It happened so fast. Not lost on me is that seconds either way, and my mortality would have been apparent — along with that of the deer.
No, I didn’t hit it with my car. What happened, though, was in the hands (or legs, as it were) of the deer I encountered Sunday night on a dark stretch of Interstate 64 between the Lanesville and Georgetown exits.
The deer didn’t run across the highway in front of my headlights. Had that occurred, I could have braked, braced for impact (experts say not to swerve or you risk losing control of your vehicle) and prayed the animal was fast on its hooves.
When I saw the deer, it filled the view out my windshield — only about a foot away from the pane — as it leaped in full stride over the car’s hood. I didn’t see it coming, or going, though I know I didn’t hit it because there was no impact, not even a glancing blow.
For the two of us to still be alive hinged on the deer’s speed and agility, and my mph as I drove toward Jeffersonville after a weekend away. Oddly enough, my response was an audible, awestruck, “Whoa…”
So impressed was I with the deer's leaping ability, I did a little research the following day. According to a Field & Stream online article, “...a running deer can easily clear a span of 25 to 30 feet, and perhaps more,” as determined by measuring the gaps between its tracks. The vertical leaping ability of deer is equally impressive, with reports of deer jumping fences as tall as 9 feet with ease.
It was only as I continued driving after my close encounter on Sunday that the what-ifs started populating my thoughts. Any slight variation on my departure time or fuel stop could have changed the outcome. So, too, could the deer's stopping for one more munch of corn spilled in the harvest.
A few miles down the highway, I came across a car pulled to the side of the road, its warning lights flashing, and what remained of a deer carcass strewn on the highway now awash in red. Without room to veer around it, I steered my wheels to straddle what was left of the animal, only to hear it skim my undercarriage.
It was then that I remembered reading a warning to motorists that it was deer mating season, and the animals would be on the move.
I’m not sure I blinked as I drove the rest of the way home. Be careful out there.
— Susan Duncan is the editor of the News and Tribune. Reach her at 812-206-2130 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This story has been edited to correct a roadway designation.