“You know the dozens of arrows I told you that you would need for this trip? Well scratch that. Bring one and plan on taking it home with you.” Goes the text I send my buddy Joe. He’s planning on visiting me and my family for a few days on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The plan was for him to come down towards the end of my hunting trip so I would have the lay of the land, giving me ample time to learn the island and the creatures that we would be hunting.
Two weeks in and the only thing that I had done any shooting was with my camera. Hell, I had only seen a few goats on public land at this point. Promises of unspoiled hunting lands as far as the eye can see was the fairy tale that I choose to believe.
But I stuck with it. I had a month on this island and I was hell bent on putting animals onto the dirt and in my freezer.
As often happens, success was just on the other side of quitting.
Closer to Joe’s arrival I had two goats down, a sheep and a pig to my name. The week before had been good to me. The island gods were finally loosening their grasp on their herds.
Joe pulled up to our place only to be greeted by sheets of rain, typical to the east side of the island.
“So this is what we’re hunting in?” Eyebrow raised with the general look of concern on his face.
We shake hands then get to work on sorting his gear for the next day’s hunt. During this time I assure him that it could be downpouring here, sunny with scattered puffball clouds in the “saddle” of the island and enveloped in a fog as thick as a Grateful Dead reunion concert on the far side of the island.
“You think Colorado has localized weather? Buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” I assured him. In Colorado the saying goes, ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.’ Here I’ve found that if you don’t like the weather, drive 15 minutes. Hell, it’s only 75 miles across at its widest point, a short drive can turn a miserable hunt into one you’ll be boring your grandkids about years down the line.
The next day consisted of me playing tour guide to eleven of the thirteen climate zones that the Big Island has to offer. We put his rental Jeep to the test through the rugged terrain. The Duke boys and General Lee would have been proud. I’m not saying we jumped it exactly, but I’m not not saying it either (if you’re a Budget Car rental employee, please stop reading at this point).
From the coast to around nine thousand feet above sea level, we covered it all. This first day was more show and tell to what the island could offer. I wasn’t able to show any game, but I was able to tell him where they ‘should’ be.
Driving back to the house in the evening I could see the concern on Joe’s face.
“You ain’t kidding, it’s gonna be a rough go at dropping something out here, isn’t it?” Joe asks.
“Nah, they’re there, but they’re not going to jump on the arrow for you either. We’re gonna have to work for them just like anywhere else.” I reply.
In the spirit of adventure, we plan on hunting a new spot tomorrow. Joe’s Jeep rental opens us up new areas, where as my grocery getter of a vehicle has only allowed me to explore parking lots and paved road access areas.
“Let’s go see if that extra insurance the salesman talked you into is worth its salt.” I say. “On one of our exploratory forays last week, we passed an area that had potential of holding some goat. Better yet, the public land goes all the way down to the ocean. We have a chance a shooting a goat while dolphins put on a show for us in the background.”
No more convincing was needed.
Bleary eyed with a 3:00 am wake-up call, Joe presses hard on the gas, hightailing through endless miles of coffee farms.
The Jeep reluctantly slows to a crawl as we enter a minefield of solidified lava just as the sun starts to make its morning appearance. The road creeps through the broken lava flows that has me looking over my shoulder to assure myself the spare tire made it along for the ride.
Forty five minutes later and we are only three miles down the road.
“Looks like a good spot as any.” I say as Joe cuts the engine. The mercury has been steadily rising since dawn and at this point we both want out of the vehicle.
With bows and glass in hand, we pick our way through a lava field to a promising ridge that protrudes like the spine of a stegosaurus. With all the signs (read: shit) we are seeing on the ground, it looks like the goats held a rave the night before with their drug of choice being laxatives.
Glassing through the increasing heatwaves, it doesn't take long before Joe is flagging me.
“Good eyes.” I think to myself.
I do my best to match the angle of his binocs and immediately see a nice billy with his lady-friend hauling ass into a ravine. They want out of the sun as much as we do.
A plan is devised. Knowing the direction they were headed and seeing an oasis of shade in the form of a single tree standing alone in a sea of black, heat absorbing rock, we had a good idea where they were headed.
We close the distance using the tree to block our approach. Suddenly, I noticed Joe wasn’t by my side. I look back to see him locked up.
I stare at him, thinking for the moment he had forgotten how to walk.
His eyes nudge my stare to the other side of the tree.
“Oh that’s right, we’re hunting animals Fred, they don’t always signal you when they want to make an appearance.” I say to myself sarcastically.
Luckily we aren’t busted by my nonchalant approach to the situation. A well horned billy continues on his path.
Both of our hands instinctively go to our range finders… 63 yards. Not a bad poke with the wind being as steady as it is.
“Your shot.” I mouth to Joe.
The billy continues on, we go unnoticed.
With Joe at full draw, I wait for the billy to clear the tree.
“Bahh haha.” I let out, freezing the goat.
I hear the sizzle of the arrow as it screams over my shoulder, blowing through the billy’s vitals as if it were punching through a sheet of paper.
He spins and takes off for anywhere but here.
“You nuked him!” I yell out through clenched teeth, not wanting to spook the fatally wounded goat any more than necessary.
We replay the last minute to each other in long drawn out pantomimes. I can see the excitement in Joe’s eyes from his first Hawaiian kill. Hawaii has sunk its claws into its latest victim.
But we aren’t the only ones involved in the conversation, a third party wants to join in.
I spin on my heels only to find a nanny staring at our commotion.
“Range her.” I request as I draw back my bow.
“Forty four.” Joe replies without skipping a beat.
My arrow releases. I don’t need to look. It feels like a perfect shot.
“Did we just double down?” I ask as she makes her death run.
“Like a horribly written hunting show, we did!” Joe replies in disbelief.
And like a horribly written hunting show, we walk off to find our goats and take some horribly posed shots with our kills.
When we finish butchering the animals I can’t help but look over at Joe’s quiver stacked full of arrows. I’m glad he didn’t take my advice to bring a lone arrow.
I realize I jump the gun from disappointment at times. Slow down, be patient with the learning process and it will come.
“Alright captain one arrow, where are we off to next?” Joe asks.
“Someplace to burn through more of those arrows.” I reply. “ I plan on keeping my word of you heading home with one arrow, looks like we got some killing to do!”
// Fred Bohm