COLUMNS

The annoyance of West Virginia deer season for me: Column

Ceason Ranson
Ranson Ritings

If all the deer I’m seeing lying on the side of the road are an indication, I suspect the winter of 2021/2022 is going to be a great time to be in the car repair business.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as many deer failing to cross the road this early in winter as I’ve seen this year (and before you write/email/text/message to tell me that it's not winter, I’ll tell you that you can live by your seasonal calendar, and I’ll live by mine. Winter starts Nov. 1 in my house. I’d also remind you that as the person named “Ceason” my authority as to when seasons start is slightly higher than all y’alls, so yeah.). I definitely don’t think I’ve had as many friends hit as many deer this early in the year as I’ve had this year. I’d like to blame it on deer running away from the opening day of gun season, but that’s two weeks away, and last I checked, deer don’t have access to the DNR hunting season calendar, so how would they know, really?

If you have never hit a deer in your car, may your life always be so blessed. Me, I haven’t been so lucky. I hit my deer back about ten years ago. I was driving home on Route 21, on that nice straight stretch through Fairplain. You know, the one where everyone either drives 35 mph or 75 mph, and nowhere in between? It’s the one place in the county where everyone, even the most cautious drivers who won’t pass a car on the interstate, have passed at least one car before.

Anyways, I was just coming up on Crowder’s Deer Processing (the irony of that is not lost on me) when I saw a deer start to dart out up ahead. So I hit the breaks, and I swear, I couldn’t have hit that deer going faster than 25 mph, and still it destroyed my front end. Just destroyed it — hood dented in, grill smashed, lights busted. It looked like I hit a concrete wall, and pieces of my car scattered all over the road.

And if you can believe it, the deer walked away! I’m stopped on Route 21 at eight at night, looking for the broken pieces of my grill and wondering how I’m going to break the news to Steve, Dorothy, and Melissa at State Farm, and that deer just darts up towards the hills like nothing happened. Caused $12,000 worth of damage, and I didn’t have my car for three months, and the deer just went on with its life in the hills of Fairplain. Look, I don’t normally wish ill on things when a true accident is involved, but I have ever since hoped that deer ended up as someone’s deer jerky.

That’s why I can’t get behind people who question the necessity of deer hunting. It's not that I can’t see their arguments: “Deer are living creatures.” “In this day and age, hunting for anything you don’t need to eat is unnecessary.” “How can you shoot Bambi?!?” I hear you, I respect where you’re coming from, and I still want the head of the deer that cost me three months of my life and $1,000 for my deductible mounted on my wall. Well, not my wall — I don’t find mounted deer heads attractive decor. Which I say while typing in my living room, directly underneath a mounted moose head, a full-size mounted bear, and a mounted fish. Don’t ask me why those are somehow better than deer heads; I don’t make the rules.

But hey, I love fawns just as much as anyone. Anyone who can look at spring fawns bounding around their yard or in the meadows and not smile are monsters, because baby deer are adorable and we all know it. I love seeing little fawns with their mamas, just grazing in the fading sun of summer, no cares in the world because they somehow know that nothing bad can happen to them in summer. And even I, a person who never hunts, gets excited seeing a massive buck and will frantically count how many horns it has before it streaks off back into the woods, and then that’s my small-talk topic for the next week (as is the Appalachian way.). I’m a woodsy girl; not a farm girl, a woodsy girl, and deer are just as much a part of my ecosystem as cardinals, squirrels, and cottontail rabbits.

And we really do have some great deer. We may not have some of the huge out-west size deer, but our deer are, according the hunter guys I know, extremely clean. Did you know in some places, the deer are eaten up with deer ticks, which besides just being gross, carry Lyme disease? But according to my hunter friends, our West Virginia deer hardly have any ticks at all. Which makes me feel kind of good, that our deer are staying fairly tick-free, even though I have zero to do with that, other than having a pond that they can bathe in, I guess.

But even with the joy I get from seeing deer at dusk, and even though I feel some measure of pride that we have “good deer,” that still doesn’t stop me from having zero patience with their refusal to follow traffic laws, namely, their constant jay-running across the roads. There’s no reason for it. They are invariably in a perfectly safe spot on one side of the road, milling around, eating grass, when they see headlights and for no reason at all, take off in the direction of the headlights. All they have to do is nothing: stay in your spot, don’t move, and the headlights will drive right on past. But oh no, they have to get an answer to that age-old question, “What happens when a deer crosses the road?” And the answer almost always is, “Someone gets a new front end.” And the second answer is also almost always, “Another deer bites the dust.”

Deer aren’t totally dumb. They can obviously sense when hunting season is coming and when it's over, so why they can’t have evolved over time into animals that run away from cars instead of into them, I don’t understand. Rabbits run away from cars. Squirrels, unless under some sort of nut-induced panic, are pretty good at running away from cars. So what is stopping deer from making that evolutionary leap from “Animal who hits cars” to “Animal who stops, looks both ways, and then crosses the road?” Besides someone explaining to deer how the “Look both ways” rule works, that is.

Everyone, please be cautious this year. If the wooly worms are to be believed, we’re in for a long winter, and if the dead deer in the medians are to be believed, the deer are running wild across the roads in some sort of November panic. West Virginia is number one in deer-hitting, and has been for twelve years, and that’s one championship place we’d like to relinquish to someone else, thank you very much. Remember: Deer come in packs, so if you see one about to cross, there’s probably at least one more coming right behind it. So slow down at night, put your high beams on, and keep alert, because hitting a deer might make you a true Appalachian, but I think we’d all rather have a safer and cheaper way to earn our Appalachian card.

And if you’re out hunting this year and you come across a deer with the front-end medallion from a 2007 Lincoln Navigator imbedded in its butt, do not shoot it: Capture him, cage, and get a hold of me. That deer owes me money, and I mean to collect.