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One of America’s most underappreciated hunting destinations is the big island of Hawaii.

High on the shoulders of its towering volcanoes, hunters can pursue a dizzying variety of upland birds, wild turkeys and big game in the form of wild goats, feral sheep and wild pigs.

For those of us who have expended our modest means just getting to Hawaii, the remarkable thing about hunting here is that, at least on the Big Island, much of the huntable game exists on public land. You don’t need a guide, or an outfitter. You just rent a car, drive to the higher elevations, and start hunting.

I hunted Rio Grande turkeys on Hawaii a few years ago, and I’ve been chomping to return to hunt the island’s three species of francolins, four species of pheasant and the dainty Japanese quail.

The presence of so many introduced species has been troubling to environmentalists, and in some cases, they’re right to want to control or even eradicate some of the most invasive of these species, such as the egg-eating mongoose and wild pigs. But many of the island’s game species are kept in check by liberal hunting regulations.

That’s why a proposal to allow aerial eradication of many huntable species on Hawaii should be opposed by those hunters who value diversity, public hunting opportunities, and the tradition of fair-chase pursuit of game animals.

Instead of aerial gunning, the state should promote hunting as a form of eco-tourism. Celebrate the diversity of hunting opportunities in the state, and invite visitors to hunt as part of their quintessential Hawaii experience.

I know very few hunters who would balk at the chance to visit Hawaii in the winter months, when hunting seasons have ended at home and the prospect of ice fishing isn’t appealing. Hunt in the morning; relax on the beach in the afternoon. Repeat for a week. That’s a recipe for sustainable economic development. Aerial eradication of wildlife is not.

We mainland hunters can help move the needle in support of fair-chase recreational hunting. The Hawaii County Council meets on June 6 to discuss helicopter gunning. Send an email to council chairman Dominic Yagong at dyagong@co.hawaii.hi.us and voice your opposition to the expensive, wasteful and disrespectful plan to have helicopter gunships, instead of license-buying hunters, control Hawaii’s game populations.

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