how to pack out a deer

How To Pack Out A Deer (7 Amazing Tips)

Once you have successfully shot the deer that you have been eagerly pursuing, the real work begins.

You must complete the tedious task of transporting your game from the field. Most hunters are fully aware of the difficulties this presents.

In this article I’ll share with you 7 tips on how to pack out a deer. They can save you energy and effort.

1) What to Prepare?

What to prepare: sharpened knife , A game cart or a deer sled, Game bags

The best way to prevent hardship when transporting your deer from the field is by coming prepared to handle the situation at hand each and every time that you head to the woods.

Since you never know when your day of success will come, you must have all available tools at your disposal on every outing.

Nothing complicates a situation further, than having to make due without proper equipment.

At the very least, every deer hunter should always come prepared with:

  • A sharpened knife
  • A game cart or a deer sled
  • Game bags and a quality pack

2) Field Dress Your Deer:

Once the shot is made and you successfully recover your deer, the next task at hand is to field dress the animal.

This task is completed by making an incision the length of the body cavity along the underside of the stomach.

Upon making the incision, you will proceed to remove and discard the contents of the body cavity (gutless method).

Care should be taken on trophy bucks when making this incision, as a cut that protrudes too far forward along the chest and toward the neck, can damage the ability to use the cape for a mount.

By field dressing a deer, you can benefit from:

a) Reduce live weight:

Reduce live weight

When field dressed, a deer weighs considerably less than a deer of live weight.

This significantly reduces the amount of weight that you must manage while trying to pack out a deer.

b) Release heat:

Release heat

By field dressing a deer, you relieve core body heat that would otherwise take extensive time to dissipate.

This serves to slow the potential spoilage of meat due to prolonged exposure to warm temperatures.

3) Know the Lay Of The Land:

Know the Lay Of The Land

Once you have successfully harvested a deer, you must be able to efficiently transport that deer from the property.

In order to do so, you must be reasonably familiar with the property that you hunt.

When you are highly familiar with a property’s different terrain features, you are better able to formulate a plan to extract your deer from a given area in a timely manner with the help of a hunting GPS.

By taking a moment after the shot to assess the situation and take stock of all options, you can streamline the process of packing your deer out of the property.

Many archery seasons open during late summer and early fall time frames when temperatures are commonly still quite warm.

This adds to the value of formulating a strategy regarding the direction of your exit, and thinking through the process prior to beginning to pack out your deer.

By swiftly retrieving and packing out your deer, you avoid excess heat and prevent meat spoilage.

4) Drive As Closely As Possible:

logging road

Before beginning to pack out your deer, carefully consider any possibilities regarding how to shorten the distance you must travel.

The closer that you can drive to the location of your deer, the more expedited the process becomes. In some areas this is not a viable option.

However, in many other area’s options do exist to significantly shorten the distance that you must travel.

A large number of properties, especially in agricultural areas, feature access drives that are usually used for the transport of equipment among varying sections of the tract of land.

These simple roadways can be exceedingly helpful when attempting to relocate a vehicle within close proximity to a downed deer.

Additionally, farms that have been previously logged, often feature remains of old logging roads.

These pathways also contribute nicely to a hunter’s movement about a property.

Note #1:

buck mount

If you feel that you might consider mounting a buck that you have harvested, extra steps are advised when attempting to pack a deer out of a property.

When planning to mount a deer, it is crucial that you preserve the cape of a buck in the best manner possible.

This gives a taxidermist the best potential to recreate your trophy to the highest quality during the mounting process.

Note #2:

use deer cart

A deer that has been dragged along the ground for long distances often exhibits areas of hair loss within the region of the cape that is used during the taxidermy process.

For this reason, it is highly advised to utilize a game cart or game sled in order to avoid such balding of the hide.

Deer that are taken during the earliest portions of archery season often still exhibit velvet on their racks that they have not yet shed.

This velvet is extremely delicate and requires utmost attention to remain intact.

Many hunters choose to wrap a buck’s velvet clad antlers in a sheet or material of similar nature to avoid damaging the soft tissue while in transit.

5) Choose Your Method:

packing deer frame


Once you have prepared your deer for the trek to your vehicle, you must decide the most efficient means of transport.

Several options exist pertaining to the transportation of a deer from the field, to your vehicle. Such options include:

  • Manual dragging
  • Game cart
  • Game sled or other harnessed device
  • Packing frame

Manual Dragging

manual drag deer

For years, the go to method for retrieval of downed game was by way of manual dragging. 

While this option is still sufficient for short hauls, especially when in the absence of additional equipment, physically dragging a deer becomes extremely labor intensive and somewhat impractical for covering long distances.

Game Carts

deer game cart

In recent years, the use of game carts have become a highly utilized method of deer recovery.

