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January 30, 2007

How to Hit a Deer


Yesterday while Krissy was heading to work, a deer bolted out into the road and struck her car. As anyone who has ever had a vehicular encounter with a deer will tell you, this is usually a fine recipe for totaling your car. Due to Krissy's good reactions and smart driving skills, however, her car got through the incident with a dented passenger side door and that's about it. She's fine, the car's mostly fine, and the passenger side door still latches securely. As far as hitting a large mammal with your car goes, that's about as good as it gets.

Posted by john at January 30, 2007 09:27 AM

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Steve Buchheit | January 30, 2007 09:41 AM

Glad everybody is okay. Yeah, just a panel dent, that's about a good as it gets.

Heather Braum | January 30, 2007 09:42 AM

Glad Krissy is ok!

Dan | January 30, 2007 09:44 AM

Glad she's okay, and the damage doesn't look too bad. I'm thinking the deer probably got up and walked away, huh?

Bearpaw | January 30, 2007 09:44 AM

Glad Krissy's okay. Um. What happened to the deer?

Nance | January 30, 2007 09:44 AM

I don't know what skills were involved in this broadside, but every Michigander knows the most important thing to do in a deer-car showdown is stay the course. Don't try to swerve, brake firmly but not wildly (ABS is a huge help) and just brace yourself. Car vs. Bambi is never pleasant, but Car vs. Tree You're Now Bearing Down on Because You Slid Off the Road, or Car vs. Oncoming Vehicle You Swerved Away from Bambi to Hit is a recipe for tragedy.

Al Nye | January 30, 2007 09:45 AM

She was lucky. Here in Maine, it's common to read about accidents involving cars and moose. That's a sure recipe for disaster and many folks not only total their cars -- but also have serious injuries and even die from these encounters.

Imagine going 50 m.p.h. and running into an animal the size of a horse and you get the idea.

Glad she's safe and the car is doing okay.


ship | January 30, 2007 09:54 AM

wow, she got off easy, thank god she wasn't hurt too. i hit a huge doe several years ago in my old vw rabbit head-on, thought the car was dead in the water. i ended up driving it for another year! the doe wasn't so lucky tho.

Jon Hansen | January 30, 2007 09:59 AM

Foo. Glad she's all right, and that the car mostly survived.

Anne | January 30, 2007 10:01 AM

Bearpaw--I'm guessing the deer was totalled.

That's the trick to surviving a deer/vehicle encounter: do not swerve away from the deer! Go ahead and hit Bambi's momma! I know it's painful but it's far less painful than totalling your car and yourself.

Chang, father of pangolins | January 30, 2007 10:04 AM

Whoa, thank God Krissy's alright. Deer/Car interactions can be awful for both parties.

Seriously, is there anything she doesn't do well with good reactions and smarts?

AliceB | January 30, 2007 10:08 AM

Echoing what folks said: I am impressed by Krissy's driving skills! I'm glad to hear she's fine (and that the car is okay, too).

JonathanMoeller | January 30, 2007 10:15 AM

Anyone who's against deer hunting has never impacted one at seventy miles an hour.

Kill all the furry bastards, I say.

BIll | January 30, 2007 10:22 AM

Glad to here Krissy is fine.

And if you think deer are nasty, you should try to avoid Moose at night.
Stealthy buggers will just pop out of nowhere!

Carl V. | January 30, 2007 10:32 AM

Sucks about the car but I'm glad that everyone is okay! I've been in that situation a few times myself and seen much worse damage.

Janice in GA | January 30, 2007 10:39 AM

Deer/car encounters like this are one of the reasons that insurance companies are generally behind more liberal hunting policies. :)

My sister had a very similar encounter with a deer years ago. She was heading down the road, minding her own business, deer runs out and smashes into the side of her car. She had pretty much the same result as Krissy -- dented door, but not much worse.

Don't bother with those whistler things that are supposed to scare deer away. My brother had those on his work van for a while, till the 2nd or 3rd deer he hit knocked them off.

