Mechanical extraction



Where carcasses are being extracted, the aim is to use the most appropriate method available, whilst ensuring safety of the operator, food safety, and taking into account environmental impacts. In certain cases, the use of a vehicle may not be possible or may be limited. The practitioner must therefore decide whether to extract using an alternative method, taking into consideration the degree to which manual handling of the carcass may be required.

Basic Essentials

Health & Safety

For all extraction activities, ensure the following:

  • Carry out risk assessments for all mechanical extraction operations and ensure that operations are carried out accordingly.*
  • Familiarise yourself with relevant HSE Guidance. **

Vehicle Extraction


  • Operators should prioritise safety and environmental impact through route selection. Plan the extraction route and walk the ground prior to using a vehicle on a rough site. Attempt to avoid risk situations e.g. steep, slippery or rocky slopes, fragile habitats, river crossings etc.
  • Consider whether it is appropriate/ essential to use a vehicle. Take into account the nature of the terrain both in the context of Health & Safety and potential impact on habitat. Select vehicles which are suitable for the application and terrain. They should be able to undertake the operation safely with minimal impact on the ground.


  • Ensure that all machinery and associated equipment (vehicles, winches, ropes etc) are in good working order, well maintained and regularly checked and serviced. Any equipment that is used for lifting operations will need to comply with the Lifting Operation and Lifting Equipment Regulations (1998).1
  • Ensure modifications made to machine/vehicle(s) do not invalidate existing insurance cover or constitute a potential hazard to the operator.


  • Ensure operators are aware of the relevant Health and Safety Executive requirements.**
  • Ensure that operators are trained.
  • Ensure operators are aware of the limitations of their equipment, including the manufacturer’s stated carrying capacity for their specific machine (in terms of load and number of passengers).
  • ATC operators must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment including a protective helmet.
  • When working alone, follow HSE guidance INDG73 (rev) C400 ‘Working alone in safety’. 2*
  • Ensure operators are only asked to undertake tasks within their capabilities.
  • Balance load and secure to ensure stability.
  • When loading, try to minimise manual handling and lifting, especially where large deer are being transported. This can be done by placing the carcass on a bank and sliding it onto/ into the machine, or using a small winch.
  • Take extra care in adverse conditions such as snow, ice, and on steep slopes.
  • Take extra care when operating winches particularly those using wire ropes. There are numerous things which can go wrong with winches not least the unforeseen release of loads.
  • Never smoke when operating or refuelling.
  • Care must be taken on soft ground. Prior route marking helps to ensure that machines do not become bogged.
  • Cover loads where carcasses are in view of the public.


  • Ensure that all load-carrying areas used for carcass extraction are made of impermeable material and are easily cleaned and dis-infected.
    Ensure that areas holding carcasses are washed and scrubbed with cold water before and after use and periodically cleaned with food-safe sterilising fluid. Before using any chemicals the operator must read and understand any label instructions so as to comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations and must also note any warning labels relating to Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).1,2**
  • Keep dogs, fuel and all other potential contaminants in a separate part of the vehicle or container from carcasses.
  • Cover loads where carcasses may become contaminated with dust, mud or water.

Habitat degradation

In respect of designated sites:

  • The use of the ATV is permitted under the provisions of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.
  • Ensure conditions are adhered to which may include the following:
    • Routes/ habitats3 to be used or avoided;
    • Types of vehicles, e.g. ground pressure ratings, wheeled, tracked or skid-steering;
    • Timing/ frequency of use – weather conditions/ breeding seasons/ maximum number of return journeys per route per year.
  • Ensure the following impacts are minimised:
    • Tracking, rutting, bare peat or soil;
    • Visible lines, erosion scars, changes to vegetation type and colour;
    • Changes in hydrology, e.g. damage to pool systems and burn crossings;
    • Loss of sensitive species, e.g. Sphagnums;
    • Disturbance to species, e.g. ground nesting birds, freshwater pearl mussels.
  • Using ATV’s off road and tracks can cause unsightly scarring and lead to erosion. There will always be a delicate balance between using the same route or seeking to use a different route. Some simple rules can help reduce these impacts:
    • Use harder drier ground, but avoid repeated use of routes on dry heath which can kill or abrade vegetation.
    • Avoid wet ground where possible to reduce impacts through tracking. Change the route only where excessive bare ground, rutting or water build up occurs.
    • When crossing rivers choose entry and exit routes and crossing points that minimise the silt loading in the water course, either through runoff or disturbance to the river bed.
    • Avoid steeper slopes which necessitate proceeding straight up and down, causing tracking.
    • Avoid actions which cut up the surface vegetation i.e. sharp turning, speed, wheel spin.
    • Take account of ground conditions when accessing areas susceptible to cutting up, e.g. when frozen or covered in snow.
    • Limited manual dragging to a single pick up point can significantly reduce ATV impact.
    • Single large loads will in many cases be less damaging than repeated use.
    • Use a vehicle with the minimum possible ground pressure.
  • Consider the visual impacts of tracking particularly within National Scenic Areas.


  • Ensure vehicles are not leaking fuel or oil, this is particularly important where river crossings are involved.
  • Ensure when refuelling, spillage and contamination is avoided.

