Dr. John Rheney

Dr. John Rheney

In case you missed it, I believe we are in the tail end of rut right now. As many of you know, deer go through a pre-rut when they chase around a lot and this is an excellent time to take a mature buck. In our area, I believe this starts with the full moon in September.

By now you may see less of these mature bucks because does are in estrus and we got through a period many refer to as “lock down.” This is simply a time when bucks have quite a few receptive does to choose from and they lie up in thickets with those does. They don’t feed much and only get up to drink when the does do so as not to lose them to another buck.

Later (post-rut) is when bucks need to travel again to find the dwindling number of does that have not been bred or to feed to build their bodies back up for the winter. At this point, we may see them in food plots again, but they once more become secretive nocturnal animals and hunter opportunities get less and less as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Also bucks that may travel many miles from their home ranges for the rut period move back to their familiar haunts, and that big buck you have been seeing on your trail cameras suddenly vanishes until next year.

Any of you notice all of the dead deer on the shoulder of highways last month? As we move out of the rut, we should see less and less of that. The deer aren’t running around like crazy now and the numbers of car-deer incidents should taper off. I believe I have already seen it drop.

My wife totaled her car last month while T-boning a deer running across a county highway at dusk. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt and it wasn’t the first deer she has hit since moving out to the country. There went my Christmas money!

There are about 2,400 deer-vehicle collisions per year in South Carolina. I must commend our rural drivers because many states have 30,000 to 50,000 such collisions per year. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources states that “sound deer management through regulated annual harvest “is the best way to curtail these collisions. Most deer strikes do not involve human injury.

Human injuries and deaths occur when the driver tries to swerve and leaves the roadway, thus hitting an immovable object like a tree. If hitting a deer is imminent, it is far better to hit the deer than risk losing control of the vehicle.

As we have noted, deer movements -- and vehicle collisions -- are at their peak during the breeding season in October and November. Also, most vehicle collisions occur near sunrise and sundown because deer tend to move more during these times.

Unfortunately, these are also the times that most humans commute to work in their vehicles. Pay attention to changes in habitat types along the highway. The zone between habitat types is a likely place for deer to cross a road. Creek bottoms and where agricultural fields meet woodlands are also prime areas for deer to cross roadways.

Rural or secondary roads rank highest in deer-vehicle accidents because of the frequent curves and narrow shoulders. Motorists often have little warning and, therefore, limited reaction time when they see deer.

It shouldn’t be necessary to write about this but Dr. Charles Ruth of the DNR says, “While most hunters are ethical and take the necessary steps and care in proper disposal of deer carcasses, some improperly dump remains in a creek or river, near a boat ramp, along a road, on public property or private property that is not theirs. This unscrupulous practice creates numerous problems beyond the negative image to hunters. The carcasses can cause human and animal health issues, environmental contamination and a food resource for unwanted scavenging animals.

“Hunters are also reminded that improper dumping of deer remains is illegal and persons involved in the activity can be cited criminally with littering.”

Poor behavior by hunters like improper disposal of deer remains promotes the kind of negative image that anti-hunters use in their attempts to ban hunting. Landowners who find a mess on their property may also have second thoughts about allowing access to hunters next season.

Hunters must blacklist those people who display unethical behavior such as the improper disposal of deer remains. Violators should be reported to SCDNR's Operation Game Thief by calling 1-800-922-5431. The 24-hour, toll-free number is printed on the back of hunting and fishing licenses.

Sportsmen reporting violators through Operation Game Thief do not have to identify themselves, and rewards are offered for information leading to arrests.

I have been targeted, I believe on purpose, by this disgusting act. Several times slob hunters have dumped carcasses not only beside my gate but also in front of my gate as if to make a point. I’ve seen “hunters” back a pickup full of dead deer against the windows at Shoney’s during breakfast hour. Sometimes all it takes is a little common sense to guide us through the seas of political correctness we all live in these days.

Enjoy the next couple of weeks because it will be another year before we see it again.

Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.

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