First there is a loud crashing sound (sometimes) followed by the squealing of brakes (too late). You have been driving down any road or highway in Connecticut or any other Northeastern state when this happened.
More than likely, you have hit a deer and, if you’re are lucky (and I use that word loosely), the impact will throw the body of the animal clear over your vehicle. If you are not lucky, the animal can come crashing through your windshield, causing severe bodily harm or even kill you.
And now we also have moose in the northwestern part of Connecticut and black bear numbers on the increase. This calls for even more attention to be paid while driving.
Before this year is over, more than 200 human lives will be taken nationwide by collisions with deer alone, not to mention other animals. We are cautioned on a yearly basis by our Wildlife Division about the dangers of hitting a deer during the dark days of autumn and early winter when the deer are breeding.
But as drivers in a high-density deer state, you should be aware that such run-ins, especially with deer, can happen any time of the year. Edna and I walk our dogs on Research Parkway in Meriden quite often and, one afternoon, as I approached some ornamental bushes, a doe and a fawn burst out and headed across the road. Fortunately, there were no vehicles in the area they crossed so everyone was safe.
It was also this summer that I had to stop my vehicle for a fawn standing in the middle of the road by the retaining wall on the Quinnipiac River. I stopped and watched as it decided what it wanted to do. It then hopped over the fence along the road and I saw its mother standing in the brush waiting for it. I do not think that watching out for motor vehicles is on the little deer's training list. Sad to say, a couple of days later its little body was lying dead on the roadside.
And a couple of weeks ago another deer met its demise on Research Parkway as it tried to cross the road.
Many times the deer are hit by a fast-moving trailer truck and little or no damage is done to the truck, although I have seen the time when a small buck got hit by a trailer truck causing it to lose its brakes and roll over when the driver lost control. The driver did survive that crash.
Not so lucky was a motorcyclist in Tennessee when a deer ran in front of him, knocking him off of his bike and under the wheels of a tractor-trailer. Witnesses of the incident said the deer knocked the rider off of his motorcycle and into the path of the rear wheels of the eighteen-wheeler.
Having put hundreds of thousands of miles on my vehicles since I started writing a column for the R-J, I have also heard evidence of the “crash and then the squeal of brakes” at our former place in New York. The first one came in the dark of the early morning. Edna and I were just getting out of bed when we heard the sound of a vehicle hitting a deer and then the hitting the brakes.
I jumped out of bed, put on some clothes and headed out to the sound of the crash. By the time I got there the only thing left on the road was some deer hair and blood. I do not know if the driver picked up the deer or if the critter ran off into the woods to die a slow, lingering death.
The second time I heard the now-familiar sound was on a Sunday while watching a football game on the tube in New York. We had a family get-to-gether and everyone, including my darlin' Edna, had headed back to their homes in CT, MA, VT, NH and Maine. Since I was retired, I was elected to do the cleanup.
I had gotten tired of watching the football game and, since you can hunt in New York on Sundays and it was muzzleloader (black powder) season, I decided to hunt that afternoon. I was just getting ready to head up the hill to hunt when that now familiar crash and squeal of brakes came through loud and clear. I stepped out onto the deck and looked down the driveway to see the body of a huge doe laying in the entrance to our camp.
I rushed down to the damaged vehicle and there were two young girls in hysterics crying and yelling at the now dead deer. I say yelling, but I have to laugh now when I think back because the four-letter words coming out of one of the girls shocked me, and that ain't an easy thing to do. (Dang, that girl even taught me a few new words, not that I needed any.)
Next came the state police and a wrecker and the mother of one of the girls. When asked if they wanted the deer, they replied in the negative. Then they asked me and I said yes. Believe it or not, some road kills, especially those that just happened, can be mighty fine eating. The dead deer in my driveway had jumped out in front of the car, taking the brunt of the hit on its head. When I dressed the deer out there was very little damage done to the body.
Over the years, I have had a couple of near-hits with deer in my travels. The very first happened back in the 80s up in Kent. I was heading to Skiff Mountain to do some hunting and sort of daydreaming (or should I say “morning dreaming”) of deer as I traveled through some farmland. A deer popped out of the brush a little bit in front of me and I was fascinated watching it instead of the road. I don’t know what made me look back to where the deer came out, but two more were already in the road and, YES, my brakes were squealing.
I think every light in the neighborhood came on. Both the deer and I were lucky that time.
Another time, while admiring the October foliage on my way to New York at about 9 in the morning, I came around a curve in the road and had three deer right in front of me. I swung the steering wheel to the right and glanced off the guard rail, scratching the side of my truck a little. Again, the deer and I were lucky.
It seems that I am always going hunting when I have my deer/vehicle incidents. I have had three run-ins that, as far as I know, the deer and I also survived. All three were glancing blows off the side of my truck. Thankfully, I was driving with a bit of caution all the time.
In our travels, Edna and I have seen a couple of nasty accidents involving deer. A couple of them demolished the vehicle and a couple of them sent the occupants to the hospital in an ambulance. If you should see a deer on the road in front of you, look for another to be right behind it.
Now, those opposed to deer hunting will try to tell you that it is the hunters who are driving the deer onto the roads. NOT TRUE! This is the breeding season for deer and, since they are nocturnal, a lot of their movement is at night. It is illegal to hunt deer at night. Got it?
Of course, once the rut is in full swing, the bucks are roaming the woods looking for receptive does, and when a doe is not in the mood, the buck might still chase her across a highway or two. When the rut is in full bloom I have witnessed bucks chasing does a number of times, some during the bow season where the doe and buck would be running all around you, but never close enough to put a tag on them. On the other hand, during the shotgun season I have taken about seven bucks who were chasing does.
It goes without saying that if you do not have collision insurance on your vehicle and you have a collision with a deer you are S.O.L. (Surely Out of Luck). And you had better believe that a deer/vehicle collision will cost you or the insurance company a pretty penny.
As for the fall being the heavy time for deer traffic, Edna and I counted 29 dead deer (all fawns and does) one July 4th weekend when we were on our way back to Connecticut. This was all in about 200 miles of road.
Here in the Meriden area, Research Parkway and Route 691 seem to have more than their share of deer/vehicle collisions. But in our area deer are being seen everywhere, so be extra alert when driving, especially early evening and early morning.
Hunting seasons for deer are the best way to control herd populations and lower vehicle/deer incidents. Left alone and not hunted, a deer herd can almost double on a yearly basis. One only has to look at the tragedy of Bluff Point, where an over-population of deer were starving to death. A controlled hunt that was protested by animal rightists brought the herd numbers down to compatibility with the existing habitat. This was on state land, and private land owners and land trusts should also take responsibility for any over-population of deer on their properties.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.