The Meat Saucer — Sled System for Hauling Deer & Elk in Snow

Dallen pulling a Meat Saucer Sled filled with boned out cow elk meat.

Meat Saucer Sleds filled with bone out cow elk ready to be hauled off the mountain.

My son Dallen in 2010 pulling a Meat Saucer Sled filled with his boned out cow elk meat. Meat Saucer Sleds filled with Dallen's 2010 boned out cow elk ready to be hauled off the mountain.

I have two meat hauling systems that work well. One for when there is snow and one for when there isn't. In this article I'll be writing about my meat saucer sled system for use when there is snow and  I will write about my lightweight deer and elk meat cart system in another article.

Our family prefers elk meat to beef and I have been fortunate to often draw late cow tags. My brother and friends have also drawn tags throughout the years so I have also been involved in helping them get their cow elk off the mountain. All in all I average assisting in hauling three cow elk a year out on foot. For years we tried a variety of methods, dragging, quartering, various sled types and calling in horse support. I needed to find a DIY way to haul an elk out in one trip, without needing to ask for help.

Homemade canvas big game meat bags
This photo shows a small five point bull elk boned out and hanging in my homemade canvas big game meat bags. Boned out meat in breathable canvas meat bags helps the meat cool faster buying time, keeping it from spoiling. In 2011 I found some manufactured big game bags that although not as rugged they should work even better at keeping the meat from spoiling.

Sleds offered my best option as long as there was snow. I tried the roll-up variety one year. They where easy enough to carry around while hunting tied to my pack but they were horrible at keeping the meat bags on the sled unless I was on a nice flat trail. One year we used a long plastic toboggan style sled. Again this sled worked great as long has you were on a nice flat trail. The toboggan kept tipping over coming out the bottom of a steep canyon and when we had to go around side hills. This sled is also a pain to haul in as you have to drag it wherever you go which, also makes a lot of noise in the process. I tried saucer sleds one year and liked them for their ease in carrying strapped to the back of my pack. I also liked hauling the boned out meat in my meat bags with them. But again I had issues with going around steep side hills as the bags of meat could not be tied in well enough to keep them on the saucer.

The following year I was back with the saucers but this time I had modified the sleds so I could run chord back and forth across the top of the sled creating a web over the meat. I could also tie two sleds together forming a clam-like dish that could flip over and be pulled with either side down.  At first I thought that I would need the two sleds tied together to go around steep side hills but, with the saucers being round and with the low center of gravity they just don't flip over. They will slide around just about anything. This system has worked great.

Elk Meat Hauling Saucer Sled
A couple of Meat Saucers and two sizes of my homemade big game meat bags. I like to have at least six large bags and two or three smaller bags per elk. I use the smaller bags for the tenderloin and back straps.

I now stack a couple of these saucers on my back and away I go. With the saucer sleds, my meat bags and a few hours time to bone out the elk, I can hunt just about whenever and wherever I want with confidence that I can get an elk out without the need of friends and/or horses.

 Here are some notes on how I made and use my meat saucers while hunting.

  • Heating up a nail I melt holes around the outer rim of the sled.
  • I weave parachute chord or shoe laces around the rim of the sled.
  • I take several canvas meat bags to place the meat in.
  • After placing the bags on the sled I then weave chord back and forth across the bags creating a web to hold the bags on the sled.
  • I stack a couple of sleds together and tie them to the back of my pack while hunting.
  • A small cow or calf can easily fit on one saucer sled. I generally take two saucers per elk that I or my group could possibly be bringing off the mountain that day.
  • I take my time and bone out the elk properly getting all the meat. 
  • I make sure I have a head lamp or two with extra batteries and good technical hunting clothing so I can take my time coming out in the dark if necessary.
  • I use at least a half inch diameter rope or a one inch flat rope for the handle area that I hold to pull with.
  • I don't wrap the rope around my hands in case the meat decides to pull me down the mountain I won't get drug with it.
  • If I need to pull two sleds I create a "train" by tying saucers together.
  • I use caution and take my time in steep terrain.

Now if I could just get saucer sleds in white and hunter orange colored varieties.

Here is some video showing the sleds in action hauling Dallen's cow elk off the mountain in December of 2010.

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