Written by Jeremy Forte
When most people hear about the state of Hawaii, the general consensus may be thinking about sipping on a cold drink alongside the beach. Personally, the first thing I thought about when having the opportunity to visit this beautiful island was to pursue one of their Rio gobblers and to cross another state off of my list.
My wife and I had a list of things that we wanted to do while we were on the island but I got her to agree on spending some of our time chasing gobblers in the hills. This turned out to work out great for the both of us after a thrilling opening morning! After discussing our plans, we decided it would be best to go with an outfitter to increase our odds with the limited time we had allotted to spend in the woods.
We went with a place known as “Parker Ranch.” This huge cattle ranch has an interesting history and deep cultural roots in conjunction with the island. This enabled our time to serve as not only a quality hunt, but it also gave us a unique experience. Parker Ranch is very involved with the local community and they give back tremendously in many ways. One of my favorite things I noticed with them is that a lot of their efforts focus on keeping kids active in the outdoors.
Opening morning was different for me this year. Hawaii is the first state to open to the general public each year (March 1st) and the landscape is unlike any other place I have ever visited. Although the location was different, the anticipation of opening day was upon me and I could not hardly sleep the night before from being so excited.
Opening morning had arrived and we started it off by quietly walking in with the cover of darkness. We spooked a few hens walking in once we reached the tree line and decided to stay put right there for the time being. Things escalated quickly as the gobbles began to ring out in front of us. We were setup in a wide open, rugged pasture which had one tree line through it and all of the turkeys were located in those trees. They began to fly out all separate ways. Hens were cutting and yelping, gobblers were gobbling and strutting and I was attempting to call them in.
As time went by, what started out as a large flock ended up busting up into numerous smaller flocks and each group went their own way. It was really cool to see how they all did their own thing and each group consisted of one or two gobblers with around ten to fifteen hens on average. With that being said, anyone who has hunted henned up gobblers knows the challenges that come along with that situation. Calling them in was virtually impossible. With our time being limited, we had to do what we had to do to get the job done and that meant resorting to the spot and stalk method.
This became a great challenge due to the wide open country we were in with little to nothing to hide behind. The only thing we had to work with was the terrain and every now and then I would encounter a patch of grass that I could utilize as cover while laying flat to the ground. My wife and I crawled on our belly for several hundred yards what seemed like forever waiting for the targeted group to all go down hill so we could make a move on them.
Finally, the time was right. All of the hens had gotten in front of the strutter I was after and he was slowly walking away following them. I had to make my move when the time was right. I got to the crest of a ridge and eased up, the next thing I saw was a big read head staring back at me. The moment of truth had arrived. I put the dot on him and squeezed the trigger off and he was down for the count. I was so happy that it all came together the way it did. It took me about three hours to finally get in that position and the wait was well worth it.
After taking a few quick pictures, it was now my wife’s turn! We re-grouped and relocated to a high ridge and began scanning the hills below us. It didn’t take long to locate another group and we took off. At this time, any calls we made were actually deterring the flock from us so we decided that her best interest was to make a move on them as we had done before. She began to crawl once again and I sat back and watched it all go down from the top hill. It was so cool to watch it all go down from this perspective and I was so excited watching it all unfold wondering when she was going to shoot.
After watching her approach them, the flock had disappeared from my vantage point, but yet I knew she had to be getting close. The anxiety in me was steadily building wondering when she was going to shoot. Finally, I see her raise the gun and the shot rang off. I got up and ran towards her. As I approached her, she had the biggest smile on her face as she hoisted up yet another fine Hawaiian gobbler. Opening morning of 2023 was perfect! Memories like these are always certain to last a lifetime.
Jeremy and his wife proudly pose with their hard-earned Hawaiian Rios, along with their Mr. Fox Vest. They waited in line at NWTF for their Mr. Fox Vests. Read the story here.
Hunting Hawaii Public Land
On the last day of our stay, we had accomplished all of what we were wanting to do so we decided to go try the public land out to see what it offered. Hawaii has a vast amount of public land which gives anyone a great opportunity to make it out there in attempts of harvesting a big Rio gobbler. We did not hear anything in the area we were in however, we did encounter one hen along one of the trails.
One of the biggest tips I could give for hunting this state is to get in shape! The terrain is steep and filled with lava rocks. Although it serves as a unique experience hiking and hunting turkeys on the side of a volcano, the rocky terrain makes it a challenge to get around. The high elevations also make it tough to catch a breath!
Also, when getting a rental vehicle, try to obtain a 4x4. The roads we traveled were in fairly decent shape but 4wd is required in some spots to adequately get around and cover ground. We didn’t spend much time on the public, but we did run into quite a few hunters, some who had success in the days prior. We met people from many different states who all were in pursuit of crossing Hawaii off of their list.
The state has had issues the past few years with feral animals as well as mongooses becoming predators which harmed the native species and they have implemented traps all along trails in hopes of gaining control of the problem. I was glad to see the state taking a proactive approach on protecting the resource by placing these traps. License cost is fairly reasonable for non-residents priced at $115 with required stamps included. Tags must be bought separately ($20/tag) and three per hunter may be obtained.
The process in securing a non resident license is fairly simple. After you submit your Hunter ed information, you are provided with an exemption number which allows you to enter the necessary information into the system. Once this information is gathered, a license is issued and you are almost ready to go! The only other obstacle we encountered while hunting this state was getting your firearm over there. I had to call a local police department to schedule an appointment to register my firearm prior to arrival. The process was fairly simple and seamless but once that was done, it was time to go hunting.
All in all, Hawaii serves as the most unique place I have visited so far to turkey hunt. It has incredible scenery and once you harvest a gobbler, you can do anything such as snorkeling, deep sea fishing, goat/sheep/pig hunting, or even exploring an active volcano with lava still flowing! Where else can you do that??! It is definitely worth the long flight and I highly recommend making the trip to anyone who may be considering trying it out.