Hunting requires careful planning from start to finish. Even the most novice hunters know this before they begin, but many neglect one essential part of their trip: their vehicles. They have all the outdoor gear, the best gun and plenty of supplies, but they forgot to prepare their vehicle. 

You don’t want to make this mistake and be forced to leave a kill behind. Here’s a full guide on how to prepare your car for your next hunting trip.

Vehicle Preparation

Wash and detail your vehicle to get it in prime condition. It will get dirty, but the clean-up process will be much easier afterward if you start the trip with a clean slate. Next, you should get some gear to protect your vehicle from off-road conditions:

  • All-terrain tires: a durable set of all-terrain tires will help your car navigate rough environments and get you to hard-to-reach hunting areas.
  • Interior liners: protect your car’s interior with heavy-duty rubber liners. Let them gather all the mud and other debris, then rinse them off when you get home.
  • Utility Winch: just in case your car gets stuck, a strong utility winch will help pull you out of trouble.
  • Retractable awning: if your hunting trip goes longer than anticipated and you need to spend the night outside, you want to camp next to your car for extra security. A retractable awning will prove incredibly useful in this situation.
  • Tonneau cover (for trucks): a simple covering for your truck’s bed can keep all your equipment safe from the elements and ward off thieves.

If you want to explore more remote locations, you can also install various off-road modifications, such as grille guards, mudflaps and snorkels. These additions will help your vehicle dominate the terrain and find new roads. Just make sure the suspension can handle the extra weight to avoid overloading the car.

Emergency Preparedness

Once you prepare your car for the trip, you need to account for risks that could harm yourself and your companions. Any of these emergencies might happen:

  • Vehicle accident
  • Firearm accident
  • Fall from treestand
  • Animal attack
  • Venomous bite
  • Allergic reaction
  • Dehydration
  • Breaks, sprains and other minor injuries

You need to bring the resources to contact emergency services from any location and address these issues – at least temporarily – before help arrives:

  • All-purpose first aid kit
  • Extra water bottles
  • Bite-proof boots and pants
  • Portable GPS
  • Cell phone signal booster

On top of these items, remember to practice safe habits when handling firearms and traversing the environment. Treat every gun like it’s loaded and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Take note of your surroundings and choose the safest path.

After the Shot

If you manage to kill the animal you’re hunting, you need some special gear to haul it out of the wilderness and store it in your vehicle. First, field dress the animal and get rid of the smelly organs. If you want to lighten the load, store the meat in breathable game bags. Once you get the dirty work out of the way, you have several options for getting the meat to your car:

  • Drive the car to the kill spot.
  • Cart the animal to your car with a smaller ATV.
  • Drag or carry the animal.

Driving out to the kill spot is the most ideal method, but the terrain and property rules often make it impossible. Unless you brought along an ATV, you’ll need to drag or carry the animal to your car. These tools will make the task easier:

  • Rope: you need a strong, thick rope to support the animal’s weight.
  • Ski rope handle: this handle will give you extra grip when holding the rope.
  • Safety harness: if you don’t have a rope, wrap a safety harness around the animal and strap the harness to your back. This method distributes the weight more evenly and frees up your hands.
  • Sled: instead of dragging the animal through the mud, drag it on a sled for a smoother pull.

Once you return to your vehicle, lay out a tarp in your trunk or truck bed and secure the animal with ropes. You can also tie the animal to the roof of your car with ratchet straps. Some hunters even bring empty trailers so they don’t have to expose their cars to the dead animal. Whichever method you choose, make sure the animal is 100% secure before driving away.

Nail Your Next Hunting Trip

Hunting is the ultimate outdoor challenge, but finding and shooting the animal is only part of the battle. You need to have a reliable method for getting the animal out of the wilderness. These resources and strategies will help you prepare your car for your next hunting trip and bring a prized kill home for dinner.