Why Hunt for Deer When They’re Lying All Over the Road?

If only there were an app for that.


Sunday, on our way home from a trip to upstate New York, my husband and I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts. When we came back out with our coffee, there was a car parked a few spaces down from ours. It had one of those little flatbed trailers attached to the back. And lying on the trailer were two dead deer, gutted and trussed for travel. They were having their picture taken by a passing mom and her 14-year-old son, who were carefully framing the shots on their cellphones.

I’m not sure why they bothered. It’s not like there’s a dearth of dead deer around these parts. On our trip to New York and back, I must have seen several hundred dead deer — lying beside the road, lying on the road, lying a hundred yards back from the road, with their little deer limbs twisted and contorted in a gymnast’s baedeker of positioning. There were deer on their backs, on their sides, on their bellies. There were deer who seemed to be sitting up, human-like, by the roadside, watching the passing cars patiently, unblinkingly.

And then there were the deer parts. These were usually on the road. First you’d see a little lump of something brownish-gray. Then a few yards along, there’d be another lump. Then a big lump, and a long red squish spread across the asphalt in a widening fan. Sometimes you’d see a pile of deer guts, a mass of glistening intestines. Sometimes there was just a head, or a haunch, or a lone hoof. Some of these arrays seemed like a puzzle, a challenge: Can you identify this part? Some assembly required!

This must have been a good spring and summer for deer, because I don’t think I’ve ever in my life seen so much deer carnage. All along Route 422 and the Schuylkill lately, I see deer and deer parts. It’s astonishing how close in to the city they appear. How many deer can there be living at the interchange of the Schuylkill Expressway and Route 1, for example? And yet there’s a deer carcass beside the median, just off the left lane.

There were hunters in the hotel we stayed at in New York, men who got up early and went to bed early, who came out of their rooms wearing bright orange jumpsuits and carrying mysterious long canvas bags that my son said held bows and arrows. “Why are they wearing orange?” I asked.

“Deer can’t see orange,” my husband explained.

“Just orange?” I wanted to know.

“They can’t see orange more than they can’t see other colors,” my son Jake said.

“How did anyone find that out?”

Neither of them had an answer for that. I spent a couple of hours in the car wondering how you’d devise an experiment that would prove deer find it harder to see orange than other colors. I didn’t come up with anything, so I went back to looking at all the piles of deer parts along the road.

It seemed sort of odd to me that the guys in orange would go wandering around the freezing woods at dawn looking for deer so they could kill them when there were already so many dead deer littering the roadways. If deer are stupid enough to keep running into cars, how much of a challenge can it be to hunt them, even with a bow? You could walk along the edge of the Northeast Extension with a plastic trash bag and easily pick up half a dozen deer. I was reminded of the rumored exchange between two radio hosts down South and a woman caller who wanted very much to know why the state highway authority kept erecting those “Deer Crossing” signs where there was so much traffic. Why, she wondered, didn’t the highway authority tell the deer to cross the road in places where there weren’t so many cars?

There’s nothing like a solid string of dead deer and deer parts to make you a careful driver. I kept my eyes peeled, scanning the sides of the road for stags getting ready to leap into my path for mile after mile. Those ones on the signs look so Christmas-y and jauntily regal, like a cross between Rudolph and Kate Middleton, whereas the ones I was seeing smashed into the roadway just looked pitiful and dead.

It seems to me that some enterprising young computer science major (like, say, my son Jake) should be able to design an app that would match people who want dead deer, like the driver of that car at the Dunkin, and people who hit deer and kill them and just leave them there because they don’t want dead deer. It’s certainly not a supply-side problem; it’s more a matter of matching up supply and demand. To use the app, you’d simply text in where you were and at what time when you wiped out a deer — say, something along the lines of “Mile marker 2245, northbound Northeast Extension PA Turnpike, five-point buck, 8 a.m. Nov. 22.” Deer hunters could then drive to that location in the warmth and comfort of their pickup trucks or SUVs and scoop up their quarry while it’s still in good enough shape to become venison steaks. This would have the salutary side effect of removing the carcasses from the highway before they get smashed into a million bloody bits by more drivers and spread intestines all over the place. Once a hunter removed the body, he could note that on the app, to let his compeers know.

You could call the app “DeerHere.” Or “BambiSlam.” Or “FawnGone.” Or “OhNoDoe.” I hear that with these apps, a catchy name means everything.

So if some enterprising millennial wants to take this idea and run with it, you have my blessing. Now on to my next app invention: one that will keep track of where in my house I hide the Christmas presents every year.

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