White beaches, blue waters, fragrant flowers and lush gardens often come to mind when one considers the Islands of Hawaii.  Few think of Hawaii as a premiere hunting spot, however, some of the World's most beautiful sheep are found on one of Hawaii's most scenic mountains, Mauna Loa.

 

 

Our Mauna Loa sheep hunt adventure began in the sleepy Hawaiian town of Kona on the big island of Hawaii.  We were the hunting guests of South Point Safaris in Kealakekua. We were joined by our friends Mike and Joy Rogers and guided by Eugene Yap of South Point Safari. 

 

 

Mauna Loa Mountain is home to the purest herd of Mouflon sheep on the globe.  The sheep were brought from the islands of the Mediterranean for the zoos of Hawaii and subsequently purchased and released on Mauna Loa by the Kahuku Ranch.   The majority of Mauna Loa Mountain is owned by the Kahuku Ranch.   The Kahuku Ranch is roughly the size of the Island of Maui.    In Hawaiian,  Mauna Loa means "long mountain".  The enormous volcano covers half of the Island of Hawai`i and by itself amounts to about 85 percent of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined.  Mauna Loa is the World's largest volcano.

 

Map of outline of Mauna Loa Volcano

 

Mauna Loa is among Earth's most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since its first well-documented historical eruption in 1843.   The mountain peak is well over 13,500 feet, the base is 5 kilometers below sea level making the peak 17 kilometers above its base.  The area of the mountain is over 180 square miles.   After a hour drive to the gate of the Kahuku Ranch, we traveled several more miles across rough lava flows in four wheel drive vehicles to the base camp.  Our camp was isolated and very remote. The base camp was located around the 8,500 foot level, with panoramic views to the ocean and the    volcanic face of Mauna Loa.   The accommodations were rustic but quite comfortable.  We    stayed in huts constructed of plywood, with propane lighting. 

 

 

The Mouflon rams are among the world's smallest rams with top weights in the 80 to 90 pound range.  The young rams vary in color but usually have brown to dark brown manes to just past the shoulder.  The older rams are very dark with heavy manes, a bright white spot and dark brown. The mature rams have heavy striations on their horns.

The lava beds of Mauna Loa give the agile sheep a tremendous advantage eluding the hunter as they move effortlessly over terrain.  The lava challenges both hunter and vehicle.  Our typical day of hunting began with a four wheel drive rock crawl across miles of lava flows and then several miles of ankle-twisting hiking.  The vehicles we used were Izusu Troopers which were specially fitted with stiff suspensions and special tires with multiple steel belts, very heavy tread and 8 ply side walls making them somewhat impervious to the razor sharp lava.  Despite the precautions, tire failure in this environment is a common occurrence.

Once a suitable hunting area is located, the vehicle is abandoned in favor of the boot.   The hiking is difficult due to the nature of the lava flows.  It is not uncommon for a lava flow to vary in height by twenty to thirty feet.  With this in mind, the hiking includes a fair amount of vertical assent.  Its a great work out.

After a couple mile hike across rugged terrain, Carlee prepares for a 50 yard shot from dense cover.  Having recently returned from Newfoundland, she bubbled with confidence and touted an absolute desire to top the guys with a nice ram.

 

 

Carlee's shot dropped this mature ram which scored sufficiently to make entry in to two separate record books and gave us guys cause to hesitate to discuss the measurements of our rams.  The deep striations on the horns and brushed off tips are indicative of the maturity of this fine ram.  This fine ram was at its peak of maturity.

 

 

Eugene Yap poses with another mature ram.

 

 

Mauna Loa is also home to a number of other species including Island Boar, Vancouver Bull, and a many of Hawaii's 106 varieties of birds, such as this Erckle's Francolin cock.  Which, I might add, is rather large.

 

 

After several days on Mauna Loa, we were ready to return to Kona.  As luck would have it, we arrived just in time for the Kona Coffee Festival and enjoyed the celebration and parade from high atop the balcony of Pancho & Lefty's Mexican Food Restaurant.

 

 

As the Kona High School band marched down Alii Drive, while the three members of the Kona Republican Party threw candies to the spectators, Mike, Joy, Carlee and I joined in their celebration.  We had all shared one more successful harvest, and it was befitting that our trip to the Big Island would come to a conclusion over a hot cup of Kona Coffee.

 

 

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