“Lift with your legs, not with your back,” I told myself as I struggled to hoist a big whitetail doe into the back of my Jeep Patriot. My hands were covered in blood and the hide on the deer’s hind legs was slippery as I worked to get them off the ground. Apparently I didn’t use enough “leg,” because as I lifted I felt something pop in my back. Ignoring the fact that it suddenly hurt to stand up straight, I reached up to close the back of the jeep only to realize my work had been in vain—the door wouldn’t close due to the massive hindquarters blocking the latch. Time to call in reinforcements.
That wasn’t the only hunt where I ended up throwing my back out or pulling a muscle or two. If you’ve loaded many deer into a vehicle, you can probably say the same. Eventually I decided I needed a better solution. For my birthday, I picked out a winch to install in the bed of my pickup truck. It was easily one of the best birthday gifts I have ever gotten, and worth every penny.
The Badland winch from Harbor Freight is a 2,000-lb utility trailer winch with steel rope and a remote. Despite its compact design, it’s pretty powerful and would have no issues pulling up even the largest whitetail in all of southern Ohio. If you’re looking to drag another vehicle out of a ditch, this may not be the choice for you, but it certainly does the job when it comes to big game.
Badland 2000 Utility Trailer Winch
My husband was the brains and brawn behind the installation, so I can’t take credit for that part. He also altered the installation a bit to make things easier for me.
The first thing he did was install a piece of steel across the bed of my pickup truck, right up against the cab. He put it in place with bolts and secured the winch in the middle. Harbor freight also sells a mounting plate separately, if you don’t have spare steel laying around. This setup will also be easy to remove should I choose to take it off after deer season.
The winch, along with the remote, needs to be connected to an ATV or vehicle battery in order to run. Buying an expensive separate battery didn’t seem like the best solution. Instead, my husband bought some longer wiring and ran it underneath my truck and up under the hood to connect directly to my truck battery. If you do this, keep in mind you should have your vehicle running when the winch is in use so that you don’t kill your battery and end up stranded.
The remote plugs into the winch with the wiring connected to the battery. I keep my remote unplugged and stored in a waterproof container in the cab of my truck to prevent it from getting ruined or stolen. I also purchased a cover for the winch to protect it from the elements.
I finally got to put the winch to the test in mid November. At 36 weeks pregnant, during a cold and snowy mid morning hunt, I shot a doe. Conveniently I was able to get the truck right up next to her so didn’t have to do any dragging. It only took a few seconds to hook up the remote, loop the cable around the deer’s neck, and haul her up into the bed. It was extremely satisfying to stand by lazily and watch the dead weight being pulled effortlessly up over the tailgate.
I did end up having some tangles in the cable due to not working it back and forth enough when it was spooling. However, I’m planning on replacing the cable with synthetic before next deer season, which will be a bit easier to spool as well as less likely to tangle.
Out of all the hunting gear investments I’ve made over the years, the winch makes it to the top of the list.