Imagine yourself on a solo hunt, and you’ve arrowed a big whitetail. You’ve found the animal, tagged it and taken pictures. Now you must get it out of the woods and into your vehicle. How do you do that?
First, field dress the animal. That means removing the animal’s organs and entrails, which helps cool the carcass and preserve the meat by slowing bacterial growth. It also lightens the load for the trip out.
Then, pick one of these options for getting the deer to your vehicle for the trip home.
1. Drive it Out
Can you drive close to where the animal fell? If a road or tractor trail is nearby, or the landowner or neighbor lets you drive off-road to reach it, you’re lucky. Drive in and load it up. That sounds easy, but loading 150 to 200 pounds of dead weight onto the back of a car, truck or four-wheeler isn’t easy. If your state allows, you could cut up and quarter the animal into manageable chunks.
Or you can use the landscape to your advantage. Position your vehicle at the base of a ditch or hill, and back up to the slope. Next, drag your deer down the hill and roll the carcass onto the vehicle. Bring a tarp, or large cooler if you quartered the carcass, to keep your car or SUV’s interior clean.
2. Cart it Out
If you can’t drive a vehicle to the site, consider using a game cart. A cart’s big wheels and low center of gravity make hauling an animal far easier than dragging it. Affordable carts cost $60 to $150.
3. Drag it Out
If wheeled vehicles aren’t possible, consider dragging your deer out. Most deer hunters use this option at some point, but it might not suit those with back or neck problems. It also requires strength. If you decide to drag out your harvest, use these tips:
- Hold the right spot: Grab the antlers or tie a short rope around its neck to pull the deer. Its legs will fold naturally backward to let you pull your deer past saplings or trees.
- Bring a ski-rope handle: Some ropes are slippery or difficult to hold. Consider using a ski-rope handle to make holding and pulling the rope easier. You can also make a handle from a sturdy branch or sapling. Tie your rope to the handle’s midpoint and pull.
- Use your safety harness: No rope? No problem. Attach your safety harness’s back-strap to the deer. The harness distributes the deer’s weight across your body and frees your hands to carry your bow and other gear.
- Grab a sled: Some folks store a sturdy sled in their vehicle so it’s ready when the need arises. Slide the carcass inside and pull. The smooth bottom glides more easily across the ground than a deer’s hide. Sleds work extremely well in snow or fields.
- Use a waterway: Water makes things feel weightless. If there’s a stream along the route to your vehicle, drag the carcass into the water and pull.
4. Carry it Out
If none of those options works, cut up and carry your harvest out in a backpack. This is often the best option when bowhunting deep in a forest or marsh where vehicles can’t go. This technique requires game bags to keep the meat clean, and a backpack with a solid frame to support the weight. Your backpack should adjust easily for proper fit, especially at your hips.
Whether you use wheels, the terrain, or brute strength, you can get your deer out of the woods and into your vehicle. It just takes planning, dedication and – sometimes – a little creativity.