The Best Deer Carts, Tested and Reviewed

Hauling big game out of the woods is a chore. These carts make it easier
Testing the best deer carts

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There’s no simple way to haul a deer out of the woods, but deer carts certainly make it less exhausting. Plenty of hunters can drive right up to their deer and load it onto the tailgate. Many more hunt deep in the woods where driving a vehicle is impossible or, at times, illegal. Maybe you don’t have the time or experience to quarter a buck and make multiple trips back to the truck. Or maybe you’re just sick of dead-weight deer drags. Whatever the case, investing in one of the best deer carts can make tagging out much less work.

How I Tested the Best Deer Carts

To test the best deer carts, I loaded each with a fat Midwestern doe and hauled it various distances across grass, gravel, and uneven terrain, as well as through leaves and timber. I also tested the empty carts in the same conditions. Multiple hunters of various ages and physical abilities wheeled the loaded carts to see which they preferred and which they struggled to handle. We also loaded the carts into and out of a pickup bed to determine the ease of transporting and storing them. We also paid attention to the ease of assembly, noise (or lack thereof) while wheeling the cart, and quality of construction as it might affect the cart over time.

The Best Deer Carts: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: River’s Edge Game Cart

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Key Features

  • Carrying capacity: Up to 300 pounds
  • Cart weight: 29 pounds
  • Aluminum frame
  • Overall dimensions: 56 x 20 inches
  • Two 16-inch solid rubber tires (airless)
  • Manufactured overseas, assembled in Wisconsin
  • Price: $130

Pros

  • Quick and easy assembly, no tools needed
  • Lightest-weight cart in the test
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Good ground clearance
  • Wheels don’t require inflating

Cons

  • Not foldable without disassembling
  • Carrying capacity 200 pounds less than competitors
  • Open spoke design may get sticks, branches caught in wheels
  • Aluminum frame could get banged up over time

This deer cart from River’s Edge was everything the other carts in this test weren’t: simple to assemble, lightweight (thanks to its aluminum frame), and low profile, with the most affordable price tag to boot. Wheeling this cart without a deer did not require effort, which cannot be said for the other heavier carts I reviewed; it weighs two thirds of the Hawk Crawler and half the Cabela’s Deluxe cart. The best deer carts should make hauling out your deer easier, not just as miserable in a different way. Sliding this cart into the back of my truck wasn’t difficult either.

The author recommends using straps to secure deer to the cart in rough terrain.

Natalie Krebs

Of course, you sacrifice a few features with this design, but those aren’t any great loss for my physical abilities or the way I hunt. The River’s Edge Game Cart frame is smaller than the similarly designed Cabela’s Deluxe Game Cart, but that also makes it easier to transport and maneuver. The size of the frame held a big Missouri doe just fine, although I would recommend bungee cords or small ratchet straps to secure your deer for longer hauls to prevent it from sliding off, particularly on steep terrain. The 300-pound maximum capacity doesn’t deter me, as I’ve never shot a Midwestern whitetail that weighed even close to that. (If you hunt in the North Woods or Saskatchewan and plan to shoot the next 400-pound buck, sure, go with a different cart.) The solid rubber wheels also mean one less failure point of a flat tire in the woods or when you finally need your cart three weeks into the season.

Although you can technically fold the River’s Edge cart for transportation and storage, it requires disassembly of everything but the axle and pins. There are holes in the frame for bolt storage during transport or the off season, but the odds of dropping wing nuts and losing them in the dark or duff are high. Most of the best deer carts are made in China and though this River’s Edge cart probably is too (a customer service representative told me its parent company, Ardisam, has multiple factories “overseas” but couldn’t specify which countries), it is designed and assembled in Wisconsin. If you hunt gnarly terrain, the high ground clearance of the 16-inch wheels may be a nuisance rather than a blessing and cause tipping when wheeled over bigger logs or the steepest inclines. Overall, though, I like the light and fast design of the River’s Edge deer cart best.

Read Next: Best Deer Hunting Rifles

Best Folding: Hawk Crawler Multi-Use Cart

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Key Features

  • Carrying capacity: Up to 500 pounds
  • Cart weight: 45 pounds
  • Steel frame
  • Four 3- x 14-inch inflatable tires
  • Overall dimensions: 31 x 71 inches long
  • Folded size: 31 x 42 inches long
  • Textilene DuraMesh sling
  • Made in China
  • Price: $320 (find for $200)

Pros

  • Unique axel system handles uneven terrain, logs like a champ
  • Sling system makes this versatile for loads besides deer (seed, bait, etc.)
  • A true folding deer cart

Cons

  • Heavy to haul around
  • Inflatable wheels require air, risk flat tires
  • Instructions/assembly could be better
  • Pricey
The author testing the Hawk Deer Cart
The Hawk Crawler was designed to crawl over logs and obstacles.

Natalie Krebs

The Hawk Crawler Multi-Use Cart has two key features going for it that other deer carts on the market can’t compete with: It actually folds without disassembly, and the double-axle design is as innovative as it looks. The cart is designed to crawl over logs and other obstacles in the woods without shifting the load, and the sling keeps your deer from slipping—no cords or straps needed .

Hawk Deer Cart folded
The Hawk deer cart folds easily without disassembly.

