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How to Get Deer Out of Gnarly Places

Hutchings_day3Editor’s Note: Fifty-year-old Kevin Hutchings, from Howell, Michigan, which is located close to Ann Arbor, has been hunting deer as long as he can remember. He was one of the original Mossy Oak Pro Staffers.

Most hunters on public land won’t hunt a mile or more from their trucks. If someone shoots a nice buck, he'll be concerned that he’ll have a hard time getting him out. I have two systems that I use to get a nice buck out of the woods if I take him. First, I have my cell phone with me, and I can call friends to come help me get a buck out. They will help me because I help them, but before I have had to bring deer out by myself. I won’t leave a buck in the woods to go get help. If you leave a buck on public land, when you get back, he may have disappeared. I know dragging your buck a long way to get him back to the truck isn’t fun. The real secret is to field dress your buck and then don’t hurry getting him out of the woods. Drag him about 10 or 20 yards, rest, and then drag him some more. 

One of the deer I particularly remember hunting and taking was my first handgun deer. I was shooting a .454 made by Taurus. I'm kind of a gun nut, and I wanted to try a different way of hunting. I like to shoot my handgun off-hand rather than using a rest. When I took this deer, I didn’t have a scope on my handgun, however, I do now. I feel I'm accurate out to about 100 yards shooting off-hand. If I do use a rest for my gun, I've shot enough to know I can be accurate out to about 200 yards using my scope. 

I was hunting some private land north of my home and didn’t get a deer. On the way back home, I stopped at some public land that I'd hunted previously. When I got to the place where I wanted to leave my truck, I put on my Mossy Oak camo, got my pistol and headed for my stand site. I’d only been in my stand for about 15 minutes when I saw something moving about 30 yards from my stand, but the deer spooked. I hadn’t had my .454 very long before I went on this hunt, and I made the mistake of getting a stainless-steel gun, which was bright-looking. When I saw the buck coming in to my stand, I never thought about the sun hitting that stainless steel and putting off a flash, but I'm convinced the flash of my pistol is what spooked the buck. When the deer saw that flash, he took a quick step off to the side of the trail, and I shot him just as he stepped off the trail. I always carry an old water ski rope that I’ve converted into a deer drag, and I carry other ropes with me, so I can tie the deer’s legs up to keep them from catching on briars and brambles, after I field dress the deer and start dragging him out. 

When I go into a swampy area, I always carry a deer drag with me, because I expect to take a deer. Also, if I have to drag the deer out by myself, I know that I'm going to have to spend a lot of time and go slow. This is the real secret of getting a deer out of a bad place – don’t be in a hurry. Drag the deer for a little ways, rest, drag him a little farther, and then rest again. Yes, you have to put in some work to drag a deer a mile or more and often through thick places. However, I’d rather have to work to get a deer out of the woods than come out of the woods without a deer. I spent about 3 hours that day dragging that buck about a mile back to the truck. Usually, I’ll drag a deer about 20 feet and rest. Then, I plan where I'm going to have my next rest stop before I start dragging again. 

To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone. 

For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from

Day 2: The Early Bird Gets the Worm and the Buck

Tomorrow: One of Kevin Hutchings’ Best Michigan Bucks

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