By Josh Harris
As the wheels of the 737 touched down on the runway, the sudden jolt and braking of the airplane brought me abruptly out of my dreams. For a second I thought that I was in imminent danger, then as reality hit me, I knew that the day had finally arrived and it was finally, GAME ON! Hawaii was the place and hunting with the “Hawaiian Islands Hunting Authority”, Mr. Patrick Fisher of Hawaii Safaris was the name of the game!
My Hawaii hunting adventure began as soon as my wife and I planned another vacation to Hawaii. I knew that after having visited Hawaii a few times before, that when I returned I would ensure that hunting was on the agenda. Having done a great deal of due-diligence, it was unquestionable that I would hunt with no one else other than Patrick Fisher of Hawaii Safaris. For years, the name Pat Fisher has been associated with big game and bird hunts on the Hawaiian Islands, but as a guide with a former outfitter. Fisher now owns and runs his own outfitting company called Hawaii Safaris. Pat has created a solid team of superior guides, acquired unbelievable properties and as I mentioned before, has truly become the “Hawaiian Islands Hunting Authority!”
I have had the good fortune to hunt in a lot of different places for various species and hunting in Hawaii is like nowhere else I have hunted. On every occasion that I have mentioned my Hawaii hunting experiences, people have been very surprised to hear the words “Hawaii” and “Hunting” in the same sentence. Most people are unaware that hunting is very prevalent throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Those that have heard about it generally only think of Wild Polynesian Boar hunting, but there are numerous other opportunities for big game hunting on the Hawaiian Islands. Little do most people know that Hawaii holds a great diversity of free-range/fair-chase animals. The big game species on the Hawaiian islands range from Spanish Goats, Hawaiian Ibex, (Pure) Mouflon Sheep and Axis Deer to Rio Grande Turkey, Vancouver Bulls, Black-tail Deer and 14 varieties of upland game birds. Oh and need not forget the infamous Wild Polynesian Boar! The countryside is filled with great populations of each of these species and whether you’re going to Maui, Lanai, Kona, Kauai or Molokai, you can rest assured that you will find some of the most picturesque and game-rich landscapes that are inhabited by free-range game that will challenge every hunting instinct you have.
During my vacation with my wife, I had pre-planned a one-day hunt with Pat on Maui as a beginning hunt that preceded the 5-Day hunt that was planned for when the family vacation was over. The islands had been experiencing a strange run of dry weather for quite some time and as luck would have it, we arrived at our meeting point with Pat and we were also welcomed with heavy rain and wind that impaired our morning hunt in Maui. Weather aside, we were still able to see two great Axis Deer bucks (28 and 30 inches) and one big Wild Boar that gave us the slip. I do have to say that being in Hawaii, in a new place, hunting a new species, was as awesome as it gets. The sight of the rolling and lush grassy fields and prairies that butted up to the deep and dense rain forests was nothing less than amazing. It was a surreal experience going from the beach and snorkeling one minute, to putting my pack on and my gun over my shoulder the next. It was the “Best of Both Worlds”! As the weather worsened, all of the game had moved back into the dense forests, so Pat made the call to go back to the truck and try another day.
As the vacation came to an end, I traveled to the airport to see my wife off back to the mainland. On the other hand, I headed for my own terminal to catch my flight to the Big Island to begin my Hawaii hunting adventure. My brother-in-law, Adam Wade also accompanied me and our game plan was to wreak havoc on Polynesian Boar, Black Hawaiian Sheep and Hawaiian Ibex and Goat. As we landed in Kona we quickly grabbed our rental SUV and headed to the King Kamehameha Hotel where we would be staying for the duration of our 5-days of hunting. After a quick check-in, we loaded back up in the SUV and headed for the north end of the island to squeeze in an evening boar hunt. After our drive through some of the most beautiful country I have seen to date, we arrived in Papaaloa where we met up with guides Neil Cabral and Rodger Suarez. Unfortunately, by the time that we arrived, we only had around 30 minutes of light left, but Neil quickly informed us that hunting wild boar on private land was legal to do at night on the island of Kona. So we grabbed our guns, we grabbed our lights and Adam was first up to bat! Not even 30 minutes into the hunt, the adrenaline was already sky-rocketing. We were on the edge of the forest, the grass was 6-feet tall and we had boars all around us. Some we could see and some we could only hear. Before too long, the phrase “Up Close and Personal” quickly took on a whole new meaning. Having to make a quick decision, Adam whopped his wild boar at a mere five feet away, stopping the boar in his tracks and all but falling right at Adam’s feet. Needless to say, the boar more than breached our comfort zone and all but charged us, parting ways through the six foot tall grass giving Adam only seconds to react! It was an awesome experience!
Day two was planned for Adam to hunt Black Hawaiian Sheep, but unfortunately he came down with a bad case of the flu and ended up stuck in bed in the hotel for the entire five days. Instead of passing on the Black Hawaiian Sheep hunt, I met up with my guide Kevin Nakamaru, who is also a renowned Deep Sea-Fishing Outfitter that grew up on the Island of Kona hunting and fishing. The Black Hawaiian Sheep ranches are located at the top of a mountain, only 45 minutes from the hotel. The 12,000 acre piece of private property that we were on was located next to another piece that is also 12,000 acres, all of which Hawaii Safaris has the exclusive rights to hunt. One of the ranches is good for hunting in the mornings and the other is best in the evenings. As part of their management program they only harvest around 25 sheep per year to maintain the trophy quality and herd size and the only predator that they have is the wild dog, which would be equivalent to our coyote. These wild dogs cause some major damage and they insist that every hunter shoots them if seen. Because these sheep are free ranging sheep, you will see sheep all over the island. But I have to say, I traveled from the north to the south end of the island several times and I never saw a sheep as big as the sheep that I saw on their private ranches. Due to limited pressure and lots of property and feed, the sheep that you will hunt will be as big as they come. They are running a smart operation with a great management plan to ensure that when your hunt occurs, all of your expectations will be exceeded – and then some!
