November 27, 2004
A Near Deer Experience
Just a few days after I picked up the Insight, I made the near-fatal mistake of driving the car at night. Our county road is prime territory for deer-car collisions and I drove cautiously toward the house hoping not to have a "Near Deer" experience. Although the speed limit is 55 MPH, I do not dare go over 45 MPH no matter what vehicle I am driving. I learned a few years ago not to ever be in a hurry once night falls. This time of year it is doubly dangerous: the deer are in rut and are whacked out from all those hormones coursing through their veins and the beasts are running for their lives from hunters.
Whew! I was relieved when I made it to the front gate. From here, it's only a short distance to the house—all up hill at very low speeds. I started the turn up the driveway when all of a sudden a huge and I mean HUGE buck lurched out of the brush right in front of the car. Going less than 10 MPH allowed for a near miss. The buck was so close to the front bumper of the car that mud sprayed up onto the hood from the hoofs of the buck. (I guess I'll remember to take the truck the next time.)
The sad part about this is that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Trying to swerve out of the way of a deer is nearly always futile and there's the risk that you could lose control of the vehicle. It is rare that you have enough time to react to a collision. The best thing you can do is drive slower and pray.
The way I see it there are really only two real predators to deer: hunters and cars. Since we killed off all of the wolves over a century ago in these parts, there's nothing else that can curb the population other than disease. Over population of deer has become a big problem and the number of deer-car collisions is on the increase nation-wide. According to a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, cars and motorcycles collide with deer over 4,000 times per day. Over 210 motorists died from these collisions. Last year there were 1.5 million collisions, injuring 13,713 people and causing $1.1 billion in vehicle damage.
Although I am not a hunter, I do allow hunting on our land on a limited basis. I do not allow trophy hunting and the hunters that I do allow are respectable hunters who I trust. I'd much rather see the deer herd culled by hunters than by vehicles. If there ever was a vote to increase the number of deer tags allowed, I'd be all for it.
Does the story end with this near-deer experience? Not quite. Two weeks later, I was packing by bags one morning for my commute to Illinois. It was a nice frosty, sunny morning when shots rang out from the DNR land across the road from us. (This isn't too uncommon to hear during hunting season.) About 30 seconds later, shots were fired again this time closer. I could hear a hunter yelling "I got him! I got him!" With my interest now piqued, I walked a few steps down on front drive to see a hunter crossing the county highway on to our property. He was running towards our driveway. I stood there in the middle of our driveway so not to be mistaken for a deer. We made eye-to-eye contact, so I started walking down the driveway.
By this time his partner had arrived and they were looking up the hill from the gravel road. Sure enough, laying on his side was the buck. It was a 10 pointer. His breathing was erratic with his bloodied tongue was hanging out of the side of his mouth. He was trying to get up, but couldn't. The hunter shot him one more time but it still didn't seem to be enough. I felt sorry for this sentinel creature. He was suffering. Moments passed and he finally gasped his final breath. While the hunters were "high-fiving" each other, I envisioned how this noble animal hours ago was grazing on the forest floor unaware that his life was about to end.
At that particular moment I was filled with grief and anger at how little respect the hunters had for this animal. Native Americans would have given thanks to the creator for supplying them with food for the winter. They would have realized that a fellow animal gave up its life in order to sustain theirs. To these hunters, it was just like a video game or sporting event. I walked away in disgust.