Big Game Hoist to fit Trailer Hitch Receiver


Those big game hunters who may have stumbled onto my fishing articles, here is one you may be interested in.  Our goal in hunting is to be able to bag a animal and with that, most of us need to take care of the meat.  One of the priorities is to hang it up then get the hide off.   It can be done while laying on the ground, BUT is not the most ideal situation.   Most modern houses with attached garages are not really designed for a place to hang a rope block.  Those of us that have older outbuildings have an advantage here.  But what if we are away from home a considerable distance, like another state?

Sure you can take it to a meat processing plant, but I have always cut up my own meat for over 50 years, so it is kind of hard to change.   And I still like to be able to remove the hide as soon as possible, clean any blood or debris off and allow the carcass to start the cool down process.  This is especially so if the shot was not a real clean lung shot and the carcass needs to be cleaned, both inside the rib cage and/or any bloodshot tissue trimmed away.  Or if the weather is warm enough that the hide needs to come off to assist cooling of the meat so that it will not spoil.

In warm weather, I have even taken a skinned carcass (inside a cheese-cloth bag) that was hung out at night to cool and the next morning slid it inside my sleeping bag (after opening it up in the cool air to cool down).   This helped during the warmer day to keep the carcass from warming up until we could get back to our base camp.

Then you may be traveling some distance for your hunt as most of the public hunting areas are not close to any urban development.    So that means you probably are camping out in some manner or even staying in a motel.  Enter this method of hanging the animal, skinning it & being able to take care of it initially in some degree of sanitary environment has benefits.

At the local sporting goods store during the late summer, I looked at one of these units.  But the price of $229.95 was out of my price range (later it was marked down to $169.95).  Not that it was really overpriced, but on my retired, limited fixed income it was something I could live without since I have a chain-fall in the barn that has hung many a deer, beef and an elk or two.  Later in a conversation with a grandson who lives in Montana he mentioned that this year instead of driving upwards to an hour each direction just to get to the hunting area, (Montana is BIG, which means a lot of country out there to get where you need to go), that he may just set up a tent and stay overnight or for a few days near the hunting area.

Now, this game hoist that fits in to the trailer hitch receiver extension was beginning to make a lot of sense.  I went back to the store and as casually as possible took a couple of digital photos, measured some of the basic dimensions.  I figured I might as well pretty much copy an existing unit, no sense to try to reinvent the wheel.  OK, I did make a few changes but they were basically on the upper arm because I had square tubing in the scrap pile instead of the store bought 2" pipe and then a better way on how the upper pulley is attached to this over-arm.

Looking thru my metal scrap pile behind the barn, I managed to find enough used flat steel and large water pipe to do what was needed.  I just had to buy 30" of 2" heavy duty square tubing to fit into the pickup trailer hitch receiver slot for $15.   I found a couple of used pulleys off a defunct ratchet come-along, a used boat trailer winch that at one time I tried to mount on my quad and some 5/16" nylon rope off again a defunct old cheap game hoist pulley system that never worked right to start with.  I only need to buy (4)  3/8" bolts, nuts and washers.  Wow, it appears that I can make one of these for less than $20 plus the electric welding rod.  And my wife complains that I should throw away anything that I don't use in a years time, yet she still has some of her mothers cooking utensils that she never uses.

Now comes packing this stuff over to my son's shop, using his larger bandsaw (the blade on my smaller unit was not cutting straight) to cut the pipe and brace material to length.

I already had a light weight deer sized gambrel that I had made a few years before and had never used yet.

The way this unit is made, it comes apart into 3 sections.  (1) The bottom square tubing and the 2 1/2" pipe pivot base.  (2) The mid section 2" pipe with the winch attached.  (3) the top section pipe and over-arm.  The 2 pipes are joined in the middle with a 3/8" bolt keeping them from moving when assembled.  The lower section of 2 1/2" pipe that is used as a bottom pivot is welded on the 2" square HD tubing.  This pipe pivot base has (4) 2" section of 3/8" pipe welded equally around the top of the pipe where one 3/8" pipe will mate to from the lower 2" pipe which keeps it from twisting, but can be rotated in each of 90 degrees and the 3/8" aligned and pin dropped in to secure them.

The outer end of the over-arm has a 5/16" slot cut / milled lengthwise on the bottom side allowing one link of the pulley chain to be inserted upward and secured by a 3/8" bolt going crosswise thru this tubing.  The upper pulley is attached to the bottom of the 3 chain links.  Using these 3 chain links allows the pulley to be self aligning.

The winch is mounted slightly angled to the side (about 2 o'clock looking to the rear from above), to align the rope to the pulleys.

