By Bob Humphrey
Hunting big game can be a thrilling experience. But once the animal hits the ground, the fun is over and the work begins. The amount of time and effort required depends on where and what you shot.
For whatever reason, some hunters prefer taking their animals out in the round. That’s not too much of a problem for small to medium-sized big game animals like deer and antelope, particularly if you’re near a road or trail where you can drag them a short distance to a truck or ATV.
If you have to drag any distance however, it makes more sense to field dress the animal first. Internal organs can make up as much as 30 percent of an animal’s body weight. A big northern whitetail might weigh well over 300 pounds on the hoof. That could mean as much as 100 pounds of extra weight you don’t need to remove from the field. For larger game like moose and elk you really have no choice.
You can take a larger, field-dressed animal out whole if you can reach it with a vehicle, and don’t have to drag it too far. Having some type of sled to skid it across rough ground will make the job easier and prevent unnecessary damage to the meat and hide.
Another option for larger game is quartering. Laws vary from state to state on what you must take, but most require you to retrieve all edible portions.
Separate the four quarters: two front and two hind legs. You can further reduce weight by cutting off lower legs and even boning out the hind quarters. You’ll also want to remove the backstraps and tenderloins, and possibly the neck. Obviously, if it’s a trophy animal, you’ll want to take the cape and head too.
You may be able to haul individual portions on a pack frame. But a moose or a big elk quarter can weigh as much as a deer, and is more easily hauled on an ATV or a horse.
When using a four-wheeler take extra care to load properly. Try to distribute weight evenly on the front and back, or on the front only. A Side-by-Side like the Rhino makes the job even easier as you can simply load quarters in the bed.
Don’t overload. It’s better, and safer if you adhere to the manufacturer’s weight recommendations and make multiple trips.