Hunting season is over, football has ended and the negative temperatures not only have frozen the pipes under your house but have also frozen your spirits. The mid season lull in between hunting seasons can be dreadful. You are counting down the days before the you can chase animals through the mountains again. Well look no further. The Maui goat hunt can get you out of in the dead of winter. It can be a tough and exciting hunt that you can do fairly cheap during the off season. The season in Hawaii is also open year round and hunters can take two goats a day! Jen and I celebrated our honeymoon in Maui, HI and we experienced the island unlike few other honeymooners have. We chased goats up a steep volcano, axis deer through gulches and ravines, and pigs through the thick jungle and this trip got dubbed the name our “Huntingmoon”!
All a hunter needs is a hunting license, their hunting gear, and a drive to get up the mountain (Of course a wonderful wife who loves hunting helps too). I am going to break down exactly what we did and hopefully it will help and inspire you to have a trip of a lifetime.
#1 GET YOUR HAWAII STATE HUNTING LICENSE
First thing that is required is a Hawaii state hunting license. You can get your hunting license online at https://hunting.ehawaii.gov/hunting/license.html;jsessionid=C2F7AEC12D185EDE7C54C3FD79238C6A.prodapp1. If you have already taken a recongized hunter safety course you will first need to apply for an exemption number https://hunting.ehawaii.gov/hunting/exemptionRequestForm.html. This number will allow you to purchase a Hawaii hunting license. If you have not taken a hunter safety course you will be required to do so before purchasing a hunting license which for a Non-resident is $105.00 (2019). No tags are required to hunt the game animals but you are required to follow the bag limits and some areas are weekend only for certain game animals.
#2 PLAN YOUR TRIP
Next is some preparation and planning. The major cost of the trip are airfare, rental car, and a condo to stay at. We had a 5.5 hour direct flight from Alaska to Maui. Vehicle Rented: SUV Chevy Suburban from SIXT Rental in Maui (they were amazing! Highly recommend!). We rented such a big vehicle to haul our camping gear and also it fit a double air mattress in the back for sleeping. Our first few days we camped which definitely saved us money, one issue is the limited campgrounds and the one at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area on top of the mountain was less than a campground and more of a parking lot next to an open grassy slope. There is a public restroom though which the wife appreciated. If we were to do it again we would rent the cabin that is next to the recreation area. You will need a camping permit or reserve the cabin. Also if you camp you have to fly more gear than usual.
The following is information to reserve a camping spot or rent the cabin: https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/all,details,1683.html
- Airfare: Alaska Airlines
- Car Rental: Sixt Car Rental Maui
- Car Type: Chevrolet Suburban 2019
- Campground: Poli Poli Campground
- Lodging: Kula Lodge
- Closest lodge near the mountain + a nice restaurant
#3 HUNTING REGULATIONS (WEAR HUNTER ORANGE)
Like any other state you must know the hunting regulations and hunting units. Check out this site for the hunting information and regulations https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/recreation/hunting/hunt-maui/. If you plan on hunting with a rifle you will need to register it with the police department, which I guess is a hassle. My wife and I are bow hunters so we didn't have to worry about registering a firearm. The hunting units are A, B, C, D, E, and F. Units A and F are on the West side of the island and have limited access and consist mostly of jungle. They are used primarily to hunt pigs with dogs. Units B, C, D and E are on the East side of the island. From my research and talking with locals units B and D are good for hunting pigs but again limited access and jungle. The most common hunting areas are C and E, though unit E is archery only. These units are on the mountain called Haleakalā or Haupa‘Akea Peak. Unit C is a rifle hunting unit, you can use bow also, so you are required to wear hunter orange. This unit has good opportunities for goat and pig and very, very rarely an axis deer might sprint through the unit. Axis deer are mostly on private property were they are safe most of the time.
#4 MOUNT HALEAKALA
Mount Haleakalā is no joke either. It is steep, covered in loose lava rocks and did I mention it was steep? Not a flat spot on it so be prepared to hike and climb (climbing sticks are recommended) and has an elevation over 9000, so the air is pretty thin. It is not an easy hunt, during our climb we gained 2000 feet in elevation over one mile up, hunting above tree line and above the clouds. The loose lava rocks are real ankle twisters too, be sure to wear good boots that provide great ankle support.
