KEKAHA — Paul Martinez of Puhi has been hunting at unit A of the Kekaha Game Management Area for 39 years.
“Most of the deer are in the Puu Opae, trail two area because it’s more open and easier to see,” he said. “I’ve been hunting there for years and years and years. The area is important for us hunters.”
But the 1,300-acre unit might be closed to hunters if the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Department of Land and Natural Resources do not extend a licensed agreement to allow hunting on the Hawaiian home land area before the current agreement expires at the end of August.
“We understand that hunters like the area, but the department has a mission facing Native Hawaiians on the land and in homes,” said William Aila Jr., DHHL deputy to the chair.
In 2001, both departments agreed to the current agreement.
The DNLR and DHHL are in talks to extend the license for another year.
“That will take it through August 2017, as we continue to work with our beneficiaries and the DLNR on hunting issues on land statewide,” Aila said.
Aila said during that year, both departments will address statewide concerns regarding hunting on Hawaiian home lands, which include safety issues and sustainability projects.
“We have lessees in the (unit A) area; they have had non-responsible hunters shoot in their direction, and that’s always concerning,” he said. “We have future plans for the land for homesteading purposes and some possible energy projects that will take advantage of our Puu Lua and Puu Opae reservoirs that are in that area.”
Aila said both departments expect to have a resolution on a future licensed agreement before the current one expires.
“It’s timely that we begin this discussion about the future of hunting on those lands given our mission to provide homestead opportunities in that area,” he said. “We’re using this next year to consider all the options that are available and opportunities.”
Water Paresa of Lihue fears illegal hunting activity if the area closes.
“I hope they don’t do that over here. All these hunters will start poaching,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest areas for us to go hunting on the island. If they close that down, it will be a big impact.”
Prior to moving to Kauai, Paresa said he and others from the Neighbor Islands exclusively hunted in the Kekaha gaming area when they traveled to Kauai on hunting trips.
On the Big Island, Paresa said, the DLNR fenced off popular hunting areas due to feral animals — like boar — eating native vegetation.
Paresa hopes other spots on Kauai stay open for the foreseeable future.
“(DLNR) has been doing that for years — close down a spot and before you know it, it’s a chain reaction,” he said. “They move to one spot to the next. Before you know it, there is no place to hunt.”
In 2015, the DLNR sold 1,500 hunting licenses to Kauai residents, 500 more than in 2013.
“A lot of up and coming hunters, a lot of kids go to that area,” Martinez said. “I hope they don’t close it down.”