The other day I was doing a little window shopping, checking out those fold-up “game carts” with little bicycle wheels on them. They seem like a great idea—especially for hunters who live farther south and in areas where the trees aren’t quite so close together.
Don’t get me wrong: I might eventually splurge on one for early season hunts. But here in the backwoods of northern Wisconsin, I see a lot more hunters using sleds. Even when there’s not yet snow on the ground, dragging a deer in a sled is a lot easier than dragging a deer without one. And in rugged terrain that’s brushy or marshy, a sled might actually work better than a wheeled cart.
A lot of hunters around here use the same plastic sleds they’ll be using for ice fishing just a month or two later. And because there’s usually some overlap between deer season and ice-fishing season, in early December a few of those sleds could be out on the lake hauling tip-ups Saturday and then back in the woods hauling out a deer on Sunday.
Although these large, heavy-duty flat-bottom sleds are great for pulling behind a snowmobile or ATV, when you’re doing the pulling yourself they’re a lot of sled for hauling out a hundred-pound deer. Depending on their size, the sleds alone weigh from 16-64 pounds.
That’s probably why a lot of hunters around here use plain old plastic “kiddy” sleds. I know I’m not the only one; at the local big-box store, these sleds are already out on display every September. But for some reason they’re not actually stocked in the toy department until December. For now, they’re stacked high in front of the sporting goods department. I’m pretty sure I know what Jeff Foxworthy would say about shoppers who find this unremarkable.
These sleds are durable enough to last for several miles of deer dragging, and they only weigh a couple of pounds. They’re narrow enough to slip through brush and between trees, but wide enough for most deer. Smart hunters customize them with a heavier tow rope and a few holes for tie-downs. They’re cheap and cheerful, and after deer season you can hose them down thoroughly, then still use them to go sledding with the kids.
Al Cambronne is co-author of "Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison." His most recent book is "Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness." On Twitter: @AlCambronne.