Trip Report: Hunting Turkeys on Hawaii's Big Island

Last month, Editor Anthony Licata asked if I would mind going to Hawaii to hunt turkeys, for a Field & Stream article. Hawaii, he explained, is turkey hunting's little secret, with a huge population of Rio Grandes on the big island and practically no hunting pressure. If you're on vacation with your family, taking a day off from beach duty to get in some quality hunting is a great way to break up your trip.Jay Cassell
On the first morning of our hunt, I found myself 7,000 feet up the side of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that overlooks part of the sprawling 130,000-acre Parker Ranch where I'd be staying during the trip. It was 38 degrees and windy at 5:30 in the morning. Coming from early spring on the East Coast, I felt right at home.Jay Cassell
Considering that the air is thin, you can easily wear youself out. The trick is to only go after birds that are gobbling consistently. Here, my host Jon Sabati works a box call, trying to get a distant gobbler to close the range. Rio Grandes were first brought to the Hawaiian islands back in the 1800s.Jay Cassell
It worked. We belly-crawled 75 yards, but eventually got within range of a huge flock. Jon was able to convince the biggest gobbler to break off from the main group and investigate a lonesome hen hidden in the rocks. I took him at 10 yards, using my Remington 1187 loaded with 3-inch Remington No.5 Nitro Mag shells. The bird had a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spursJay Cassell
Gordy Krahn and Linda Powell of Remington pose with a bird Gordy took the previous day, on 30,000-acre Kealia Ranch in the southern part of the Big Island.Jay Cassell
We met at this cowboy cabin on the Parker Ranch for lunch two out of the three days we hunted. During one meal, ranch vice president Diane Quitiquit stopped by and filled us in on the ranch's history. Started in 1847 by James Parker, the ranch at one point encompassed almost 300,000 acres. Today it's still one of the largest cattle ranches in the U.S. Besides turkey hunting, the ranch offers wild boar and upland bird hunting, horseback rides, ATV rides, historic home tours, and nature tours.Jay Cassell
After lunch, as we drove down the mountain in pursuit of my second bird (you're allowed two per season), the fog started to roll in over a field of yellow fireweed. The fog, I discovered, does this every afternoon on the big island--not the typical type of weather you might expect for Hawaii.Jay Cassell
Despite the fog, Gordy got his second bird, calling a fired up gobbler in from almost 200 yards away. From left, that's Ray Eye, Gordy, Linda Powell, and Karen Mehall of the NRA.Jay Cassell
The next day, I hunted with guide Willie-Joe Camara. We got into jakes and more jakes all day. This group came into a hen decoy. I'm sitting 10 yards away, in front of a bush, but they were focused on the decoy and didn't care about much else.Jay Cassell
We ended the day glassing at a long beard who refused to come to our calls.Jay Cassell
On the final morning of hunting, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over Mauna Kea.Jay Cassell
I didn't get a second bird, but I didn't mind--who can complain about being in Hawaii with a great group of people?Jay Cassell
The sceneray isn't bad, either. Here's a lava flow on the road back to Kona.Jay Cassell
The last night we attended the annual banquet of the Volcano Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Jon is the state president, and has been emceeing the fund-raising dinner for 15 years. Turkey hunting in Hawaii is virtually unknown in the mainland U.S., Jon told the crowd. It's a resource that the state is just now starting to tout as a tourist attraction.Jay Cassell
If you're on vacation in the 50th state, turkey hunting is the perfect way to add a different, and purely Hawaiian, flare to your stay.Jay Cassell

There's more than marlin in the Hawaiian Islands. F&S Deputy Editor Jay Cassell recently explored this little-known tropical turkey paradise.

To book a hunt on the Parker or Kealia Ranch, call Jon Sabati at (808) 896-0972 or send him an email.