Feb 3, 2012

Axis Deer Problems in Hawaii

Like everything else here in Hawaii, the Axis deer were introduced to these islands by well meaning people. When my wife and I moved to Hawaii years ago, we were surprised that they even had deer way out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We were told that they were called the “barking deer”, because they make this shrill, high-pitched short bark in the middle of the night. I presume they are calling one another for some sexual reason, but I don’t speak deer. The Axis deer is also called “spotted deer”. It is a beautiful medium-sized deer, slender and graceful. The coat is a bright reddish-fawn covered with permanent white spots and has a dark dorsal stripe. Antlers are long and beautiful. Its behavior is gregarious, living in groups of 5-10, although herds of more than 100 have been seen. Some herds contain all ages and sexes, others have only females and young, or only males, and the herd composition changes constantly. As is usual with tropical deer, Axis breed year-round, so there will be some males with hard antlers at all seasons. Rutting males fight frequently and furiously for females, injuring each other and breaking tines in the process. Females typically produce one fawn, sometimes two. They have a lifespan of 9-13 years. The Axis deer are mainly grazers, preferring grassland and open forest. It rests during the hotter part of the day, but may become nocturnal when temperatures are very high or when molested. It does not tolerate cold climates because it lacks the necessary layers of insulating fat. Their eyesight is excellent, hearing and sense of smell are good. Principal predators are hunters and wild dogs.

They are native to India where they go by the name ‘Chital’. Outside Asia, Axis deer have been introduced in eastern Australia, and in parts of Europe, South America, and North America including Hawaii. The Axis deer were first introduced to Moloka’i and O’ahu in 1868, Lana’i in 1920, and more recently, brought to the island of Maui in 1959 by order of the State legislature “as a game species with reportedly low reproductive potential.” Nevertheless, from the introduction of just 9 deer, the population is believed to have grown to 12,000 on Maui alone. There are now reports of Axis deer on the Big Island of Hawaii. They have become a major problem because of over population and crop destruction, especially row crops, coffee and tree crops, not to mention the damage they are doing to the environment and personal property, including mine.

Hunting deer here on Moloka’i has been a way of life for many years. The dark red meat of the Axis deer has been a huge source of protein for Hawaiian families. Unfortunately the Axis deer and goat population explosion has gotten out of hand on this island. I fear that soon, measures will be taken to eradicate this beautiful but invasive species from Hawaii all together.

Venison on Moloka’i is the best I have ever eaten. The meat is low in fat, calories and cholesterol and is more richly flavored than beef. The meat has no ‘gamey’ taste, unless it is from an older buck. The meat is more tender and better tasting if it comes from a younger doe. Venison tenderloin should be served rare to medium rare. Other tougher cuts, like the shoulder, need to be cooked low and slow, until the meat falls off the bone. The secret to cooking venison is to not change its flavor with marinades, soy sauce, vinegar or powerful spices. The goal is to keep the cooking process simple and let the meat speak for itself. You'll see what I mean with these simple and delicious recipes, give them a try.


Fried Venison Wontons
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted in water, and diced
fresh ginger root, size of a thumb, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup ground venison
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon celery leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili paste
24 wonton wrappers
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
canola oil for frying
1 small bottle sweet and sour Asian chili sauce like Mae Ploy brand, or make your own (recipe)

Take about 1/2 cup of dried shiitake mushrooms and cover with warm water for 1/2 hour. 

Peel the ginger and grate finely with the garlic cloves. Mix together the ground venison, grated ginger, and garlic into a bowl, add the soy sauce, and lemon juice. Leave to marinate for half an hour.

Drain the shiitake mushrooms and dice, combine with chili paste and chopped celery leaves. Now combine this mixture with the venison mixture.

Spread the wonton wrappers on a working surface and spoon one teaspoon of ground venison mixture in the middle of each wrapper. Brush the ends of the wonton wrappers with a little beaten egg white and press the wrappers' ends together, folding diagonally. Also press the sides firmly with your fingers to prevent the meat juices from running into the oil when frying.

Brush the folded wontons with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. The sesame seeds will stick to the wontons.

Heat the oil to 320°F and fry the wontons for two minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve in small bowls. Serve with sweet and sour Asian chili sauce in small sauce dishes. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Venison Tenderloin
2 pounds venison tenderloin (backstrap), cleaned of all sinew and cut into two pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon coarse cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1⁄4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup beef or chicken stock
2 teaspoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste.

Marinate venison in olive oil, thyme, and black pepper for 2 hours to overnight. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Heat a heavy-bottom sauté pan or iron skillet over high heat until smoking hot. Add canola oil and sear venison on all sides until brown, about 4 to 6 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Flip meat over and place pan in oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 135˚F, about 6 to 10 minutes. Move venison to a plate, and tent with foil. In the same pan, add red wine and red wine vinegar. Reduce over high heat until thick and syrupy. Then add stock to pan and reduce until syrupy. Add butter to pan and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Cut venison on an angle and place venison on plates. Spoon sauce over the meat. Serve with wild rice and roasted beets gratin. This recipe is from my cookbook "Ambrosia". Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Venison Shoulder
This is a low and slow cooking recipe for the tougher cuts of venison like the shoulder.

1 shoulder of venison
1⁄4 cup bacon drippings or canola oil
2 onions, diced small
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1 celery stalk, diced small
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 apples, Granny Smith, cored and diced
2 ounces mushrooms, chanterelle mushrooms are my favorite
2 cups beef broth
1 cup apple juice
1 cup red wine
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 dash sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Season venison shoulder with salt and pepper. Over high heat, add oil to pot, then brown venison on both sides. Remove venison, then add onion, carrot, and celery. Reduce heat to medium and stir while cooking, until vegetables have become mahogany in color. Then stir in flour. When flour has been well incorporated, add garlic, tomato, apple, and mushrooms. Let mixture come to a boil before slowly stirring in beef broth, apple juice, and red wine. Raise heat to high and bring it to a boil again. Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, sugar, and venison shoulder. Reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover pot. Cook for 2 hours, or until meat begins to pull from the bone with a fork. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Remove from heat. Take out venison shoulder and carefully pull meat from the bone. Return meat to the cooking liquid until ready to serve. Serve with mashed potatoes, rosemary and parmesan cheese. This recipe is from my cookbook “Ambrosia”. Makes 6 servings.

