Well, all the deer I have ever shot, I have taken out whole, dragging them to the vehicle. However, all were on relatively flat land, and were no more than 1/4 mile from the road. Plus, they were all around 100-120 pounds, so it wasn't too bad.
However, I cannot imagine trying to drag a 200+ pound rocky mountain mule deer any further than 20-30 feet to skin it out and quarter it up. Especially given the terrain that you have to deal with in most areas that they inhabit.
I don't drag as much as I used to but still do some if it's within a half mile or depending on the terrain or if I have help or not. We took two does out whole last year with a game cart foor about a mile pretty easy also. Snow makes a bif difference also as to how easy it will be. They slide right along then. Other than that it's time to get the knives out and cut em up where they fall.
i have only shot three deer in my life and i drug out two and caveman style(legs tied to a 3 1/2 inch round lodgepole)the other.i had a partner to help me with them and they were all average size bucks.the snow made it easier on a tough drag steep uphill about 1/4 mile and the deer on stick was tough on the shoulder but a trail made it doable at 3/4 of a mile.the other drag was across some little creeks about 200 yds not bad but all were physically straining.it all depends on the area you shoot your deer and the distance you must go and maybe the weather.I hope i am cutting my next one up to pack out.
For me it all depends on how far away my truck is and what kind of terrain I'm in. I'll drag out if it's less than 1/4 mile and pretty flat land. The last time I drug a deer out was 4 years ago and it was uphill but only 150 yrds from the road so I thought it would be pretty easy since it was a smaller 3x3 boy was I wrong. Looking back I should've quatered it up. Now anything thats an uphill climb regardless of distance will get chopped up first.
I dragged out my most recent muley. It was about 1.5 miles to the vehicle. After field dressing I simply rolled onto a tarp, tied the legs in, wrapped into a "burrito" with the tarp, and dragged or slid easily over the terrian... and even easier through (actually on top of) the waters of the Rio Grande River.
I have been in areas where dragging was far more efficient than quartering and then packing out. I then was able to hang later and butcher myself at my pace and not have to deal with quarters.
Personally, if you are going to make two trips packing it out then I would rather just drag it once as long as you prep it correctly it is not a burden.
From the books that I have read, there is a lot of importance in knowing every nook and cranny of your hunting territory as well as the animal that you are hunting. So scouting as much as possible, just walking the land, will give you a good idea of what's around the corner or what's on the other side of a hill. Which can be very beneficial.
Making your own maps of human and deer trails, and different types of foliage such as group of pines,...