Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, January 19, 1999

Surprise pig hunt
an eye opener

By Leslie Lang

Special to the Star-bulletin


I don't hunt. There are women who enjoy hunting, but I'm not one of them. I like to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book.

Sluggard though I am, I can be convinced to occasionally go for a hike. So one day recently, my boyfriend and I took the dogs for a romp in the mountains at nearby Pauka'a, outside of Hilo on the Hamakua coast.

Out There At first it was fun, watching the dogs run full-on through ditches of muddy water, and otherwise act like dogs. But then they cornered a wild pig, and suddenly we weren't hiking anymore.

We were hunting.

My boyfriend and I barreled through the forest toward the barking dogs. He called out, "If something happens, stay by a tree." It seemed like absurd advice -- we were surrounded by trees. He said, "I mean, one you could climb if a wild boar ran toward you."

The idea of personal danger occurred to me for the first time. When he said, "Wait here," I waited uneasily by a tree and wished the drama was over.

He had come prepared with a rifle. We weren't planning to hunt, he had explained before we left, but the dogs didn't know that. I heard a shot,and then he called me.

He was standing shin-deep in a gully filled with muddy water. In front of him was a huge black boar, maybe 200 pounds, dead. Only the boar's back showed above the water. It reminded me of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, where your boat cruises alongside hippopotami with just their backs protruding until they stand up and scare you, unless you've taken the ride twenty times before.

The dog Hoku pulled persistently at one of the pig's ears. My boyfriend put the dogs up on the bank near me, and started cutting up the pig. I looked away, and realized the dogs were badly hurt.

Keni, the least injured, had a four-inch gash in her stomach. Kule'a was in shock and shaking, with open wounds near her jugular and on her chest, and a couple other deep gouges. But Hoku looked the worst of all. She was tugging at her skin with her teeth and lifting up the whole outer layer. I could see all the pukas. Her stomach looked like what's left of rolled-out cookie dough after you've cut the cookies from it with a round cutter.

He cut off the pig's head, and threw it next to me on the bank. "Move it so it doesn't roll back down," he said. Instantly, I knew there was a limit to what I was willing to do in this life. "I don't pick up pigs' heads," I said firmly. "I need you to help me," he said, just as insistently. I hesitated, and then picked it up by the ear and swung the head to level ground.

My boyfriend couldn't see the dogs and didn't realize how injured they were. I convinced him we had to leave the pig and get help for the dogs.

He carried the 65-pound Kule'a out through the brush. We put the other dogs in the back of the truck, and he laid Kule'a in my lap. I held her tight as we bounced over a bad dirt road for half an hour. "We're almost there," I lied. Her breathing got louder and raspier. She and I were both covered in her blood. I've never been so relieved to see a paved highway.

The vet operated immediately, and the three injured dogs stayed overnight. We drove right back to look for Poppi, who'd been missing when we left. She's the friendly, good-natured dog my boyfriend has had the longest.

We didn't find her, though we kept looking for her. It's not unusual for a hunting dog to turn up after three days, he told me, or even a week. Five days later, when I'd almost given up hope, we got a call. She'd wandered onto someone's macadamia farm. She was fine. I was ecstatic to see her again.

"That was a bad time, your first experience hunting," my boyfriend told me. "It's never been this bad before. I've had dogs that needed a cut sewn up before, but I've never come home without any of my dogs."

It was my last experience, I told him. It's dangerous and it's scary and I hate that these dogs I'm bonded with get injured and lost.

I understand that he likes to hunt, that he doesn't do it only for sport but uses much of the animal, and that there are valid reasons for hunting. I know that fresh meat tastes good.

It's a complicated issue, this hunting thing. I'd rather he not do it, now that I have seen the potential danger first hand. I'm not even much of a meat eater.

I'll have to come to terms with the hunting. But I'm not picking up any more severed pigs' heads, and I've made that abundantly clear.

Leslie Lang is a writer and airline employee
who lives in Pepeekeo on the Big Island.

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