Janice in GA
from a deer-filled part
of the state

jkr | January 30, 2007 10:47 AM

I'm glad to hear that Krissy wasn't hurt.

Kristin B | January 30, 2007 10:49 AM

Good to hear no one got hurt (except for the deer, of course). I can't help but tense up whenever I hear about deer collisions. We're Pennsylvanians--#1 in deer-vehicle collisions!* My husband and I hit five of the little bastards in '05...and neither of us had ever hit any in our 20-odd years of life before that. I'm not superstitious, but I became certain we were cursed or something.

I spent most of 2006 waiting for the other shoe to drop, having become certain that we had set up a pattern for ourselves (6 in '06). We made it through, although now I'm wondering if maybe the curse is for odd years....

*Everybody's gotta have something to be proud of.

Cassie | January 30, 2007 11:02 AM

My husband hit a deer last year. I thank God he was in a minivan and not a little car.

What happened to the venison?

Lis Carey | January 30, 2007 11:17 AM

It's great Krissy okay, and good that the car is, too--but what about the venison? Are you in need of recipes, or is Ohio law/practice different on that point? (In New England, generally, the police provide the name and number of a butcher if you want the deer, and if you don't, they have a list of people who've expressed an interest in relieving the police of the inconvenience of road-kill deer.)

John Scalzi | January 30, 2007 11:20 AM

Lis Carey:

I don't think Krissy kept track of what happened to the deer; it may have even survived. On the venison front, her father has said "If you hit a deer, call me."

Cassie | January 30, 2007 11:46 AM

In Ohio, there are plenty of butchers who will cut up the carcass, but I've run into some who don't take road-kill deer.

I've never had venison, but I'd like to try it.

Sarah Monette | January 30, 2007 11:49 AM


V. glad Krissy's okay. (Also the car, but as a really distant second.)

CaseyL | January 30, 2007 11:54 AM

A couple of years ago, while vacationing in Eastern Washington, I was driving down a country road around dusk when I saw a couple dun-colored shapes in the road, realized they were deer (Mom and Bambi) and hit the brakes hard. We came to a stop about a foot away from the deer - who had absolutely frozen in place, unmoving during the few seconds from the time I saw them to the time I brought the car to a stop.

They scrambled off the road. My aunt complimented me on seeing them in time to stop. I was kind of stunned that deer really do freeze when they see headlights.

I get it that it's an instinctive tropism ('glowing round things = predator eyes; therefore, do not move and predator won't see you'), but how long will it take for a new tropism to develop that differentiates between "predator=don't move" and "machine=run like hell"?

harmony | January 30, 2007 11:54 AM

Is your car covered in deer hair? A deer hit my car back when I was in high school. It jumped right into the side of it and scared the hell out of me, but the car was fine except for the hair that was stuck to it right at the impact point. I think the deer was fine too. It looked a little rattled, but it ran away.

My sister and I were shaken enough that we just stood there and did that slightly crazy adrenaline giggle for a few minutes, looking at the swipe of deer hair all along the door.

I'm glad Krissy is ok. It's lucky she is a good driver and that the deer hit her and not the other way around...

Steve Buchheit | January 30, 2007 12:03 PM

Road-kill = blood shocked meat. At the very least where the vehicle impacted. Better than nothing, but you're going to be losing a good deal of the meat, and the blood shocked stuff I wouldn't even use in sausage. But that's me, I'm picky about my road-kill.

John Scalzi | January 30, 2007 12:09 PM


"Is your car covered in deer hair?"

I do have a picture where deer hair is tucked under the trim of the car. Interesting stuff.

Bearpaw | January 30, 2007 12:17 PM


I'm guessing the deer was totalled.

I've seen cars in much worse shape and the deer got back to its feet and ran away. (Granted, in such cases a deer may die later from internal injuries. Or not.)

A little dent like that on the car, the deer might've just gotten bruised. Or it broke a leg or two and was put down by a cop who hauled it off to a butcher, for distribution to a local orphanage (or to his/her buddies).


