Game Cart Review
We will look at side by side two-wheelers, the more notable one-wheeler's (and tandems) on the market, some wonderful homemade carts, powered carts, and a carry in. Web addresses and prices are included. This is a critical review in that we point out what we think are the positives and negatives. Together with the "Game Cart Selection Guide", this should provide the help you need.
We have not seen nor tested most of these carts. The opinions expressed are based on 23 years of experience and comparative evaluations, a fair understanding of physics and leverage, various sites, reviews, forums found on the web, and discussions with many hundreds of hunters and other cart users. Although clearly a biased competitor we have tried to be objective and fair. We hope you find that it is fair, informative, thought provoking, and helpful.
Synopsis of Two-Wheelers:
API Outdoors Ultra-Steel Magnum Big Game Cart - $149.99
Side by side two-wheelers are quite popular with perhaps 40 different models to choose from. Prices range from about $60. to $225. They vary somewhat in size, shape, and construction, but all are characterized by the side by side wheels, which is at once the source of both their primary advantage and primary disadvantage. With generally smaller wheels and loads carried just above the wheel axle, the center of gravity is very low, so that (apart from actually loading the cart), it is quite easy to balance and otherwise handle large animals. At the same time the side by side wheels can make mobility difficult or next to impossible, on less than favorable terrain.
A side by side two-wheeler does well on relatively level and even pathways with few obstructions and little or no heavy growth. If there is doubt as to possible effectiveness in new terrain, it might be wise to map such a pathway before proceeding. On less favorable terrain a two-wheeler often requires a wider trail and simply will not go where a one-wheeler will. Wheels tend to get hung up or self-destruct on sagebrush and other obstacles. With the opposite side wheel(s) also having difficulties and magnifying the issue, mobility can be a serious problem. If the slope becomes too great you must either go straight up and down or wrestle mightily to keep from dumping the load.
The stated weight capacities of many two-wheelers must have been assessed while assuming that the cart will always be used on level ground. In actual use, when leaning so that too much of the weight is pushing sideways on the downside wheel its lateral weakness is often first exposed by a sudden collapse. Some now offer an optional second wheel for each side as many of the wheels used are comparatively weak, often too much so for the more ambitious tasks they are asked to perform.
Apart from the wheels, many two-wheeler structures offer little more than nominal rigid strength. While capable of performing well with a big animal on friendly terrain most cannot handle the same load in rough country, where extreme stress can become an instant factor and the need for matching rigid strength grows exponentially with the size of the load and the severity of the terrain. Many dozens have told us that their two-wheeler just didn’t hold up under such conditions.
So how does one judge whether a two-wheeler will work well in a particular area? For an example of unfavorable deer and elk hunting country, see the “Esquibel testimonial letter and pics” on the "Testimonials" page. You might also look at each of the pictures on the Gametote Home and Testimonials pages and try to visualize a two wheeler being used in these situations.
Old One-Wheeler Plans: In the early 60's we decided the horses we had been using were too much trouble for our annual fishing trip. After an exhausting pack-in to Palisade Lake in the High Uintas we planned and sketched a light, one-wheeled cart that would easily negotiate the trails and streams and relieve us from carrying our packs. We envisioned that it would be a simple "stretcher" like carrier between us which, with little effort and without slowing us down, could go almost anywhere we could. We never got it made, but it illustrates the advantages of this design and why it keeps popping up wherever there is both a need and a well thought out solution.
Grandpa's Famous Deer Cart
A dandy home-made game carrier that looks very much like our sketch was called "Grandpa's famous deer cart". It will handle 225-250 pounds and is ideal for smaller game. Likewise, it would have been perfect for our fishing trips.
I ran across this cart again at http://www.ski-epic.com/montana2001/index.html.
Check out the pic where it is being loaded down with elk meat – maybe a bit more than it can comfortably handle.
One wheeled game carts have been around for a long time. In the late 90's, while attending a family re-union in La Grande, Oregon I gave a GameTote brochure to a cousin. He took me out to the barn where he showed me an old one-wheeler he had made about 40 years before. It was crude and unpainted and lacked a brake, but it had the crucial elements for a great cart, i.e., a welded steel frame, big motorcycle wheel and fixed handles. He proudly boasted that it had been used hundreds of times to bring back deer and elk from nearby Mt. Emily and the surrounding Blue Mountains.
