Rut­ting deer can help hunters, but hurt drivers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Tom Ta­tum Colum­nist

You might say it’s prom sea­son for the white­tail deer. Right now the herd is on the prowl all over our Ch­ester County coun­try­side in search of dates and hookups. That’s bad news for un­wary mo­torists but good news for body shops and savvy bowhunters. The white­tail breed­ing sea­son, also known as the rut, is now start­ing to peak, and will likely per­sist deep into Novem­ber. For archery buffs, this is the best time of the sea­son to fill that buck tag. Hor­mone-fu­eled bucks are on the move in quest of re­cep­tive does, of­ten throw­ing their cus­tom­ary cau­tion to the wind and open­ing up a win­dow of vul­ner­a­bil­ity that can pro­vide great op­por­tu­ni­ties for the pa­tient bowhunter.

To that end, I’ve been hang­ing out in trees wait­ing for the right buck to am­ble by within bow range.

So far I’ve passed up a few young but le­gal bucks and have found that the burli­est bruis­ers have proven far too stealthy for my archery skill set. The big­gest buck I’ve seen so far slipped by me just out of bow range last week but of­fered a front row seat when an­other smaller buck showed up and the two be­gan joust­ing and click­ing antlers as the larger buck pushed the smaller one down the old log­ging trail in the op­po­site di­rec­tion from my stand. I tried a med­ley of grunt and bleat calls, even threw in some antler rat­tling, but failed to turn them back to­ward me as both deer faded away into the un­der­brush.

On Fri­day night I set out my 3-D deer tar­get near an­other stand site fig­ur­ing it could serve as a de­coy the next morn­ing. When I re­turned to the stand be­fore dawn on Satur­day, I found the de­coy tar­get in three scat­tered pieces. It was ob­vi­ous

that an­other buck had hap­pened by that night, took of­fense that this plas­tic, eight-pointed in­truder had tres­passed on his ter­ri­tory, and es­tab­lished his dom­i­nance by de­mol­ish­ing this would-be op­po­nent.

While bucks may be fight­ing right now, they’re also look­ing for love in all the wrong black­topped places. You’ve prob­a­bly ob­served a se­ri­ous uptick in road kills as a re­sult and no­ticed many more deer than nor­mal in close prox­im­ity to our back roads and high­ways. The prob­lem is great­est in the early morn­ing and evening, and with day­light sav­ings time now in play, more ve­hi­cles will be on the road dur­ing the hours when deer are most ac­tive. It’s no sur­prise that the Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion is ad­vis­ing mo­torists to slow down and stay alert.

“White-tailed deer are en­ter­ing a pe­riod of in­creased ac­tiv­ity and are cross­ing roads more fre­quently as a re­sult,” said Game Com­mis­sion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor R. Matthew Hough. “While drivers

should al­ways re­main alert and on the look­out for white­tails cross­ing roads, there is rea­son to pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion while be­hind the wheel now and in the com­ing weeks.”

Deer be­come more ac­tive in au­tumn with the lead-up to their fall breed­ing sea­son, com­monly re­ferred to as the “rut.” Around this time, many year­ling bucks dis­perse from the ar­eas in which they were born and travel, some­times sev­eral dozen miles, to find new ranges. Mean­while, adult bucks more of­ten are cruis­ing their home ranges in search of does, and they some­times chase the does they see. en­counter.

Add to this the fact au­tumn sees a num­ber of peo­ple tak­ing part in out­door ac­tiv­i­ties (in­clud­ing bowhunt­ing) that might flush deer from forested ar­eas or briar thick­ets, and that deer are more ac­tively feed­ing to store en­ergy for win­ter months, and it quickly be­comes ev­i­dent why mo­torists might be more likely to en­counter deer on roads.

Drivers can re­duce their chances of col­li­sions

with deer by stay­ing alert and bet­ter un­der­stand­ing deer be­hav­ior. Mo­torists are urged to pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion while driv­ing on stretches marked with “Deer Cross­ing” signs. For ex­am­ple, deer of­ten travel in fam­ily groups and walk sin­gle file. So even if one deer suc­cess­fully crosses the road in front of a driver, it doesn’t mean the threat is over. An­other could be right be­hind it.

A driver who hits a deer with ve­hi­cle is not re­quired to re­port the ac­ci­dent to the Game Com­mis­sion. If the deer dies, only Penn­syl­va­nia res­i­dents may claim the car­cass. To do so, they must call the Game Com­mis­sion re­gion of­fice rep­re­sent­ing the county where the ac­ci­dent oc­curred and an agency dis­patcher will col­lect the in­for­ma­tion needed to pro­vide a free per­mit num­ber, which the caller should write down.

A res­i­dent must call within 24 hours of tak­ing pos­ses­sion of the deer. A pass­ing Penn­syl­va­nia mo­torist also may claim the deer, if the per­son whose ve­hi­cle hit it doesn’t want it.

Those tak­ing pos­ses­sion road-killed deer also are ad­vised of rules re­lated to chronic wast­ing dis­ease (CWD) that pro­hibit the re­moval of high-risk deer parts – es­sen­tially the head and back­bone – from any es­tab­lished Dis­ease Man­age­ment Area (DMA). Those parts must be re­moved be­fore the deer is trans­ported out­side a DMA. For DMA maps, the com­plete list of high-risk parts and other in­for­ma­tion on CWD, visit the Game Com­mis­sion’s web­site at www. pgc.pa.gov.

Antlers from bucks killed in ve­hi­cle col­li­sions ei­ther must be turned over to the Game Com­mis­sion, or may be pur­chased for $10 per point by the per­son who claims the deer. Also, re­mov­ing antlers from road­killed bucks is il­le­gal.

If a deer is struck by a ve­hi­cle, but not killed, drivers are urged to main­tain their dis­tance be­cause some deer might re­cover and move on. How­ever, if a deer does not move on, or poses a pub­lic safety risk, drivers are en­cour­aged to re­port the in­ci­dent to a Game Com­mis­sion

re­gional of­fice or other lo­cal law-en­force­ment agency. If the deer must be put down, the Game Com­mis­sion will di­rect the proper per­son to do so.

And ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics com­piled by State Farm In­sur­ance, Penn­syl­va­nia drivers are third most likely in the coun­try to file an ac­ci­dent claim from a deer col­li­sion with the 2016 cal­cu­lated like­li­hood of hit­ting a deer set at 1 in 67 here. Only drivers in West Vir­ginia (1 in 41) and Mon­tana (1 in 58) are more likely to file a claim for a deer col­li­sion. Mon­tana, in­ci­den­tally, also in­cludes col­li­sions with moose and elk in this statis­tic.

To re­port a dead deer for re­moval from state roads, mo­torists can call the Penn­syl­va­nia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.

So stay alert out there when be­hind the wheel. If you don’t it’s a recipe for grilled deer.

Tom Ta­tum is an outdoors colum­nist for Dig­i­tal First Me­dia. You can reach him at tatumt2@ya­hoo.com.

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