Shown here are the components laid out before the welding process Photo showing milling the chain slot, & bolt retainer hole
Photo showing upper pulley assembly

Bill of materials :

(2) 54" pieces of 2" pipe, for uprights
(1) 15" piece of 2 1/2"  pipe, swivel base
(1) 12" piece of 2 1/2"  pipe. coupler between the 2" pipe
(1) 30" piece of 2" HD square tubing to fit hitch, (1/4" wall thickness)
(1) 21" piece of 2 1/2" square tubing, over-arm
(1) 7" X 8" X 1/4" flat steel (makes 2 brace plates when cut diagonally)
(1) 4" X 6" X 1/4" flat steel for winch base
(1) 10" piece of 3/8" pipe, (cut into (5) 2" pieces)
(2) 3/8" X 1" bolt, nuts & washers
(1) 3/8" X 3" bolt & nut
(1) 3/8" X 3 1/2" bolt & nut
(1) boat trailer winch
(1) 5/16" X 25' nylon rope  (3/16" galvanized cable)
(1) section of 9/32" chain (3 links)
(1) piece of 3/8" rod 9" long bent into an Ell for pivot lock
(1) trailer extension cross pin & retainer clip
(2) 2" X 3/8" pulleys

Equipment needed

electric bandsaw
electric welder
5/16" drill (or 5/16" end mill if milling machine is used to make chain slot in over-arm)
file if no milling machine available
3/8" drill bit
11/16" drill bit

It is made so that this unit extends rearward enough that the pickup tail gate can be lowered while this in place.  The tail gate now can function partly as a table.

The welded on lower pulley has the non axle bolt's nut welded to the outer housing side, the spacer between the sides is braze welded to one side and the bolt head has a flat washer welded onto it's head to make a wing type nut for easy removal without tools and minimal lost parts.

The only preassembly would be to thread the rope thru the upper pulley and attached chain but leave the snap hanging out, but not attached to the over-arm yet.  This pulley assembly stays on the rope even when disassembled.

To assemble this unit, (1) insert the lower section into the square trailer receiver and the 1/2" cross pin retained by a clip.  (2) Drop the tailgate.  (3)Raise the 2" pipe mid section containing the winch and insert it into the larger 2 1/2" pipe of the lower section.  You can now drop the 3/8" El pin into the midsection's rotating lock system with the winch to the front of the vehicle. (4) Lay the top section on the tailgate. 

Climb into the pickup bed.  Pull enough rope off the winch to feed thru the pulleys and hang down about 1/2 way.  Insert the upper pulley's upper chain link into the over-arm and bolt it in place with the 3/8" cross-bolt.   Remove the 5/16" wing nut bolt on the welded on pulley, rotate this side-plate until you can lay the rope over the pulley sheave then rotate the side-plate back, replace the wing bolt.    (5) Raise the top section and drop it into the 2 1/2" receiver of the mid section.  Install the cross bolt thru the upright pipes locking the unit over-arm to the rear.  (6)  Pull enough rope off the winch to attach the snap to the gambrel.

Showing  the pivoting  section & rotating lock system Showing upper unit over-arm & pulleys attached

After I got this all together, I realize why it seems so tall, it appears to be designed to handle an animal the size of an elk, as I hadn't taken into account that this unit would be about 2' off the ground to start with along with the unit which is right at 8 1/2' overall height itself.  But taller is not going to hurt and may be of some benefit later. 

However after the initial use on deer, I have replaced the nylon rope with 3/16" wire cable that has a recommended strength of  840# so this will be sufficient for elk when the time comes.   I also welded a single link of chain on the top of the lower pipe section to secure the hook end of the new cable to keep it from unraveling off the winch when disassembled.

Disassembled, this unit's excess rope/cable can be winched in to where there is no extra rope laying around.  The unit's 3 separate pieces can now all be stored very easily along with your other hunting related gear in a 1/2 ton pickup bed until needed. 

Note that this is a heavy duty unit and the upper over-arm section is heavy, especially when held high in the air to assemble or disassemble.  When time comes, disassemble in reverse order.

You may notice that the coupler pipe between the mid and upper sections is longer in the finished unit than shown in the photo of the unassembled parts.

Here the game hoist unit is being field tested in Montana on a  medium sized 4 X 4 mule deer, late October of 2010

One other thing it could be used for is that if you are hunting alone and or have physical or medical conditions where you could not lift an animal up and into the pickup bed by yourself even with the tailgate down, you could wrap the rope around the animal's neck, crank it up high enough, rotate this hoist unit at the base to where the animal could then be lowered onto the tailgate and then rolled or slid farther into the bed.

After using this unit on 3 Montana deer, it works great, I would not make any changes on how it was made.   Except, if you did not need this heavy or tall a unit and for deer only, a smaller simpler one (and somewhat cheaper) could be made of 2 sections of 1 1/2" pipe, with a 2' shorter in overall height and a set of small rope blocks with a marine mooring cleat to tie off to instead of the winch.   And the square tubing on the bottom would not need to be heavy duty.

Here the buck shown hanging on the hoist above that was taken during a snowstorm by my ex son-in-law Roy

When making the gambrels out of 7/16" steel rod, I found that for deer, the overall length to the outer tips 26" seemed to work OK.  For elk , closer to 30" was better.


Copyright 2010 - 2015 LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

Back to Ramblings

Originated 10-05-2010, Last updated 12-23-2014
Contact the author