The next day our plan was to go after free range/fair chase wild goat. I met up with Kevin again the next morning at the hotel and we headed off to the south end of the island. Kevin informed me that where we were going was an active cattle ranch consisting of approximately 17,000 acres. We would start the hunt stalking along the upper boundaries of an open grassy plateau and searching for the goats on the flats before they piled down the steep slopes into the vast miles of lava flats below. The steep slopes and cliffs coming from the valley floor up to the grassy plateaus are nothing to take lightly! I have to state that you better have some good boots and be ready to hike in goat country! The goats actually seek the shelter of the cliffs during the early morning hours and move out into the lava flats where they spend all day feeding, etc. In the early evening hours, they begin their migration back to the cliffs where they stay at night and into the early morning before they return to the lava fields.
As we arrived at the edge of the cliffs at the south end of the plateau, we quietly snuck to the edge where we descended down the “all-but-vertical” slope to remain out of sight from the goats feeding to the north of us. We traveled about a half of a mile with the wind in our favor, blowing off the top directly towards us. As we arrived at our position, we slowly crept up the cliffs to where the slope met the plateau and peeked over the edge. To my surprise, we were right in the middle of what seemed to be hundreds of goats. They were everywhere and the plateau was flat enough that we could see easily over a mile away! I was looking for the Hawaiian Ibex Goat, which is a brown colored goat with horns that grow more backwards instead of upwards like the traditional Spanish Goat. There are only roughly 10 percent of the goats that have the ibex shaped horns and brown hides.
We glassed for around 30 minutes looking over all of the goats, but we hadn’t seen what I was looking for. But then out of nowhere, there he was! We both spotted him almost at the same time. His body was easily recognizable among all the other goats. He had a long, brown and sun bleached beard and hide and he noticeably out-weighed the surrounding goats. His horns were long and you could tell that he was an old Billy. We were in a great position and just had to wait for the Billy to make his move with so many eyes capable of disclosing our position. He disappeared into a small swell where we lost him for a little while and we didn’t know for sure where he would come out, so we sat tight and waited until we could see him again.
To our surprise, he popped out only 300 yards away and was headed for the cliffs. We quickly set up and waited for the right shot to present itself. He was accompanied by a big Spanish Goat that kept obstructing my shot opportunities, but as soon as they arrived at the cliffs edge, they finally split up. The big Hawaiian Ibex walked out to the tip of a rock, breaking out of the shadows into the full sun. He stopped with his chest pushed out looking over the lava fields below as if he was the king of the islands. I was already set up with a dead rest, so I placed the crosshairs in the sweet spot and touched it off! The shot was good, knocking him off the rock and out of sight and he then began his death-roll down the gradient cliffs, hanging up on a dead tree that luckily stopped him. The high-five’s began and the emotions were high! After our photo session, we skinned and quartered the goat and loaded him into our packs for the hike out. What an awesome hunt! A special thanks goes out to Kevin Nakamaru for a great hunt and experience.
Now that I had already taken my goat and also seen the Black Hawaiian Sheep ranches, the last two days were set up to hunt wild boar on the north end of the Island with Neil Cabral and his team. Neil and his family have been hunting wild boar on the Hawaiian Islands going on three generations now. They are absolute fanatics when it comes to boar hunting and they more than know what they’re doing! They hunt with dogs, guns and even knives and they flat out get the job done! When they’re not working or fishing, they’re hunting.
The next two days of hunting were some of the finest days I’ve had hunting, anywhere. We saw lots of boars everywhere we went, but I was waiting for a brute like what I had seen hanging in Neil’s kennels from prior hunts. During the day, the boars head deep into the forests to bed. Early mornings and evenings is when they come out of the forests and head to the guava fields and orchards to feed. On the evening of the last day, we went to a place that Neil really liked and set up under some guava trees overlooking a big flat coming out of the forest into the lowland guava trees. We hadn’t been there longer than 15 minutes and out of the woods crashed a big boar, b-lining it for the guava trees. With a fast and furious opportunity, I only had enough time to shoulder my rifle and touch one off.
The boar rolled once and got back up, running into the guava trees and disappeared. We quickly ran to the highest vantage point we could find and watched the field of guava trees, hoping to get another shot. As we were overlooking the guava, I saw a small tree shake for just a moment and then stop, but other than that, no sign of the boar. As we made our way down through the trees tracking the boar, we angled towards the tree that I saw shake. As we arrived in the vicinity of the tree, I spotted my boar! Only 20 yards below laid my Black Hawaiian Razorback! What a relief. He had rolled down the hill, hitting the tree on his descent and that’s what we saw when the tree shook! That day we had Neil’s whole team with us trying to find me a big boar. A special thanks goes out to Neil, Rodger, Delbert, Austin and Bully. I couldn’t have done it without them!
Patrick Fisher and his Guides run nothing less than a first class operation. You will hunt in a 100% fair chase game-rich environment for high quality trophies. You will hunt with seasoned professional guides, on multiple islands and on unbelievable properties. Patrick Fisher of Hawaii Safaris is the “Hawaiian Islands Hunting Authority” and should quickly move to the top of your TO-DO LIST! – Patrick Fisher – Hawaii Safaris – Tel. 808-640-0755 – www.hawaiisafaris.com.
Pat also owns another hunting operation in Oregon. The name of his Oregon Outfitting company is Fisher Outfitters. He offers Columbia Blacktail, Columbia Whitetail and Roosevelt Elk hunts. Visit www.fisheroutfitters.com for more information!