Walter Paresa, an avid hunter of 36 years and owner of Elite Hunters in Lihue, says hunting is a way of life for his family.
“It’s a big part of putting food on our table,” he said. “I like the food. I love hunting. It’s a sport. It’s a challenge and it’s a chance to be outdoors, spending time with my family and good friends.”
Bronson Bautista, owner at PD Designs & Armory, said the main reason he hunts is for sustenance.
“Whether we go to a different island for deer or hunting pig on the island, the main reason is to get food,” he said. “We have a pretty large population on the island, and they do hunting year-round.”
According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the number of people on Kauai who bought hunting licenses has steadily climbed during the past three fiscal years.
In fiscal year 2013, DLNR sold 1,000 hunting licenses to Kauai residents. That number increased to 1,400 the next year and 1,500 in 2015.
Paresa said a lot of the newer hunters are children of hunters.
“The kids want to get into it. The dad might have hunted years ago, then his son is old enough and wants to get into it. It’s good family time,” he said. “It’s important. If something ever happens, at least we can still eat and survive.”
“I know a lot of people are bringing their kids. When people are able to spend more time with their families, that would be an increase in hunting licences as well,” he said. “The father needs one, his two sons need one, maybe his daughter, his wife. If they all go, that’s five or six licences right there.”
But Bautista was shocked at the number of hunting licenses sold the past three years.
“I thought the hunting number would be higher than that,” he said. If you compare that to the amount of people who apply for permits, I think that’s a few thousand.”
Paresa, who hunts at least once a week, said hunting with the family is an important part of the island culture.
“I get to teach my son and my daughter. We spend some good time,” he said. “No TV, no computer, no cell phone reception — it’s just us spending time with each other. It’s priceless. It brings us back to nature.”
Culturally, Bautista said hunting is a “huge part of what Kauai is all about.”
“You get to see parts of the island that most people don’t get to see,” he said. “The camaraderie you get with friends, with family, into the mountains, getting away from city life. It’s one of the best things you could ever do.”
Business for both hunters have been steady, but Paresa, who specializes in archery hunting, said growth for his business has been substantial.
“My growth is probably about 70 percent up from when I started in 2010 until now,” he said. “A lot of people have been getting into it because of the pigs.”
Hunting also provides a service for the community — especially when hunting feral pigs, which do not have natural predators on the island.
“(Hunting) really helps out watersheds and forests,” said Jason Omick, DLNR wildlife biologist for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “It’s a huge part.”
At last Lihue Business Association meeting, Rep. Derek Kawakami (D-14) said legislators are working with hunters and the DLNR to create a game management plan for feral pigs for the state of Hawaii.
“We are taking a look at this problem. It may not seem like an obvious problem; in many areas it is,” he said.