#5 GOAT HUNTING
Goat hunting is a spot and stalk hunting style. You want to get to a good vantage point and start glassing. Sometimes you will hear the goats talking before you can visually spot them. We heard some early in the morning but never did see them, but it at least gave us hope and a direction to get them off later on in the day. A lot of times you will see the goats standing on the ridge tops scanning and scouting the grounds below for other goats or approaching predators. Once you have one spotted you will have to plan your approach and try not to be seen with limited cover. Goats have very good eyesight, and the scout goats seem to appear out of nowhere and will spot you if you’re not careful. There are no trees or large bushes to use for cover so you must use the terrain to your advantage by keeping the lava rock ridges between you and the prey. Be prepared for long distance shots with your bow, I shot my Billy at 62 yards.
#6 OUR STORY
We flew into Maui direct from Anchorage Alaska, collected our gear, and hopped on a shuttle to the rental car company. Once we had our SUV, we went to a local Walmart to stock up on groceries before heading up the volcano to chase goats and pigs the next morning. Once we were all set we drove up the winding road to the top of mount Haleakalā to camp at Polipoli state recreation park. The road to public grounds travels through a parcial of private property.
On our way we ran into two ranchers as they were securing the road through the property that heads into the public lands. We chatted with them a bit about goat hunting and Alaska then we continued up the steep mountain side to camp. About mid-way up the mountain we stopped at the “Hunter Check-in” station where all hunters must record their name, license number, vehicle information and what time the check-in, and on check-out record if one is successful. Once our information was filled in we were back in the truck and continued the climb. By this time we only had about an hour left of daylight. We stopped a few more times to take pictures of the sun setting over the ocean.
About 2 miles from camp we were driving and caught a quick glance of a pig in an opening about 50 yards from the road. I told Jen “Pig, Pig! Right there!” as I pointed to the pig feeding in the opening. I parked the vehicle up the road and we got prepared for a quick stalk. I had to get our bow case that was buried in the back and it still had locks on it from our flight. Once unlocked I had handed Jen her bow, grabbed the video camera and made our way to where I seen the pig. We slowly crept through the grass and as I peeked over the crest I spotted the pig again and ranged him at thirty yards away. Jen is new to archery hunting and with a comfort zone of only 20 yards so we had to get a little closer. Slowly we crept closer as the pig was feeding away from us. I counted the steps to judge the yardage, 27, 26, 25 and right then a pheasant (that we didn’t see in between us and the pig) spooked an flew away causing the pig to move up into the trees and out of sight. We were losing light fast so we decided to hurry to go set up camp. Once we arrived at camp we got all our gear organized for the next day’s hunt then crawled into our sleeping bags for a few hours of restless sleep.
*TIP: Have gear ready to go as you drive up the mountain for unexpected animal encounters!
The next morning when the alarm went off it felt too early, only because we were slightly suffering from jet lag. But I still woke with excitement ready for the challenges of the day and with the hunt that was ahead of us. We packed up camp and our gear and drove about 2 miles to the area were we would start the hunt. We parked then grabbed our backpacks, bows and camera gear and headed up the mountain. We started hunting at about 6500 feet elevation and not only is the air thinner than we were used to and but also in was a fairly steep incline.
The terrain consisted of grassy openings with groups of trees sprinkled throughout. We were about a quarter of a mile from the truck and started seeing plenty of sign from pigs rooting in the ground and a fair amount of goat scat, I even found a set of goat horns from a Billy that had perished some time ago. Just then, we heard a goat call from north of us and a couple of ravines over which that really boosted our excitement. The ravines that were between us were steep and mostly unpassable so we decided to keep climbing and possibly get in front of them or find others on the way.
Once we made it above tree line the terrain changed from the sure footing and pleasant grassy hillside to unstable lava rocks with intermittent scrub brush that covered the mountain top. Although this new terrain was harder to walk in, and a twisted ankle seemed inevitable, we pressed on up the mountain to find a good vantage point to glass for goats.
At the first glassing, I spotted two Billy’s about a mile up the peak so we decide to press on further up the mountain. Jen and I decided to split up so we could get eyes on different sides of the ridge, I went right and she went left. On my side I saw a good group of goats. It looked like mostly Nannies and kids but still a ways away.
