DLNR News Release: HUNTING POPULARITY MEANS MORE GAME BIRDS AVAILABLE ON O‘AHU THIS SEASON
Posted on Jul 19, 2022 in Latest Department News, Newsroom
(HONOLULU) – Tuesday, was the first of numerous moving days for the O‘ahu Game Bird Rearing Program, transitioning hundreds of chukars and pheasants from the brooder stage to outdoor flight pens.
These two species of game birds aren’t likely to survive in the Kuaokalā Game Management Area (GMA), situated above Ka‘ena Point on O‘ahu’s northwestern shore. This is the reason the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) imports hundreds of birds, 700 this year alone, to provide “a public benefit that achieves a balance between conservation and having a recreational resource on the landscape,” explains DOFAW Game Program Coordinator Jason Omick.
“Our mandate requires us to provide resources for sustainable outdoor recreation, and hunting is in that realm. Game bird hunting opens-up opportunities for people to get meat and enjoy being outside. Many Oʻahu residents tell us they want game birds avaialabe to them, and this past season the State legislature recognized this benefit in law,” Omick added.
The resources, the chukars and pheasants, arrive at a brooder house right after they hatch. They spend their first days under heat lamps and then when they’re five-to-six weeks old they’re trucked to flight pens, constructed by DOFAW staff and volunteer hunters.
Nick Vargas, a DOFAW wildlife biologist, manages the game program on O‘ahu. He’s also the guy who has been interacting with hunters when they bring their game to a hunter check-in station to be recorded.
“Over the past five years, we’ve seen a big uptick in the number of hunters seeking game birds. People are hearing about our “put and take” program and they travel from off-island and from the mainland after learning O‘ahu has good game bird hunting opportunities, Vargas said.
Before heading to the flight pens, DOFAW staff and volunteer hunters load the birds up, one by one, into crates or boxes for the drive over the Pali. Hunters themselves have a vested interest in helping make sure the pens are secure and the birds have a habitat that mirrors Kuaokalā’s.
The pheasants are outfitted with “peepers,” tiny shields, that fit over their beaks and block all but their peripheral vision. This defends against the species’ tendency to attack one another, in holding pens.
In addition to the DOFAW-managed flight pens, hunting organizations maintain another set at Mokulēʻia. In 15-to-16-weeks the birds will again be loaded in crates and boxes and trucked to the Kuaokalā GMA, where they’ll be released one-by-one.
It’s important to note, that annual hunting seasons reduce the impact of the birds on the landscape to almost nothing. The put and take system is not only environmentally sound, but also financially sustainable. Hunting license and game bird stamp revenues help fund the program.
Omick points out the State receives approximately $4.5 million annually in Federal grant funds for game and non-game wildlife restoration projects. The federal funds allocated to the game program with the hunting license revenue collected, supports and bolsters game bird hunting across the state.
“Often, the food sustainability component of hunting gets lost, but these birds end up on the tables of local families. They’re good eating and I’ve had smoked and roasted bird and bird jerky. The put and take system is critical on O‘ahu, as unlike many other places, these birds can’t survive for years and years in the existing game bird hunting area, due to incompatible habitat conditions, including lack of adequate water and food resources in the GMA. We now have a guarantee that birds will be available to be hunted each year,” Vargas concluded.
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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)
HD video – Game bird transfer (July 18, 2022):
(Shot sheet attached)
Photographs – Game bird transfer (July 18, 2022):
Senior Communications Manager
Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources