Most avid deer hunters spend a significant amount of time planning for hunting season, in the months leading up to opening day. Much of this effort revolves around hanging treestands or scouting a promising property. However, few hunters plan for the work that is necessitated, when one finally punches their tag.
While every hunter dream of a successful day on-stand, most put little thought into the process of transporting their kill from the field, until faced with such circumstances. This leaves a hunter ill-prepared for the challenges to follow, which most notably includes the chore of loading a deer into the back of a truck. This situation becomes even more troubling when a helping hand is not available.
A Challenging Scenario
Loading a whitetail deer into the back of a truck can be relatively difficult, even with the help of another hunter. However, this task grows far more difficult when hunting alone. At times, a hunter is left with little choice, but to load a deer on their own. Such a task can prove extremely difficult and can even lead to injury if carried out without proper care.
Simply put, there is a right, and wrong way to load a deer into the back of a truck without assistance. If done correctly, you will find success and be headed home within minutes.
How To Load A Deer Without Assistance
The following steps will assist you in loading your deer into the bed of your truck, without the help of a fellow hunter. When followed carefully, this procedure will take no longer than a few minutes to complete and will spare you from possible injury at the hands of heavy lifting.
Additionally, you will need a few supplies to simplify the task of loading your deer. These supplies are as follows.
- (2) 2 X 4 boards – Of the same length as the bed of your truck
- Drag-style game sled
- Retrieve Game Sled: Upon successfully harvesting a deer, return to your truck to retrieve a drag-style game sled. Sleds of this type are made of plastic and can be purchased from almost any outdoor supply retailer.
- Place Deer in the Game Sled: You will now return to your downed deer, with game sled in hand. Carefully roll your deer into the game sled and begin dragging this sled back toward your vehicle.
- Stage-Up Boards: Upon returning to your vehicle, lower your truck’s tailgate, and remove both 2 X 4 boards from the truck’s bed. Lean each board up against the downed tailgate of your truck, at an angle of approximately 45-degrees, spaced 12”-16” from one another. Ideally, each board should protrude 2”-4” above the edge of your truck’s tailgate.
- Position Game Sled at Base Of Boards: You will now pull your game sled to the end of the previously mentioned 2 X 4s, at their point of junction with the ground. The pull rope of your game sled should face the bed of your truck.
- Angle Sled onto Boards: Next, slide your game sled forward onto the inverted 2 X 4s while slightly raising its leading edge. As a result, your game sled should be resting on both boards, angled upward at a 45-degree angle.
- Pull Sled into Truck Bed: Now, while standing on your truck’s tailgate, pull upward on the game sled’s pull rope. This should allow you to use your previously positioned 2 X 4s as makeshift ramps. Continue pulling while slowly walking backward. Within seconds, your game sled should be positioned squarely within your truck’s bed. At this point, both 2 X 4s can be returned to their previous position within the truck’s bed, and the truck’s tailgate can be shut.
Alternate Loading Method (Without Game Sled)
In the event that you do not possess a game sled, a thick sheet of plywood can be used to save the day. This sheet of plywood can be positioned in a similar manner to the 2 X 4s mentioned in the example above. This provides a solid ramp, over which a deer can be slid.
After positioning this board, a deer can be dragged upward into a truck’s bed, with the assistance of a length of rope, or a game sling. This piece of plywood can then be returned to the truck’s bed, and the truck’s tailgate can be shut.
Avoiding A Dilemma
Those who frequently hunt alone might opt to avoid the challenges of loading a deer into their truck’s bed, with the purchase of a receiver/hitch-mounted cargo carrier. These carriers tend to be of the perfect size to haul deer-sized game and can be purchased at a relatively reasonable price point.
The most significant advantage of using a cargo carrier is that these storage devices ride at a lower height than the bed of the truck to which it is mounted. Though the height at which a cargo carrier rides, varies from one vehicle to the next, most carriers ride at heights of less than 2-feet from the ground. This makes it far easier to load a deer, as less heaving and hoisting is required to situate downed game as desired.
It is worth mentioning, that care should be taken when selecting a cargo carrier for use when transporting game. Be sure to check a particular carrier’s weight capacity rating before purchase, ensuring that it is capable of carrying the weight of a downed deer, along with any additional gear that is to be hauled.
Know Your Limitations
No matter your method of loading and unloading a downed deer, ensure that proper body mechanics are employed. Always bend at the knees, while keeping your back aligned and upright, whenever lifting a significant load. Doing so prevents injury, and prevents the onset of premature back issues.
If you are ever in doubt of your ability to load a deer without assistance, in a safe and effective manner, stop and regroup. No deer, nor one’s pride, is worth risking injury over. Simply phone for help, or return with the assistance of a friend or acquaintance. Take care, and do not place unrealistic expectations upon yourself, and always know your limitations.
Making The Most Out of A Difficult Situation
In a perfect world, we would always have someone to assist us with the task of loading a downed deer into our truck. However, this is simply not always the case. In fact, almost every hunter will be faced with the challenge of loading a deer by themselves, at one point in their career afield.
Luckily, such challenges can be easily overcome with a little advanced planning and an ample dose of ingenuity. By using the tactics described above, you can find success in tackling a challenge of this nature, while also preventing possible injury. This will allow you to relish in your successful harvest, rather than toil in aggravation at the hands of a trying task.