Host of the hunt? Outdoor legend, resident ferel clown, Mr. Ray Eye whose turkey hunting prowess accounted for most of the camp's birds.
This brace of gobblers came on a string to my high-pitched slate. Unfortunately, they were on the other side of the road from our hunting area, so I could only watch them strutting and gobbling in the yellow-flowered fireweed.
Like wild turkeys, this yellow fireweed was introduced to Hawaii. The nuisance weed has taken over middle elevations. On the Big Island, turkeys are found from the beach all the way up to 10,000 feet on the slopes of volcanoes.
Think of Hawaii in terms of palm trees and sandy beaches? The view from 7,000 feet reveals all that, plus hundreds of thousands of acres of grass, lava fields, thorn-tree thickets and even snow on the shoulders of volcanoes. The Big Island boasts the most diverse landscape in the world, with at least a dozen distinct ecotypes, from tidal pools to Africa-like savannas to alpine tundra.
My first Hawaiian gobbler. My host, Jon Sabati, and I were hiking to a remote point where he had seen birds the day before when we spooked a small flock of turkeys, fresh from the roost. We worked around on them, scratched out a high-pitched yelp, and this gobbler half-strutted into view before he realized his trouble. A swarm of copper-clad Remington 5s ended the hunt.
Jon Sabati was my host, guide and interpreter for all things Hawaiian. Jon is the state president for the National Wild Turkey Federation and a passionate conservationist. He’s also pretty darned good on this H.S. Strut Ring Zone slate.
Five minutes after I snapped that previous picture, a dense fog rolled in, turning a sunny day into a horror-movie set. The birds shut down until the sun returned.
We saw week-old chicks with hens. We saw hens leading gobblers away from our calls. We found this well-tended nest of turkey eggs when the setting hen sprinted away. The thing about Hawaii is that, because there are no defined seasons, turkeys breed just about any time. Best time to come hunt, according to Sabati, is during a period of warm, dry weather in late March, when the hens are all setting and the gobblers are roaming and highly vocal.
Hawaii’s turkey season runs for 30 days starting March 1. Hunters can buy two tags. The turkeys here are mainly Rio Grandes, but they act like prairie Merriam’s, flocking to open fields the minute they pitch off their roost limbs.
When they say “aloha” they mean it. The friendliest people I’ve ever met.
Hawaiian still life. A trio of mature gobblers hanging from a homestead porch on the historic Parker Ranch (http://hunt.parkerranch.com/) host for my Big Island turkey hunt.
Jon Sabati motions me to follow Remington’s Linda Powell as they get close to a flock of brush-country gobblers. Linda provided me with Remington’s brand-new pump gun, the 887 Nitro Magnum.
Remington’s Linda Powell made a great shot with her 20 gauge 870 Compact, anchoring this gobbler in a field of yellow fireweed.
Linda Powell of Remington shows off her Hawaiian gobbler.
I developed a long relationship with my second gobbler. I saw it strutting on a high ridge, but hens dragged him away from my call. We decided to close the gap, and after a half-hour stalk, came upon the gobbler–along with about 30 jakes and hens–at just 6 yards. After an intense standoff, I managed to connect on a long shot.
You never know where you’ll encounter feral clowns. This one was spotted mooning vacationers at Hawaii’s Hapuna Beach State Park.
Come to the Big Island for the hunting, but stay for its beaches. Or vice versa. The combination of both makes for a great hunting vacation. And it’s easier to encourage your spouse to accompany you on a March turkey hunt in Hawaii than, say, a November goose hunt in Arkansas.
The view on the beach is good in every direction.
Including going away.
Ah, Hawaii. Land of double vowels.
I stayed here for three hours just waiting for a donkey, and making an ass of myself.
The view from the slopes of Mauna Kea, the highest point on Hawaii at 13,796 feet above sea level, is breathtaking. Literally. The air is mighty thin up this high.
These Hawaiian turkeys eat mighty good. I had to take a picture of this immense dropping, every bit the size of my 3-inch Remington Nitro Mag hull. As my host, legendary turkey caller Ray Eye, said when he saw the dropping: “We’re gonna need a bigger gun.”
After I was tagged out, I decided to try a little big-game hunting, Hawaii style. We chartered the Sea Wife II (www.seawifecharters.com) for a blue-water marlin run. The size of this squid gives you an indication of the size of fish we were hunting, blue marlin to 1,000 pounds.
Unfortunately, this is as close as I got to a marlin, this 1,100-pounder mounted in Kona’s King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.
Not all Hawaii’s wildlife was easy to see. I stumbled into this green sea turtle as I was swimming off Hapuna Beach.
Host of the hunt? Outdoor legend, resident ferel clown, Mr. Ray Eye whose turkey hunting prowess accounted for most of the camp’s birds.
Turkey hunting in Hawaii? Who knew? Outdoor Life’s Andrew McKean–and his band of feral clowns–chase gobblers in paradise.