There is nothing fun about feeling at odds with nature. And perhaps no one understands this feeling quite like renowned big-wave surfer Shane Dorian, whose chosen profession requires him to go head-to-head against the planet’s fiercest waves. But heavy waves aside, the nature we’re referring to here is of the four-legged variety.
Rose-eating deer and rabbits dining on the kitchen garden’s root vegetables pale in comparison to the foe Dorian encountered when he moved his young family from Hawaii’s coast to its mountains, where he came face to face with the islands’ pig problem. Indeed, everything he planted in his garden would end up being destroyed by feral pigs.
Feral pigs are more than a nuisance in Hawaii--they upend everything in site. Known as opportunistic omnivores, they are an ongoing threat to Hawaii’s agriculture, forests, native wildlife, and the environment. "They rototill the planet," Dr. David Duffy, a biology professor at the University of Hawaii, told the New York Times in a recent article.
The article continues, “Feral pigs eat native plants and, through their scat, spread invasive ones like the forest-clotting strawberry guava. Indirectly, they slaughter birds--the stagnant, mucky wallows they dig breed mosquitoes that carry avian malaria.”
Hawaii long ago embraced hunting as a cultural mainstay, and allows for hunting year-round on any of its islands. Panoramic views, challenging terrain, and a plethora of game that can be hunted ethically such as goats, Axis deer, and feral and Mouflon sheep roam the mountains without any natural predators, making Hawaii a hunter’s paradise.
Given the islands’ and Dorian’s personal pig problem, he made a decision to start hunting, which quickly evolved into a passion. It also allowed for the autonomy he needed on his homestead, while becoming a teaching moment--and a sustainable meat source for his family.
GrindTV had a chance to connect with the surfer about his pastime, and this is what he shared.
How does a surfer cross paths with hunting--when did you start?
It was about eight years ago when I moved from the beach up to the mountains and started having problems with wild pigs digging up everything I planted. My neighbor was a bow-hunter and he introduced me to it--it took me only once to get hooked. From that point, I started bow-hunting the pigs around my house to manage their number and to attempt to discourage them from destroying all my plants and trees.
Where and what do you like to hunt with?
My favorite hunts are multi-day backpack hunts. On these, I carry my camp and provisions in my pack, and wherever I end up at the end of the day is where I set up camp each night. I love the adventure aspect of that kind of hunting trip, whether here in Hawaii, or in the Rocky Mountains. Deer is my favorite animal to bow-hunt because they are extremely difficult to get close to in the wild. Venison (deer meat) is also my favorite to eat, and my freezer is usually filled with what I’ve hunted and processed myself.
Tell us about your very first kill--what went down? How did you feel about it afterward?
It was a wild pig near my house in Hawaii. I made a clean shot and my buddy helped me butcher it while teaching me the basics of meat care. I was so happy that I got one, and yet when I walked up to it, I felt remorse and sadness for the life I had taken. I still feel that each time I harvest an animal, so I try to honor the animal by taking good care of the meat, and by using as much of it as I can.
What’s your set-up--what equipment do you use to hunt with and why do you like it?
I hunt exclusively with a bow. The silent nature of bow-hunting is appealing. Bow-hunting is also very difficult--in order to take the most ethical shot possible, I have to get within 40 yards (preferably 30 or less) of my target. The extreme challenge of bow-hunting adds to the experience--you really have to work hard to fill the freezer.
What’s the (unspoken) first rule of hunting?
Eat what you kill. That’s my first rule.
Can you share a recipe or tell us how you prepare the meat you hunt?
My go-to recipe is a pan-seared Hawaiian Axis deer steak. I defrost a loin, cut it into steaks, sprinkle it with Hawaiian salt and let them sit (just like beef steaks) until they get to room temperature. Then I coat a pan with avocado oil and quickly cook them, adding salt and pepper to taste. It’s very simple. We also make venison chili, and various roasts and crock pot meals using wild game. My family enjoys venison three to four times a week--my kids love it!
In your opinion is hunting becoming a lost art or is it finding new life?
Around where I live, a lot of people are getting into it. In Hawaii it’s much easier to be a hunter--most people have access to properties infested with pigs or deer, and you can legally hunt every day of the year, on every island. Hunting and fishing have been a way of life in Hawaii for a long time, so it’s very common. The same kind of people who are taking the time to grow their own veggies hunt. They prefer to feel connected to their food; they would rather eat the meat they’ve hunted than buy their meat from the store. I want my kids to learn that the meat they eat does not come in packages. I want them to make a connection and to have respect for the animals, and the meat, by helping me process the wild game I hunt.
Hunting big game comes with a bit of a stigma, but there is a sustainable need to hunt it on occasion. Have you ever hunted it? What are your thoughts on the subject?
“Big game” is anything larger than a bird or rodent. Deer, pigs, elk, goats, etc. are considered big game. I try not to judge others or tell them how or what to hunt, but personally I only hunt species that are so plentiful that the numbers need management through hunting, to maintain a healthy balance between the wildlife and the habitat they live in. To provide some perspective, there are currently an estimated 50,000 deer on the island of Maui. Prior to 1960 there were none. The herd will double every three to four years if left alone because they have no natural predators. If no one hunted them for a couple of years, the deer would not have enough food to survive and would die of starvation and disease. That kind of fact is not commonly known to non-hunters. It’s easy to say “let the animals live,” but if you do the research, it is not that simple--even if you are a vegan and/or animal lover.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
For those who are passionate about conservation and wildlife, get involved. No matter what your beliefs are, there are great organizations to join. Instead of judging people, get involved and make a difference if you feel strongly. The vast majority of funding for wildlife conservation comes from the sale of hunting licenses and tags, so hunters are not the enemy--quite the opposite. For those who are interested in bow-hunting, visit your local archery shop. They can get you started with the right information and equipment. And remember, if you hunt it, you eat it.
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