Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

Actually, a better title for this article might be “Deer Me!” As hunters and motorists alike know, deer on the move don’t stop and look both ways before crossing the road. In fact, they don’t seem to notice where habitat ends and a roadway begins.

Pennsylvania has one of the highest incidences of car crashes involving deer of any state in the nation. That might come as a surprise to hunters, who always seem to lament that “there just aren’t as many deer around as there used to be.” But, in any event, there still seem to be plenty of deer jumping out in front of vehicles these days.

About 20 years ago, I had an unexpected run-in with a deer. It was late morning on the Fourth of July and I was headed to a holiday picnic in the next county. My nephew, Steve, was riding with me and he spotted a deer trotting across a field of corn in the distance on his side of the car. We kept an eye on it as we proceeded on the main road we were traveling, and I commented how unusual it was to see a deer at that hour of the day in midsummer.

It must’ve been a suicidal deer because, after it safely passed by us on my car’s passenger side, it suddenly made a hairpin turn, picked up speed and seemed to aim for my car. The tan blur scrambled across the car’s hood diagonally and impacted the windshield right in front of the steering wheel. Although the whole event seemed to occur in slow motion, it only took a few seconds and the deer was gone. The deer apparently leaped from my hood into a field of standing grain on the opposite side of the road from whence it had come, never to be seen again.

We never found out what happened to the deer, but fortunately Steve and I were uninjured, just a bit shaken up by the experience. Poor Steve had grown up in Panama, so just seeing a deer, let alone hitting one, was a strange new event. Not being able to safely see through my shattered windshield, I reversed course back home and was fortunately able to borrow my parents’ car to resume our travels to the Fourth of July picnic.

Since meeting Dennis, I’ve noticed that he has a deer hunter’s uncanny ability to see deer. Especially upstate. We’ll be driving along when suddenly he’ll point and say, “Over there are some deer.” I must be honest and say that, at least half the time, even after he’s pointed them out, I still can’t find the deer, camouflaged by their surroundings.

Unfortunately, I found a deer I wasn’t looking for on a recent trip to pick up Lizzie and Tillie from a weekend stay at a kennel located in a country setting. It had just gotten dark as I tooled along a back road in our Ford Ranger — also known as “the dogmobile.” I wasn’t going fast, there was no traffic and my mind was on chores I needed to do when I got back home. Suddenly, with no warning, I almost simultaneously saw a blur from the driver’s side and heard a light thud on the passenger’s side front corner.

It took my mind a few seconds to comprehend what had just happened. The blur I’d seen pass before me was tan and, given the time of day and the thud, it was likely I’d just hit — or been hit by —a deer. This time, things had not seemed like they were in slow motion — everything happened in the blink of an eye. Instead of seeing the deer heading my way, it had leaped out of a thicket growing right along the roadway. There hadn’t even been time to apply the brakes.

The country road was unlit, narrow and there was nowhere to pull over to assess the damage to my vehicle. Besides, I didn’t have a flashlight with me, so I wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway. The truck seemed to be working properly and I was only about a mile from the kennel, so I just continued on my way.

In the well-lit parking lot of the kennel, I took a look at the front passenger side grille, bumper and fender. I was amazed to see absolutely nothing. There wasn’t a dent, a scuff or even any remnants of deer hair. I said a silent prayer of thanks and hoped that the deer had been as lucky as I was.

On the way back home with the dogs by my side, I passed the area of the deer encounter very slowly with my headlights on high beam, but saw no sign of the deer, dead or alive. When I got home, Dennis’ only question after doublechecking for damage was, “Did it have antlers?”

Good question. I assume I would’ve noticed if it did, but I have no recollection of anything except a tan blur and a slight bump. Dear me, I’m glad this incident had a happy ending. And as a warning to other motorists, this time of year is what Dennis calls “silly season” — the time when bucks are chasing does for mating purposes — so, be careful driving out there.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.