I've never had venison, but I'd like to try it.

Mmmmm. It's yummy. Never had the roadkill variety, though. Presumably a knowledgeable butcher might be able to save undamaged bits, if they got the carcass fast enough.

Re: Moose. I'd much rather hit a deer than a moose. The average wild whitetail deer might run 125 to 300 lbs. A small adult moose weighs twice what a large adult deer weighs, and a bull moose can be over 1500 lbs. Plus, moose are taller, which means if you hit them they're more likely to come through your windshield and end up in your lap. Not good.

Deer in headlights: Actually, I doubt it has anything to do with predators' eyes. It's much more likely that they freeze simply because they're suddenly unable to see. When in danger, they generally have two choices -- freeze and hope they aren't noticed or run like hell. But it's tough to run like hell if you can't see.

John Scalzi | January 30, 2007 12:26 PM


It's Cassie who's not had venison, not me. Heck, I had some venison jerky just the other weekend. Venistastic!

dave | January 30, 2007 12:30 PM

1) Glad Krissy is ok

2) I was basically assaulted by a deer while driving my motorcycle through PA in November (damn thing charged right at me). Luckily, the bike is faster than both cars and the average deer, and some quick swerving/throttling got me through safe. I then pulled over at the first motel and was happy to be alive.

Steve Thorn | January 30, 2007 12:32 PM

Could be the deer population telling you that you are onto something with Kingston's Bison Boar, and to hurry up the process.

Doug Murray | January 30, 2007 12:56 PM

Glad Krissy's fine. Auto vs large animal is never good.

Back in the '30s my dad tried to teach his mom to drive in a Model T and during the first lesson she hit a cow. Dad and Grandma were okay but there never was a lesson two.

Madeline F | January 30, 2007 01:05 PM

Re: Don't they ever learn? I have a friend from Pebble Beach, which is rich-ass houses surrounded by hills and twisty pines and sidewalk-less roads. Lots of deer. He says that he's seen with his own eyes the deer reach the road, stop, and look carefully in both directions before crossing.

Another deer story: I heard this from my uncle, a long time ago, so I'm going to tell it like he was there... He was working in tech support for computers back in the day when a mouse was a new idea. One day he gets this call:
"Oh my god, I just hit a deer, and now it's in my car, and it's attacking me!"
"...Wait, what?"
"I hit a deer. And I thought it was dead. So I put it in my back seat because I didn't want to waste the venison, and I started driving home, but it was just stunned, and it woke up and started kicking me while I was driving and I was able to get out of the car but now the deer is in my car!"
"Uh... That's too bad... But this is a computer tech support line..."

Jim Wright (who's still jetlagged and grumpy) | January 30, 2007 02:13 PM

I second (or third) the moose comments. I see at least two moose kills a month on the Glenn Highway into Anchorage. You really don't want 1000lbs of moose in your lap, double plus ungood.

Glad Krissy is okay. Once, in my younger days I hit a whitetail buck on a back road in rural Michigan, with a HD Softtail Classic. Totalled the bike, killed the deer, and I flew about 30 feet over the road into a ditch on the far side. While I was laying in the ditch trying to remember how to breath, a car pulled up and a couple of farm kids got out. Voices in the dark somewhere above say, "Is he dead?" "Yeup, sure looks dead to me, he's all mangled up." I started patting around, trying to figure out how bad I was hurt when it suddenly occured to me that they were talking about the DEER. I managed to walk away with nothing worse than a fractured wrist, but I stopped riding after that.

Ron | January 30, 2007 02:14 PM

Deer story from Alberta:

Me and a buddy were going skiing earlier this year, and on the highway(speed limit: 110) we passed a stopped minivan with a crushed front end and a RCMP vehicle behind it. I said, "Huh. Wonder if they hit a deer?"

A couple hundred feet later we passed half of the deer. Not sure what happened to the rest of it. It was pretty gruesome.

Two weeks later I saw about half of another deer off of a different highway. I was happy to only get a quick glimpse before we passed.