Because of their wheeled design, game carts provide a high level of mobility for hunters when moving an animal with such mass as that of a deer.

Game carts are especially helpful when a long distance must be covered in order to reach your vehicle.

Game sleds

deer game sled


Game sleds, while not as practical as the use of game carts, provide a vast improvement over physically dragging a deer by hand across the bare ground.

The sled design serves to reduce ground friction, effectively reducing the force required to drag a deer from its location.

They are best used when you are facing a trek of a moderate distance.

Packing Frame

Packing Frame

In the event that you find yourself a great distance from your vehicle, the use of a packing frame, in combination with your standard pack, can be of great importance.

Packing frames assist a hunter who chooses to quarter their deer for the journey out of the area.

Because of a packing frame’s rigid design, the heavy weight of quartered game is evenly distributed, and completely secured.

Quarter and Carry

In some situations, it is not practical to haul a deer in its entirety from the area in which it is recovered.

If you find yourself miles from the location of your vehicle, or without the use of additional equipment such as a game cart, quartering a deer on the spot is potentially your best option.

In this situation you can pack your deer out, in the form of quarters, in a single trip with the use of a quality pack.

When attempting to quarter a deer on the spot, it is important to keep conditions as sanitary as possible.

How to Quarter a Deer in the Field:

  1. 1
    After field dressing is complete, you can commence skinning your deer to expose the meat quarter for field butchering.
  2. 2
    With care, each quarter, along with any additional cuts of meat you wish to utilize, can be cut from the carcass.
  3. 3
    Clean game bags are then used to encase each quarter as they are separated.
  4. 4
    Once all usable meat has been removed from the carcass, game bags containing the quarters are securely strapped in place within the confines of your pack.
  5. 5
    Once the quarters are carefully situated and strapped in place, you are able to shoulder your pack and begin the journey to your vehicle.

6) Take The Path Of Least Resistance:


No matter the method that you chose to utilize when packing out a deer, it is vital to consider the easiest and least complex route to your vehicle.

A well thought out travel path will save you much additional physical exertion, than if a route is haphazardly chosen.

A long pack, no matter the circumstances, can be physically exhausting at best, and need not be over complicated due to the navigation of unnecessary obstacles.

Physical obstacles such as steep grades, creek or ditch crossings, and extensive thickets all prove exceedingly difficult to navigate when packing out a 200 pound animal such as a deer.

Furthermore, if manually dragging your deer, these terrain features can at times be impassible.

This leads to extensive backtracking and can be mentally and physically draining to you.

7) Loading Your Deer:

Once you have finally reached your vehicle, there is yet one more obstacle to overcome.

Loading a deer of much weight into the bed of a truck can be quite daunting.

This task is rendered increasingly difficult due to the exhaustion that you have already been dealt while packing a deer out of the woods.

Care must also be taken when loading an animal of this magnitude as to prevent injuring yourself in the process.

Ask for Assistance

hunting partner

If another hunter is easily contacted for assistance, doing so is an advisable decision to make.

With the assistance of a hunting partner you can load your deer quite easily and with minimal risk of injury due to overexertion.

Use Plywood

If this is not a possibility, other options do exist. In preparing to go afield, you can load a sheet of plywood or any other suitable piece of wood of similar dimensions into the bed of your truck.

When loading a deer, this sheet of plywood can be employed in the form of a makeshift ramp.

One end of the board contacts the ground, while the other end is propped onto the tailgate of your truck.

Use rope

Rope of an appropriate length can then be tied to the legs of a deer and the deer situated at the base of the board.

You can then climb into the bed of your truck and use the entire force of your body to walk forward toward the truck’s cab, with the rope situated over your shoulder.

In doing so, the deer is pulled up the wooden ramp and into the bed of your truck.

Load by hand

If you do not have access to a sheet of wood to use in the form of a ramp, then without the use of any other specialized equipment, you must load your deer by hand.

This is best accomplished by positioning the deer directly at the underside of the truck’s tailgate.

With a rope of heavy construction tied around the rear legs of the deer, you then lift directly upward toward the truck’s tailgate.

As the rear legs and hindquarters of the deer crest the edge of the truck’s tailgate, you can use a foot to temporarily hold the deer in place in order to reposition your grip on the rope if necessary.

With continued effort, the deer will be hoisted into the confines of the truck.

# Note: It is also important to mention that no matter the circumstances, it is always advisable when loading a deer to lift with your knees rather than your back.

In doing so, you maximize lifting potential, while minimizing the risk of injury.

In Conclusion:

The task of transporting a deer out of the woods can often be strenuous. However, with these tips and tricks, you will be better informed on how to pack out a deer.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions that you might have.

Robert Gate

Hi, I’m Robert Gate – an avid hunter and founder of I grew up in Texas, USA and learned archery from my dad when I was a child. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift when I got 12 years old. Read my story!

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