We are fully into the heart of the Pennsylvania archery deer season, which means my truck doubles as an equipment shed on wheels for several weeks. While some might consider my extreme preparedness mentality a little overkill, I like to think of it as being optimistic and well-equipped for dealing with success.
Here are five items all deer hunters should keep in their trucks for the duration of the season.
- Metal game cart: It’s been said that man’s greatest invention was the wheel, and it sure feels like it when a 180-pound buck is strapped onto a game cart and wheeled back to the truck versus laboring over the friction of a long, arduous drag. A variety of game carts are relatively inexpensive (under $100) and fold up to be stowed in the back of one’s truck bed or cargo hatch. After shooting a deer, hunters can take their pack and outer garments back to the vehicle, grab the cart, and head back to retrieve the deer. Game carts with large wheels really ease this process, and unless you’re dealing with lots of blow-downs, they handle pretty well even in rugged terrain.
- Loading plank or cargo rack: I don’t know how many of you have tried lifting a mature buck into the bed of a full-sized pickup by yourself, but if you think it’s an easy task, you’re a stronger man than I am. After struggling to bring up half a deer at a time by myself for years, I finally got wise and started putting a lift board in the back of my truck. The piece of plywood takes up less than an inch of space on the floor of the bed, but can be slid out to make a ramp and lift the deer up into the truck. Better yet, buy a cheap cargo rack that attaches to your hitch receiver and your lift becomes just a foot or two off the ground. If you don’t want to drive around with a rack on the back of your vehicle, keep it in the bed for when it’s needed, as most are pretty lightweight and easy to hook up.
- Orange surveying ribbon and a spare headlamp: The minutes preceding last light are often some of the most active minutes of an evening deer hunt. Be prepared for a tracking job that might take longer than expected, especially when leaving a deer overnight is not an option. I like to intermittently mark last blood with a length of surveyor’s ribbon to determine the flight path of a hit deer, and it helps to have a spare headlamp in the truck if a buddy shows up to help, or if the one in your pack begins to fade while tracking in the dark.
- Case of bottled water: Having a case of bottled water on hand is beneficial for many reasons. Most obviously, it is important to stay hydrated during the hunt, and grabbing a bottle to throw in your pack is very convenient. Secondly, there is nothing better after a long walk back to the truck than a thirst-quenching drink of water. Lastly, it can be used for cleanup after field dressing or to rinse the cavity of a deer before loading. Bottled water comes in handy for all these tasks.
- Spare clothes in a scent-free tote: It’s always good to have an extra set of clothing for the unexpected. Weather changes can bring cooler temps and unforeseen precipitation, so it’s important to have additional layers before heading out or something dry to change into after a good soaking. Keep your extra clothes in a Tupperware-style storage tote with a lid that snaps closed to avoid picking up trace odors from exhaust fumes and to keep garments clean and dry. The bins are easy to slide in the back of the truck and pull out when needed. They can also serve as a bench for pulling on boots when dressing in the field.
If you have the luxury of an enclosed truck bed, trunk, or cargo hatch, consider hauling around some of the aforementioned items during the season. Sure, they take up space, but they really can come in handy when a deer hits the ground and the real work begins.