So, the question no one has asked yet: Can you make bacon from deer?

dave | January 30, 2007 02:17 PM

Did Krissy write you a "Deer John" letter to tell you about this?

diddidit | January 30, 2007 02:21 PM

My wife had a deer jump over the hood of her car once. Traffic had slowed to a crawl due to a large herd of them crossing, when one darted out and took a flyer over her car - its hind left hoof left a smudge on the windshield, but nothing else. Good thing we favor small cars; had she been driving a minivan it would have been in her lap.


Dorie | January 30, 2007 02:22 PM

The same thing happened to me a year ago. I have a dent in the door, but it still works fine.

Deer hair stuck under the trim. The dog was fascinated by that!!!

In my case, the deer did get up and bounce away, which freaked me out just a little.

Glad everyone is okay!

John H | January 30, 2007 02:32 PM

Ditto on Krissy being okay.

Madeline F: Your story reminds me of the infamous 'bambulance' 911 call...

Mary Robinette Kowal | January 30, 2007 02:35 PM

Seriously glad that she's okay and even more glad that Athena wasn't in the car. While I was in Iceland I saw a car get totaled by a horse and then a few minutes later I saw the horse get totaled by three different cars. I'm still traumatized.

Jim Wright (who's still jetlagged and grumpy) | January 30, 2007 02:41 PM

Mary Robinette Kowal (and that is a seriously cool name BTW), I lived in Iceland in the mid-80's. What an awesome place. Never saw anybody hit one of those little Icelandic ponies, but I was in a car that was rammed by one of those giant Icelandic Sheep. Knocked the radiator straight back into the engine, car was a total write-off. I want emphasize that we were sitting still, the beast rammed us after snorting and pawing the ground for 5 minutes. Glad there was a couple of feet of steel between us and the animal. Those things are mean. But they make damned fine sweaters.

Harry | January 30, 2007 02:45 PM

First, I'm very glad Krissy is fine. Scary moment.

Second, I await Dr. Helen's blog entry condemning your wife for her cruelty.

cherie priest | January 30, 2007 02:55 PM

One of the great things about having medical people in the family are the suppertime stories about fun in the emergency room. My stepmother has a great Halloween one about a hysterical, deliriously frightened woman who came barging into the ER. She was covered in blood, with bits of glass stuck into her, and part of a hoof lodged in her head.

Supposedly there was speculation at first that it was a holiday prank, but oh no. She'd hit a deer. She'd hit the everliving HELL out of a deer. It busted through her windshield, knocked her and her seat flat, and landed in the backseat where it died after a few minutes of violent, kicky death throes.

Ah, suppertime with ER nurses.
ER nurses in middle-of-nowhere Kentucky.

Have you ever seen the SNL skit "Appalachian ER?" My stepmom swears they must be taking cues from her hospital ...

Edward | January 30, 2007 03:05 PM

The only accident I've ever been in also involved a deer. I was driving home from college for Thanksgiving with my brother at night, and everything went well for most of the trip. We were on a two lane highway that had a rather large depression in the ground for the median between traffic in the other direction. Suddenly a deer jumps out from that valley right into the highway in front of me. It was impossible to see before then, and it really freaked me out. You're just driving along, and then you see a deer just leaping out onto the road. I braked and tried to swerve to avoid the deer, and it ended up hitting the side of the car right beside me. It knocked the side mirror through the window, completely shattering it. Somehow the mirror avoided hitting my brother or me in the head and came to rest on the floor by his feet in the passenger side. I'm also glad that I wear glasses at night when driving because the lenses were very scratched from the flying glass, and I wonder what would have happened to my eyes if I didn't have them on.

Then we ended up having to drive an hour and a half still to get home since I was in the middle of nowhere. With no window, at night in November. Yeah, that was fun. At least no one was seriously hurt, and the car wasn't a big deal to repair, so everything worked out well. Although I don't know what happened to the deer.

