story by Rufus Kimura
I grew up in the western hills of Molokai, where my parents had a sweet gig as live-in caretakers for a local millionaire’s rarely used hunting lodge. In the mornings, crimson-throated wild turkeys would strut across the lawn. They would peck and fluster and bully each other, eventually ending huddled up under the shade of our orange-blossomed poinciana tree. Agile herds of white-spotted axis deer shifted about at the edge of the nearby koa forest, venturing out long enough to nibble our strawberry patch to shreds.
photos by Kyle Rothenborg
As a five-year-old boy surrounded by such animal life, I wanted what most young boys want—to kill the animals. So, on my sixth birthday, my father gave me a homemade bow and some arrows. It was my favorite present, and I carried that bow wherever I went. My sister and I freely roamed the lodge’s adjoining sixteen acres of Molokai Ranch land. I felt invincible with my little arsenal, even though the bow was just a roughly hewn branch bent by a fishing line bowstring and the arrows were semi-straight fletching-less twigs. I never did shoot anything, aside from my sister—at which point my bow mysteriously disappeared.
Some twenty years later, I found myself in the far corner of Kapiolani Park, staring in rapt fascination as a group of archers accurately lobbed arrows at targets over 100 feet away. Their bows were shiny high-tech contraptions with sights and stabilizers and all types of fancy gizmos.
Darryl, George and Craig introduced themselves as avid target shooters. Well, Darryl at least. Despite spending close to six hours a day at the range, George said that he hardly shoots anymore. Instead, he hangs out for the camaraderie and the opportunity to share his forty-four plus years of archery experience.
George was there in 1957 when the City and County of Honolulu first set aside this parcel of the bustling park for use as an archery range. Before that, the range was located on the corner of Paki and Monsarrat, which worked out fine until the invention of the compound bow. The compound uses a pulley system to store a maximum amount of energy, which creates incredible arrow velocity upon release—archers were overshooting their targets, and their arrows were landing in the street. Soon thereafter, the Kapiolani range was established, tucked in the furthest corner of the park with nothing but an old horse stable for a neighbor.
The horse stable has since given way to a grip of tennis courts and million-dollar homes, but the range itself has persevered and is open during all daylight hours. It’s maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation and is unsupervised except for a free-standing bulletin board that lists a variety of possible archery faux pas: 1) No shooting after dark. 2) No shooting with anyone in front of you. 3) Limit your search for arrows to five minutes. And so on. Despite the range’s close proximity to the tennis courts, joggers and picnic tables, there have been no reported archery-related accidents to date.
The archers I met were a quiet bunch. They took turns shooting and conferred in whispers lest they upset a colleague’s concentration. The majority of those who frequent the park shoot only to hit the target, but there are a few hunters who use the targets as a means to an end—to calibrate their sights before heading out to Molokai and Lanai, where the deer and the mouflon sheep roam.
"What is the allure of target shooting?" I asked Darryl. "Are you practicing for a hunt?"
"Not at all," he answered. "I don’t really want to trek through the bushes. I’d rather go to Costco to buy my meat."
Since I buy my meat at Costco, too, I decided to give target shooting a try. I went home that night and spent a few hours at my favorite store, EBay. For less than $100, I was the high bidder on a beautiful 55# Martin recurve bow and a dozen carbon arrows.