Buy Your Bullets Now

With deer season over for most people in the U.S., thoughts often move to ice fishing (for us northerners) or open water fishing, or maybe even some small game hunting to finish out the year. But NOW is the time to start prepping for those sunny days at the range. I’ll tell you why…

1. Closing of the last primary lead smelting plant in the United States. There has been a lot of speculation on the effects of closing the Doe Run plant in Herculaneum, Missouri . While it is true that bullet lead comes primarily from the secondary market (recycled lead), we’re talking 120 billion pounds of lead that will no longer be in circulation. The supply is the supply and when supply is reduced without a reduction in demand, costs will go up. It is inevitable that the cost of bullets and batteries will increase in 2014 as a result in the reduction of lead supply and the need to import lead. So buy your bullets now. This applies to not just muzzleloader bullets but all your bullet needs. I’m not saying to go out and clear the shelves, but start buying.

2. Availability. It seems with the exception of shotgun shells bullet availability is hard to come by. I have a 9mm pistol and it has been a real challenge finding ammunition for it, and with shooting season coming up I’m starting to get a little worried! Muzzleloader bullets don’t have quite the same problem but why risk it?

3. Clearance. Some retailers may be putting their muzzleloader bullets on clearance now that muzzy season is over. Take advantage! I’ve seen 15 packs of 200 grain Shockwaves for $8 – which is a steal compared to the retail price. Keep an eye out for deals.

4. Regulations. California recently banned lead ammunition which will go into effect in 2019. I see this as creating demand for both lead and non-lead ammunition. Non-lead ammo is expensive and will only get more expensive as non-lead metal prices continue to rise and regulations force demand in the non-lead direction. Just like the stock market credo – Buy Low Sell High, buy your ammo while it’s low.

5. In the spirit of the Second Amendment. “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” If we are going to use the Second Amendment protections to keep our firearms, we should back it up by being ‘well regulated’. When the Bill of Rights was written, “well regulated” meant being well disciplined, trained, and arms (as stated by Alexander Hamilton). Having a gun in the cabinet with no ammo does not jive with the spirit of the Second Amendment. Get your ammo and practice, practice, practice!

How much ammo you need is up to you but here’s what I would shoot for:

Muzzleloader: 300 rounds

Shotgun: 250 rounds each of buck shot, bird shot, and slugs

Rifle (for each caliber): 2000 rounds

.22LR: 5000 rounds

Happy Ammo Hunting!!!

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Venison Marsala

Tonight I tried my hand at Venison Marsala! For this recipe I used a top round roast that was butterflied before being packaged.

Ingredients:

  • Seasoning Salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms (I used button mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup of beef broth (preferably venison broth, but I haven’t made mine yet!)
  • 2 green onions with tops – chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of Marsala wine
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

1. After thawing the steaks in the refrigerator for 3 days (remember to wash the blood off every day) I rubbed them down with salt and washed thoroughly.

Butterflied Top Round Steaks

2. Next I cut each in half down the butterfly line.

3. Tenderize each piece using a meat tenderizer, working from the middle out to the sides on each side. After tenderizing each piece should be about 1/4″ thick. Then dust with seasoning salt.

Tenderized Top Round Steaks

4. Mix the flour, salt, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Dredge the meat through the flour mixture covering both sides.

5. Heat a skillet (cast iron baby!) over medium high heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter.

6. Once the butter is hot, lay the meat in the pan and sear for about 2 minutes or until just browned. Turn over and repeat on the other side. Once both sides have been browned, remove from heat.

7. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and reduce to medium heat. Once butter is melted, add the mushrooms and onions. Sautee until mushrooms are tender.