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers | January 30, 2007 03:55 PM


Glad to hear that Krissy is OK. But if you guys decide to go deer hunting, watch her for signs of PTSD and/or impulses to open up on the deer full-auto in revenge.


how long will it take for a new tropism to develop that differentiates between "predator=don't move" and "machine=run like hell"?

Given the normal pace of evolution, by the time they get a new tropism, we'll all be driving flying cars, so it won't be a problem. Still, if deer evolve wings ...

Johnny Carruthers | January 30, 2007 04:03 PM

Was the victim of this collision a John Doe?

Leslie | January 30, 2007 04:30 PM

I would think it would have to be a Jane Doe.

Glad Krissy is ok - I dodge deer around here in SE Michigan more nights than I like to think about - so far they've missed me.

Metal Fatigue | January 30, 2007 05:02 PM

Hmm. I've lived in SE Michigan all my life, I used to drive around on back roads a lot, and I've never come close to hitting a deer. I don't think I've ever even seen one cross a road.

Color me lucky, I guess.

chris. | January 30, 2007 05:04 PM

I must admit that my 2nd reaction was "But what about the venison?" (You can take the woman out of Pennsylvania....) But that's already been covered extensively above (venison bologna, yummmm..), so i'll simply say that my 1st reaction was: Very glad that Krissy's fine.

Madeline F | January 30, 2007 07:07 PM

Harry: Bwa ha ha ha! :D

We totally need a Dr. Helen entry on how women should let their husbands drive them because men are far better able to judge traffic. This "equality" thing has turned our females into stone-cold abusers of innocent deer. And if that's not sexism, what is?

John Scalzi | January 30, 2007 07:34 PM

You know, Dr. Helen actually did me a great big favor recently (of which you will all find out presently), so I'm personally inclined to think very well of her at the moment. Just saying.

Nathan | January 30, 2007 07:40 PM

I was in Duluth, MN for all of one winter and managed to hit three of the damned things

Tally: 2 dead deer, 1 pissed off deer, 1 totalled Ford Explorer, 1 front bumper, 1 passenger side window (that's from the pissed off one).

Glad everyone's O.K.

And that candy-island is way cute.

And as long as I'm spilling into other threads, any progress on choosing a tour name?

Laurie Mann | January 30, 2007 08:42 PM

Glad Krissy and the car are OK.

Yesterday morning, I came closer to hitting a deer than I would care to. Normally, when I've seen a deer on or near a road, they've been bolting away. This one just stood in the road. Luckily, I had my high beams on and was going pretty slowly. I wound up coming to a full stop. The deer didn't budge. Finally, I honked at it and it ran away.

It is possible to hit a moose and not have any major car injuries. Last July, a moose walked into the side of our car in Vermont. To our amazement, it didn't leave a scratch. And we apparently didn't kill it, either.

Martin Wagner | January 31, 2007 02:56 AM

I nailed a deer not long ago, but fortunately, was in an Explorer at the time. The one good argument for driving SUV's is that they tend to survive deer strikes pretty well. Of course, my current vehicle is a Corolla, so suffice it to say that when I drive home to visit the folks, I'm a little paranoid about hitting the road after dark.

Patrick in the Philippines | January 31, 2007 03:06 AM

The only automotive close encounter I've had with a deer was during the Christmas 1989. I was a passenger in a car in New Jersey, it was foggy but the driver did see the deer through the fog in time to brake.

Jim | January 31, 2007 09:15 AM

I had a similar encounter with a deer years ago -- I was driving along on my commute to work when suddenly something caught my eye and I turned my head to the right just in time to see a deer smack into the passenger door of my car -- a car that was so new I hadn't even mailed in the first payment on my car loan. The deer took off but left a dent in the door just like happened with Krissy's car. (Glad she escaped injury.)

It was a vital point for my insurance company that the deer hit me rather than me hitting the deer. That meant that it fell under "comprehensive" coverage which, under that particular policy, meant I was reimbursed for the actual cash value of repairs -- as opposed to being under "collision" coverage which had a $200 deductable. (You might want to check your coverage.)

