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.


  • 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


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!


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!

Antlerless Trio

Antlerless Trio

While hunting a special management hunt, these three deer (doe, doe, & button buck) came through a land bridge between two sloughs walking in single file. After the first doe went down the other two look around to figure out what happened. Fastest reloading of my life!

2013 Muzzy Buck

2013 Muzzy Buck

This buck was taken the first weekend of the Minnesota Firearms season with a CVA Accura V1, 300 Grain Parker Productions Ballistic Extreme, Black MMP short sabot, and a Fusion primer.

Last Minute Muzzy Hunt

Yesterday, December 8th, I was planning on going back to southeast Minnesota to hunt the morning and then pull stands out of the woods. The night before we had our first real snowfall so I was pumped to get over there and see some deer in the fresh snow. My excitement waned around 6 AM as I was driving through Rochester and realized THEY DIDN’T GET SNOW! 2.5 hours east of my home everything was dry and brownish green. On the bright side, I won’t need to test out how good my new tires are in snow and mud.

I got out to the stand around 7:30 AM, a little later than I wanted. I sat for about 2 hours without hearing or seeing anything so I figured I might as well get to work on getting the stands down. I first took a loop down the bluff and back up and found some potential stand locations for next year. I got the ladder part of the stand out to the truck and then my cousin showed up.

We went back in and grabbed the upper half of the ladder stand and hauled it out. As we were heading back into the woods for the second stand he said “Let’s grab the guns and do a drive”. I headed east of the cart trail and walked the edge of a creek at the bottom of the ravine. To the left of me was thick with young growth. I found a massive scrape and rub along with a well-worn game trail that will most likely be overseen by a tree stand next year.

As I pushed along the creek I heard a crashing head out of the thicket but saw nothing.  I came to the top of the ravine and met up with my cousin who said he saw four deer head “That Way!” We each climbed to the top of a bluff to see if we could see where they went. I took a bluff further to the north. As I walked to the edge of the bluff I looked down to my right and there stood a doe, just staring at me, about 25 yards away. I cocked the hammer put the sights on the shoulder and squeezed the sweet trigger of the CVA Accura and 110 grains of 777 FFG sent the 240 grain Harvester Scorpion PT Gold flying to hit it’s mark dead on. She dropped immediately, but being a bluff, began to roll downhill. I yelled “STOP!!!” as if that would do anything and luckily she rolled into a fallen tree to stop her from falling even further.

What an awesome deer season it’s been – all the way up until the second to last day of the muzzleloader season but we filled 5 of 5 tags.

Lessons learned from deer season this year:

  • Never pass up an opportunity to hunt just because you have “a couple hours”.  Opportunities present themselves in seconds and minutes so be ready when  the situation occurs.
  • For off-season preparation, include a number of ‘hunting scenario’ shots as well as shooting at deer targets. Black circles are fine to shoot at when finding groups but you need to prepare for deer and the multitude of angles they present themselves in. This includes the positions you may have to be in in order to make the shot. Very rare is the time when you get a straight off shot at a broadside deer.
  • If party hunting, set the rules, roles, and responsibilities prior to the hunt.
  • After the shot, immediately load a second shot. Even if your shot was on the money, you may have a shot at another deer.

Successful Muzzleloader Hunt

As the Minnesota deer season comes to a close, I’d like to share some successes of our hunt.

Our group of five camps in and hunts the awesome 3A zone of the state (southeast) which is currently under a three year APR (antler point restriction) that has produced some huge bucks in that area in the past couple years. APR as implemented in Minnesota means you cannot shoot a buck with fewer than 4 points on one side. On the flip side, your license allows you to shoot any antlerless deer. The APR does not apply to those under 17. So of course our expectations of seeing big bucks were high.

We hunt the regular firearms season, which means in this area you have two options A) shotgun using slugs or B) muzzleloader. 4 out of 5 of us are using muzzleloaders. Still working on converting the fifth man.

Day 1: Opening Day

As daylight was breaking on opening morning I heard a noise coming from my left. I look over my shoulder and I see a nice buck coming up the hill about 25 yards behind and to the left of me. I could see 3 tall points, but I could not see if he had brow tines. Being a lefty, a shot to my left is a bit challenging from a seated position so I intended to have him continue on his path until he was more in front of me. As he came up the hill I grunted at him to see if I could get his head to turn and identify the fourth point. He looked up, but not at me. He continued on his way. I grunted again, this time he stopped with his head behind a tree. He continued, this time he was 15 yards away, at about a 10 o’clock position from my stand, I grunted. He looked up and I confirmed, four points on one side. I quickly take the safety off, put the crosshairs on the vitals and BANG!!!! Only it wasn’t me that shot. The deer ran about 75 yards and toppled. This is the problem with hunting public land. Apparently a 15 year old kid had positioned himself 30 yards to my left behind a fallen tree and shot the deer. Since he didn’t have to count points, if it’s brown it’s down in his mind. Ugh…so nothing for me opening weekend.

