When coming home late from an every-other Wednesday night commitment in Hutchinson, we’ve frequently seen deer, rain or shine, summer and winter along a certain stretch of road north of town. The terrain along these few miles of highway is perfect deer habitat. Last night as we approached that area about 11 P.M. my wife uttered that four-letter word all drivers hate to hear this time of year, “Deer!” I had enough time to ease into the other lane, and sure enough, standing there in the ditch as regal as can be, was a nice young buck. Thankfully he merely watched us go by without incident…. Welcome to fall in midwestern deer country!

For the next 2 months deer will be moving about more than usual, often seemingly without regard to traffic on roadways. The main reason is the breeding season known infamously as the “rut;” that time of the year where whitetail love is in the air, and bucks, just like all men seem powerless to resist. Although more frequent deer movement has already begun, the peak of the rut here in Kansas will be sometime mid-November. Other factors also cause deer to move now more than usual. Suddenly crops that offered them cover and food are now being harvested, forcing them to look for seclusion and for other food sources. Young bucks are also roaming about looking for their own territories and with it, females to breed.

Deer-vehicle collisions can’t always be avoided, but there are things to do to lessen the possibility of hitting one. When traveling at night, slow down, use your high beams when possible and be extra vigilant, staying especially alert along wooded areas where deer often travel. We see deer at the spot I mentioned above, well over 50% of the time year round. Have your passengers help you watch; our grandson loves to be on “deer alert.”  Heed deer crossings signs and be especially watchful in those areas, as deer crossing signs are posted at those particular spots for a good reason. Also when you see 1 deer there are often more. As hard as it will be, if a collision with a deer becomes imminent, DO NOT swerve to miss it, as that may very well put you in the other lane facing oncoming traffic or cause you to lose control of the vehicle and hit something far worse than the deer. If you hit a deer, pull off the road if possible and call 911. Stay in your vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers. Don’t attempt to remove a deer that’s lying on the roadway, let the law enforcement officer do that. Also, if you want to keep the carcass of a deer killed in an accident, you must get a “salvage tag” which any law enforcement officer or game warden can issue.

In West Virginia there is a one in 46 chance of hitting a deer, the most of any state in the US, followed by Montana, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin. The average chance of hitting a deer nationwide is 1 in 167; in Kansas the chances of hitting a deer are 1 in 130, quite a bit better than the national average. In 2017 there were 10,226 deer-vehicle collisions reported here in KS, 17% of the total vehicle crashes. Butler Co. reported the most at 438 followed by Sedgwick Co. with 385.

Something I didn’t know that was verified by my insurance agent is that hitting a deer is covered by the comprehensive portion of our auto insurance policy. A collision with another vehicle or object resulting from trying to avoid hitting a deer is covered by the collision portion. Jennifer Haugh, Public and Government Affairs manager for AAA Kansas, reports that in 2017 the average vehicle repair bill for a deer-vehicle collision averaged $4,500. I found this statistic listed on the website of numerous other auto insurance companies, and it was never less than $4,000.

I hope I’ve not scared you so badly that you’ll refuse to take your car out of the garage until January and be forced to take an Uber everywhere you go. I just want to remind you to drive with a little extra caution for the next couple months to avoid hitting a deer. If you want venison in your freezer, harvesting one during hunting season is a better route to go; it’s much cheaper than getting one with the car and the meat will probably be in better shape….Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.