The Pac'Orse at 40 lbs. and $295 was made in Vancouver, Washington. It was a serious attempt to take advantage of the large single wheel and was made like a moving dolly with long handles in front. It broke down nicely and with accessories could be used as a table and cook area or mounted on skis. The front handles were probably ineffective for helping to lift or balance and the effort to combine the big wheel with a lower center of gravity resulted in the common problem of having the wheel right in the middle of the cargo area. Drawings of a deer aboard showed it coiled around the wheel. After some eighteen years Pac'Orse closed up shop in 1999.
The Buck Truck cart was made in Monument, Colorado. It had handles that rotated to become legs for a 24" X 54" camp table. At 54 lbs. and $279.95 it used a wheel that was too light for big game but made it easy for two hunters to handle smaller animals. The table was far too heavy, and being flat, it was not ideally suited for a gamecart. After only a few years Buck Truck closed down in about 1998.
Mother Of All Elk and Deer Carts
Brady Smith has abandoned one of the best game carts I ever saw in favor of a carry in. He (theDIYHunter.com) pictures and refers to a home-made game cart his father made as the "Mother-of-All Elk and Deer Carts." It has a large motorcycle wheel with brake and is made with rigid handles and welded steel tubing. It does not break down. Brady boasts that "this cart is as good as it gets for hauling out deer and elk from just about anywhere". I agree.
The Carryall Buddy is a wheelbarrow type one-wheeled game cart (advertised to carry 250 lbs) found at carryallbuddy.net. At $325 and 30 lbs. it offers several of the advantages of the single wheel and works well for a single hunter. This looks like a strong, 20 inch bicycle wheel, adequate for 225 – 250 lb. loads but with proportionately less rolling and mobility advantages than larger wheels. As the cougar is situated you would be carrying about 15% of the load.
I have to take issue with the claim that the pivoting front handles “allow for easy second person operation” and are "superior to rigid frame designs". On the contrary this vertical pivot limits the front guy to pulling. It makes it impossible for him to lift or balance the load, to get over obstacles or through streams, or even to help much with steering. In order for him to do all of this and assist effectively as a full partner, strong and rigid front handles are essential.
The Neet Kart is 32 lbs., $498, and can be found at neetkart.com. Front handles are an extra $48. This is an innovative in-line (or tandem) game cart with bicycle wheels and caliper brakes. Video shows a Neet Kart being used to move a deer over 16” logs. Pics show a deer and rescue sled hanging out (and way out) over the front. The wheels appear to be on the smaller side offering proportionately less rolling and mobility advantages than with a larger single wheel.
Primary concerns are wheel strength, turning and balance. I saw no weight limit for the Neet Cart, but one of the pics showed a load estimated at 400 lbs. and the testimonials speak of retrieving full-sized elk. One assumes that with two heavy duty bicycle wheels you have doubled the 225 – 250 lb. capacity of one. But turning with the tandem (something you will be doing constantly in the field) is going to alter this math. It requires either skidding (which when loaded places great stress on the wheels) or, most likely, the lifting of one wheel while pivoting on the other. This means that while you are turning, all of the weight that is not being physically lifted is resting on the pivot wheel, A load limit of 225–250 lbs (plus the amount being lifted) is thus reasonably dictated.
The heavier the load the more difficult turning will be and the greater the risk of wheel failure. Of the one-wheelers we’ve heard about that failed nearly all were because of too big a load on a strong, but inadequate bicycle wheel. With much of the weight in front as in these pictures it might be easier to turn by lifting the rear, but note that the further you are behind the pivoting wheel the greater will be the turning arc - which could be a problem on narrow deer and elk trails. And of course you must continue to lift until the turn is completed. The alternative is to lift the front wheel by pushing down on the handles, thus using the leverage advantage from the long handles to offset the equally disadvantaged extra weight in front. If you could center the load over the rear wheel (see Trans-Port-RRR) this would allow you to raise the front wheel and make your turn with a relatively small and easy backwards tilt.
Strength and rigidity are critical for balancing heavy loads. Any weakness or looseness will tend to make the task rather wobbly and far more difficult. With the Neet Kart your hands are at one end of long handles and much of the weight to be balanced at the far end of the cart and beyond, placing great stress on the entire cart, but especially on the attachment point of the handles to the frame, where an extremely strong joint is needed.
In fairness, the reader should be aware that the testimonials appearing on the Neet Kart web site have not mentioned these concerns.
The Low-Boy Transporter is $340. Shipping is expensive because it does not break down. It is a strong elk and big game cart described at elk-hunting-tips.net/game-hauler.html . You can see it being used on YouTube.
