The Hawaiian Islands are among the world’s foremost vacation destinations, regarded as a tropical paradise rivaled by only a select few locales across the globe. And while the sun and surf is every bit the draw it’s made out to be, one of Hawaii’s better kept secrets is its hunting – for now, at least.
Axis deer, turkeys, upland game, feral hogs, and even mouflon sheep can be found a plenty across the eight islands that make up our 50th state. The island of Lanai – once heralded for its pineapple crop and the sixth smallest of the eight islands – is a hunter’s paradise, thanks to its estimated 107 deer per square mile. To put that in perspective, even the American Midwest’s most well-known whitetail hotbeds typically top out around 20 deer per square mile. Translation: there are lots and lots of deer on Lanai.
So, where’d they come from? That’s a fair question, given that the only land mammal native to the Hawaiian Islands is the bat. Everything thing else has been imported at one point or another. Axis deer, or chital, are actually native to the Indian subcontinent, where they once feared fierce critters like the Bengal tiger. In Hawaii, where they were introduced by King Kamehameha V in the mid-1800s, there are no such predators – which has allowed populations to flourish. Known for the distinctive white spots that cover their hides and with a reputation for good eating, axis are often a bucket list item for big game hunters. Some pursue them in Texas and the American Southwest, where they’ve likewise been imported over the years. Those seeking a more tropical adventure have begun to pursue them on Lanai, where the tropical atmosphere provides an unparalleled backdrop.
Leupold Sr. Public Relations Specialist Shawn Skipper joined industry and media partners for a Lanai-based axis hunt earlier this summer and was greeted first hand by the relentless hunting culture found on Lanai, where the outdoor industry serves as the primary source of both income and recreation for much of the local populace. There he let the infamous red Hawaiian dirt take hold of his soul and lead him and his companions – Rafe Nielsen of Browning and David Draper of Petersen’s Hunting – on a Hawaiian adventure quite unlike any other.