People who pursue and view deer have their own version of “storm chasers.”
It comes every year a week or so either side of Halloween.
Instead of listening to weather alerts of possible thunderstorms, straight-line-winds and tornadoes, deer chasers look to the calendar noting when October wanes and November begins.
Deer biologists and deer hunters, particularly archers and crossbowers, call this the deer mating season, or sometimes simply the rut.
Bucks’ necks swell weeks ahead, testosterone levels creep higher in a buck’s blood stream and all bets are off as to where, even when, bucks may be sighted running hell bent toward the nearest female deer who is giving off irresistible scents.
A deer’s ability to detect scents given off by other deer might be comparable to some dogs. This is one reason bucks run like a dog trailing another animal, often with their noses to the ground and without looking where the next tree, fence, or vehicle is located.
Deer chasers, who might be hunters themselves taking a break from sitting in a tree stand, drive and ride in vehicles with eyes alert for any sign of a standing or running buck. Where there is a buck there is likely to be a doe. Where there is a doe there is likely to be a buck.
In fact, finding a lone doe during this time is a chaser’s clue to stop, look and maybe wait for a following buck to show up.
The purpose is simply to see the buck, maybe “glass” it with binoculars and then move on to find another unsuspecting race or standoff. Rarely do deer chasers photograph or take notes of locations or animals. These sorts of things stick in a chaser’s mind like baseball statistics. In addition, rutting deer travel farther from their home ranges than at any other time of the year.
The dangerous part of deer chasing is that so many deer are running helter-skelter they can’t all be watched or discovered before it’s too late. Often times a vehicle gets in the way of a whitetail’s mating ritual and the crash is on.
In 2015, 19,976 deer-vehicle crashes were reported in Wisconsin, with five resulting in human fatalities. In 2014, 10 people died, eight in 2013 and 14 in 2012.
It is possible that an occasional crash, even death, was the result of deer chasers behind the wheel. But generally, chasers are more apt to anticipate a deer’s actions or expect a buck to be following a doe racing to escape that buck’s advances. It is often the following deer, buck or doe, who becomes the victim, maybe along with a human in a vehicle.
Close calls are likely more common than hits. These can result in damage to the deer, too.
While broken, chipped and missing antlers are mostly evidence of violent fights between two bucks, some are the result of a buck getting his antlers too close to a moving vehicle and then running away.
Deer chasers possibly add to the dangers of ordinary drivers and passengers as chasers race to catch up with a deer couple running across a field toward a road. Other times, chasers may stop in unsuspecting road locations to look for and watch deer fighting, mating or feeding.
But none of these dangers should deter careful, defensive drivers from enjoying one of autumn’s exciting wildlife viewing opportunities, particularly on lesser-traveled town roads.