As I was getting the phone scope set on the spotting scope my phone started to vibrate, I looked at it and it was a call from Jen. I answered and with much excitement Jen said “I see a group of Billy’s over here! And they are fighting!”. I packed up my gear and sprinted to her side of the ridge. When I got there I could tell that Jen was very excited. She said they disappeared over the ridge.
We were in a predicament on which way to go, either chasing Jen’s Billy’s or turning around and going back towards those Nannies. I was leaning towards Jen’s because she said she saw some Billy’s butting heads. We flipped a coin to decide, and as luck would have it, we went with Jen’s side.
We dropped down the side of the ridge and started to make our climb up the side of the adjacent ridge. When we got near the top I spotted a Nannie feeding on a crest about 100 yards away. We huddled down so we wouldn’t be spotted. The goat was just feeding along and every once in a while it looked in our direction so we just stayed low and out of sight.
As we were waiting for that Nannie to move on, we took a seat. I slowly raised up to peek and see if that nannie had moved on but as I sat up I caught movement to my right and slightly up the hill. As I turned my head I met eyes with another goat at 30 yards! I slowly kept back down to my butt and whispered to Jen out the corner of my mouth “Don’t move there is a goat right here at 30 yards”. We froze. This was a scout goat, a young goat whose sole purpose is to stand on the ridge tops and look for any approaching predators then alert the rest of the herd with a quick blow of its snout. The scout starred down from its perch leisurely chewing its cud.
Then proceeded to longest staring contest of my entire hunting career. As we baked in the Hawaiian sun, this goat stared for an hour. We didn’t move because we knew there was more goats and even Billy’s on the other side of the rim. Finally after what seemed like a lifetime the goat lost interest, he turned around and moved on.
We dropped or backpacks and moved to the top of the ridge. As we got close to the top, I peeked over a pile of rocks and spotted a Billy at 60 yards. He was facing me but looking downhill at a small group of Nannies and Kids. I told Jen to get on him with the camera but before she could it turned and walked away.
Then I noticed a group of Billy’s at about 80 yards standing proudly on a pile of lava rocks. There was a silhouette of a beautiful tan Billy and I instantly knew that was the one I wanted. I told Jen to stay behind as I had to close about 20 yard to be more comfortable with the shot especially with a pretty decent cross wind blowing downhill. I didn’t have much cover so I belly crawled through the rocks while keeping another rock pile and brush in front of me and the group of Billy’s. As I crawled closer, I peeked over the top of a pile of rocks to range the goat at 62 yards. He must have seen me cause he started to quickly move uphill. I nocked an arrow and drew back but by this time the tan goat was out of sight.
One of his buddies, a nice black Billy with white socks stood quartering away. I leveled my bubble, settled my pin behind the goats ribs and gently touched the trigger on my release. I saw my arrow fly and the goat buckled from impact. He then disappeared over the opposite side of the ridge. The rest of the goats took off running up the mountain.
I met back up with Jen and we went on the search for my Billy. At the spot of impact there was a good amount of blood and my arrow layed covered in red only a few yards away, I knew he wouldn’t be far, and only about ten more yards of tracking I could see black laying in the rocks ahead. I howled with excitement! Not only were we successful on the hunt but we did it DIY, public land, with my bow in a rifle area but also got to share the whole experience with my bride. I quartered up the meat and put it in my pack for the mile descent down the mountain. It was a tough physical hunt and my knees were not happy but spirits were high!
#7 WHAT WE LEARNED
Through this amazing experience, we came out of it with a few life lessons. First of all, bring lots and lots of water. And even then, bring more. We ran out right before the shot, our hydropacks and bottled water were gone. We had our exhausting hike down which took about 3 hours with no water. Secondly, make sure to wear suitable lightweight hiking boots. While living in Alaska, our hunting boots are all very insulated and bulky. Wearing heavy weighted boots was a huge mistake, nearly rolling your ankle on every step and dying of heat (lesson learned). And Lastly, we learned that the people of Maui are the NICEST people you will ever meet. In every direction, every interaction, these people are kind friendly and full of generosity. We are very thankful for the kindness shown to us in Maui!