Saturday was rainy and drizzly by turns. The already early sunset seemed to come earlier than ever, because the clouds had obscured the sun all day long. I had to drive to Rochester to pick up some things for an upcoming medical test, and asked a friend to come with me. She was glad to accompany me. Her farm is the headquarters for a group of deer hunters, and she saw our trip as a way to take a break from talk of deer stands, deer racks, deer scat, and the buck that got away.
Our task done, we headed back to Winona on I-90. Hard rain had stopped, drizzle was occasional. The traffic just after sunset was fairly heavy, both west- and east-bound, and the glare from the headlights on wet pavement required me to keep my attention on the road. Not to say we werenít doing a bit of talking.
Suddenly, about two miles west of the Lewiston exit, a huge buck bounded out of the ditch into our path. I stomped on the brakes as hard as I could. I was driving in the right lane. The buck stopped and looked at us coming, and I honked the horn to try to let him know heíd better move a little faster out of the way.
Instead, he took off running away from us ó in our lane. I knew then that I would hit him. Luckily, I had just caught a squib in the paper saying that it is more dangerous to swerve than to actually hit the deer.
Blam! Thud! My car and the buck collided. In my headlights, I saw the deer fly into the air, fall to the pavement, roll several times. My heart sank. I could see in my rearview mirrors that several cars were about to reach us. Then, the deer rolled one more time, landed on his feet and bounded back into the same ditch he came from.
At the side of the road, we caught our breath and got out to survey the damage. The front driverís side bore the brunt, but the hood, although still fastened down, was popped, the grill was popped, and the parking light was nowhere to be seen.
Another driver had stopped in front of us to make sure we were not hurt ó very thoughtful and appreciated. I-90 traffic goes so fast, and it was so dark, I donít know that it would have been easy to flag someone down.
We got back on the road, and had a discussion about the incident. At one point, my friend speculated that if we had killed the deer, we would have had to drag it out of the roadway so no one else would hit it, causing another accident. No way! I said. But I thought about that all night.
This morning I called the State Patrol to find out exactly what we should have done. I talked to a Lt. Brian Buck. (Iím not making this up!) He said that if conditions are safe, and if you are able, you should try to move the deer out of the roadway. But I donít know very many people who are strong enough and move fast enough to run out onto I-90, grab a 200-pound buck, drag it to the side of the road, all in the amount of time it takes a driver going 70 m.p.h. in black and rain to see you and stop.
So, Lt. Buck says the safer thing to do in that circumstance is to pull over to the side of the road, put on your hazard lights, try to angle your headlights so that they illuminate the deer carcass, and call law enforcement. If you donít know the number of the nearest department, you can call 911. Then someone better equipped can help remove the dead deer.
He also cautions drivers to ďdonít veer for deer!Ē What can often happen, he said, is that in the panic of the moment, a driver will overcorrect, lose control of the vehicle, and roll the car. A straight-line brake is the safest move.
Deer are moving around a lot, he said, what with farmers being in the fields and hunters afoot, so he advises drivers to use their high beams as much as they are able, to always wear a seatbelt, and in problem areas such as bordering farm fields (sound like I-90 to you?), to reduce your speed.
My friend called her husband to tell him that we got our buck. He said that was more than his hunters had done that evening, which made us feel very special.
Then when morning dawned I had to call the insurance company. Not feeling so special anymore.