Captain Button | January 31, 2007 11:58 AM

"I hit a deer. And I thought it was dead. So I put it in my back seat because I didn't want to waste the venison, and I started driving home, but it was just stunned, and it woke up and started kicking me while I was driving and I was able to get out of the car but now the deer is in my car!"

Take it to a costume party and ditch it there:

Woody Allen's "The Moose":


Andrew | January 31, 2007 01:25 PM

Wait, no one's gonna comment on the car's being *teal*? Who drives a teal car?

Jim Wright | January 31, 2007 03:45 PM

Andrew: "Teal." Teal? What the hell color is that? Teal is a type of duck. On top of which you're talking about a woman who, reportedly, has no trouble kicking ass and is somewhat intolerant of foolishness. Questioning her choice of car color may be hazardarous to your health. Just saying. :)

Bryan Price | January 31, 2007 10:46 PM

Piffle. While traveling with my mother between Newark and Hebron, Ohio, an eight point buck diced to cross Route 79 with traffic going both ways. Since it was daylight, everybody was slowing down for it. The only vehicle that made contact with it was ours. We got a hoof print on the driver's door (no dent), a hoof print in the middle of the windshield (no breakage), and it did manage to break the antenna aerial on the right front fender.

Andrew (since it's a comment that I can see, I'll comment on that right now), come down and visit me in Jacksonville. We've got teal pickups, BMWs, Mercedes, Saturns, Chevys, Fords, Chryslers. We've even got teal Jaguars running around. The automotive kind too, which seem to be a lot more pervasive here than other places, probably due to the other teal Jacksonville Jaguars that are running around (in Alltel Stadium).

Bryan Price | January 31, 2007 11:00 PM

Also, glad to hear that Krissy's OK.

I'm also reminded of when I was in the middle lane of I-70 eastbound right before Franklin turns into Fairfield county and split two deer, one in the left lane, the other in the right lane. At night, I just saw two points of lights on either side of the car, then whoosh! right by them.

I thought that Licking county was in the top 5 counts for accidents, but it actually looks like it's Hamilton county (Cincinnati for those wondering) that has the most accidents. Putting up that huge wall between the lanes of I-70 has probably stopped most of them from trying to cross that. Yes, I'm an old fart from that area.

grhm | February 1, 2007 05:08 AM

Glad Krissy is OK.

How can John get two cars in his garage? - I can't even get one with all the bikes,garden furniture/equipment, roof box, cycle carrier, that's stored in there.

Oh yeah, forgot, he keeps all his rubbish on his desk.

Madeline F | February 1, 2007 01:37 PM

Ok, no worries, John... I'm glad to hear that Dr. Helen's done you a good turn.

Oh, and I am glad that everything came out ok with Krissy and (mostly) the car. On the plus side, maybe with the brash-deer hair and your reality-warping Photoshop skillz, you can create some sort of mad-science monster... "Bambizilla"

Martyn Taylor | February 1, 2007 04:56 PM

Don't have many deer round here, although there are some muntjuck a couple of miles away, with the llamas and the ostriches and the wallabes. I had a close encounter with a very frightened cow once, while driving a very small, very light car. I shouldn't have wanted to get any closer. There would only have been one winner, and it wouldn't have been me.

On the other hand, we were out on the backroads last summer when we came across a flock of sheep in the road that just surrounded us and didn't seem interest in moving. Melissa wound down the window and turned up the stereo. Moments later the flock were all looking at us, nodding in time to Bruce Dickinson screaming 'Run for the hills'. When Maiden finished they turned and walked off the road, seeming to shake their heads in the same unison as they had nodded them.

Music hath charms, etc.

Laurie Mann | February 1, 2007 08:16 PM

For the second time in three days, I came close to hitting a deer on the way to work.

On the way home from work, there was a dead deer about a half mile away from that point.

james greenway | March 6, 2007 03:58 AM

i hope your car is shagged and your deer is ok, heartless bastard

John Scalzi | March 6, 2007 07:32 AM

The car runs fine, you twit.

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