Be On High Alert!

Nor' east Thinkin'

The forces of nature are conspiring against you

Published on: November 8, 2010

Yes, it's that time of year. No, I'm not talking about fattening a turkey (a real one, not a political one) – although a little extra grain might make good gobbling. And no, I'm not "pushing" Christmas shopping – although stores are already selling the Santa Claus spirit.

So what am I talking about? Mother Nature has cocked her hammer with the onset of buck "rut" and the hormonal rush that speeds Whitetail deer herds onto roadways. This is the season when we all need to be scouting for deer before they become fender ornaments.

After 30-some years of rural road driving, I've got a few miles of experience to draw from. In my rearview mirror, I've watch two deer "take wing" off the front of a Mercedes Benz. During the one week that I didn't have deer whistles mounted, I caught a doe on my right front fender. And once, while following a muffler-less truck, a doe flashed between my vehicle and the truck.

I've seen thousands of "blinks" shining in the headlights along the roadsides. Thankfully, they stayed there.

“Deer claims are more likely to occur in the early morning or evening hours," reports Darren Birtciel, rate analyst for Erie Insurance. "In fact, 50% of deer claims occur between 5 p.m. and midnight. Another 20% occur between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Wildlife "experts" will tell you that deer whistles – those little plastic wind-tunneled devices you stick on the front of your vehicle – don’t work. My experience says they're wrong. I've seen too many deer stop, turn in my direction and listen. That often provides just enough hesitation on their part to keep them from moving toward the road and their eternal destination. For the miniscule cost, deer whistles are great insurance.

Erie's 'play-it-safe' tips

  • Deliberately watch for reflections of deer eyes and deer silhouettes on road shoulders, particularly when driving late at night or early in the morning.
  • Use high-beam headlights at night when there's no oncoming traffic.
  • If you encounter a deer standing on the road, assume nothing. Slow down and blow your horn. Some, particularly young ones, haven't learned to yield to oncoming traffic. Last summer, I almost had to get out of my car and chase a young fawn off the roadway.
  • If you see a deer in or near your path, brake firmly but stay in your lane. Never swerve to avoid striking a deer. If a collision is imminent, hit it while in full control of your vehicle.

Want 100% safety effectiveness? Do all your driving between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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  1. J. Vogel says:

    As you noted, you had more than deer whistles working for you! Glad you recognized that.

  2. cmcatranis says:

    Just read the comments about 'driving among deer' by John Vogel and thought I would offer a tale about one deer that SAVED a life.....mine! It was a dark and snowy night....really!....and I was almost at the end of my 28 mile trip home from a late night at work. I was living in a small town just south of Syracuse, NY in the midst of the "snow belt" and the weather was living up to its reputation with six inch per hour snow accumulation. The snowplows had "stopped plowing" the side roads and I was using all my years of accumulated driving skill, faith and prayer to "stick to the road". A few minutes after I gently banked into the downhill corner to turn into the road heading to my home, a large eight point buck lept out in front of my car. As he loped along between my headlights, I gradually slowed down from the momentum of the downhill turn. He just would not get off the road and I kept slowing down. As I approached a wide turn in the road, the buck slowed to a walk, stood in the road for a few seconds and walked off to the left into the woods. By the time the buck had slowed to a walk, I was almost at a stop but I was so focused on watching this buck that I did not notice the what was just in front of him on the road. The stems of a very large willow had collapsed onto the road, completely blocking the road! The side branches stuck out in all directions and the diameter of each stem was two feet or more. I had stopped when the buck stopped. I felt the adrenalin surge, as the realization of what would have happened to me had that buck not slowed me down, hit me with full force. The buck was gone; we were both still alive. It may sound corny but I believe I experienced "providential intervention" first hand and up front that night......I left my car sitting in the road with headlights pointing on the fallen tree and the blinkers flashing. I climbed through the fallen tree's stems and walked toward home to borrow the chainsaw from a next door neighbor. As I cut off the branches and cut down the stems I kept re-living the beautiful strides of that deer as he loped ahead of my car. The adrenalin pumped on, until I had all the blocks of willow rolled off the road......There would be no cars or snowplows impaled on branches or flipped over fallen logs on this road tonight.