Lanai is a Hunter’s Paradise as Well
Boarding the ferry we noticed many locals were toting arms. At first it seemed a bit disconcerting, until we learned that hunting season was scheduled to open in Lanai the day after our visit. I’m not certain how reassuring the news was, but at least it explained a thing or two. When the lady at the rental car agency warned the people in line before us not to venture off the paths the following day, I was glad this time we were just day-trippers.
On our travels down the long, winding and wide-open trail toward Shipwreck Beach, we passed a group of fellows in the back of a pickup parked by the side of the road gazing into the open meadows in the distance. I got out to take the picture postcard perfect photo of Maui in the distance, but they didn’t seem the type to be contemplating the view. They waved at me cordially enough and once I was back at the Jeep, we realized they were the same group we’d run into in town a few hours back while they stocked up on their provisions. These were definitely the hunters, staking out the territory, my husband assured me, champing at the bit until tomorrow’s season opened on axis deer, ring-necked pheasant and any number of other game birds.
Recalling that the Lodge at Koele offers sporting clays and has an elaborately designed course set up for both archers and sharpshooters, one must put two and two together and realize there’s more to this sport than…sport. There’s also trophies and game to be taken down with a steady hand, keen eye and savvy touch.
On the road to the Garden of the Gods a mysterious landscape with collections of rocks piled systematically one on top of the other, we encountered a similar group as we had on the last trail to the Shipwreck Beach. Fellows in the back of truck beds scouting out the territory and not looking a thing like the tourists who typically traverse these rocky and rutted trails. No, they were not looking to shoot travel photos.
I didn’t want to think about it, really, enjoying the day as we were visiting the wonderful outposts and oasis’ that make up Lanai. Down at Hulopo’e Beach, an utterly perfect white sand model of tropical splendor adjacent to the Manele Bay Hotel, we dove into the waves, after watching some spinner dolphins frolic in the protected marine sanctuary along with a couple of locals who surfed the comfortable curls as they came round the lava rock point.
We envied the chosen few who had retained right to camp in Lanai’s only campgrounds for $5 a day right on the most beautiful beach one could possibly dream up. Running water, showers, toilets, grills and picnic tables resting under palm trees, are all included in the price and are the only amenities one could possible need in such a paradisiacal setting. (To reserve your piece of paradise, call Lanai Company at 808-565-3978 for advance reservations.) By now I had put the hunters completely out of my thoughts.
On our shuttle ride back from the rental car agency however, we were given a full-out introduction into the art and science of hunting on Lanai from our driver. He managed to site and point out every sort of game and fowl from the top of Lanai to the bay while keeping the van safely on our side of the road. Creatures that had been running and flying unnoticed right under my nose the entire day were suddenly visible as I learned what to look for. They were everywhere! Axis deer 200 meters in the distance standing naively in an open field. And another and another. Ring-necked pheasant scuttled under nearly every tree lining the side of the road. Quail and birds unique to Lanai we were told, make marvelous dinner. No wonder the hunters were salivating. Stalking prey here must be similar to shooting fish in a barrel.
Not that I underestimate the sport. Our driver explained that he hunts with bow and arrow (60 lb. pull crossbow) and also with firepower. I could sense his respect for the sport and the targets in the way he described both the skill required to hunt and his knowledge of the animals’ and their habits and movements. I realize that without natural predators these populations would become overcrowded and am confident the wildlife management of Lanai is a carefully considered and honored tradition.
This small insight into royal sport of hunting, a primitive tribal urge made safe and sane, a bonus to our day, offered another window through which to view the complex relationship between kindred spirits, the hunted and the hunter, and served to add another touch of fascination to our memorable day in Lanai.