Deer Hauling - Insight from Experience

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the Summer 2018 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter

The phone of a deer hauler has probably begun to do what they all do every year at this time. Ring off the hook. With November approaching, the busiest time of the year for hauling deer, it’s no surprise. Experience with deer is key to successful hauling. Knowing how to “read” them and how to safely execute a well thought out loading plan.

Lord willing deer are picked up and arrive at their destination uninjured. Along that journey a good driver will safely navigate the road, perhaps preferring to travel at night when traffic is lighter and the air is cooler. The best trip is a less eventful one, avoiding the loud revving of a motorcycle or the pressure release from semi brakes, if at all possible. Oftentimes, horse trailers are converted to deer trailers, walling off the sides and leaving only two open Inches at the top for proper ventilation. Specialized trailers built specifically for deer are also used and can hold several deer.

Deer travel more stress-free if stimulus is kept to a minimum. “If the deer only hear the sound but don‘t see where it's coming from they won't react so much over it." said Weldon Miller, who has spent the last five years hauling deer professionally. As with all deer haulers, he strives to make timely deliveries, and ensures he has the best, most reliable pickup trucks and trailers available for his job. Preparing for each road trip Includes putting dry shavings and alfalfa hay inside of the trailer. In lieu of water buckets, which oftentimes simply spill and create more mess inside the trailer, apples are also thrown in to ensure the deer have adequate moisture.

“I did a Missouri load and it was 95 degrees,” Miller said. "In that case I use a big syringe and spray it on their nose for water intake." Vitamin B12 shots can also be a great asset in keeping deer calmer while ensuring their appetite and moisture intake remains hearty.

Haulers like Miller are also mindful of meeting every rule and regulation necessary in the state they travel to, including Kentucky where a veterinarian is required to be present when deer are loaded, followed by placing a sealed Zip tie on the trailer door. Upon delivery the seal is removed by yet another veterinarian required for the unloading process This keeps haulers honest and is more or less a guarantee that buyers are getting their expected deer.”

"Every deer hauler should make sure they know what the rules are,” Miller said "There's no slipping and sliding. Go by the book." In states with closed borders deer can be hauled within the state, but not taken out. In other states deer can be both brought in and taken out, depending on current state statutes for doing so. Loading deer can be as quick as five minutes under the best of circumstances or take as long as several hours. Live-loading is usually preferred over darting, but deer haulers try to do their best to accommodate their customer's needs. Farmers with proper loading chutes provide the safest means for loading deer. Although it may not be his preference, Miller has helped load deer and has almost gone to the hospital from loading incidents gone bad.

“Most farmers have really nice places and clean pens,” he said. “But a few of these places need higher safety practices. Once this farmer wanted to live-load. He didn’t have a solid structure for me to back into. He had a chute made out of plywood. l was holding the plywood when a buck got his tine stuck and the whole thing fell over. Then it was just me and him looking at each other. He knew his only way out of there was through me. I immediately dropped and he jumped over me." Any deer hauler would understandably want to avoid this scenario at all costs, while preferring to make the trip for them and the deer the best it can possibly be.

Very drawn to this profession, Miller has a word of advice for anyone contemplating becoming a deer hauler. “Deer hauling isn’t for everyone," Miller emphasized. “You are on the road long hours and it wouldn’t potentially be a good job for those who participate in a great deal of family activity.”