By using a smaller diameter wheel, the weight can be carried lower and be easier to balance. It could travel well on a paved trail or on relatively hard and even ground. But this wheel is so small that with the weight of a large animal pushing down it would tend to sink into wet or soft soil or snow and likewise get hung up on each depression or obstacle along the way - as it is with a rock on YouTube. Further concerns are (1) twisting the elk head to the side to make room for the back guy’s legs and (2) where the rack goes if you get a big bull?
At 30 lbs. and $229 Hunteez is an aluminum wheelbarrow type game cart for one user. Stated capacity is 300 lbs. To the extent that the load is centered back of the wheel it must be partially carried as well as balanced. I would estimate that with the way this load is partly situated above the wheel, the hunter is lifting a tolerable 15% of the load. The smaller diameter wheel will roll less smoothly and get hung up more than a larger wheel, but this tire is wide enough that it could, with low pressure, have extra "give" and "roll through" some of the lower obstacles. The website for the Hunteez, catsailor.com currently states that the "Item is NOT available until further notice".
EZ Load Game Cart
You can find the EZ Load at ezloadgamecart.wordpress.com. It will accommodate either 1, 2, or 3 wheels and can come with a bed that breaks down. With the standard bed and 2 of the 20" plastic wheels the EZ Load is $325. (3 wheels - $380). The EZ Load people tell us that the wheels are now rated at 250 lbs. per wheel rather than the 150 lb. capacity previously reported. For "EZ loading" the hinged wheel assembly swings to the side and out of the way so that the bed can be placed on the ground while the animal is lifted in. One end is then held high while the wheel assembly swings back into place. All of this could still prove to be quite difficult with larger animals. If one opts for the advantages of a single wheel he is limited to 250 lbs. including the cart. With either 2 or 3 wheels the cart will carry 500 or (presumably ?) 750 lbs. The cart then takes on some of the traveling characteristics and other difficulties associated with a typical side by side two-wheeler in rough terrain. The load is carried higher than with a typical two-wheeler because it rests above the wheels rather than between them.
With two wheels and a capacity load one should be wary of a side hill where the inclination would be to hold the cart vertically to avoid tilting too far and dumping. The obvious risk at that moment is in having a 500 lb. load supported only by the 250 lb. hillside wheel. Also, while rolling over uneven ground with a maximum load on 3 wheels, one of the wheels will often be off the ground, leaving the others to support the extra weight. Similarly, if tempted to unload the cart by dumping the animal to the side rather than reverse the loading process, consider first that as you tip the cart the entire load is going to be resting on a single wheel.
The Trans-Port-RRR lists for $699.95 and can be found at loomansoutdoor.com. Like the Neet Kart it too is innovative, has tandem bicycle wheels, caliper bike brakes and is patented. They boast that it will haul big game and easily knife through the undergrowth. Clips show it rolling nicely in fairly level Midwestern terrain. The load appears to be almost balanced over the rear wheel, thus making it relatively easy to push down to lift the front wheel and complete a turn. Some pics, however, show a small bear more centrally located between the wheels. If the bear weighed 400 lbs. (the recommended weight capacity) it might be difficult for a single user to lift either wheel to make a turn. As with the Neet Kart, during turns, when all of the weight is on a pivoting heavy duty bicycle wheel, the load should be no more than 225 – 250 lbs.
This looks like a winner for the back-packer as it is extremely light and offers greater mobility than two-wheeled carry-ins. It will bring home as much as 150 lbs. of boned meat in nylon bags or panniers and can either be carried on your back or it will carry your pack in and then carry your meat out. This earlier prototype that we made for Brady weighed 10 ½ lbs., had caliper brakes and a 20 inch, heavy duty bicycle wheel. The finished product comes in small, medium and large sizes, weighs as little as 8 1/4 lbs., has disk brakes and sells for $495. Located at packwheel.com and discussed at thediyhunter.com, it is reported to work very well as long as you stay on the trail. I can imagine Pack Wheel also offering a second and alternate model with a bigger wheel where instead of favoring a minimum carry in weight, the hunter prefers to increase or maximize capacity and/or mobility.
Hats off to Scott Witzigan for this single operator, gasoline engine powered, single wheel retrieval cart that should have an incredible retrieval zone. Ascender can be found at www.ascendercarrier.com. They offer 2 models, with 250 lb. and 400lb. capacities and with sales prices in 2013 of $1,695. & $1,795, including shipping anywhere in Continental U.S. Choose between a Honda GS 160 or a Briggs & Stratton engine, both with 3 year warranties. I see no negatives other than the noise, possible forest service wheel and/or power restrictions and the fact that larger animals cannot be taken out whole. You must quarter and/or bone animals larger than an averaged sized buck deer. Scott says he has retrieved bull elk with antlers in one trip but without the head or cape. Other plusses include all large single wheel benefits except clearance, great maneuverability, and strong braking.
