Editor choice

Maui Nui Venison: 2022 SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Award Winner – Maui County

The company helps manage invasive populations of axis deer while supplying meat products to local and continental customers.
Photo: Courtesy of Maui Nui Venison

Maui Nui Venison is a company with a mission: to humanely reduce the population of Axis Deer on Maui that is ravaging the environment.

“Axis deer are athletic and highly adaptable animals, and they have had significant negative impacts on our native ecosystems,” says Ku’ulani Muise, co-founder and brand manager of Maui Nui Venison.

“Hawai’i is incredibly unique because she’s incredibly vulnerable.”

Deer eat and damage ground plants, trees and crops, and trample bird nests. This destruction causes erosion, water runoff and deterioration of coral reefs, and threatens the islands’ freshwater supply.

The Axis deer, native to India, was introduced to Hawai’i in the 1860s and has been found on Maui since the 1960s. Their population has swelled into the tens of thousands because they lack competitors.

Muise says the Maui Nui Venison team uses forward-facing infrared cameras at night, which detect deer body heat, to pinpoint the location of the herd from afar.

“Deer are harvested entirely from the wild. …No deer are herded or corralled. The process is stress-free for the animal.

In July 2021, Maui Nui Venison opened a butcher shop on the island. She sells her products online at mauinuivenison.com to customers in Hawaii and the mainland.

“We’re really grateful,” says Muise.

“We’ve come this far because we’ve been working on it for a decade now and we’re really excited for the year ahead. We’re moving forward and getting closer to our mission to help balance the deer populations of the world. axis for the good of our environment, our communities and our food systems.

The company says it also gives back to the community. At the height of the pandemic, he launched the Holo ‘Ai program. In keeping with its name – holo ‘ai means “accelerating food to where it’s needed” – Maui Nui Venison says it has moved more than 130,000 meals to food insecure areas and donated more than 50,000 pounds of fresh venison to local food banks.

“We are community members who are always aware of our impact. It’s at the heart of what we do,” says Muise.