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Hunting without a gun

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Autumn is the time of year when deer and cars are most likely to collide, according to a State Farm Insurance study. The study puts Minnesota at No. 6 for an American driver’s likelihood of hitting a deer.

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State Farm Insurance uses its claims data and information from the Federal Highway Administration to calculate the likelihood of an American hitting a deer, according to its website. The likelihood of someone in the United States hitting a deer is one in 174, whereas the likelihood of a driver hitting a deer in Minnesota is roughly one in 75.

Minnesota had a projected 41,522 deer collisions from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2012. Deer-vehicle collisions are three times more likely to occur in November than any other month. October comes in second and December comes in third, according to State Farm Insurance data.

In one week, area law enforcement agencies tallied a combined 14 collisions with deer at least, and those are just the ones reported. Some officers believe that most of the time, people don’t report a collision with a deer.

And they don’t necessarily have to. Breezy Point Police Chief Kevin Merschman said the state wants a report if the damage to the vehicle is more than $1,000, but sometimes it’s not.

People who don’t have full coverage insurance often don’t care, Merschman said. Their insurance won’t cover the damage so they don’t always need a police report.

While drivers don’t necessarily need to report deer they hit, they can contact police to get a permit to take the deer home. Roadkill permits are free.

Crosslake Police Chief Robert Hartman believes the department only hears of people hitting deer if there’s an injury or the driver wants a permit. He guesses that a third don’t get reported.

He thinks the deer population is down this year, so he’s seeing fewer collisions than other years.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said he’s seen roughly the same number of deer collisions this year as in previous years. He reminded drivers not to swerve for deer.

“It isn’t worth it,” he said, adding it’s better if drivers hit deer than hit another vehicle, overturn in the ditch or hit a tree.

He cautioned drivers not to overdrive their headlights and be especially aware in deer crossing areas.

Often people say they don’t see the deer until they hit them, Burch said.

“It seems like they come out of nowhere,” he said.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl agreed.

“They seem to jump out and dart out in a millisecond,” Dahl said.

The deer are on the move from hunting season, Dahl said, pointing out that even as firearms season closed, archery and muzzleloader seasons will continue through December.

Merschman said food sources for deer change in the fall. As foliage dies with frost and cold temperatures, deer are forced to move more to find food.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources states drivers are most likely to hit deer at dawn and dusk, noting that 20 percent of crashes occur in the early morning and more than half occur between 5 p.m. and midnight.

Dahl recommends that drivers slow down and constantly scan for deer.

“Usually we have a few car kills with our squad cars as well, so nobody’s immune to that,” Dahl said.

Kate Perkins can be reached at kate.perkins@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/EchoJournalKate.

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