Also check out the Little Mule, another powered (electric motor), single operator deer cart which can be found at www.badriveroutdoors.com. Prices range from $3,299 to $4,599. It gives up to 8 hours of use on a single charge, has a winch to pull a deer onto the cart, and can be driven right into the bed of your pick up. Manufacturer’s claims as to single use effectiveness are no doubt more apt for the Midwest area. It is still a side-by-side two-wheeler and subject to the difficulties and limitations stated in the synopsis above.
Some GameTote buyers have told us of their plans to use a wheel with sprocket attached and having a second smaller sprocket to which a chain saw or weedeater engine could be engaged when power was needed. I was intrigued by the possibilities and could imagine such a well conceived and finely constructed accessory as being extremely valuable at times. I've heard nothing further but hope that when someone does follow through on this we can then make the plans available to others. The use of an engine would be against forest service regulations in some areas, as the wheel itself is in others.
I can’t recall a name and have been unable to locate it lately. So we’ll call it the Carryhalf because that best describes what it will do. The remaining half must, of necessity, be carried by the hunter. The portion carried by the hunter with a Carryall Buddy or Hunteez is about 15 % of the load. This is because much of the load on these carts is balanced above the wheel and the rest is closer to the wheel than the handles.
But why design a machine that leaves you to carry such loads when you can just as easily make one that will carry it all? Generally it is much easier to balance than to lift and carry. A seeming contradiction to this rule is the typical wheelbarrow, where the load is centered on the near side of the wheel, thus making it necessary to carry and balance a substantial portion of the load in order to more easily stabilize and manage the rest.
When a GameTote is used by a single hunter it becomes more like the Carryall Buddy and the Hunteez, in assuming a wheelbarrow-like configuration and characteristics. Notice that these other carts are constructed so that with any good-sized animal a sizable portion will be located on the near side of the wheel. We likewise suggest that with a single user, the GameTote load be adjusted somewhat toward the near end (see GameTote Information).
As more commonly used by two hunters, the GameTote is distinguished from the wheelbarrow analogy by having someone at each end of the cart to balance the load. And instead of having a possible load of cement sloshing back and forth, an animal carcass will be tightly secured to the cart.
To achieve maximum efficiency we designed the GameTote to carry the bulk of the load centered over the wheel. Full advantage can then be taken of the other factors (see 4-12 of the Game Cart Selection Guide) that help to make the trip back as easy as possible. Rather than expend all of his energy lifting and carrying, the hunter can instead use some for balance, some to propel the cart, and still have plenty left for the celebration.
The GameTote is $562.00, 54 lbs, and is at gametote.com. The Rescue Cart adaptation is $590.00. Features/Advantages include: (1) Absolute Reliability; (2) Single or multiple user; (3) No lost energy input; (4) Great strength & capacity; (5) Load balanced above wheel; (6) Easiest to load & unload; (7) Powerful braking; (8) Easy break-down; (9) Comfortable fit; and (10) Works well for both large and smaller game. The large, single wheel adds: (11) Greater wheel strength; (12) More clearance; (13) Ability to traverse slopes without dumping the load; (14) Smoother and faster rolling with less effort on any terrain; and (15) Mobility to go where the elk and deer go. Rigid handles allow (16) a partner in front to contribute critical assistance with power, braking, steering and balance, and to avoid or overcome hang-ups from depressions, rocks, branches, creeks, and other obstacles. In short, GameTote is prepared for almost any contingency and will perform where others cannot.
The only negative becomes apparent when compared with a smaller wheeled cart such as a Two-Wheeler or the Low Boy where the game is carried lower and is (17) easier to balance. We opted, instead, for the large, single wheel and the greater advantages it affords for retrieval in typical hunting terrain (see (11) to (15) above). Without these, many of the thousands of successful GameTote retrievals would have been either more difficult or impossible.
There are situations in which another game cart might do the job nicely and be your best buy. If the wheels are adequate for the task, a side by side two-wheeler should be considered wherever the terrain will permit it to travel well. A Carryall Buddy or Hunteez will work well for a single hunter handling smaller game or an elk quarter. And depending on the situation others might also do the job to your satisfaction. But for general use the GameTote will always retrieve any sized game from any terrain, better, faster, and easier than any other non-powered cart.
Check out the Game Cart Selection Guide.