Fall is here, and I’ve got proof scattered all over my yard.
Yes, it’s that time of year when all the leaves let go of their trees and fall gently through the air (“fall” — get it?) to blanket my little corner of the world. Yeah, they’re pretty, at least until I have to rake ’em up. Then they’re just a pain that keeps me from doing other things I’d rather be doing — things like hiking in the mountains, where I can appreciate fall leaves more efficiently, on a much grander scale, and with no raking involved.
To do so, of course, I’ve got to drive to the mountains. Ordinarily that’s a lot of fun. But this time of year it comes with a risk that I need to tell you about.
“Oh no!” you say. “Another risk? An additional danger? Something else to worry about in 2020, the year of pandemics and hurricanes and alien murder hornets?”
Sorry, but yes. This time of year, you’ve also got to worry about deer. Here’s what happens. With the arrival of fall, deer fall in love and deer activity peaks. They seem to be everywhere: along trails, by creeks, out in the woods, and, often, standing on the shoulder of the road.
Sure, those roadside deer ought to be watching for cars. After all, it’s our road. But fall deer are not the smartest creatures on God’s green earth. You see, fall deer are deer in love, and deer in love have other things on their minds. They’ll chase one another hither and thither, and if their path happens to cross the road, then that’s just the way it is. They aren’t watching out for us, so it becomes our job to watch out for them.
“Motorists should be alert and pay close attention to roadsides as we are nearing the annual peak time of year for deer movement,” notes Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.
The scary thing is that it happens before you know it. There you are, riding along, minding your own business, when a deer runs out in front of you. BAM! It’s happened to me three times. One encounter totaled my favorite fishing truck, even though I was only going about 19 miles an hour. I was fine, but the truck was done for. I’ve never quite forgiven the deer of the world for that.
Then it happened to one of my kids. He was driving home about dusk, going slow, when — BAM! — there’s a deer. That one totaled the family minivan just weeks after we’d paid it off.
Daylight Savings Time doesn’t help either. When we “fall back” for daylight savings time, rush hours tend to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active, dawn and dusk.
To deal with all those careless deer, Georgia DNR offers some suggestions.
First, remember that deer are unpredictable. They can appear from nowhere, and even a deer standing quietly by the side of the road may suddenly bolt into your path. Also remember that one deer often means more deer.
“Deer often travel in groups,” Killmaster notes, “so if a deer crosses the road ahead of you, there is a good chance that another will follow.” Often, he adds, it’s that second deer that gets hit.
If a deer runs in front of your car but it’s too late to avoid a collision, Georgia DNR recommends that you “slow down as much as possible to minimize damage — resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer, as this may cause further damage, sending drivers off the road or causing a collision with another vehicle.”
So be “deer aware” when you go outside to savor this fall weather. That’s what I did one day last week. It was a good trip with no deer encounters. And I even found a new-to-me waterfall! It’s a great waterfall, easy to get to and photograph, and I want to tell you all about it.
But that’ll have to wait till next time. Till then, enjoy fall — and watch out for those deer!