By David Link
If all goes well while hunting this season, you’ll be huddled over the trophy buck you had your eye on field dressing it and getting ready to transport it out of the field. If you’re a first time hunter or still relatively new to the process of field dressing and carrying a deer out of the field, you may wonder if there are some tools or tips to make the process easier, especially if you’re doing it all on your own. We’ve assembled a few tips and tool suggestions to help make this harvest less of a chore. Let’s examine some things you can do in the field to make your life easier.
A hand ax is always an important tool to pack in your gear kit when heading out to deer hunt. You can also turn to a game saw for the same purpose. Even though you’ll only use it for a couple seconds, you’ll be glad you brought it along. The hand ax is used to split the pelvis bone that is the last step of field dressing the deer. Bringing a hand ax along will also help save the blade of your knife. There has been many a unfortunate hunter that has broken a blade tip trying to sever the pelvis with their knife. Save your knife and carry a hand ax as part of your field dressing kit.
Once you get the deer home, you’ll have more preparations before you can get it into the freezer like quartering. Skip the cheap bone saw and get a quality saw so you can cut safely and without concern of the saw breaking midway through the task.
Experienced hunters know you should always wear gloves when field dressing and boning wild game meat. However, many hunters have ended up with blood stains on their nice hunting jacket sleeves when field dressing a deer. Why not avoid these unsightly stains and wear specialized gloves that extend all the way up to your elbows? This way you can reach deeper into the body cavity if need be without fear of getting blood on your expensive hunting clothes. Just make sure to bring a back up pair in case you puncture a glove.
If you end up taking an animal later in the day, you could be forced to field dress it in the dark. You also never know if you may have to track the animal a few miles before it collapses. A lot of hunters bring flashlights, but they never think about the hiker’s favorite of a head lamp. Why not bypass the hand held flashlight and get a powerful headlamp instead? The headlamp will follow your field of vision as you search for the blood trail, and once you find the animal, you’ll need both hands to field dress it. Make sure to select a headlamp with a wide and powerful beam so you can zero in on those hard to see blood trails.
Once you’ve field dressed your animal, you’re still going to have to pack out at least 150 pounds of deer or more. This is no easy feat if you’re on your own and in wooded terrain. Dragging the deer isn’t really a great option unless an ATV is parked nearby. It’s always nice to have a second hunter around to help, but this isn’t always an option for every hunter. As an alternative, a deer cart will be your best friend when it comes to transport. Deer carts almost act like dollies with off-road capability. The best deer carts have oversized wheels with good treads suited for rougher terrain. You may have to circle around a fallen tree or two on the way out, but it sure beats dragging the deer out yourself.
If a game cart isn’t a feasible option for you, there are a couple other ways to make deer removal easier. The first is a deer dragging harness that can be worn around you shoulders and attached to the deer at the other end. This option is better than pulling the deer by its antlers or leg, and it will allow you to focus on what is ahead of you rather than looking forward constantly as you pull the deer by hand. The second option is more of a do-it-yourself solution. If you have a hunting partner, you can affix the deer to a pole by its feet and share the load by having your partner carry the other end of the pole.
Finally, if you’re hunting in the backcountry or you’re facing a long walk out, you should consider placing a game bag over your tagged animal. Game bags keep the flies from laying eggs in your animal or contaminating any of the meat they touch. Accompanying game sprays come with many game bags as well to deter insects from interacting with your animal. There are even reusable bags out there that can be washed and used year after year. Just remember that even though you’re protecting your game from insects, it still pays to get it in the freezer as quick as possible.