The Paniolo Rib-eye Steak at Ko; a wild boar. Kaz Tanabe courtesy of Mutual Publishing

Into the Wild


On the hunt for local game

WHEN IT COMES TO WILD GAME in Hawai’i, there are three types of hunters: trophy hunters, those who hunt for the food, and then there’s Oliver Lunasco.

Lunasco is president of Oahu Pig Hunters Association, the only established hunting organization on the island. Call the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife when you spot hogs (or goats!) running loose on your property, and the phone number they give you will be Lunasco’s cell. He’s its go-to guy for wild game, be it Manoa, the Ko’olau or Wai’anae. (Back when the crew of Lost was filming on the North Shore, Oliver set traps and caught more than 50 hogs the first year and nearly 40 the year after.) Weighing in between 120 and 150 pounds, that’s a lot of pulled-pork tacos at craft services.

But that’s just the beginning. Each island is known for certain delectable game. On the Big Island and Lana’i, you’ll find Mouflon sheep, captivating and majestic with those curly horns and understandably popular among trophy hunters. Maui is overrun by axis deer, while exotic black ducks are found on Moloka’i. Kaua’i is home to black-tailed deer and a parade of upland game birds. But for those who hunt for food, eating has got to be the best part.

A while back I enjoyed local game in the form of rabbit prepared six ways (think grilled, sausages, sautéed and so on) by the talented Ed Kenny. With nothing to waste, it was the sausage I remember most, succulent and tender. I was hooked. Thanks to USDA regulations, the rabbit was prepared off-site at the home of a friend-all meat that comes from local hunting expeditions can’t actually be served at restaurants. This is most unfortunate for savvy diners, since the kind of meat you want is fresh, tender and wild. So when it comes to dining out, seek out restaurants that use locally farmed game that closely emulates that which exists in the wild.

Over at Waikoloa Resort on the Big Island, Chef Charles Charbonneau uses wild boar sourced from the now-legendary Lloyd Case to create savory smoked chorizo and house-made Portuguese sausages. And when wild boar isn’t available, the enormous crossbred boar-hogs produce equally juicy results. You’ll find these creations on the specials menu of Kamuela Provision Company, Hilton’s signature fine dining (with a to-die-for view) restaurant; stuffed into burritos and tacos served at Boat Landing Cantina (where chorizo fried rice is also an option!) and at the popular Big Island Breakfast at Water’s Edge. Case’s boar has drifted as far as Wailea on Maui, where Chef Pang at Fairmont’s (newly reopened) Ko

– gets as much of it as he possibly can before it sells out.

Hop over to Grand Wailea on Maui and pipi kaula shows up on the menu alongside local pork from Sakumoto Farms. And it doesn’t stop there. For special wine dinners, keep your eye out for beef-centric dishes. The meat comes from Maui Cattle Company, known for its impeccably cared for and harvested lamb. Back on O’ahu, Hilton Hawaiian Village features pork from Shinsato Hog Farm, the island’s only USDA-certified pork slaughterhouse. New Kailua restaurant, Cactus, brings in boar every other month. “We use nicer cuts of the beast for specials,” says chef and owner John Memering. The regular menu also features Big Island Boar Picadillo Empanadas.

But you say you want to catch wild game yourself? Skip USDA regulations and call Sonny Thater, owner of Hook You Up Outfitters (590-3355).

“Hunting isn’t just a sport-it’s also a way to control population, provide food as a substance and help the environment,” Thater says emphatically. He grew up hunting with his father and operates hunting tours with his business partner, Janice Ishihara. From them you’ll learn the basics of hunting that can only be taught by someone with a lifetime of experience. Their methods-bow and arrow, dog and knife, and high-powered rifles-paired with tracking and prey location techniques separate them from any other outfit. Hunt participants will typically venture in groups of four to eight; then spread into pairs to track the animals. It’s a full-day affair. Position yourself and keep quiet, as there are generally two opportunities to catch the game: just after sunrise when the animals graze, and in the afternoon when they return for a second feed. Feral hogs are another matter, since they’re nocturnal. Either way, you won’t return home empty-handed. Ready for dinner?

For home cooking, dishes like adobo and lau lau are at the top of everyone’s list. Surely it’s impossible to resist that beloved trifecta of fatty pork butt with salt butterfish, seasoned and wrapped in ti leaves. Venison is killer when simply salted, grilled and served loco moco-style, complete with gravy and a sunny side up egg. Smoking is a popular method with both pork and venison-Sonny marinates the meat in a shoyu, sugar and chili peppers for two days before hanging it in the smoker with kiawe and guava wood on a slow burn, four to six hours. It’s sliced and finish in a hot wok with plenty of onions, chopped garlic, oyster sauce and peppers… don’t forget to cook rice.

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