How to Load a Dead Deer on a Horse

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Deer season is almost upon us. Time to think about how you’re going to get it out of the back of beyond once you’ve bagged it.

Horses don’t like to be around dead deer or elk. They REALLY don’t like to have the carcass loaded onto their back. There is a trick to doing this that many of you will know if you’ve packed game out on horseback. Since the hunting seasons will soon be upon us, maybe it’s time to review this.

Disclaimer: This applies to large buck mule tail deer. White tail deer (primarily East Coast) are about the size of dogs and you can pick them up and carry them or drive your truck to the field where you shot it with a shotgun and throw it in the back.

ATV hunters, driving down the road — not really hunting.
The advent of the small four wheel ATV changed deer hauling, primarily for the road hunters. But you can still hunt in a car or truck if you don’t want to be exposed to the elements.
However if you hunt deer from horseback (you watch where the horse is looking and see the deer), it’s a different experience. No you don’t shoot from the back of the horse, the way you see it done on TV. If you do that the horse will (buck you off) (become impossibly gun shy) not be happy with you. You must dismount and shoot.
When you’re in the back of beyond on your horse, and you shoot a deer, you need to get it out of that remote location and the horse is the best way to do it. If you’re elk hunting, you will likely have to quarter the elk because of its size/weight and a separate pack horse is advised.
For those of you who feel sorry for deer that are hunted, deer are really just large rats. They’re destructive and the only thing that saved them in the modern era was the movie, Bambi.
Moving on, let’s say for the sake of the scenario that you bagged your trophy buck, you’ve cleaned it and you’ve put a bag over it to keep the flies off it if it’s not cold winter. Now it’s time to get it out and you want to put it on the back of your horse.
Bouncing up to paragraph one, the horse won’t go along with your plan willingly, so you need to think strategically.  The horse may have alerted you to the presence of deer, but it doesn’t mean that your horse will want to pack it out for you.
(1) You should bring a horse blindfold. Yes, it can be a modified feedbag. It can be a modified anything so long as it covers the horse’s eyes.
(2) Depending on your tag, you may be able to behead your buck. The only thing that the horse will hate worse than carrying a dead dear is having the antlers banging him in the flanks. If you have a big canvas bag, it might be a good idea to drape it over the antlers and put a heavy sweater or spare horse blanket over the antlers, tie it over the antlers with parachute cord/550 cord to hold it in place.
(3) Stick your already bloody hands (from cleaning the deer) into the deers entrails and get them gooey. Then smear the gore over the horse’s nose. The horse will not love you for it. However, it will smell nothing but dead deer and usually that’s enough to get the deer onto the saddle without the horse bolting.
After a horse has done this a few times, they actually become partners in the hunt. I had an old horse named Blaze that even leaned in toward me when I hoisted the deer on to help get it on her back. She didn’t need a blindfold or the nose treatment. But she’d carried more than a few deer out.
When I was a kid, I’d get a stack (3-6 depending on the year) of deer tags from widows in town and I’d go out and kill deer for them. That’s not illegal since I did have my own license. They’d eat on the deer all winter and it kept me in practice. I always preferred to hunt from a horse because I’m fundamentally lazy that way. (1) The horse found the deer. (2) Once shot, the horse carried the deer, which meant that I didn’t drag it for miles over harsh terrain. (3) I had a ride. (4) The horse went where the ATV crowd didn’t go.
As an adult, hunting people for a living took a lot of the joy out of hunting a defenseless animal (even if deer are just large rats). I took a lot more pleasure from hunting bad people and there is no practical bag limit.

17 thoughts on “How to Load a Dead Deer on a Horse

  1. +1 Old NFO – though here in Iowa it doesn't take much to get a deer "out". I would quibble a bit with you about the size of an Iowa whitetail vs. a mule deer. A corn fed whitetail is a pretty good size critter, and pretty tasty as well!

  2. We get Whitetails here that run 220 pounds dressed. Another candidate for quartering. Good, practical post!

  3. I lost my taste for the hunt too. The little woman just finished making elk bags for the next door neighbor though.

  4. Good tips. People make a mistake thinking they can train horses like dogs. Horses evolved largely as plains animals, more similar to antelope than anything else, and that hasn't been bred out of them so far. Their instinct is to identify potential threats as early as possible and "when in doubt run like hell".

    "Sacking out" is a good idea too. I used to work with horses a lot when I was younger (farrier, breaking in green stock). Lots of time spent wacking them with feeds sacks all over their body(doesn't hurt but spooks them) until they just don't care any more can save you a lot of grief later on.

    Of course, they'll still occasionally decide to buck and shy away from the same bush they've walked past and ignored a hundred times before… but whatcha gonna do? 🙂

  5. Good tips! BTDT Learned to ride on one of my dad's pack horses (mean sob) and a pack mule of grandpa's (smart & mean).

  6. I always tease people who hunt white tail deer…

    I ought to tell the story of Little Elmer. (maybe on a blog next week)

  7. You do need a license of sorts. In the age of fighting sail it was a "letter of marque". Today it's called a "Presidential Finding".

  8. Interesting blog. This is one of my favorite blog about hunting and I also want you to update

    more post like this. Thanks for sharing this article.

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