Rutting deer can help hunters, but hurt drivers
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 email@example.com.