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Drivers beware: deer rifle hunting season underway

York, Pa. — Nearly a million hunters will hit the woods for the opening day of the rifle deer hunting season today, an unofficial holiday of sorts for Pen...

York, Pa. -- Nearly a million hunters will hit the woods for the opening day of the rifle deer hunting season today, an unofficial holiday of sorts for Pennsylvanians. While a doe is a nice score, most hunters have their sights set on a trophy buck.

"In order to age, they need to have genetic potential to produce a big rack, and a good diet. You have an elite animal. They become tougher to hunt because we teach them well," said Pennsylvania Game Commission Press Secretary Travis Lau.

Focus areas:
Hunters are flocking to designated 'Deer Hunter Focus Areas' this year. The specific areas are marked by Pennsylvania Game Commission signs, and are located on more than 30 state game lands. The designated areas are meant to help hunters pinpoint where deer might be gathering, as the vegetation in the designated areas attracts them.

This interactive map highlights the 2015-16 focus areas.

Beware:
With 750,000 hunters expected for opening day, deer will be on the move, and drivers will need to be on the lookout.

"When you do have hunting pressure on agriculture in different areas, you will have deer moving. So there's as much of a reason now to be concerned as ever," said Lau.

According to State Farm Insurance, Pennsylvania ranks in the top five nationwide for crashes involving deer, elk or moose.
[State Farm® data]

Rank State 2015 Odds Percent Change from 2014
1 West Virginia 1 in 44 11.4% Less Likely
2 Montana 1 in 63 19.1% More Likely
3 Iowa 1 in 68 13.2% More Likely
4 Pennsylvania 1 in 70 1.4% More Likely
5 South Dakota 1 in 73 12.3% More Likely

Avoiding deer:

  • Use extra caution in known deer zones - Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland. Pay attention to Wildlife Crossing signs as they are there for a good reason.
  • Slow down – Reduce speed and maintain a constant lookout for animals. Travel at a speed that will allow you to stop in time if a deer comes into the beam cast by your headlights. Give the animal time and room to move off the road – don’t try to outrun it.
  • Always wear your seatbelt - The IIHS reports that in a study of fatal animal crashes, 60 percent of people killed were not wearing a seatbelt. Sixty-five percent of people killed in animal related crashes while riding motorcycles were not wearing a helmet.
  • At night, use high beams -When driving at night, use high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams will better illuminate the eyes of any deer on or near the roadway.  If you encounter a deer, switch your headlights to low beam so that the animals are not blinded and will move out of your way.
  • Dusk to dawn are high risk times - Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before or after sunrise. These are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions when deer are on the move and driver visibility is affected.
  • Avoid swerving when you see a deer - Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • Scan the road – Even if your car is not the first to collide with the deer, you are still at risk. Multiple deer crashes can occur when deer fly over the vehicle it collides with and lands on another car or when a deer collision causes a chain reaction where vehicles collide into the car that hit the deer.  Practice defensive driving tactics and be observant of your surroundings while driving.
  • Devices not proven effective - Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not proven effective.

If you crash:

  •  Move your vehicle to a safe place. If possible, pull over to the side of the road, and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn—times when you or your vehicle may be less visible to other motorists.
  • Call the police. Alert law enforcement if the deer is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. The police will be able to call the proper local authorities about the deer.  If the collision results in injury or property damage, you may need to fill out an official report. This report also can prove useful when filing your insurance claim.
  • Document the incident. Take photographs of the roadway, your surroundings, damage to your vehicle, and any injuries you or your passengers sustained. (Take plenty of photos: This may help make your claim easier to process.) If witnesses stop, take down their account of what occurred, and ask for their contact information.
  • Stay away from the animal. A frightened, wounded deer could use its powerful legs and sharp hooves to harm you. Do not attempt to dispatch the animal yourself.
  • Contact your State Farm® agent. The sooner you report damage or injuries, the sooner your agent can file and process your claim. You can also report a claim online at statefarm.com® by calling 1-800-STATE-FARM or through the Pocket Agent® smartphone app.
  • Don’t assume your vehicle is safe to drive. Double-check that your car is drivable after colliding with a deer. Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow.