Mike Hanback wrote this in a magazine article many years ago:
…anybody who kills a deer and then has the gall to complain about the work when the animal is down will never hunt with me again. If you are doing it right, gutting a buck and then wrestling it around and over logs, up and down hills, through creeks and mud, all the while sweating a river and stumbling and bumbling and cussing back to your truck is strangely fun and invigorating, whether it takes you 20 minutes or 2 hours or all day.
The work was a lot harder back in the day. I didn’t have an ATV, and so I had to drag my deer, sometimes a mile or more through the Virginia woods. One of my favorite stands was way down an oak ridge in a beaver slough. The “Buck Hole.” Man, I shot a lot of deer there. They would inevitably go on a death run off the ridge and straight to the bottom of the hole.
The pull up out of there was not that far, but rough and took hours. Steep as hell, slick and thick. Sometimes I lashed a rope over the antlers, but most of the time I just grabbed a beam and took off. I slipped, sweated, fell, cussed, bled…and when I got back to the truck and wrestled one of those big suckers up into the bed by myself, I felt great, and complete. The drag was a big and important part of it.
We have it too fat and easy these days. Much of the time we can drive a truck or ATV right up our deer, and with the help of a buddy, grab the legs, count 1,2,3, swing the animal back, toss it up and take off.
And now we have gadgets. One day last year, I shot a buck, and a guy came in with one of those rolling carts with big wheels. We loaded my buck onto it like a sack of feed and rolled him back to the truck. Slick and easy for sure. But thinking back on it now, I feel like I was a lesser hunter for it.
I’ve decided that this fall I’m going to work harder for my bucks, both before and especially after the shot, and I have started preparing and working out harder for it. I don’t kid myself, it will not be easy, I am not getting any younger.
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I know I have got it ass-backwards, after all these years, I should hunt smarter and not harder. But deer hunting is supposed to be good, hard, dirty fun, right? Does that make sense to you?