Providing wild deer from Otago's high country

Kyle Davidson and Rachel Duell rarely get time to enjoy the view from their property on Papanui...
Kyle Davidson and Rachel Duell rarely get time to enjoy the view from their property on Papanui Inlet as they juggle business responsibilities with raising their children. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Wild venison crudo.
Wild venison crudo.

Throughout Otago, people with a love of food and fresh produce are turning out amazing products. For some its just a hobby, for others it has turned into their livelihood. Rebecca Fox reports.

A love of hunting and a need to get back outdoors was the impetus behind Kyle Davidson's new venture Red Tussock Venison.

''It's income over the winter. It's something I enjoy doing. I love the exercise.''

Mr Davidson, with partners Lindsay Kaan, of Kaan's Catering, and pilot Rob Wilson, supply many restaurants with wild deer and do a steady trade at the Otago Farmers Market with the help of partner Rachel Duell.

''Venison is an under-rated meat or misunderstood,'' Ms Duell saidWild venison did not taste ''gamey'', as many thought. Instead it was very mild, but rich, meaning people did not need as much of it, she said.

That also meant it was a more healthy meat as well.

Venison was very low fat, which meant it could be challenging to cook but the trick was never to leave it alone, even when cooking a loin.

''It's a Masterchef thing. You sear it in a hot pan, then put it in the oven for about 10 minutes then take it out and rest it for 10 minutes before you slice it.''

It was great diced in a winter stew, stir-fried quickly, as steak on the barbecue and even as mince in a variety of dishes.

''A lot of students buy it that way - and those making their own sausages.''

The company prides itself on providing wild deer from Otago's high country, shot on foot and by helicopter.

Mr Davidson leads the ground team because he enjoys the challenge.

''We do it on four-wheelers and walking - old style.''

He admits having his dog Rimu along made finding deer much easier thanks to the dog's finely trained sense of smell.

It was a concept about three years in the making due to the challenges of getting food safety accreditation and a processor, but they have now been in operation a year.

They also work hard at developing relationships with farmers and high country station owners - and for some it benefits both because it assists farmers to keep deer numbers at manageable numbers on some properties.

''We really wanted to see New Zealanders eating meat that came of our hills at a price that was affordable.''


Wild venison crudo
Serves 4

Fresh appetiser of Red Tussock wild venison crudo. Marinade with Otago manuka flower honey and rosemary vinaigrette, Parmesan shaved cheese and wild rocket from our garden. By Pedro TT, for Red Tussock NZ Ltd.



2x 200g Red Tussock Denver leg loins
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper


1 Tbsp Otago manuka flower honey
1 Tbsp white vinegar
50ml grapeseed oil
½ tsp rosemary leaves
½ tsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper


Wild rocket
Parmesan cheese
Nasturtium first leaves
Calendula flower



In a very hot fry-pan seal the loins, just few seconds per side. Season and reserve.

Whisk the honey and the vinegar in a bowl, until they mix with each other.

Keep whisking; slowly add the oil to emulsify. Then chop and incorporate the rosemary and the soy sauce. Season.

To serve

Place a spoonful of the vinaigrette on the plate. With a sharp knife, slice venison finely and place overlapping slices on the centre of the plate. Garnish with the leaves and the Parmesan shavings.


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