By RICH FOLEY
Seen any deer crossing your path lately? Faithful readers of this space will recall several months ago when I wrote of the joys of spotting deer throughout Fulton County and the surrounding area. Perhaps I should have been clearer in my explanation.
I was referring to those deer who like to stand near the edge of a wooded area, survey the scene, then retreat slowly back into the forest, not those horse-sized freaks of nature who like to play some perverted deer-style Russian roulette with any passing vehicle. Or more specifically, my vehicle.
At least this time, the deer and I both won the game. He got to live and I was spared finding out if air bags still work when a car is nearly ten years old.
I was returning to Fayette after having dinner in West Unity on a recent Friday night when I decided to take a shortcut between U.S. 127 and Harrison Lake. Readers may remember my habit of checking up on the ducks at the park. This night, the ducks were hardly the main attraction.
I must have still been in Williams County because the deer in Fulton County certainly would have read of my friendship for them and spread the word by now, right? For whatever reason, a buck the size of a horse was suddenly crossing the oncoming lane like he was running down the backstretch at Churchill Downs, sprinting for Kentucky Derby glory.
Before I had even the chance to finish the expletive that came to mind, the deer did a 180 and headed back the way he had come, a split-second from disaster. Only then did I have the opportunity to consider the situation.
I was lucky I was only going about 45 mph because if I had been going any faster, the momentum might have sent the deer sliding up the hood into my windshield. Or maybe 45 would have been plenty fast enough for this—I’m not a student of deer-Buick collision physics.
I do know the low, streamlined Park Avenue wouldn’t have had as good a chance of repelling the deer as my locomotive-like Caprice did seven years ago when it met one of approximately the same size near Palmyra. The Caprice lost its grille and other decorative doodads, but sent the deer on out of my way to its ultimate fate (I don’t know to this day whether or not it survived).
A few days ago, I read an article giving what they called simple tips to help avoid deer collisions. I love some of the advice these “helpful” guides provide.
The first tip in this one was “watch the clock,” meaning deer are most likely to be running in the hours just before and after sunrise and sunset. You could re-word this one to say “only leave home between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to limit contact with deer.”
Then there was that old favorite, “don’t swerve.” In general, that is good advice if there’s oncoming traffic and you can’t slow down. But sometimes, a situation may call for it. About twenty years ago I was on a rural road near Jackson when I saw a deer in my lane far ahead. I let the car coast as I checked the surroundings for more deer. No more were found, and no other traffic was seen as I neared the deer, still in my lane.
By that time, my speed had dropped to about 35 mph, so I simply steered around him and went on my way. Under those circumstances, hitting the animal instead of turning would have been wasteful, as well as senseless.
Next, came the advice to “sound your horn.” Unfortunately, many experts say deer are hard of hearing, one of the reasons those deer whistles some people attach to their vehicle don’t work, either.
Finally, I had to laugh at the advice to “wear your seat belt.” That’s certainly good general advice for anyone in a collision, but how is that going to help you avoid hitting a deer in the first place? Do they think deer have hidden cameras set up to look for unbelted drivers? “Hey, Bambi, the guy driving the blue Taurus isn’t buckled up. See if you can give him a scare!” I really doubt that’s how things work in the deer universe. Besides, I was wearing a seat belt during my collision and both near-misses. I just don’t see any extra advantage in collision avoidance here.
No, I think a more novel approach is in order. I’m considering mounting a white flag near my front license plate. Unconditional surrender to the deer. An idea so stupid, it just might work.