8. Add the Marsala wine, lemon juice, and broth.

9. Bring to a simmer and add the meat back in to the pan and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.

Simmering up some magic

10. Remove meat from the pan, pour a little gravy on top (don’t forget some mushrooms), garnish with parsley and serve!

The results are absolutely mouth-watering! Even a cut that most people would throw in a stew or send to the grinder was fall-apart tender and the gravy that was a result of the simmering process will end with clean plates and a pan that’s licked clean. Seriously, it’s that good. I get dizzy just thinking about how awesome this was.

Venison Marsala

I have a hunch this recipe would work equally well for bottom round or tip sirloin steaks. Backstraps deserve the grill (my humble opinion). Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed!

Eye of Round Medallions

The eye of round generally gets ignored on a whitetail, which is a damn shame. It is a lean piece of meat that is perfect for ‘steak’ and eggs. Don’t grind up that beautiful strip of goodness! At the very least, use the eye of round for kabobs or a stew.

As I was cutting up and packaging one of the hind quarters I unfolded the eye of round from the top and bottom rounds and just couldn’t resist – I HAD to fry up some fresh venison. I butterflied the eye of round into medallions that were about 1/2″ thick. I fired up the cast iron skillet (medium high), and threw in a couple pats of butter and seasoned the medallions with salt and pepper.

Once the pan was hot I tossed in the medallions and fried on each side for a couple minutes so they were medium rare.

On their own they were pretty good,  but they would be perfect as a side companion to some eggs, or as the meat component of Eggs Benedict (hollandaise sauce would be delightful on these little chunks of deliciousness). The possibilities are endless. It’s just too bad each deer only has two of them!

I’ll be sure to try the eye of round a couple different ways this year. The next time I try them will be in Eggs Benedict. Stay tuned!

 

 

A Year of Deer (recipes)

Many people ask me “What are you going to make out of your deer?” They expect a “snack sticks, sausage, bologna, and jerky” response. To that I say HELL NO! My deer is pure, untainted by hormones and processed feed. Why would I mix in 50% beef or pork and reduce the awesomeness of venison? Sure, there will be an item here or there where I’ll add some pork fat but that will be the minority of what I do with venison.
What else can you do with venison besides grind it up and turn it into sausage? Well that’s what I’m going to chronicle. I’m shooting for at least one meal of venison per week. I’ll post the recipe and pictures (when I can).

Grilled Backstraps
Very few cuts on a deer are as coveted as the backstraps. When cooked to rare or medium rare there is nothing as tender and mouth watering than a backstrap. This past week the temperature rose to a balmy 21 degrees so I thought I’d capitalize on the warm weather and do some grilling!

The Prep:
The backstrap I used was cut into two 7-inch pieces and came off a yearling doe I took during a management hunt. I let it thaw in the fridge for three days, drying it off each day and loosely covering it in plastic wrap.
As I let the coals warm up I soaked 2 cups of hickory chips in water and seasoned the backstraps with salt and pepper.
I adjusted the grill so the coals were about 4″ from the grate. When the grill temp got to 450 I drained the hickory chips and sprinkled them over the coals and gave it a couple minutes to start smoking.

The Grilling:
I let the grill get back up to 400 degrees and added the backstraps, letting them to grill for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes I gave them a quarter turn – this puts those lovely grill marks on the top. Another 2-3 minutes and they were ready to flip.
I let them grill on the opposite side for 5 minutes and then removed them from direct heat and placed them on the far side of the grill for another 5 minutes to finish while I got the table ready.

The Finish:
Pull the backstraps from the grill and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice into 1/4″ or thinner diagonal medallions.

The yearling doe backstraps were so incredibly tender I didn’t even use a knife to cut the medallions, I just used the side of my fork. They turned out a perfect medium rare – which is what my family likes. The hickory chips gave it a slight smokiness on top of the grilled taste that was absolutely delectable.

If you’re accustomed to wrapping them in bacon or marinating them, give this a try. You won’t be disappointed!

After the Shot

As most deer seasons come to a close it’s time to focus on the fruits of our labor – VENISON! Yes, I know this is a muzzleloader blog but I’m near certain that most people shoot muzzleloaders as a means to harvest big game and not just for target practice. So as a part of our evolution as front-stuffer enthusiasts I feel it is important to discuss what to do AFTER THE SHOT.