Natalie Krebs

Despite these innovations, I still struggled with the weight of the Hawk even when it was empty—it felt heavier than the Cabela’s Deluxe Deer Cart because of its design, though both are rated for loads of 500 pounds. The handle was also prone to folding while in use even after tightening the bolts, and could benefit from some DIY bolt reinforcement. Additionally, all four tires require air, and although I don’t see them puncturing easily in the woods (the tubes are heavy-duty), you’ll likely need to keep a pump or air compressor handy to make sure the wheels are topped off when you actually need the cart. Dragging it with under-inflated tires was miserable.

The Hawk shines in thick, uneven terrain, but it was a chore to wheel uphill on hard, even ground, with the cart tipping forward and back over its center of mass. The sling does make this cart more versatile for loads besides deer, including firewood or bait. At $320 MSRP it’s also the most expensive cart in the test, although you can find it for closer to $200 at some retailers. 

Best Heavy-Duty: Cabela’s Deluxe Deer Cart

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Key Features

  • Carrying capacity: Up to 500 pounds
  • Cart weight: 62 pounds
  • Steel frame
  • Overall dimensions: 74.3 x 29.5 inches
  • Folded dimensions: 39.5  x 29.5  x 18.5 inches 
  • Two 16-inch solid rubber tires (airless)
  • Three choices of axle location depending on your needs
  • Steel mesh deck
  • Made in China
  • Price: $170

Pros

  • Good ground clearance
  • No risk of flat tires
  • Largest surface area and weight capacity 

Cons

  • Heavy to haul
  • Not foldable without disassembling
  • Instructions and assembly could be better
A doe loaded on the Cabela’s Deluxe Deer Cart.

Natalie Krebs

The Cabela’s Deluxe Deer Cart is the largest and heaviest deer cart I tested, but that surprisingly didn’t translate to problems with maneuverability. When I told my dad to grab a cart to help me retrieve a buck I shot this fall, he chose the Cabela’s Deluxe because he preferred it to the Hawk. It was a little awkward in the small bed of his Tacoma (like the River’s Edge, you have to disassemble the cart to fold it, so he just hoisted the whole thing in there) but it easily handled while hauling my buck across a weedy field.

You can adjust the Cabela’s Deluxe into three different axle positions.

Natalie Krebs

When assembling the Cabela’s Deluxe you have the choice of three positions for the center axle support and legs. The front position offers greater leverage (comparable to a dolly), a back position to center a deer’s weight over the wheels (preferable for longer transports), and the center position, which is a balance of both. I found I preferred the center position, but you could always adjust your cart for whichever setting suited your style of hunting. 

Though the Cabela’s Deluxe Game Cart doesn’t feel particularly heavy on level ground with a deer in the cart, it was sometimes impossible to wheel it over larger logs with a deer loaded on it, and I can see it tipping for longer hauls in uneven terrain. Still, it would be a good choice for transporting prairie game over hard-packed ground with few obstacles, and it could handle a heavy load of elk meat in lower country.

How to Choose a Deer Cart

Tire design is important to consider when choosing a deer cart.

Natalie Krebs

The best deer cart is the one that works for the way you hunt. While many hunters will never use a deer cart—maybe they can drive an ATV or truck to retrieve their deer, or they pack their game out of the woods—other hunters have no interesting in dragging a deer by hand or with a chest harness. Consider whether vehicles like four-wheelers are legal where you hunt, or if you’re willing to quarter and pack your game. If your region experiences heavy snow during deer season, consider a game sled instead.

Once you’re certain you want to buy a deer cart, take into account the weight of the game you’re planning to pack out, your own physical limitations, the terrain where you’ll be hunting, and the importance of a compact, folding deer cart. If you plan to leave the cart in your truck while you hunt, you may want a true folding cart that can stow easily (read: without disassembling) in your trunk or under a tonneau, where it will remain safe in a public parking lot. If you’re smaller or have physical limitations, consider a lighter-weight aluminum cart. 

FAQs

What is a game cart?

A game cart is a wheeled carrier, usually made of steel or aluminum, that can be used to retrieve big game like deer, pronghorn antelope, or elk quarters. Game carts are usually pushed or pulled by hand, and they can make it easier to transport heavy animals across longer distances, tough terrain, or both.

How to make a deer carrier?

There are many ways to make your own deer carrier. The simplest method is to buy a heavy-duty plastic sled or pulk, or make your own deer drag. Otherwise, consider adapting a bike cart or building your own deer cart out of PVC. Still, for the price you’ll pay for materials, it may be worth it to spend a little more and buy a manufactured deer cart.

How long do game carts last?

Like most things, game carts tend to last longer if you buy a quality product and take good care of it. If you only use your game cart once or twice a season, you dry and oil it if it gets rained on, and you store it in a cool, dry location, a game cart will likely last years, if not a decade or more.

Final Thoughts on the Best Deer Carts

Deer carts will make hauling your deer out of the woods easier, there’s also no such thing as the perfect deer cart. Deer are heavy and cumbersome, and they live in difficult-to-reach places, so even the best deer carts will eventually slip, tip, or otherwise cause you grief. Do your best to select a deer cart for your own needs, and consider bringing ratchet straps, bungee cords, or even a hank of paracord to secure your deer for transport.

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