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SITKA Team | 5.2.2021

Hawaiian Axis Burger Recipe With Mark Healey

Mark Healey is a professional big wave surfer from O‘ahu who bow hunts on land and spearfishes off the coast as a way to provide food for himself, his family and his friends. He regularly makes the trek to the mountains of Maui to hunt axis deer, an invasive species that has no natural predators and is widely considered to be among the best-eating venison on earth.
Over 150 years ago, eight axis deer were gifted to King Kamehameha V of Hawai‘i; now there are over 30,000 on Maui alone, which impacts the native ecosystem.

Healey takes the meat back to Oahu where it goes into freezers for future meals, or he trades it for fresh vegetables from a friend’s garden or fruit from their trees. Hunting on and around the Hawaiian Islands follows traditional methods of gathering food, as well as sharing and trading within a local food system.

Healey believes that being part of the ecosystem, reading the moods and preferences of wild animals, and bringing home food he’s harvested “is the last punk rock thing left.”

Grilled Venison Burgers



  • 2 lbs. ground venison
  • 3/4t salt 1/2t pepper
  • 1t onion powder
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1/2C shredded cheese (in this case, Gruyere, but you can use cheddar or Colby Jack)

Toppings and side

  • Sliced tomato
  • Sliced onion
  • Sliced avocado
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lettuce
  • Garlic aioli
  • mustard
  • 8-10 shishito peppers (2-3 peppers are sliced for seared toppings; rest are whole for side)
  • 4 hamburger buns


  1. Start a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to 300 degrees
  2. Mix ground venison with all burger ingredients and form into 4 patties (If grinding your own venison, use shoulders and hinds)
  3. Set patties on grill Place 2-3 horizontally sliced shishito peppers on cast iron pan next to burgers
  4. Place remaining whole shishito peppers on grill (preferably above lower grill)
  5. Cook patties 10 minutes on one side; 8 minutes on other side, depending on your grill Flip/watch meat until desired doneness is reached (Since deer is so lean, Healey cooks the burgers until they are on the rare side of done: about 132 degrees)
  6. Turn/watch whole shishito peppers until they are evenly charred on all sides
  7. Lightly toast buns on grill
  8. Place burgers on toasted buns with toppings; whole grilled peppers on the side
  9. Serve burgers/peppers and drink beer