necks streaking through the grass, up the hill and out of sight. I spent several hours hiking the area and heard a few gobbles in the distance, but I was out of luck. Well, at least in bagging a wild one. I used my turkey tags on two nice farm toms when I got home.

We drove home on Saddle Road, the road that runs between the two mountains. Just after passing the Pohakuloa Training Area, Glen suddenly pulled over and handed me a pair of binoculars.
This is where all the wild sheep hide:

Owned by Hawaiian Homelands, this is a restricted area that does not allow hunting. Several thousand wild sheep live here year-round and rarely venture out. When the PTA opens the bordering regions for one weekend of sheep hunting, hunters line up at the gates beginning at 2 am.

If you look closely, you'll see sheep covering both hills all the way to the top. We watched for an hour as the sea of sheep wound from behind the far hill to our close right. The group was an even mix of feral Hawaiian sheep and hybrids, Mouflon crosses that are almost twice as large as the ferals. I hear they are very tasty...

Maybe next time PTA opens up, I'll be at the front of the line at midnight, waiting for my chance to bag a wild sheep.

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