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Outdoors

James Drake

Earlier this month, USA Today ran a story about an extended family traveling together from Chicago to New Jersey.

They were in a minivan on a toll road in Indiana when a deer darted into their path.

As they slowed down after the impact, their van was then struck from behind by a semi tractor-trailer going about 65 mph. Three adults and four children died at the scene. Three more children were hospitalized.

This report wasnít really all that unique. About 200 Americans are killed every year from encounters between vehicles and deer. What is truly newsworthy is that November is the peak month for these kinds of accidents to happen, and Iím guessing that's the real reason this story was included in USA Today.

Fall is the season for deer to mate and the animals have more on their minds than finding something to eat, a dry place to nap and avoiding cars and people.

Now they are actively moving about, often crossing roads and following scents with procreation their main driving force.

Some deer herds are also moving to get to wintering areas and most wild critters often feed more heavily and need to travel more in search of food with winter approaching.

Right now, and for the next several weeks we, as drivers, need to be the most vigilant for the deer just arenít paying attention at all.

Three times more deer/vehicle collisions occur during October, November and December than the entire seven-month period of February through August.

Besides a very real chance of bodily injury, drivers should also be aware that the average property damage claim is $3,305 for deer/vehicle crashes.

According to insurance statistics, overall accident repair claims have dropped 8.9 percent in the past four years, but deer/vehicle collisions have bucked that trend as they are actually up over seven percent during that same period.

State Farm Insurance says West Virginia is the most dangerous place to drive for deer/vehicle encounters with a probability of 1 in 40 youíre going to be involved in such a crash. Maryland ranks 14th nationally with a 1 in 115 chance. In Virginia, itís 1 in 103, Pennsylvania is 1 in 76 and there is a slight chance in Washington, D.C., at 1 in 778.

Nationwide, there were 1.23 million reported deer/vehicle collisions between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 and nationally, drivers have about a 1 in 171 chance of hitting a deer, or about the same odds as being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

There were nearly 35,000 deer/vehicle crashes in Maryland during this same time frame. State Farm also predicts deer/vehicle accidents will go slightly up this season.

There are a few things you can do to tilt the odds toward your favor.

First of all, be more cautious and slow down a little while driving at all times, but especially so between dusk and dawn. Deer are usually most active during periods of low light.

At night, donít drive faster than the limits your headlights allow for you to safely slow down to avoid a deer in the road. Never swerve to steer clear of a deer for you could easily lose control and hit a tree or cross the centerline into oncoming traffic.

If a collision with a deer is inevitable, itís better to just hit the animal than trying to get around it.

Use your high beams when safely possible, for theyíll help you pick up reflections from a deerís eyes long before you are able to see the entire animal. Deer often travel in groups. If you see one, expect more to be around.

Slow down even more when in the neighborhood of deer crossing signs. These are put up in areas where deer are known to be crossing the road.

Donít waste your money on those add-on deer whistles you can mount on the front of your vehicle. They are pretty much worthless to avoid encounters with deer or any other animal.

If you do hit a deer, call 911 if there are injuries or if your vehicle is disabled. Insurance companies often require a police report before paying for repairs.

Lastly, never approach a deer that is injured but still alive. They can be very dangerous and hurt you with their antlers or hooves.

Be careful out there and slow down.

Election results

According to The Outdoor Wire, runaway business levels were being reported nationwide at local gun dealerships less than 24 hours after the results of the 2012 presidential election were final.

One Huntsville, Ala., dealer sold 800,000 rounds of ammunition on Wednesday alone. Another across the country set a single-day sales record on Thursday and they did that by 11:30 a.m. The owner said he wasnít sure he could keep up that pace and not because of any decrease in consumer demand but rather he was running out of ammo and gun inventory.

The stock market took quite a dive immediately after President Barack Obama (D) won reelection. However shares of Sturm, Ruger and Company and Smith and Wesson rose sharply. Ruger went up $3.04 a share, closing at $47.68, and Smith & Wesson jumped 91 cents per share, closing at $10.37.

The United Nations has called for a special vote to get their small arms treaty on a front burner. Before the election, the Obama administration seemed to be taking a ďhands-offĒ approach to this issue, but the U.S. voted in favor of moving the treaty forward last week.

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) staffers are meeting with officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to talk about new assault weapon bans.

If nothing else, the next four years should be interesting.

Good advice

Maryland Natural Resources Police are advising boat owners to etch their driverís license number into their boat battery so it can be identified if stolen and recovered.

This is a result of them cracking a large battery theft case with multiple recovered batteries now in their possession.

In thinking about this, itís probably not a bad idea to etch your initials into such things as depth finders, trolling motors and maybe even expensive rods and reels.

If nothing else, it will lower their value to thieves.

zbasser@aol.com