This was the first year my wife took up hunting, and on top of it, hunting with a muzzleloader. She had never killed anything larger than a fly so there was some concern (on my part) that there would be some hesitation in pulling the trigger on a deer. 5 hours into opening day I heard the report of a CVA Accura V1 go off propelling a 200 grain TC Shockwave with 110 grains of 777 FFG powder. Being 100 yards away I look being me and see a cloud of smoke. My heart started pounding knowing my wife pulled the trigger on her first whitetail. Her ecstatic “I GOT ONE!” confirmed it. The results: a nice doe for the freezer.  I could not have been happier and it totally wiped away the sore feeling of having my deer shot from under me.

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The other half of our group hunts private land. Numbers of deer were not a problem. One guy, nicknamed ‘Vanilla Gorilla’ had a number of does prancing around his stand opening morning. He was sticking to a “bucks only” mentality for the first day so he didn’t pull the trigger on any.

‘Papa Smokepole’ saw nothing.

My cousin ‘Double Buck’ failed to connect on a 12 pointer blaming deflection as the reason his .40 caliber 200 grain TC Shockwave did not hit its target. I would say impatience and lack of range time are the culprits but that’s between him and the Lord.

Day 2: 

My wife, ever the team player, slept in on Sunday because she had already gotten her deer so the concept of party hunting is still foreign to her. But good for her, she got some sleep and then left to pick up the kids. It’s just the men from here on out.

Papa Smokepole finally got to drop the hammer of his .54 when a doe presented herself 15 yards away from his ladder stand. A well-placed shot to the neck dropped her on the spot.

Nothing else was had on day 2.

Weekend 2, Day 3: 

Nothing was seen in the big public woods (where my stands are) the second weekend – aside from some does running like a pack of zombie honey badgers was after them.

The private land was another story. Vanilla Gorilla was sleeping soundly in his stand when he heard a crash from behind him. He turned around and to his surprise – an 11 point buck was making his way 10 yards behind him. He raised his 870 slug gun and fired. As the deer ran off he fired 3 more like a typical slug gunner. Luckily the first one hit its mark and the deer dropped.

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Interesting note: That buck stunk from the minute he hit the ground. When we went to cut him up we found out why.. gangrene. He was apparently injured by an antler to the neck which started the infection. You haven’t smelled stink like a buck infected with gangrene.

Firearms Deer Season Total: 3

Muzzleloader Season: 

Minnesota muzzleloader season starts on 11/24/12 and runs through 12/9/12. The only difference when using a muzzleloader for muzzy season versus firearms season is you cannot use a scope. So the scope came off the Accura and iron sights went on and off to Papa Smokepole’s house we went to sight in iron sight muzzys. I used a different load this time – 240 grain Harvester PT Scorpion Gold bullets in a black ribbed sabot and 110 grains of 777 FFG.  At 50 yards I can get them touching on paper. We’re ready to rock some whitetails.

Since I wanted to stay close to home I headed to the Minnesota Valley Recreational Area.

Just driving through the state park  I saw a big fat doe on the side of the road. A good sign for sure.

I parked the truck and proceeded to slowly walk into the woods. About 50 yards I kick up a deer – sex unknown as I only saw tail. I saw nothing after that. And it was 8 degrees so needless to say my motivation for staying out in the cold was nil.

On the way home I stopped at a farmer’s house and asked permission to hunt his land. He graciously said yes and the next morning I headed out to my new-found hunting grounds.

It’s a beautiful area of oaks and ravines that carve out the agricultural landscape. The Rush River forms the northern border of the property and there are two hay fields nestled in the river valley, separated by a strip of trees and access via a trail that cuts through the trees of the ravine.

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I walked out to the hay fields Sunday morning and as I came into the opening I thought ‘wow, whitetail mecca’. As I was standing in the grass land looking for a potential spot to post a deer made its way down the ravine and into the grass land about 100 yards in front of me. The deer looked up at me and I froze. We played this game for a good 30 minutes as I made my way closer to identify whether it was a buck or a doe. I got to the point where I was convinced it was a doe so I slowly inched my way to the woods on the edge of the field to sit and watch (in this zone it’s bucks only unless you have an antlerless tag). A minute later the deer followed and entered the woods in front of me.

The deer was munching on acorns and strolling by behind me. I looked at the deer broadside and saw the she was actually a HE – a young spike buck. I took all of 1/2 a second to decide to pull the trigger and the Accura let loose a 240 grain Harvester PT Scorpion Gold. The deer dropped 10 yards later.

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I got the deer home and skinned and de-boned that day and vacuum-sealed the tenderloins and backstraps. I then brought them to the landowner and thanked him for his generosity. It isn’t every day a landowner lets a perfect stranger hunt his land and for that I am very grateful.

This weekend Double Buck and I are headed out to the same location in attempt to go 5 for 5 for the 2012 deer season.

It’s been a great year so far and I look forward to munching on delicious deer sticks, ring bologna, and summer sausage all year long!