It used to be hunters did a lotta deer dragging. This was back before the proliferation of the ATV, and the TV-hunting-show notion that to be a real hunter, you must have a fancy little 4x4 buggy. The first time I killed a deer while out hunting on my own, I was 14, and over a mile from camp. I tied a rope to it and drug it all the way back. I learned a lot on that drag.
I learned that the further you drag a deer, the heavier it gets. If you want to brag about how big a deer you killed, I’d suggest you forget about antlers and start bragging about weight. Here’s the cool thing about deer weight, for every 100 yards you drag a deer, you can legitimately add a pound or two. That 110-pound doe I killed up on the side of a mountain weighed more than 135 pounds when we got back to camp!
Of course no one brags about how much his or her deer weighed anymore. This is partly because no one actually weighs the deer they kill. This seems odd because they routinely put a tape measure to antlers and get all jelly-kneed when they surpass 150 inches. You cannot eat antlers. But meat, now that’s a different story. Humans first hunted for meat, and I’ll guarantee they were happiest when they had the mostest meat. The antlers and horns really just made good handles for the dragging.
Course, some folks don’t even know how to drag a deer. A hunter once pulled a deer by me and he had the rope tied to its back feet – he was dragging against the hair. I asked him if that’s how he always drug a deer and he said, “Nope. I usually just load it on the four wheeler.” He than complained about how hard it was to drag a deer, wiped some sweat off his brow, and continued on down the holler. I didn’t say anything; I figured some lessons are best learned the hard way.
Four wheelers have replaced the physical activity of deer dragging, and for many hunters, the four-wheeler has become the way to get antlers – not meat – out of the woods. Listen, if you drag a deer a mile, you’ll be proud of them antlers – they’re great for tying a rope to – but, you’ll for damn sure be proud of all that meat, and not want to waste any of it.
That one-mile drag I made changed me as a hunter. It showed me the immense responsibility I had when I take an animal’s life. It showed me I had the mental fortitude to overcome adversity, and see the hunt all the way back to camp. I still remember how sore my hands were from pulling on the rope, and how sore my legs were from pulling the weight. You can brag about being a hunter all you want, but until you’ve made the drag, you’ll never all the hunter you can be.
Of course sometimes a deer can be too big, or in such a bad spot, you just cannot drag it by yourself. That’s OK; there are options. A guide and I once hiked over two miles to get to a big mule deer buck. Dragging a 200-plus pound deer was not an option. We caped and quartered it where it fell, and then packed it out. Other times I’ve had to go get help to get deer out of the woods. That’s OK too; working together to bring home meant is the historical, human-pack aspect of hunting. And then, everyone involved can justifiably exaggerate how much the deer weighed.
Yeah, it’s also OK to throw that dead deer in the back of a side-by-side, but every hunter should – at least once – really drag a deer. My grandpa used to call things like ditch digging, fence fixing, and deer dragging, character-building opportunities. I know some folks that could use a good – long – deer drag. Contrary to what some snowflakes might think, masculinity is a good thing, but to remain relevant it needs tested now and again.