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"The Varmint Goats of Kahoolawe"
by John R. St.Clair


Okay, this is for all you guys out there reading about those, two thousand dollar guns with one- thousand dollar optics and trips to guided hunts in new Suburbans rented at the airport. Us real people only make about $30,000 a year (if the wife is working also) and have teen-age kids. Now don't get me wrong, I love reading other people's hunting stories and I'm glad there is a "higher plane" of existence to shoot for (no pun intended.). The reality of the situation is affordability. I know a lot of you guys (I am not sexist! "Guys" is a figure of speech encompassing anyone, male, female, or navy, that likes to shoot!) out there are in the lower income brackets or don't have the connections the writers in hunting and shooting magazines do. If everybody was like them there wouldn't be anybody to read the magazines. Sometimes you gotta use what you can find around you and when an opportunity arises, go for it.

"Goat" as defined by the Grolier Encyclopedia, is "Genus Capra, of the cattle family. Extremely sure footed. Found in mountainous terrain and arid climates worldwide. Goats live in herds and feed on grass and shrubs."

I'm just a poor Air Force enlisted guy. Back in 1985, as a young two-striper (E-3), I was stationed at Hickam AFB on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. There wasn't much hunting to be had unless you had the bucks for a guided hunt on one of the other islands. Having spent the last few years in wide open west Texas and at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska where hunting was readily available, it wasn't long before "Island Fever" set in. My only outlet was a gun range near Hanuama Bay. I heard a rumor about a military sponsored hunt on an island nearby and was, by this time, willing to chase just about any rainbow to go hunting. I was really surprised when the rumor actually panned out. I did a little calling around at Pearl Harbor and finally got in touch with the folks in charge of the hunts. "Yes", there actually were government sponsored hunts, "Yes" I could go on the next one. "You say it's on the island of what?" "Kahoolawe?" "Is that in the Pacific Ocean?" Sounds like someplace in a Disney movie.

The island of Kahoolawe (Pronounced "Ka ho oh la vey") is a small, uninhabited island in the Hawaiian chain. According to the person in charge of the "Kahoolawe project" at the time, the native population moved off the island back in the early 1900's when the industrial revolution hit the larger islands. I suppose that's where the money was and a man has to make a living. Some animals were left behind including some species of goat. I was told they were "Spanish goats" but I don't really know. (Also some domestic cat's, but I won't talk about that 'cause I'll bet some of my fellow hunters actually like cats, although I can't imagine why, but then, I digress...).

An aquaduct left by the former inhabitants.

Over the years the uncontrolled population of goats, having found themselves in paradise with an unlimited food supply and no natural enemies, did what came naturally to them. They ate and bred (not necessarily in that order). The population exploded and over-ran the entire island, stripping it bare of nearly all vegetation.

This is the result of an uncontrolled species of animal in the ideal environment.

As erosion began washing the island into the ocean Uncle Sam stepped in and tried a variety of population control measures, all to no avail. A program to replant the trees was begun also, but from what I saw it was a losing battle. Later, hunts began as a morale booster for guys like us (not either sexist...). Just in case you are picturing some helpless little fuzzy things that your kids hug at the petting zoo or maybe have for a pet in the back yard, lemme tell ya, over the years the goats had become wild and were not interested in getting anywhere near a human. Hunting them was comparable to hunting Deer. Kahoolawe is proof of the ignorance of the "Bunny-huggers". They stopped Uncle Sam from poisoning the goats and a few years ago stopped the hunts. Now, I guess, we let a natural resource wash into the ocean and all the goats starve to death. On with the story...

I took five days of much anticipated leave and reported to Ford Island for departure. Me and eight other blood-thirsty individuals showed up that day. Population control was the name of the game. The hunts were scheduled based on the gestation period of a goat and we were told to shoot as many goats as we could. NO LIMIT. This was getting better all the time. The only disappointment was that we could not bring back any of the meat, or trophies (yea, right...). We received our briefing on safety and emergency procedures. Safety was discussed for some time. Something I haven't mentioned about the island is that since it was an un-inhabited island and mostly barren, the US Navy used it for a gunnery and bombardment range. There was quite a lot of UXO (unexploded ordnance) on the island.

Un-exploded Ordnance (UXO) was a common sight on the island.

We were warned to watch where we stepped, not to walk in tall grass and stay out of areas that had been marked with red tape or flags. We were also issued maps and instructed to annotate the location of any unmarked UXO we ran across. (I found quite a bit...) We went to the supply issue point and signed out our gear. The only thing not supplied by the Navy were any toiletries we might need and our clothes. We could bring along our own weapon or we would be issued one. For the guys that wanted them, each was issued a Springfield Armory, M-14 rifle and all the 7.62 (.308) ammo they wanted. I had brought along my only rifle, a stainless steel, Ruger Mini-14 with a 3X9 scope, flash-hider and a couple of 20 round magazines (I was into the "assault" looking weapons at the time). As I said, I was a poor two-striper and had managed to get my significant other (wife) to let me put it on our JC Penny credit card. (That was when "Penny's" still sold guns in their catalogs.) Since my Ruger was a military caliber, (5.56/.223) I was issued all the ammo I wanted also. We loaded up a truck with sleeping bags, cots, C-rations (Well I liked them...), web belts, canteens, etc. All courtesy of the US Navy (Yes, we had to give it all back after the hunt. Yes, especially the M-14's.). We were driven to the helo-pad and loaded up a Navy H-3 "SAR" (Search And Rescue) helicopter. Now I had done a lot of flying over the years in everything from a two-seat Civil Air Patrol spotter to the C-5 Galaxy transport but this was the first time I had ever flown on a helicopter. Watching the ground drop straight down was kinda weird. Anyway, off we flew to the wonderful island of Kahoolawe. Two hours in that eggbeater were plenty. What is it like to ride in a helicopter you ask? Well, if you want to simulate it, hang a couple of lawn-chairs from a tree on a hot, sticky afternoon and sit in them while someone beats on your chest for a couple of hours. Do it with a friend so you will have someone to talk to.


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