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

Rams spar in the distance, with the sound of their bashing horn echoing across the lava landscape (Photo: Lois Nuttall, nuttallphotos.com)

6:10 AM | Foggy | 3°C

There’s still limited visibility when we park at a likely spot to listen for rams butting heads, ewes chirping or lambs whining. As a hunter visiting a tropical location, I find it challenging to make sense of all the new sounds, but my guides know exactly what’s taking place, and where. We go on a quick walk to scout out a spot, but it doesn’t pan out, so we head back to the side-by-side. Onward through the fog we go.

6:30 AM | Sunny | 10°C

We park the vehicle where it won’t spook any game, then walk a short distance up to a vantage point overlooking a large bowl. By now, the sun has burned off the fog, and we can see sheep of all ages and sizes, everywhere between 200 and 500 metres away. In no time, Faford sizes up a ram sporting a white patch between his horns and determines he’s the biggest.

A lava-damaged broadhead from a missed shot (Photo: Lois Nuttall, nuttallphotos.com)

7 AM | Sunny | 15°C

After watching a few rams bash heads, we decide to go after the one with the white patch. The guides and I set out on foot, leaving my folks in the shade near the side-by-side to watch things unfold through their binoculars. The walking is tricky and I’m definitely slower than both guides, but it doesn’t take us long to get within 100 metres of the rams.

7:25 AM | Sunny | 15°C

We slow down our pace and wait for the right time to move into shooting position. At one point, we run out of cover, so we have to back out and go up another small gully to get within range. Finally, we have three rams in sight and in range, including the one with the white patch. Pacheco tells me to draw, and as I do, my target ram moves into a poor position for a shot. My arms and shoulders burn as I hold at full draw, waiting until he looks away so I can finally let down. Seconds later, I move up and draw again as the ram turns broadside at 38 metres. I release the arrow, but only graze his underside, striking the lava—a non-lethal shot. The herd runs, then slows down after a few hundred metres.

The author takes aim on his second chance to arrow a black Hawaiian sheep (Photo: Lois Nuttall, nuttallphotos.com)

7:35 AM | Sunny | 20°C

Pacheco and I set out again after the sheep, while Faford searches for my arrow. We keep our distance and watch as the herd once again relaxes into its feeding routine. With no gunshot, they don’t realize what just happened. They haven’t winded us, either. We still have a chance.

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