There is a good percentage of hunters that take their deer to the processor once it’s field dressed. If that’s you, more power to you. But as far as I’m concerned I want to be involved with every step and feel more connected to the hunt so I choose to process it myself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of such a task, take heed. It isn’t as hard as you’d think! I’m a simple cube dweller and I was able to do it. Through the magic of Youtube I was able to learn how to identify specific cuts of the deer and package my own deer like a pro (albeit not as efficiently).

Here is a great Youtube series from Dead On Hunting showing you how to butcher your own deer. I must have watched each video six times to get the process ingrained in my head. If you get lost along the way just remember the words that a wise man once told me, “Just follow the bone!”

Good luck and good eating!

2013 Deer Season in Review

This year was perhaps my best deer season ever. Let’s recap..

Regular Firearms Season

This was the first time in 15 or so years that my dad has hunted with me. While he didn’t get to fire a shot it was great having the old man at deer camp to swap stories with. Hopefully we can keep this going as a tradition.

As always we had to spruce up deer camp a little bit. So this year we added lighting:

Deer Camp

I stepped outside of my comfort zone and left the deer stand and opted to hunt the ridges (which was physically taxing!). This blessed me with the biggest buck of my lifetime (which isn’t saying a whole lot) – a seven point, 159.98 pound buck.

That buck decided to fall all the way  down the bluff and enter a farmer’s pasture. A pasture in which he rents out to campers. So there are campers surrounded by cows. Weird.  Getting the deer out was a pain due to one hot-head camper that didn’t think I had any right to retrieve my deer. Long story short, I got my deer.

That deer scored me first place for the 160 and under division in the Big Buck Challenge (www.usbigbuck.com). First place earned me a 5′ x 10′ utility trailer! This was undoubtedly my 15 minutes of fame that put me on cloud nine for about a month. Make that two months.

Trailer

Management Hunt

My cousin and I were lucky enough to get drawn for the special management hunt at Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve near Prior Lake, Minnesota. With UNLIMITED tags, we had high hopes. The first day was cold, windy, and the only deer I saw were 2 does and 2 fawns 5 minutes before shooting time. My cousin kept getting busted before he could get his gun up.

Day 2 was much different. I did get to shoot early in the day but it was a swing and a miss (I’m blaming the brush). So I got mobile (since that worked for me earlier in the season) and began slowly creeping through the woods. I jumped a doe that was bedded down under a fallen tree and she ran over a ridge. Thinking maybe I could get a shot at her I went to the top of the ridge and meandered in the direction she went. Out of the corner of my eye I saw three deer crossing a land bridge between two sloughs and walking in my direction! So I reverse course, go to the side of the ridge where the deer couldn’t see me and circle back to try and cut them off. My guesstimate paid off because when I came to the top of the ridge the adult doe was standing broadside at 75 yards. I put the crosshairs on her shoulder and the CVA Accura ignited 110 grains of Triple 7 powder, sending a 300 grain Parker Productions Ballistic Extreme down range dropping the doe in her tracks.

The other two ‘fawns’ (it’s a management hunt, everything was a target, and they didn’t have spots) didn’t know what happened and just stood there. After fumbling for my reloads I reloaded as fast as I could, found the next deer standing broadside and fired. The deer bolted 10 feet and dropped. At this point my adrenaline levels were through the roof!

