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.