Prepare for Success When Your Public Land Deer Hunt is Over

Have a plan for getting your deer out safely and more easily if you’re hunting on public land. This may include gutting the deer in the woods, if the state wildlife agency allows, to help lighten the load.

It’s not too hard to kill a deer on public land, but hauling it out can be exceedingly difficult. That’s why it’s just as important to plan for the aftermath of a successful hunt as it is to plan for the main event.

The Missouri buck I mentioned at the end of the main story illustrated this point. It was a big-bodied buck, and since the Missouri Conservation Department prohibits vehicles, including ATVs, on its conservation areas, I had to drag the beast all the way back to the truck. I honestly thought I would have a heart attack.

The next week I bought a game cart, and that simple device unfurled the full potential of hunting on public land. When you kill a deer, you have only to strap it to the cart and wheel it out of the woods like a basket of groceries. You can strap your gun and all of your gear to it, as well, to reduce exertion. I recommend taking at least three ratcheting straps to secure your deer and gear snugly.

Of course, pulling a cart through steep, rocky terrain and mud can be challenging, but not nearly as challenging as trying to extract a deer without it. For the same reason, a cart is equally useful for hauling gear into the woods. It makes for a leisurely, sweat-free stroll.

Of course, you can reduce the weight of your deer substantially by field dressing at or near the kill site. My field kit includes a hatchet, a small sledgehammer and a folding shovel. Pound the back of the hatchet with the sledgehammer to effortlessly open the sternum and pelvis. This makes eviscerating the carcass cleaner and easier. I used to leave the viscera in the woods for the buzzards, but I bury it now to reduce the potential of spreading chronic wasting disease.