Bucktracker: The Other Car-Kill Season

Fall gets all the attention when it comes to deer-vehicle accidents. But there are other seasons when it pays to pay attention while driving in deer country. In my experience, spring is a dangerous time as well, as whitetails are not only dispersing from their winter range, but also hungry and looking for easy—or at least different—food sources. They’ve been eating woody browse for months and many of those sources are depleted. Plus, they’re looking for green stuff, and until grasses and forbs make it to that stage, deer will seek them out with a passion. In my area, lots of green stuff grows by roadsides, which are not the safest salad bar.

Summer gets far less press as car-kill season, but as the picture of this fine Illinois buck proves, even “the easy season” isn’t that easy. This buck and a vehicle met at 1:00 p.m. on an otherwise-perfect summer day. Interestingly, less than three hours later, I got a call from a friend, who said he’d narrowly missed hitting a buck only three hours before!

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So what gives? Here are some theories, at least for my area (I’d like to hear if this is a problem in other regions, as well). First, insect numbers—especially deer flies and mosquitos—are at a peak right now, and I believe that whitetails exit the woods and venture into fields or other open spaces to avoid them. Second, soybeans are flowering right now and highly attractive to deer. Put these factors together and you’ve got deer venturing out toward fields in the middle of the day and crossing roads in the process. Obviously, there could be other factors at work, and I’d be interested in hearing other theories. In any event, keep your eyes open as you drive!