Back in 2016 when my High Adventure Company was first approached to manage the commercial sporting operations for Pineapple Brothers on Lanai, I confess that I knew very little about the flora and fauna of this Hawaiian island. I quickly got up to speed and learned everything I could about this crown jewel of the Pacific. Not only is there phenomenal bone-fishing just off the coast but a considerable number of wild upland birds like pheasants, Japanese quail, francolin — as well as the prized pure-breed Mouflon sheep — call Lanai home. But the animal species that really got me excited about this opportunity was the axis deer. On Lanai, you will arguably find the densest herd of free-range axis deer in the world.
As any guide will tell you, there are hundreds of variables that you can encounter on any hunt. From weather to terrain, no two hunts are ever the same. The only constants are your skill level (which can always be improved with practice!) and your gear. On my recent trip to Lanai, I perfected my packing list, to make this the best trip – the most enjoyable trip – yet. Having the right gear was a key component.
The single most important tool a hunter can bring to Lanai is a quality pair of binoculars, preferably of the range-finding variety. Hours will be spent glassing the enormous herds, looking for the right quarry. From a wildlife management perspective (my background), you not only want to take down a quality trophy but one that is fully mature. This is where that quality glass really comes into play. Looking beyond the foreground of a herd – often several hundred or even thousands of yards away – might be where your true trophy lies. On this recent hunt, I took the Swarovski 10×42 EL range binoculars which are my go-to for their legendary clarity and user-friendly functionality. At the touch of a button, the EL can give the sportsman an accurate range to over a thousand yards. Nowhere else is this more valued than when I’m pinned down, searching for that trophy, looking at hundreds of pairs of eyes looking right back at me through that world-class Austrian glass.
Naturally, selecting an accurate flat shooting rifle is imperative on a Lanai axis deer hunt. Having been in this business for more than 25 years, I have shot almost every type of rifle. Like many sportsmen, I used to believe that bigger was always better, that a hard-pounding magnum rifle was the only way to go for a red-blooded American hunter. But as I have gotten older, and hopefully a little wiser, I have learned that’s not always the best choice. I was never one to stray far from tried-and-true calibers made famous by legends like Jack O’Conner and Jim Carmichael, but for this endeavor, it was the smaller and more compact 6.5 Creedmoor that won this hunter over. By combining highly efficient bullets (those with a high-ballistic coefficient) with minimal recoil, the 6.5 Creedmoor is superbly accurate and deadly on game this size. In fact, the 6.5 Creedmoor has proven itself to me on larger game, in destinations like Africa and South America as well. While I traditionally prefer a light rifle for mountain hunting, that is not the case on Lanai where a medium-weight or even a “bench” weight gun can be just the ticket when shooting a target the size of an axis from several hundred yards. As a side note, a quality bipod is an incredibly useful tool on a hunt like this as it allows you to either shoot in a sitting or prone position
When packing for a hunt on Lanai, remember that this is a tropical environment year-round and dressing properly is key. For the days I hunt, I choose quality, lightweight clothing from manufacturers like Sitka and Kuiu which more than pay for themselves in terms of durability and comfort. You could always pack cheaper options but my guess is that you’ll end up leaving that gear in Hawaii instead of lugging it back home. In terms of footwear, I prefer something rigid for hunting on Lanai’s rocky terrain. I always say that boots that earned their reputation on sheep hunts around the world are right at home in Hawaii. My go-to choices are from brands like Kennetrek, Asolo, and Russell Moccasin. (You will probably want to embed hot links to these manufacturers too, with models you prefer or recommend)
Of course, you’ll have plenty of downtime after you’ve taken down that trophy so don’t forget to pack a few swimsuits and your flip-flops. The pool at the Four Seasons awaits and those Lanai Tais will most certainly be calling your name.