Photo: Lois Nuttall, nuttallphotos.com

Wild winter getaway: A high country sheep hunt—in Hawaii!

Horns of Hawaii

A chance to pursue the Big Island’s legendary black sheep makes a great break from the beach

The author sights in his bow before heading out from base camp (Photo: Lois Nuttall, nuttallphotos.com)

4 AM | Darkness | 22°C

With my parents David and Lois along for the ride—my photographer mom would be capturing the action—I head out from Waikoloa Village on the west coast of the island of Hawaii, better known as the Big Island. We soon join outfitters Dexter Pacheco and Jon Faford of Hawaii Game Management at our meeting point in nearby Kailua-Kona. My folks and I transfer our gear to their truck, jump into the back seat and begin the trek up from the Pacific Ocean to higher ground. It’s completely dark out and I soon lose my bearings as we drive along, distracted by the non-stop conversation. Our guides are clearly knowledgeable about the area, and pleasant, too, giving us homemade banana bread.

5:15 AM | Dim light | 0°C

We arrive at base camp, nestled amid the three largest peaks of the Big Island, before first light and shiver in the cool air, forcing us to layer up. Pacheco and Faford quickly prepare their side-by-side and load the necessary gear while I set up to hunt and my parents get the photography equipment ready.

5:45 AM | Shooting light, foggy | 1°C

Before hitting the trail, Pacheco sets up a block target so I can check that my compound bow is shooting properly, which I appreciate considering the drastic temperature and humidity changes since leaving Canada. I make a few adjustments and shoot accurately out to 40 metres. Good to go. Pacheco and Faford give us a quick safety orientation, then we all pile into the side-by-side. As we make our way along the rough trails, Faford tells us they have to replace the vehicle’s tires every eight months due to the unforgiving lava rock.

6 AM | Foggy | 3°C

It doesn’t take long to spot some sheep, which isn’t surprising—Hawaii Game Management’s 4,000-hectare lease is home to the highest density of game on the entire island, with a herd size of some 4,500 sheep. After passing the largest sandalwood forest in the world and cresting a hill into an open meadow, we see sheep running, but no large rams. These animals like to bed in the open where they feel safe from the island’s wild dogs, so we need to find a spot with enough cover to launch a successful stalk.

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