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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Oak Duke: Making a deer drag not a drag

  • You’ve made the shot, and all of a sudden there is your deer at the end of the trail. Seems like it happens so quickly, sometimes, after all the usual pre-hunt preparation, strategizing and time spent on stand. Crazy as it may seem, there can be enjoyment and satisfaction in getting the whitetail out of the woods.

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  • You’ve made the shot, and all of a sudden there is your deer at the end of the trail.
    Seems like it happens so quickly, sometimes, after all the usual pre-hunt preparation, strategizing and time spent on stand.
    Crazy as it may seem, there can be enjoyment and satisfaction in getting the whitetail out of the woods.
    Though the process has long been called the "deer drag,” it’s anticipated about as much as jumping over a campfire with gasoline-soaked long-johns.
    And granted, removing a deer from some wooded areas can require a lot of physical exertion, a lot of sweat.
    And hunters who are not in shape or think they are in better physical condition than they really are can over-do it and hurt themselves. Some have pulled muscles, some damaged their backs and others have even had heart attacks and strokes while “dragging out" their deer.
    Excitement and adrenaline can combine to make an intoxicating brew of emotions and danger for the hunter.
    Especially when in a tree, a hunter needs to collect himself, mark where the animal fell, then slowly and carefully, climb down, and walk to the deer. Shaky legs can make us stumble and fall.
    Upon coming up on the animal, we touch it and make it ours.
    But before it's time for the knife work that needs doing, that first moment is a good time to admire the deer, appreciate your luck and give thanks.
    The Iroquois honored their kills by giving an offering of tobacco and sprinkled a few flakes or twists on the deer.
    At first blush, that giving of an offering may seem quaint or old-fashioned or a waste of time and tobacco. But the few moments spent in reflection actually add to the experience and helps the successful hunter get mentally prepared for the next phase of his kill, to dress it out, properly and then get the deer out of the woods.
    Of course technology has come along and now we can buy wheeled carts, like woodland wheelbarrows with bicycle tires to make the job easier. Plastic skids, easy to carry and put in a pack are also on the market.
    Many now use ATVs (where legal) to get their deer out of the woods by driving right to the scene, loading up the deer and the hunter and then just riding out.
    There is no end to man’s ingenuity and inventiveness when it comes to getting out of work.
    A hunting buddy recounted a story of his father-in-law who used a couple hundred feet of nylon strapping to skid a deer up a relatively open wooded slope. One end of the strap was on the deer of course, the other on the bumper of his vehicle, back up on top of the ravine at the edge of a field.
    Page 2 of 2 - Some deer drags are short and others are a marathon.
    Once in awhile when we shoot a whitetail, the deer actually runs toward our vehicle, making of course for a shorter drag. But that seems to happen about once in a blue moon. This particular phenomenon, that is, of our animal making it easier for us, seems to defy the odds of statistics.
    One would think that about 25 percent of the time, logically, deer would head more or less, towards the road or camp. But in reality, it seems like about one in 20!
    The longest deer drags can take hours.
    One buck, shot at 4 p.m. ran down into a steep and long hollow. By the time he was dressed out, it was dark. Instead of dragging the deer, back up the steep ravine, it seemed the wisest course at the time to proceed downhill, about two miles to the nearest road.
    Snow squalls made for nearly whiteout visibility at times on that deer drag. But it wasn’t pitch dark because the moon came up, a bright moon, just past full when the squalls passed by.
    Didn’t get to the road until 10 p.m. and it took another hour to walk around back up to the top of the hollow and get the truck.      
    Still wonder if it would have been shorter to drag the buck back up the ravine. Cell phones still don’t work there.
    There is a technique or pattern to dragging a deer.
    First of all, the front legs are put up over the antlers and tied with my old orange drag rope and strap around the front feet, neck, and head. The rope is short enough so that the head and front legs, now tied together, are lifted up a bit to keep them from catching on every log, fallen limb, or sapling along the trail.
    Depending on the grade, uphill or downhill, move your gun or bow and pack ahead on the trail a comfortable distance. Now, go back to the deer and drag it to the gear. Then take the gear back ahead, 50 feet or so, then back to the deer and so on in a methodical, “leap frog” fashion.
    This technique is a good way to “catch your breath,” let your heart rate come back down, scout out the best trail, and clear any obstructions if possible.
    Surprising how quickly the time flies by when you are having fun. And the deer drag is not such a “drag” at all.
    Contact Oak Duke at publisher@wellsvilledaily.com 
     
     
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