The third deer was still there and eating acorns. So I reloaded again (still fumbling), and shouldered the Accura and found the third deer facing me and trying to figure out what I am. My only shot was a neck shot at 65 yards. I centered the crosshairs right below the white patch on her neck and fired. She dropped instantly. All of this happened within 3 minutes (it could have been faster but time flies when you’re dropping deer left and right).

 photo SpecialHunt_zpsb34bc72f.jpg

We spent the rest of the day pulling deer out of the woods. Another first was we got to put our custom made ladder stand game getters to work. When the idea was conceived in The Wizard’s head, I’m sure three deer on one ladder stand was never in the vision. But it definitely got the job done! For the record, I would limit it to two deer per ladder stand going forward.

meat wagon

Muzzleloader Season

Muzzleloader season found me on private land for the first time this year. It was my wife’s first time out this year and we spent some quality time in the blind overlooking a deer highway. Apparently there was a traffic jam somewhere because no deer made in our view.

I also spent a few hours on some public wildlife management areas. My hopes never get too high this time of year and it was as expected. No deer. But four deer in a year is a pretty fantastic year in my book.

One thing I did notice while hunting public land was how cordial and courteous other hunters were. I think people are starting to understand that we’re all out there trying to have fun and nobody should expect to have the woods to themselves when hunting public land. Definitely a good sign for deer hunting in Minnesota.

Why A Muzzleloader?

Some people ask me why I hunt with a muzzleloader during the regular firearms season. Some ask why – period. So here are my top 10 reasons to use a muzzleloader, in no particular order.

10. It extends your hunting season. Many states have a late season muzzleloader hunt. Why end your deer hunting after the firearms season? If you like quiet in the woods the late season is where it’s at. Plus landowners will be more willing to let you hunt after the regular firearms season.

9. I choose the ingredients. I get to choose the bullet, powder, and primer. The load I choose was developed over hours on the range and it’s customized to my gun. It’s like grandma’s sugar cookie recipe. After she mastered it each bite is perfection.

8. More challenging than a modern firearm. No doubt muzzleloaders now-a-days have a lot of modern features, but they are still one-shot ponies. Knowing that you only have one shot to put that deer down increases the challenge of the hunt and makes the reward that much sweeter.

7. Forces discipline. When you have 5 rounds in the magazine you may be tempted to gamble on some shots. Running deer, long distance deer, deer in the brush are some of the shots I hear people taking that require follow up shots. You cannot be as cavalier with a muzzleloader. You have one shot, make it count.

6. The process. I love the whole process of shooting a muzzleloader. Clean it, pour powder in, start and load the bullet, prime it, fire, and clean it again. I feel it detoxes my system from stress.

5. More stuff. Yes, I get to buy more stuff. Muzzleloading requires a lot of stuff. And some of that stuff is trial and error, like bullets, powder, and primers. But the fun part is seeing how well those components work together.

4. Brings me closer to the game. It’s like baking your own bread versus buying it. You are involved with what goes into it and you hand-crafted the bread. Loading each component instead of just sliding a cartridge in the chamber makes me feel closer to the game that I take. And that makes me feel closer to nature, which is a purifying feeling after sitting in a desk in front of a computer all week.

3. Innovation. WHAT??? Isn’t a muzzleloader from the 1700s? True, the concept is, but there have been so many innovations in the past 30 years in regards to in-lines, powders, primers, bullets, and other components that it’s just a very exciting time to get into muzzleloading. Up and coming companies like LHR and rejuvenated companies like CVA are coming out with great products in some affordable price ranges. And then there are the smokeless options…sorry, starting to drool.

2. Affordability. I know this kinda contradicts the “More Stuff” point, but once you have all the starter components, the muzzleloader itself is pretty darn cheap compared to a rifle. For example, I picked up a CVA Wolf that didn’t appear to even have a shot fired from it for $100. I got a scoped CVA Accura V1, brand new, with a case, for $240. There are other brand new options out there from Traditions that will get you going for under $200. A new muzzleloader is a lot easier to get past the wife than a new rifle. The only thing that gets expensive is the components. So buy in bulk.

1. Great for new shooters! Muzzleloaders can be loaded with smaller powder charges so you can get your kids out shooting light loads. You can’t do that with grandpa’s 30-06. As they get older you can increase the charge accordingly.