Ninth grader Naiya Raphael, left, is proud to carry on her family's tradition of hunting. Right: Isaac Raphael, Naiya's father; front: Naiya's sister, sixth grader Alexis. Photo courtesy of Naiya Raphael.
Hunting has always been a part of ninth grader Naiya Raphael's life because it runs in her family. Her father hunts for pig on Oahu, and her mother's family hails from Lanai where hunting is a family tradition, making Raphael a fourth-generation hunter.
"On Lanai, everything is based around hunting. We do it for family bonding, and we really like eating fresh meat. It's really good," said Raphael.
Raphael's family travels to Lanai twice a year to hunt deer and mouflon, a type of wild sheep. Both are invasive.
"We're helping the land. We don't want too many animals."
A typical hunt begins at 2 a.m. Raphael and her father drive out in the darkness to set up their hunting spot. Once completed, they pass the time by resting and star gazing. At sunrise, the hunt begins, which sometimes involves a lot of waiting. After an animal is killed, they gut it and bring it back to town to be deboned and cleaned. The meat is packaged and flown back to Oahu, where it's kept in a freezer at their home for the family to enjoy all year long.
Raphael's first successful hunt happened two years ago while she was participating in the Lanai Youth Hunt, which is open to hunters ages 15 and under. Raphael says her favorite part about hunting is spending time with her father.
"I enjoy being with my dad. He works two jobs. He's a fire investigator and a pilot. It's my way of just hanging out with him. It makes me really happy when he has that proud look on his face, and that I'll pass the tradition on."
Ninth grader Naiya Raphael, left, with her father, right, together at the Lanai Youth Hunt. Photo courtesy: Naiya Raphael.
Another part of that tradition is practicing gun safety and responsible habits. At home, all of the guns are locked in a safe with no ammunition loaded inside. They also adhere to very strict safety protocols when they're at the shooting range or hunting in the field.
Raphael is a member of the PAC-5 sporter air riflery team. When comparing hunting to sporter air riflery, she says the rifle (versus the semi-automatic used for hunting) has a much lighter bullet that is "small and cute." She's also getting used to the rigorous standing positions and postures required for the sport. She describes them as sore and uncomfortable, but so far she's enjoying the challenge of learning something new.