Where the Wild Things Are: Maui Pig Hunt

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pig hunting
Lopaka doubles as a kind of forest docent, pointing out edible and medicinal plants along the way.

Today his survival skills are providing his family with more than wild meat. Lopaka is a licensed hunting and fishing guide and the namesake behind Lopaka’s Aloha Adventures. When he’s not leading expeditions, he volunteers with Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve to eradicate nuisance pigs.

Growing up here, I never had to be formally taught that wild pigs are problematic. It’s just one of those things you understand, living in “the endangered species capital of the world.” Opportunistic ungulates such as feral goats and sheep have contributed to the problem, but pigs are the worst.

It’s widely believed that early Polynesians introduced Asian domesticated pigs to these islands as early as the fourth century. Small in comparison to today’s feral porkers, these pigs remained around the family compounds and were a valuable protein source. When Captain James Cook arrived in the late 1700s, he introduced larger European swine, thought to be ancestors to today’s feral versions.

maui pig hunting
He learned subsistence hunting by shadowing elder family members, and today shares some of that knowledge through his business, Lopaka’s Aloha Adventures.

These indiscriminate rototillers root up and devour native plants, and spread invasive seeds through their feces. Meanwhile, their muddy wallows are breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry avian diseases. The list goes on: tusking that degrades trees, rooting that increases soil erosion and water runoff, and transmission of pathogens that diminishes water quality.

Lopaka agrees to let me and photographer Mike Neubauer accompany him, albeit reluctantly. Local hunters tend to be tight-lipped about their favorite spots, which may be on private land, and a pig hunt can be dangerous for the inexperienced. We’ll only be observing, since for me to hunt legally—that is, wield a weapon—would require passing a safety course and obtaining a license. Lopaka’s clientele primarily includes seasoned hunters wanting to experience Hawai‘i-style “dog and knife” hunting.

We agree to meet in a mall parking lot for a crack-of-dawn start, and when Mike and I arrive ten minutes early, Lopaka is already there. He’s dressed in a mud-stained orange shirt and cargo pants, and sports a no-fuss buzz cut and bristly beard. From a distance, you’d veer from him in a dim alley; up close, his kind eyes and boyish grin are magnetic. He exudes the warmth you’d expect from a hotel concierge, offering us boots, snacks and water bottles, then handing us matching shirts with his company’s logo on the front.

In the truck bed behind him, Lopaka’s four-legged crew is silent except for the pitter-patter of paws. Their GPS collars connect to a handheld device that tracks each dog by name. Secured in a metal enclosure, they are packed like a bus full of kids on their way to school. Or in this case, work.

Local pig hunters seldom use guns. In theory, dogs locate the pig, then corner or pin it down long enough for the hunter to arrive and finish it off with a knife. In reality, this method is far from simple.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Aloha Lehia,

    Great article! Could definitely feel the thrill of the hunt. Nice work on the harvest from the trap as well. It is never easy to take a life but to help protect our delicate ecosystem it is sometimes necessary. We also set a trap to get pigs on our property and have found a delicious recipe for Chile verde that is an awesome preparation for the harvested meat. Try this one out when you have enough cubed meat for a crock pot full.

    INGREDIENTS

    4-5 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cubed
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    28 ounce canned tomatillos (I use fresh and roast them over a flame before tossing in the blender.
    ½ cup onion chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    14 ounce green enchilada sauce
    16 ounce salsa verde
    4 ounce diced green chilies
    ½ Tablespoon cumin
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 tsp salt
    2 Tbsp cornstarch
    INSTRUCTIONS

    In a medium sized skillet, add olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Brown the sides of the pork and add them to the slow cooker.

    In a food processor add the tomatillos and blend until smooth. Add it to the slow cooker alone with chopped onion, garlic, green enchilada sauce, salsa verde, green chilies, cumin, dried oregano, and salt.

    Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4. An hour before serving, take out 1 cup of juice from slow cooker and whisk it with the cornstarch. Add it back to the slow cooker and allow to thicken and cook for about 1 more hour.

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