Different hunting grounds, same principles

KAUAI, Hawaii — Geographically and culturally, we were raised a half a world apart.

But Monday, Bernard Makuaole and I shared a lot of common ground.

Two old hunters are never at a loss for conversation.

He was born and raised in the amazingly rugged mountains of Kauai.

Back then, in the 1940s and '50s, electricity and plumbing weren't to be had in the remote high country.

Roads that weren't flooded after a modest rain were rare.

Most Hawaiians were largely self-sufficient, growing lots of fruit and vegetables and taking what meat they needed from the land and sea.

We met through my daughter, Lindsey. Makuaole was one of her first physical therapy patients after she reached the island for an internship.

That she helped heal his ailing knees was appreciated. That Lindsey was also raised on wild game and understood the draw of hunting strengthened their bond.

Hearing we were coming for a visit, the 69 year-old volunteered/insisted he give us a tour.

I had plenty of questions and he had much to show.

All week it had been obvious to me that hunting is a big deal to Kauai residents.

Pickup trucks are the most common ride and many held cages for hauling hog-hunting dogs into the mountains.

As we drove toward a distant beach, Makuaole explained most hunting on the island was for feral pigs and goats.

Dogs are normally used to find and bay hogs amid thick cover.

Goats, which Makuaole swears are delicious if cooked properly, are usually taken by spot and stalk hunting.

Kauai also offers hunting for assorted doves, upland birds and black-tailed deer. All were introduced from the U.S. mainland and other places.

As boy and man, hogs have been Makuaole's favorite.

Through a 30-plus year career in heavy equipment operation, he often left home late Friday afternoon, hauling a mule and several dogs.

He'd camp Friday night and let the dogs loose at sunrise on Saturday. Many days he'd get four or five pigs that averaged about 70-80 pounds.

The meat was boned on the spot of the kill, loaded in bags and eventually brought home to provide a week's worth of meat for family and friends.

And there has always been fishing and angling for crabs and lobsters.

His biggest catch was a marlin of 1,020 pounds. It was cleaned and shared with others.

Makuaole prefers the flavor of marlin weighing 100-150 pounds, though.

He's not much on catch and release and measures a trophy by the amount and quality of meat brought home.

Monday's afternoon island tour took us to scenic overlooks of jagged Waimea Canyon, where Makuaole was raised and enjoyed some of his best goat and pig hunting.

He also took us to a distant beach on Kauai's southwest coast. As a boy he and friends would surf and live off the land for days, hunting hogs and goats and feasting on assorted fish and other saltwater creatures.

A tree he planted more than 50 years ago to give shade to their old campsite still grows. It's seen in many scenic photos and paintings of the region.

As is usually the case when old hunters meet, we talked about more than just past kills and catches.

We spoke of good guns and great dogs and ways to prepare game.

That we enjoy the cooking and eating of game as much as the process of killing it was a common ground.

He, too, takes pride in sharing good game with those he knows will thoroughly enjoy it.

My wife Kathy and I hadn't been on the mainland long Thursday morning when Lindsey sent a text saying Makuaole had just dropped off some smoked venison steaks.

There were also venison burger patties seasoned with island specialties.

He had also offered an invitation to a weekend cook-out where more traditional wild favorites will be in great supply.

I wasn't too surprised.

Old hunters like us like nothing better than sharing the bounty with young hunters who most appreciate it.