Deer Don’t Stop!

Buck running full tilt across the road.

If you’ve never hit a deer with your car, I sincerely hope you never do because it’s not fun. Deer cross the road wherever they like, not just where there are warning signs.

I hit my first deer on my 22nd birthday. I was driving home from a birthday shopping spree on a warm, sunny afternoon in my 1989 Ford Probe when a deer ran out of the bushes next to the road. One second it wasn’t there and the next it was and I had no time to stop so I hit it at around 50 miles per hour. The Probe was a sporty, low to the ground car and I figured if I ever hit a deer with it, it’d come through the windshield. That didn’t happen though as when I hit the deer it was sent flying off into the field across the road.

I was shaken up but fine after hitting the deer, but my car was far from fine. The hood and front bumper were badly damaged and I could smell a mixture of antifreeze and hot deer fur. I was able to drive the car home to the apartment I lived in with my then husband and he managed to pull the bumper back out enough (by tying it to a tree and putting the car in reverse) to be able to close the hood. He didn’t have collision insurance on the car and it wasn’t until that event that I realized how important it is to have collision on a vehicle when it’s the only vehicle you have to drive.

The next deer I hit was a little fawn that went running out in the shadows on the road on a sunny day and I was very upset when I hit that baby. I don’t like harming any animals and I felt terrible for a very long time after hitting the fawn. As it was a small deer, it only bent my front license plate a little so my car didn’t require repair, but it took a while for my spirit to heal.

I live in deer country, although nowadays as the deer population continues to grow and humans continue to develop the land, everywhere is becoming deer country. It’s a very rural area where I live and I’ve learned where a lot of deer cross and know to look out for them. I look out for them no matter where I’m driving because deer don’t stop before crossing, they’ll run across at full speed regardless of what’s coming down the road. Unfortunately, because of their full tilt running, even I don’t see them in time sometimes. Such was the case on the 28th of last month when I was driving home from the grocery store barely five miles from my house.

I’d gone out to get a few things for dinner and had recently crossed into the 55mph area on the road when I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. I was going about 50mph at the time I believe. The thing I saw was a deer charging down the steep slope right next to the road and I slammed on the brakes in an effort to stop but didn’t quite make it. My tires slid as my brakes locked up and I don’t know how fast I was going when I hit the deer with the front right side of my car but it was enough to stun her for a while as she lay in the opposite shoulder of the road.

Thankfully, I was fine and as I got out of my car, the doe was looking at me with huge, scared eyes as she lay in the shoulder trying to get her bearings. Someone stopped to ask if I was okay and by the time they left, the deer was gone. I don’t know if I injured her or just stunned her, but she was able to leave the scene. I walked around to the front of my car to survey the damage and saw that my hood was bent up and my headlight was broken off its mount. The way my hood was buckling and not making a good seal, I knew I’d have to get it repaired. Fortunately, I have collision on my Toyota Matrix and good coverage so I knew I’d be okay.

Damage to my car

Damage to my car

car damage 2

car damage 3

I’d never had to go through insurance to pay for car repairs before so that was an interesting process. I got an estimate for repairs and it topped $2000, which was way more than my $500 deductible. Fortunately, I also have coverage for a car rental while my car gets repaired and for anyone who has only one vehicle to drive and doesn’t necessarily have the cash always on hand to repair it, I highly suggest having collision insurance with rental coverage. After the deer hit I lowered my deductible to $250 for any future incidents (which I sincerely hope don’t happen) because I never really thought about having to shell out $500 at once until it came time to do it.

I finally had everything coordinated and dropped my Matrix off for repairs this morning. My mom was nice enough to pick me up from the garage and take me to the rental place and they set me up with a 2016 Ford Escape. My mom had a Ford Escape several years ago and it was a nice little SUV, but when I saw the new Escape, it didn’t look anything like an SUV. It didn’t look that much bigger than my little Matrix! Odd what people consider SUVs these days.

I found it somewhat amusing that my rental is a Ford when I’ve had a less than wonderful history with Ford vehicles. Fords are all my ex-husband owns and drives, but I’ve been much happier (and had way less issues) since I bought my Toyota. My Matrix is a stick shift because I love stick, but manuals are hard to find these days so driving the automatic Escape feels weird. I miss my clutch! I’m grateful I have something to drive while my car gets repaired, but I’ll be happier to get my Matrix back. The bells and whistles on the Escape are fun to play with, but way more than I need. I do rather love the blue color of it though…

My rental, a 2016 Ford Escape

My rental, a 2016 Ford Escape

The moral of my story is that you can’t count on deer to stop for cars and you can’t always stop for them, even when you’re cautious. They travel in groups too so if you see one crossing the road, slow down because there are probably more where that one came from. Regardless of where you live, it’s always good to keep your eyes open for deer because they’re out all sorts of places at all times of day and are about as predictable as squirrels but immensely bigger!

The return of familiar songs and soaring

Adult male Red-winged Blackbird

There was snow on the ground yesterday morning but today started out warmer than it had been for the last week and it just got better from there! The forecast calls for 50’s and 60’s all week with plenty of sunshine and the occasional rain. Rain is fine because we need it for things to start growing and to wash off the roads that are still white with salt.

When Jaycie and I headed out for the bus this morning there was a hawk soaring in the sky and he glided from west to east upon the breeze as we watched. I told her that I gauge the arrival of spring by when I see the first turkey vulture because they don’t stick around our area all winter. When turkey vultures return and start gliding through the skies on their huge wings searching for roadkill and carcasses, then I believe that spring is truly on its way.

Turkey vulture

A few hours after Jaycie got on the bus, a turkey vulture soared over the trees across the road and I smiled feeling as if the universe had heard my words this morning. Now that I’ve seen those familiar scavengers soaring in the sky I’m certain that spring is coming and that this nice weather isn’t just some cruel trick. I spent the morning working on my writing projects inside but by noon, I couldn’t resist the call of the beautiful outdoors any longer. I got Jazzmin strapped in her backpack, tied up my sneakers and grabbed a light sweatshirt because while it was 53, the wind gusts were making it a bit cool to go without a coat.

As Jazzmin and I walked, I heard the familiar songs of birds that had returned from their winter vacation to the south. I heard the songs of robins, red-winged blackbirds and killdeers. Although the “Winter Wonderland” song states “gone away is the bluebird” a few of my bluebirds never left and I heard their song all winter long. Now that it’s warmer, there will be more bugs around for the bluebirds to eat and they will be more plentiful,  which always makes me happy.

Eastern Bluebird

I feel a special connection to all the birds that frequent my feeders through the winter and into the spring and who make their homes on my property. Just through watching and listening to the birds in my yard an on our walks, I’ve learned to identify various species by their song, size and plumage. Quite often I hear birds but don’t see them and I feel a small surge of satisfaction that I can recognize them just by their song. I’m still not good at identifying the different types of hawks I see around because they’re not really fond of close observation, but eventually I’ll sort them out too.

Northern Goshawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Right now I’m just enjoying the return of the familiar songs and soaring of spring!