Save your deer for the hunt
I passed on a heavy-bodied spike buck this morning, and I am glad I did – not because I am set in just “hunting horns,” but because I was running a rural road in my ancient Honda SUV, Old Blue.
I was on the homebound leg of a short cast-and-blast, hunting and fishing trip with buddies in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-New York triangle. I was following smaller state back-roads, near the Ohio-PA line, when I spied movement in the brushy creekbottom to my left. I had been tallying road-killed deer after roadkilled deer for three days and did not plan on making this one another bloody pile on the pavement. Dead deer littered the roadsides from interstates to narrow two-lanes.
I slowed down, let the young buck cross about 200 feet ahead of the car, and kept watching for more deer to cross. Usually, the summer’s fawns are following a doe, so you need to be careful. But even a buck may have company. It pays to be sure. Slow down and be alert – simple but smart advice.
By now we all should know the standard driving precautions in autumn, the period of highest vehicle-deer collisions. Whether we actually think about, and practice, them is another matter. As hunters, we all know deer are most active at the hours of dawn and dusk.
But now in November, during the onset of the rut, or breeding season, all bets are off. Sex trumps all, and bucks and does may be chasing one another any time of day. Plus – a big plus especially in agricultural Ohio – fall harvests is also pushing deer out of their hidey-holes in those seemingly endless corn “forests.”
In recent years, Ohio has registered about 18,000 deer roadkills, though the number was as high as 26,000 or so 20 to 25 years ago during a period of deer superabundance. And roadkills do not tell the whole story. Lots of deer are struck and limp off injured, often likely to die out of sight and out of mind.
Neighboring Pennsylvania had the most deer-vehicle crashes (not necessarily kills) with 101,299, followed by Michigan, with 78,304 between 2010 and 2011, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). West Virginia, moreover, leads the country in terms of deer collision odds. Insurance wonks estimate that there are more than 1.5 million collisions involving deer each year nationally, and that results in more than $1 billion in vehicle damage.
So stay alert on the road, and save deer – for your hunt.