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Hunters Discuss Safety Concerns

When the Dispatch published a story earlier this month about a bullet being shot through a west end home, Molokai kupuna and hunter Yama Kaholoaa was concerned for the safety of Molokai residents and called the island’s hunters together.

“[This] is not to make rules and regulations… but to be responsible and teach our children and grandchildren about safety,” Kaholoaa told the group that responded to his request to meet.

The west end homeowner, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Dispatch a bullet had been shot at night through his house at the north end of Papohaku Beach. Being a hunter himself, he said while the incident left him and his wife shaken up, he did not want to press charges but instead hoped the dangerous mishap would raise awareness of hunting safety.

“The guy was very nice and… knows how Molokai handles things. I appreciate that,” said Kaholoaa. “That’s why I made this meeting… We have to let people know to hunt safely, away from homes.”

While the dozen who attended the meeting didn’t have immediate answers, they began a discussion that focused on how to best foster education and respect.

“Right now we’re all taking the blame for this one person [who shot the home],” said attendee Harry-Ann Aki.

Though a hunter education class is required by law in order to receive a hunting license, some said those teaching the class simply tell you what you need to know to pass the test, and a lot of information that would be useful to Molokai hunters isn’t included.

“You can educate in the classroom, but it’s best to go teach them in the field,” said hunter Nelson Rapanot, an officer of the Molokai Bowhunters Archery Club.

Education on cultural values, how to utilize the whole animal and not leave carcasses to rot is needed for young hunters, in addition to the state requirements, attendees said.

“Give them a safe place to hunt, then they don’t have to go at night,” said Kaholoaa. “How and where you dispose of carcasses is another issue. Give thanks for the meat you have.”

Ronald Rapanot Sr. agreed, referencing increasing reports of deer being left to rot by the roadside with only the back straps removed.

“The one thing we have to teach is… [don’t] just bounty hunt,” he said. “It’s sad for me to go out and see this kind of stuff. Young kids now just go for the biggest horn… We have to teach the young generation.”

The hunters in attendance discussed the best ways to begin teaching those lessons and ways to unite as a group of Molokai hunters to address the issues together. Kaholoaa said he thinks it’s important to get as many youth involved as possible so safe hunting practices can be shared early.

Nelson Rapanot said that is one of the goals of the Molokai Bowhunters, but the club has encountered challenges in that parents must also be committed, and equipment can be costly. One of the biggest hurdles, though, he said, is a lack of legal areas to hunt on Molokai – a concern many echoed.

“Molokai people have no more place to hunt,” said Nelson Rapanot. “Everywhere we go, it’s poaching.”

He said most landowners don’t want to allow hunters on their property. The Molokai Bowhunters has its own insurance and its members sign waivers taking responsibility for liability, but property owners are still reluctant.

“We’re open to any land we can hunt,” he said, highlighting a frustrating process of trying to work with various landowners and organizations. He added that a shooting range on Molokai would be an ideal setting to teach hands on safety skills, but one doesn’t currently exist.

Ronald Rapanot Sr. said he represents hunters on the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Natural Area Reserves System (NARS) Commission, and could take some of the Molokai group’s frustrations to be discussed at the state level.

In the meantime, Kaholoaa said he plans to hold additional meetings soon to gather more hunters and form a plan to best share safety information and find solutions to Molokai’s hunting concerns.

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