Using a game hauler to haul out an elk or other big game animal can make the formidable task much easier. Some designs are frustrating to useless, though. There are also game carrier designs that work better in certain circumstances than others.
Generally, there are three designs of big game haulers (or "game cart"). The first is the most versatile and functional on all terrain:
2. Side by side two wheel game cart
3. Inline two wheel carts
4. Electric motorized cart: The Emule. We have seen this product and will be reviewing it here soon. Here is The Emule Cart website.
This design sounds like the worst idea of all three, but I am absolutely sold on this design for rough terrain! I have friends who have made different versions of their own one-wheeled design. They tell me they use them regularly for hauling out quartered or halved elk. In most cases the center of gravity is two high to make it useful for hauling more weight than that.
However, there is one design that uses a small, wheel barrow size wheel and is designed to keep the weight very low to the ground, making balance much easier. (You're still moving a lot of weight, though, unless you quarter it.) It is called a Lo-Boy Transporter.
Whole elk most definitely can be hauled with this game cart over rough terrain and even snow. The frame of the Lo-Boy is carefully designed to allow traversing over logs, etc. It is relatively easy to push the angled frame up onto a log, onto the wheel and down the other side, even with a whole elk on it (two people). We have hauled at least one elk out with it most years since 2008.
It has handles on both ends and is all one solid piece, giving it strength, but it does not take down into a smaller size. It can easily be secured on top of your load, however. It comes with a very well designed strap system that makes balancing the load (including a whole bull elk) easy up and down, or forward and back. In the photo to the right, we made the mistake of not tying the antlerless head up out of the way.
The video below shows two elk being hauled in the Lo-Boy. Balance of the load and a very low center of gravity are the strong points of this excellent game cart.
The local manufacturer began designing game carts for his own use back in the mid 90s. He kept improving on the design until he got it just like he wanted it. Shipping has become extremely expensive. If you want to discuss how to get one in your hands, call us at 406-431-0876. The Lo-Boy is also available for pick up at the new (2021) home of Elk Tips Outdoor Gear in Seeley Lake, Montana. It can be purchased below through PayPal, but shipping costs might be prohibitive.
The Lo-Boy is not hard to balance because of low center of gravity. When you need a rest, tip it back or forward on the handle bars, which provides a quick three-point stance for the cart.
It's easy for one person to put a big elk into the Lo-Boy. The elk is positioned on its belly. The cart is laid over on its side very close to the elk. Then the elk is simply rolled over into the cart. One person can stand the cart up with an elk in it, by pivoting it up with one handle bar on the ground. Video of loading a huge elk into the cart:
After loading an elk into the cart, the key is to take the time to balance the weight front to back, and to adjust the center of gravity to the lowest point possible. All of this is done with the very insightful design of the cart and straps that come with it.
It is also easy for two people to load it up into a pickup bed without removing the animal. Put one end of the cart on the tailgate. Turn it over on its side. One handle bar will be resting on the tailgate. One person grabs the frame around the wheel and one handle. Another person on the other side grabs the frame. It's an easy lift with half the weight resting on the tailgate. Now, simply slide it forward into the pick-up bed.
Here's a short video of that process. You will notice that the bottom rib cage got stuck on the edge of the pick-up bed, causing brief difficulty on this big elk.
The price of the Lo-Boy big game hauler is $389.00. It’s a bargain at that price, for what it allows you to accomplish. Shipping is prohibitive, cost-wise. If you have someone who can get to Seeley Lake, Missoula or Helena, Montana, you can pick one up. I often get down to Utah, as well.
Bottom line: Get a Lo-Boy Transporter, if you want a good game hauler for rough terrain. They are the best design we’ve seen available commercially.
(The manufacturer also makes a great Lo-Boy Trailer for pulling behind a four wheeler. It is designed to haul up off the ground behind the ATV, until needed. The Lo-Boy Trailer is also $389.00, plus shipping.)
Feel free to call 406-431-0876.
We have used a side by side, two wheeled game carrier to haul several large and smaller whole elk out successfully. The terrain varied from logging roads to sage meadows to smooth pine forest floor. We had more than one person pushing and pulling the cart with some considerable difficulty over rough spots. The side-by-side two wheeled cart is not good on side hills (where elk live), as the downhill wheel can easily collapse under the pressure.
This type of game hauler is not easy to use off road. It is not useful for crossing logs, rocks and creeks. It works very well for hauling an elk down a logging road or on smooth terrain. It was somewhat difficult for two people to load a medium size cow into this type of game cart.
Loading this type of game cart from the front or back is the only way to do it. If you lay the cart on its side, the wheel will easily be crushed from the weight when you stand the cart back up with a heavy load.
To load a whole elk into this type of game cart, let one end (handle) down to the ground. Have one person hold the other end of the cart, so it will not roll. Then pull, push and slide the elk up into the cart. (This takes considerable effort, but do-able with a medium or small cow.) Balance it out front to back and tie it down. It’s ready to roll on ground that is not too rough.
We carted one cow elk out through sage brush with some difficulty. Then, with considerable difficulty muscled it up a slanted bank and on to a logging road (very difficult to avoid crushing the wheel). The rest of the trip was a breeze as it was downhill to the locked gate where my rig was parked. There happened to be a bank on the side of the road, which made the load into the pick up bed very easy.
You can purchase a side by side, two wheeled game cart for $100 to $150 or more. The less expensive models claim to have a capacity of 300 pounds. The more expensive ones boast up to a 600 pound carrying capacity. At least one particular smaller game hauler (deer hauling cart) can be broken down to a backpack with padded shoulder straps for carrying it empty.
Some have an option of dual wheels on both sides, in response to the fact that wheels do crumple easily. Dual tires are no guarantee that the wheels won’t still crumple, however.
Most side by side two-wheeled game carts come with (non-inflate) hard rubber tires. Some come with tube tires that can be problematic in thorny areas, but smoother on rough terrain. I know guys who have beefed up this kind of cart with motorcycle or strong bicycle tires. I have heard of some using “no flat” goop inside the tubes with success against flats.
Bottom line: A side by side, two wheeled game hauler can be very useful for moving whole elk, elk quarters and deer over relatively smooth terrain and on dirt roads. With significant weight they are very difficult to use on rough or slanted terrain.
In Line Two-wheeled Game Hauler:
Two-wheeled in line carts solve the problem of collapsing wheels on side hills. I used one called the Neet Kart to haul out a deer by myself and found that it was relatively easy to handle with a light load. It is quite easy to operate with a person on each end with a deer size animal. If you buy a second pair of handle bars ($50), it makes the task easier allowing for one person on each end.
The two inline wheels make it possible to traverse over logs and rocks by lifting the front wheel, then rear wheel over the barrier. You will not be able to get a whole elk on it without at least cutting it in half or quartering it. The center of gravity is fairly high, so balance can become an issue.
The Neet Kart is the only one of this style that I am familiar with that is sold commercially. Since it is designed to break down into a compact shape, the handle bars separate from the cart and do not fit tightly into the frame. This creates a bit of a wobble during use. I bent one of the handlebars while hauling a doe out with it.
The last time I checked the Neet Kart was being sold for $500 with one set of handle bars. A second set of handle bars (a must for a heavy load over rough terrain) will cost you an additional fifty dollars and ratchet straps are an extra $12.
In general, a game hauler is great, if you have one person helping and want to save your back. Choose carefully, as most are not easy to push and pull over rough terrain. They all work great for traversing logging roads or smooth ground.
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