Bob Bestler

Oh, deer. ‘Tis the time of the year to be on the lookout for these beautiful animals

White-tail deer season runs Aug. 15, 2018, through Jan. 1, 2019, in South Carolina.
White-tail deer season runs Aug. 15, 2018, through Jan. 1, 2019, in South Carolina. Special to The Bluffton Packet

One of the wonders of living in a national forest, as we do in McClellanville, is the occasional sight of deer running through our yards. They are beautiful animals and move with a silent nobility wherever they go.

Even my dog Wasabi can only admire them on our walks; at least that’s what I think he’s doing as he stares, thunderstruck, at these unfamiliar animals.

At a friend’s home for dinner one summer night, no fewer than 12 deer wandered into his backyard, knowing that he had left plenty of corn for them. He said it’s a near-daily thing at his home.

It’s easy for me to be awed by deer. I’m part of the ``Bambi’‘ generation that fell in love with Disney’s critters before the age of 7.

I don’t hunt, so the thought of killing one is utterly foreign to me _ though I could say that about most of God’s creatures.

Having said all that, I must confess I am absolutely frightened of deer whenever I drive a South Carolina highway at night.

I’ve said before that I put a fear of deer up there with a fear of drunk drivers when it comes to nighttime driving.

Recent comments from Charles Ruth of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources was hardly reassuring.

In a warning to drivers, Ruth said, “It’s the time of the day and the time of the year. They naturally increase their movements this time of year, October and November particularly.” He added they are most active at dawn and dusk.

I’ve seen plenty of deer at the side of roads, but fortunately never hit one. Thousands of other South Carolina drivers have not been so lucky.

S.C. Highway Patrol statistics show that in 2017 there were 2,757 total crashes with deer, causing 405 injuries and 2 fatalities. Those numbers have held relatively steady over the years.

In fact, from 2013 through mid-November 2018, there have been 14,044 crashes, 2,211 injuries and 23 deaths.

Ruth said in a recent Charleston Post & Courier interview that if drivers have time to react upon seeing a deer on the side of the road, they should honk their horn several times and blink their high-beam lights.

Then he offered some stern advice: “If it looks like a collision, hit the deer.”

It will cause damage to the vehicle, but it isn’t likely to prove fatal. Swerving to avoid a deer could cause the driver to veer off the road, hit a tree or get into a crash that could cause more significant injury than hitting a deer with an automobile.

And if you hit a deer, said Ruth, file a report with the Highway Patrol. Most likely, Ruth said, you can take the deer home if you wish and dress it for the table.

Yeah, I think I’d take a pass on that. I’ll always prefer my deer alive and prancing.

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