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

Sit-in extraction equipment

(Argocat and Glencoe types of machine).


  • Primarily constructed or used for work off the public highway;
  • Good for increased stability and carrying capacity.
  • Employers who provide their employees with sit-in vehicles are required to minimise the risk of injury to operatives from the rolling over of such vehicles under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.1 Do so by either of the following:
    1. Fit vehicles with a roll-over protections structure (ROPS): either a cab, rollover frame, or roll-bar to protect the occupants. Such a structure could either be provided as part of the original machine or, if added afterwards, should be purchased with a CE2 mark and approved by a recognised test body. Occupants should wear seat belts.
    2. Risk assessment may indicate the use of designated routes and designated trained drivers as an alternative to having to fitting a ROPS system.
  • Follow HSE guidance AIS 33 ‘Safe use of all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) in agriculture and forestry’.3

All Terrain Cycles (ATCs)

Sit-astride extraction equipment (mainly quad motorcycles).
(Potentially the most dangerous items of extraction equipment).

  • Good for use where manoeuvrability is important and where small numbers of carcasses are likely to be recovered each trip.
  • Small carcasses can be carried on the machine, or larger carcasses in a trailer attached to the back of the ATC, or pulled behind on a drag bag.
  • Never drag down steep slopes, unless in a rigid sled, as the load may overtake the ATC, causing an accident.
  • Fit hill trailers with a ball hitch that rotates through 360 degrees, as this will allow the trailer to run smoothly at a different angle to the ATC.
  • Fit a sheet or cover over carcasses when using the wire basket type of hill trailer to reduce dirt thrown up by the ATC wheels landing on the carcass.
  • If dismounting an ATC whilst crossing a burn, Always dismount upstream to avoid the danger of pinning.

Winches & Snatch Blocks

Good for extracting animals from very steep gullies or slopes, winching deer out of forestry clear-fell areas, and lifting heavy carcasses into vehicles or larder.

These can either be hand-held, vehicle-mounted or fixed in a larder, and can help with carcass handling and extraction.

The capstan winch is a useful type and can either be mounted on a vehicle or be portable.

When extracting deer with a long rope, especially in forestry areas, a snatch block and strop can be especially useful if operating along a roadside. The strop is looped high around a tree, and the snatch block, or pulley wheel, is attached by a Bow shackle. The rope is passed through this, and one end attached to the carcass, the other end to a vehicle or a capstan winch.
A winch fitted to ATVs may also help in self-recovery if you get stuck.

  • When laying out a rope for the extraction of a carcass, especially in forests and woods, take as short and as direct a route as possible, avoiding bends and major obstacles.
  • Use a polypropylene rope with an appropriate breaking strain approximately 200m long, wound onto a drum that can be easily transported.  The strength or 'breaking strain' of the rope should always comfortably exceed the maximum stall rating of the winch.
  • Winches should be used for lifting heavy carcasses into recovery vehicles, where the cargo deck is more than 75cm above the ground and assistance is not available.
  • Do not wear loose fitting clothing as this could become trapped in a winch.
  • Wear ear defenders when using a motor-driven winch.
  • Use gloves when operating winches particularly for wire ropes.
  • Check that all drums are correctly lubricated.
  • Do not use excessive pressure if a load becomes stuck.
  • Do not attempt to fix or work on a winch under load pressure.
  • Be aware of the danger of electrocution when using electric winches in wet conditions or in proximity to overhead power lines particularly in ravines etc where there is a risk of the winch cable springing into the air and making contact.

Manual extraction

This is often the only available method of extraction from areas too steep and boggy for vehicle access. When extracting carcasses manually the safety of the operator is paramount.

Health & Safety

  • Minimise the risk of injury and physical effort — plan and modify the route, e.g. brash routes through trees, mark pony paths.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended)1 establish clear steps for dealing with risks from manual handling. These are:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as reasonably practicable;
  • Assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided;
  • Reduce the risk of injury so far as reasonably practicable.


  • Light deer may be recovered from the culling area to vehicle or larder by carrying. Several specifically designed “Roe Sacks” are available from a range of manufacturers, which allow small deer to be comfortably carried on the back.
  • Take care when carrying unspecified loads, especially on uneven ground, so as to reduce the risk of injury to the user.
  • Care must always be taken to avoid unnecessary contamination when dragging.
  • When dragging ensure an appropriate length of rope. A toggle handle or wrapping the rope around a length of stick, may prevent rope burns.
  • Attach the drag-rope by looping around the antlers, or neck for females, and put a half hitch around the nose. This will prevent the nose digging into the ground, and will raise the shoulders off the ground.
  • If dragging from the front, keep the rope very short, and stand in front of the deer and pull slowly, do not allow the carcass to build up momentum.
  • Do not wrap the rope around any part of the body.
  • When dragging, maintain constant pressure, don’t jerk and snatch at a load.
  • For very steep ground lower the carcass by the back legs first (the deer hair going ‘against the grain’ and therefore acting as a friction brake) with the rope around the head. Wherever possible use two people. One person in front to pull and one at the back to keep the carcass from rolling onto the front man and keep the carcass stretched out.