Venison Kabobs
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves
8 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoons salt
1 pound venison kabob meat (tenderloin, shoulder, whatever you have, but the more tender the cut the better.)

Place the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, and salt in a jar and shake until well mixed. Cut the venison into 2-inch cubes and marinate in the sauce for 1/2 hour. Thread meat onto skewers. Lightly coat a grill with nonstick cooking spray, heat, and grill the venison until done, about 6 minutes total. Makes 4 servings.

Moloka'i Venison Stew 
with Kabocha Squash & Barley
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 large onions, chopped
10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 1/2 hour, stems removed and discarded
2 cups peeled, cubed kabocha squash (1-inch cubes)
1 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme, divided
1 1/2 pounds boneless venison shoulder or rump, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups low sodium beef stock
1 bay leaf
2 large cloves garlic, minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cups pearl barley
Water as needed (approximately 3/4 cups)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, onions, mushrooms, kabocha squash cubes, and 1 teaspoon of the thyme, stirring gently to coat vegetables. Cook vegetables until browned, then remove to a bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle venison cubes with salt and pepper. Brown venison, in small batches, in the Dutch oven, then transfer to a plate (add additional 1 tablespoon of oil if needed). When all venison is browned, return it to Dutch oven. Add beef stock, bay leaf, garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon thyme. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in barley. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir vegetables into stew. Cover and simmer until vegetables and barley are tender, about 45 minutes longer; add water as needed during cooking to keep mixture moist. If you want a thicker sauce, mix cornstarch with an equal amount of water. Stir into stew until mixture has thickened. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Remove bay leaf. Sprinkle stew with parsley and serve. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of merlot. Makes 4 servings.

Venison Meatloaf
2 pound ground venison, or hamburger meat.
1 pound ground pork if using venison
1 cup bread crumbs, or one slice of bread, torn into small pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup spicy BBQ sauce, or tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup ketchup, divided
1/4 cup oyster sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine venison, pork, bread crumbs, and onions and mix well. Mix with your hands to make sure ingredients are well blended. Add the milk, eggs, BBQ sauce, salt, pepper, and half of the ketchup to meat mixture and combine well. Put in a loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. Mix the other half of the ketchup with the oyster sauce. Spread over loaf and bake 1 hour or until done. Let set for 5 minutes before serving with my Rosemary Mashed Potatoes. Makes one loaf for 6 people.

Venison Meatloaf Meat Sauce
If you like meat sauce as much as I do, then what I do is double this recipe. One night I serve the meatloaf, or have meatloaf sandwiches, then I take the leftover meatloaf and make a meat sauce by adding my "Mamma Mia" Marinara Sauce with the crumbled meatloaf to a thick consistency. I then freeze the meat sauce in ice-cream containers. Then whenever I want pasta with meat sauce, I just defrost the sauce and mix it into the cooked pasta, topped with parmesan cheese.

No Fat Venison Burger
Most people add a minimum of 15% pork or beef fat to their ground venison because venison meat is so lean. This recipe uses no fat, with egg to bind, bread crumbs for softness, and seasoning for added flavor.

1 pound ground venison
2 tablespoons minced roasted garlic
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons worchestershire
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients together and form patties. Cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Caution, venison cooks quickly, so don't walk away from the stove. Serve on an onion bun with lettuce and tomato. A lot of people like to put mustard on their buns, but I like a 50/50 combination of ketchup and Asian oyster sauce. Makes 4 burgers.

Venison Chili
Cooking spray
1 pound ground venison
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Heat a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add venison; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in chili powder and next 4 ingredients (through black pepper). Add venison, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and tomato paste, stirring until well combined; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Add red kidney beans; cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Serve with "Iron Skillet Cornbread" . Makes 4 servings.

Note: I like to make this chili in taco salad. Simply make a dressing out of my Pico de Gallo salsa and add a small can of tomato sauce to it. Then crush up a bag of corn chips. Grate some carrots and cheddar cheese. Thinly slice a head of Napa cabbage, then mix everything together for a great salad.

Venison or Beef Jerky
You can use this same recipe with beef, using a London broil beef steak. My family has been using this recipe for many years and prefer to marinate the meat for 1 hour. Jerky should not be dry and tough, but rather slightly pliable. If you want to make a bigger batch, simply double or triple the marinade ingredients.

1 1/2 pounds venison or London broil beef steak, trimmed of fat
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Wright's concentrated liquid smoke
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Cut partially frozen venison shoulder, round or rump meat that has been trimmed of all fat and silver skin. The optimum thickness for jerky is 1/8 inch, cutting the meat against the grain (the length depends on how the meat you are working with is cut, generally 4 inches long is perfect, but smaller is fine. Don't cut the meat with the grain, or it will be tough & stringy.

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Put the venison or beef slices into a ziplock freezer bag and add marinade and seal the bag. Marinate, refrigerated for 1 hour. Knead the bag occasionally, to evenly distribute marinade.

Place strips on dehydrator trays and dry at 145˚F until leathery but still pliable. The drying time takes 4 to 5 hours, or until desired consistency is achieved. Keep refrigerated. Makes about 3/4 pound dry weight jerky.

Note: This recipe makes 1 cup of marinade.

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