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Hewitt: Deer activity busier than ever

FILE - A 10-point white-tailed deer walks through the woods in Freeport, Maine, on Nov. 10, 2015. Wildlife agencies are finding elevated levels of PFAS chemicals, also called "forever chemicals," in game animals such as deer, prompting new restrictions on hunting and fishing in some parts of the country. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Hunters are starting to report that deer activity is starting to be much more active in the woods, fields, and highways.

The weather and day-light saving time puts many more vehicles on the road when deer are moving the most. The results of deer crossing the roadways really puts drivers at risk for a collision with a good-sized animal.

The other evening, just at dark, I was traveling a local road and was crossing a bridge when I spied a buck whitetail crossing the road in front of me. Fortunate for me and the deer, I had not picked up speed and could slow down for the deer to cross in front of me. The buck was meandering the road like a beagle dog with his head down and not paying attention to me. I suspected that he was on the trail of a doe and everything else was secondary.

Deer become more active in the fall breeding season, also known as the rut. This is the time of year that many yearling bucks are booted out of their family groups and are dispersed to find their own new ranges. A young buck can end up many miles from their original home ranges where they were born and traveled.

Meanwhile, mature bucks are also on the move as they seek does and often start chasing the does out of the woods and into our paths on the roadways.

One thing you can count on with deer is that when you see one, you better be on the alert for a few more traveling with the first one. I always slow down and look for the rest of the group crossing in front of me, usually in single file.

I saw some deer on the edge of a roadway a few years back and purposely came to a stop to avoid them; much to my surprise, one deer from the group bolted right into the side of my truck, hitting the rear tire and bouncing back. The deer was fine and so was my truck as the deer got upright and bounded across the roadway in front of me. The results could have been much worse had I not spotted the crossing animals.

Recent data from around the country indicates that Pennsylvania drivers face some of the highest risks of a vehicle collision with a deer or other large animals. My insurance agents are the Eshenbaugh’s with Erie Insurance, and they claim that Pennsylvania led the country in deer collision insurance claims for the fiscal year 2021-22.

According to the report, Pennsylvania drivers have a 1-in-58 chance of hitting a big game animal which is among the highest in the country.

So, what happens if you do everything right and you still happen to have a collision with a deer? First of all, make sure that you are safely off the road if your vehicle is driveable. Hitting a deer could put you and other vehicles traveling the roadway into a secondary risk of a further collision situation.

Deer can run into other vehicles or be vaulted into the pathway of other drivers traveling in the opposite direction. If a deer is struck by your vehicle, but not killed, it can be not only a sad situation, but a dangerous one. Deer are powerful animals and can injure a human with kicking or butting actions.

Deer can recover from a vehicle collision and they may move on within a few minutes of recovery time. Sometimes they can not and they will require assistance to be moved or humanely dispatched. Do not take it upon yourself to dispatch a deer with your personal carry firearm or other items. It’s a safety risk and you are encouraged to call the PA Game Commission or local police, who will direct the proper person to do so.

To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, you can call PennDOT at 1-800-FIX-ROAD. If you decide that you would like to claim a road killed deer, you can claim the carcass by calling the PA Game Commission at 1-833-PGC-HUNT and a dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number which you should write down and keep.

There is a 24-hour time limit to do this when you take possession of the deer. If the driver wants the deer after a collision, they are the first choice and then after that, person any person can claim the deer if they who hit it does not want it.

I guess it is a small consolation prize for the unfortunate motorist to gather up their road-killed deer. So be extra careful for the next month or so as deer and hunters are on the move and daylight-saving time ends on Nov. 6 which is the peak time for deer activity between dusk and dawn.

Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle.

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