Big Buck Adventure

This column appeared in Martinsburg’s Journal newspaper on Sunday, November 15th, 2009.

I’m not sure if this makes me any less of a West Virginian, but I won’t be out in the woods this deer season. That’s nothing unusual, really. I’ve never manned a deer stand on a cold November morning waiting for the buck of my dreams to wander into my rifle’s sights.

That’s not to say that I’ve never bagged a deer. I’ve just never done it on purpose.

My first and only deer to date came as a result of my commute home from Washington, D.C. Sorry for the cliché, but it really was a dark and stormy night when I came over a slight rise on Interstate 270, caught a deer frozen in my headlights and smashed into it head on. Luckily, no one was driving near me, because the collision sent my car fishtailing down the highway. I remember watching the guardrail coming closer and closer and thinking, “I’m going to flip right over it,” when I came to a violent stop.

It’s a good thing I wound up safely out of traffic. But as I sat there collecting myself, it dawned on me that I must have done a 180. The parade of headlights coming straight for me was a pretty good clue.

State Farm recently ranked West Virginia as the most dangerous state for deer collisions for the third consecutive year. I can believe that. But I wonder if the State Farm people have ever driven from the Eastern Panhandle, through Maryland, to D.C. That drive has got to rank as one of the nation’s most dangerous commuting routes. So many deer carcasses litter the side of the road between here and there that I’ve taken to counting them.

The most dangerous stretch of that route is probably the George Washington Parkway. Try driving the parkway at night. It’s sphincter tightening. There are small groups of deer picnicking by the side of the road every couple hundred feet. And, when fog rolls in, effectively cutting visibility down to nothing, you can easily convince yourself that they are lurking out there, maybe throwing back a couple of beers and drawing straws to see which one gets the pleasure of making your heart stop.

Once in broad daylight, a big buck with a huge array of antlers almost did just that to me. It came barreling out of the median right in front of my car, glanced at me in mid stride, then turned on the speed to gain the cover of the woods on the other side. I looked over at the fellow driving in the fast lane next to me and we gave each other a thumbs up in mutual wide eyed relief.

Sometimes I wonder just what deer are thinking when they step out onto the blacktop. Are they drunk on the aforementioned beer? Are they the suicidal ones who gather by the side of the road having gone off their meds? Do the young bucks screw themselves up to cross the road to impress the does? Or are they just that stupid?

I guess we’ll never know. But one thing is for sure. If I ever bag another deer I’d rather do it the conventional way than go through another unintentional big buck adventure with my car.

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