Dragging a deer or elk out of the woods is a good way to bring on a heart attack for the not-so fit, once-a-year hunter. And it’s hard work.
A sled can be a sound investment, and make the hunt a little easier and safer.
by Leon Pantenburg
Disclaimer: I bought this product to use and field test. Eagle Claw had no input in the review, and at the time of publication, there is no sponsorship relationship between Eagle Claw and Survival Common Sense. All I ever promise in a review is a fair shake.
It seemed like a great idea – we would wade the Salmon River, and get away from the rest of the elk hunters. So my brother Michael Pantenburg and I donned waders, crossed the river and hunted. We didn’t get an elk that day, but a week later, Mike helped pack out a bull from that same area. Carrying it in the snow was tough. They needed a sled. (Here is why you need a sled.)
The fun of elk and deer hunting is over when you squeeze the trigger. An elk hind quarter can weigh more than 100 pounds. An average-sized whitetail may weigh right around 150 pounds, and dragging one to the nearest road can be quite a job. Where I hunt in Mississippi, it is generally about half a mile to the nearest road, depending on the weather. When the roads are really muddy, it can be further.
Murphy’s Law states that the best place to find a trophy bull or buck is the last place you want to haul one out.
A sled is a good choice in this situation. A wheeled cart might get bogged down in the mud or snow, or might not be legal in some wilderness areas. A sled is legal everywhere. The animal can be put on the sled and dragged to the nearest access point.
The sleds function really well in the mud, though they don’t take all the work out of moving an animal. On snow, a sled is the best choice. A hunter may be able to carry part of the deer long distances, but that same hunter can drag the whole carcass on a sled.
I wanted to try out the Eagle Claw JS1 Utility Jet Sled after moving to Mississippi. My Oregon elk hunting crew used my kids’ old plastic toboggans to haul out elk in wilderness areas, and they worked really well. But try to find a toboggan in the Deep South!
Here are the JS1 Jet Sled specs, according to the info sheet.
- Features. Model Number: JS1. Ideal for ice fishing or transporting deer, firewood, traps or feed.
- Rugged polyethylene construction. Molded runners for strength and stability. Specially contoured hull allows easy pulling by hand.
- Dimensions: L 54″ x W 24″.
- Weight: Unloaded, the sled weighs 11.5 pounds
The good stuff:
Multi-use capability: My wife Debbie put the sled to use moving pine needles in our yard, and it proved to be a lot more efficient than a wheelbarrow or a tarp. Deb could pile the needles high, drag them to the 55-gallon trash bag, and slide the leaves into the bag. This feature alone makes it worth buying a sled of this size. This is the easiest way I have found to move leaves, and believe me, I have looked hard! The sled also got used to drag firewood to the vehicle.
Waterproof: The JS1 is nine-inches deep, and waterproof. That means you can drag a load through standing water if it isn’t too deep, or your load isn’t too heavy. This becomes a big deal if you are hunting swampland. You can haul out a deer without getting it all muddy, or take decoys and other hunting gear to the duck blind. Or you can slide in portable deer stands or materials for making blinds.
The sled was placed under the deer I skinned at the rack, and all the blood and fluids were contained in one place. If you need to gut the animal at the rack, everything can be dropped into the sled. When the job is done, hose out the sled, and it’s ready to go back to work.
Easy to use: I’ve used the sled to haul out three deer so far this season, and I am impressed with how much else the sled can carry, and how handy it is. The sled makes it a lot easier for the lone hunter to load the deer into the back of a pickup or SUV. Simply slide the loaded sled to the vehicle, lift up one end, then lift up the back and slide it in. No mess, and all the blood, wood debris or whatever is contained in the sled. It is equally easy to unload.
Rugged construction. The JS1 is sturdy and apparently almost bullet proof. It appears that it would hold up to dragging heavy loads with a snowmobile or ATV.
I used the sled to drag several hundred pounds of split-oak firewood to my SUV. It was still hard work, but it was easier hard work. The loaded sled with a gutted whitetail doe, and my rifle and fanny pack was dragged about one-half mile over gravel, rocks, dirt, logs and leaves, and there is little wear showing. If normal wear becomes a concern, the company has wear bars that can be glued to the bottom. You don’t need to worry about the longevity of this piece of gear.
Size: I got the 54-inch size because it fits easily in the back of my SUV. When I’m solo hunting, I also need room in the back for my cooler and assorted hunting gear. Much longer, and the sled is harder to fit in a standard passenger vehicle.
A hunter may be able to carry part of the deer long distances, but that same hunter can drag the whole carcass on a sled. Get a good one – you will be using it a lot!
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