Where the Wild Things Are: Maui Pig Hunt

maui pig hunting
Pigs mark their territory by tusking and rubbing, removing bark from trees and exposing them to harmful insects and pathogens.

It’s still dark when we hop into Lopaka’s truck to start our expedition. He shares stories about growing up “in the boonies,” and reveals that his family roots in that valley trace back ten generations. Pretty soon we trade pavement for what looks like a dried riverbed. As we pass a pair of firmly worded “NO TRESPASSING” signs, I’m relieved to be entering this place with Lopaka. Our speed—or lack thereof—is better suited for a parade, but is necessary to navigate these muddy potholes and stray boulders.

“How often do you replace your shocks?” Mike jokes.

He’s met with a look that I interpret as “You don’t wanna know.”      

When we arrive at our first spot, Lopaka drops the tailgate and seven dogs speed past in every direction. Their noses trace the forest floor, until, at Lopaka’s command, they come leaping back to us.

We hike under old-growth mango and ‘ulu (breadfruit) trees, past spiky hala (pandanus) formations and strawberry guava thickets. The dogs zig and zag around us, prompting advice from Lopaka: “If a dog is coming from behind, let ’em pass,” he warns. “They’re friendly, but they’re clumsy.”

They are also on assignment. Following a scent, they work as a team—sprint ahead, dart up the ridgeline, circle back, repeat. In contrast, we tread steadily and slowly, tracing their spastic lead. I’m instructed to use my “library voice” to avoid accidentally summoning the dogs back to us. Besides, those clever pigs can hear us, too.

As the dogs run literal circles around us, Lopaka is visibly in his element. He looks like a Hawaiian Edward Scissorhands as he waves a machete inches from his face to carve a path through the dense underbrush. His head swivels in every direction, looking for the signs: disturbed earth on the mountainside, animal tracks under his feet, muddy wallows besides the riverbed. We pause next to a mango tree, and Lopaka points to a splintery gash at its base.



  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.


    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

    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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