That's a bummer! I've heard stories like that. Ah! The joys of hunting public land! I've heard even worse-- buddy of mine went hunting, shot a nice buck, went to get the truck, came back, buck's gone-- forgot to check it was dead.
All kidding aside on my idea of a recovery kit, I went through what I usually carry out to the kill site in the back of the truck. These are all bagged up and ready to go, just in case:
On a normal pickup on top of the ridge:
Camera-- gotta get some good shots, right?
If'n I'm gonna have to gut in-place:
Block and tackle
75 feet of 1/2 inch rope
2 6 foot towing straps
Rain suit-- (easy to clean off the blood)
game cart (optional-- hardly ever use that anymore)
If'n it's dark out:
Coleman lantern-- good for illuminating the kill site or for trailing blood trails. I've got 4 if needed.
As I said, I use the truck as much as I can and bring the carcass back to the house. I can radio back to the house and have KYHillChick out there in just a few minutes-- usually in the time it takes to get all my gear packed up and toted to the pickup site.
However, if it's going to be a bad haul, I gut in place to reduce the weight of the carcass and let it start cooling off faster. The block and tackle, rope and tow straps are what let me do two things-- hoist the deer up off the ground to gut it, and also help me get a really big deer up a really steep hill, with or without a game cart. The tow straps go around a tree limb or trunk and the pull on the rope is 1/4 what it would be without the b&t.
Normally, even it a worse-case scenario, I can get the truck within 100 yards of the carcass, but we do have steep ravines, and sometimes it can be a chore. I had one that only ran 80 yards from the stand, and it was straight downhill. It took 3 hours to get him up to the truck.
Clean-up? I usually strip down to my poly-pro underwear and then put on an old rainsuit to gut. That saves my hunting clothes from getting messed up. My hands are going to be messy, but if there is no water close by, I just used dirt. Dirt rubbed vigorously through the hands will clean quite a bit of blood off.
Illumination? Back at the house I have the meat pole electrified, so it's bright. Out in the woods? A Coleman gas lantern has been my pick when it's necessary. As I said, I usually don't have far to go from the truck.
Extreme worse case scenario at the farm:
2008, I was all alone at the farm. I bagged a buck at sundown and was a good 1/2 mile from the house. I carry a good knife and a pruning saw in my kit. Once I found the critter-- he'd gone down into a ravine-- I gutted him where he lay and then went out to get the truck. I ended up hauling the carcass about 50 yards, using my safety harness for a drag. The whole thing took me twice as long as if I'd had the option of calling back to the house for a pickup, and gutted at the meatpole, and I missed getting to the processor by 15 minutes. I went home, used the block and tackle and hoisted the whole carcass into a spare chest freezer and shut the lid until morning.