We landed at the highest point of the 11X2 mile island. The aircrew, with the helo's rotors still turning, waited impatiently while we unloaded our gear. We waved good-bye (Not...) as the H-3 lifted off for the return trip to Pearl harbor. There was a clump of trees by the heli-pad just big enough to provide shade for our camp. We didn't bring tents, we slept out under the stars with the cool pacific breeze blowing.
Lemme' tell you "guys" the best coffee I have ever had was early the next morning. The sun was coming up over the Pacific ocean and we made instant C-ration coffee in an empty "C-Rat" can over the campfire. I held my steaming hot coffee can with a piece of bandoleer cloth and watched one of the most glorious sunrises I have ever seen. That's why "ambiance" is so important in restaurants, under any other conditions, C-rat coffee sucks!
After a breakfast of delicious C-rats we gathered our gear, broke into groups and set out to start hunting. I noticed that some of the veterans of prior hunts were taking two canteens of water, an awful lot of ammo and some C-rats. I have always found that watching others with experience is a good way to keep out of trouble. I took two canteens also, 120 rounds of ammo and grabbed one of the better tasting meals from our C-rat stock. (I think it was "Beef Slices with Gravy", affectionately known as "Mystery Meat".
The terrain on Kahoolawe is extremely rough and varies from bare, red clay, to lava rocks to sparse "Kiave" brush. ("Kiave" is the Hawaiian version of Texas mesquite.) I completely destroyed a pair of military jump boots in the 5 days I was there. That's OK though because they destroyed my feet in return so we were even. Lesson #1: Get a comfy pair of boots that meet the conditions you will be hunting in.
We had to walk some distance from the camp to the hunting area. Since we were camped at the highest point on the island it was all down-hill. In the cool breeze of morning this was great, but, as I discovered later that afternoon, it was 95 degrees, high humidity and all up-hill on the way back. Lesson #2: Plan in advance for the terrain you will be in and pace yourself accordingly.
I had teamed up with three of the other individuals in the party and we decided to follow a ravine for awhile. The ravines were about the only place where vegetation was growing. The only water on the island, besides that which we had brought, collected in the bottom of the ravines when it rained so that's where we figured the goats would be. I stayed up on top of the ravine while my team-mates stayed in the bottom. Their idea being that if anything ran out of the ravine I would drive it back in. My idea being that I could see some distance ahead of them and if anything ran out of the ravine I would nail it (so much for team work...). Well somehow, at a fork in the ravine, we got separated. They took a right turn and I went left. About twenty minutes later I was all alone when I spotted a single goat on the opposite side of the ravine on a rock-strewn plateau. The ravine was about 200 yards across, a bit far for a Mini-14 but that was all I had (poor, poor airman...) The goat was an albino and stood out well against the terrain. I worked my way to the edge of the ravine and got ready to shoot. I zoomed the scope all the way up to 9 power, put the cross-hairs on his chest, and squeezed off a shot. I watched the 55-grain, full-metal-jacket bullet impact next to his right front hoof. Two things happened at once. The ravine was about 50 or 60 feet deep and nearly straight down. That goat ran down the side of the ravine and disappeared from sight. Secondly, the plateau exploded with movement. Due to "target fixation" or the natural camouflage of the goats hides, I had not seen the 15 or 20 other goats in the herd grazing among the rocks and sparse grass on the plateau. They scattered in all directions. A group of about eight took off at a dead run (pun intended) parallel to me on top of the plateau. We had been instructed to kill as many of them as possible so if what follows bothers you try to picture them as 3-foot tall prairie dogs with hooves, and horns. (now that's a scary lookin critter...) The goats had all clumped together so I aimed "center of mass" and sent two or three rounds into the group. I don't know if any of those "Hail Mary" shots hit any of them or not. The group of goats started heading for the left end of the plateau so I sent three or four rounds into the rocks ahead of them. That discouraged them and they headed back the other way. I took another shot into the group and dropped one. As they neared the other end of the plateau, I sent a few more rounds into the rocks at that end and turned them back the other way. This back and forth thing went on for a while. It was like one of those circus arcades with the targets going back and forth. The group, somewhat smaller in number by now, tried to hide behind some boulders. A couple of "bank shots" among the rocks ended that situation. I was changing magazines and loading ammo into them between shots when I could, all the while keeping an eye on the group of goats so they wouldn't escape the top of the plateau. When it was finally over I had managed to drop six of the little buggers. I had also managed to expend 95 rounds of ammunition, many of which were used to keep the goats on the plateau and out in the open. Still not a good ratio though. (Lesson #3: Don't ever grab the barrel of a Mini-14 with your bare hands after shooting that many rounds through it.)
My friends showed up about 30 minutes later to see what all the commotion was about. I was the only one that day in my group to get any action. We could not take the meat back to Pearl Harbor with us, but it would be tastier than the C-rats waiting for us back at camp so we did some quick field dressing. Upon arrival back at camp we found that the other parties had also bagged a few. We also discovered there was another creature on the island worth mentioning. Quail. (Notice I didn't say cat's.) Someone had just happened to bring a shotgun and lots of bird shot. There's that experience thing again. We had quite a feast that night. Barbecued goat and Quail over an open fire supplemented with the best kind of beer there is, cold and free. So picture this: An un-inhabited island in the pacific, five days off, no contact with the outside world except by radio, a bunch of guys around a campfire with guns, nearly unlimited ammo and hunting stories, no limit, and four more days to go. Like they say, "It just doesn't get any better than this".
I'm now stationed back home in Texas. Hopefully someone out there will clue me to a place in the San Angelo area where varmints are abundant. If there are any VHA members in the San Angelo area I sure would like to meet up with you.
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