Turkeys aren’t the only birds Hawaii hunters are providing for Thanksgiving

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has retrieved game birds from Wisconsin and released them in Game Management Areas (GMA) for hunters right before Thanksgiving since 2017.

According to DLNR, a mix of melanistic mutant pheasants, ringneck pheasants and chukar partridges are moved to fly pens after six weeks, where they spend another ten weeks to reach maturity.

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DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) oversees the “Put and Take Program,” which provides game birds for hunters on Oahu and Kauai during the hunting season.

“It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of volunteer and staff effort to continuously feed them, water them and make sure they’re healthy and strong for the beginning of the hunting season,” said who heads up the release program on Oahu.

Nick Vargas, head wildlife biologist

The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects the day-old chicks after they arrive from the mainland. Vargas said revenues from hunting licenses and bird stamps fund the game bird rearing program.

“Hunting success rates for the birds in wild habitats is pretty low,” Vargas said. “So, this is like stocking a lake with fish. Instead, we’re stocking hunting areas with small game birds.”

On Wednesday, DOFAW staff alongside volunteers gathered 20 pheasants and attached metal leg bands on them before releasing them at two different Kuaokala GMA locations.

According to DLNR, this was the fourth bird release in November. Nine more are scheduled between through the end of January 2022 — when the small game hunting season ends.

Vargas said Hunters are a huge value to State-managed hunting systems.

“They are the first to report habitant changes and problems on the landscape, which help us to upgrade or change management practices. They are the first line of defense because they’re out observing and experiencing natural conditions.”

Nick Vargas, head wildlife biologist

On Kauai, more than 700 small game birds were imported this hunting season, which is often more than Oahu on an annual basis. The birds were released in the Kekaha GMA.

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“We’ve been getting a lot of good reviews from hunters that these birds are pretty full, pretty healthy birds. Hopefully, some folks can use them for their Thanksgiving meal and can share them with their family and friends.”

Nick Vargas, head wildlife biologist

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