The Rear End

This Deer's Life

animal and motorist lives collide in northwestern WI

Mike Paulus |

So, I killed a deer by accident. I did this with my bare hands. And my car. It wasn’t the first time, and I hope it’s the last. This most recent deer-slaying-by-automobile was on Highway 53 way up north where these inconsiderate deer have the gall to run willy-nilly across the roads we’ve built. It’s crazy – if we’d left Eau Claire a few minutes earlier, or if the deer had stopped to talk to its friend Mr. Bear, the universal timing would have been off and we wouldn’t have driven into the deer at 65mph right as it leapt onto the highway. I also wouldn’t be driving my mom’s car for three weeks and looking at a $250 deductible. 

The last time I was in a deer-related accident (with the same car, no less) was different – the deer ran into the side of the car. At the time, as far I was concerned, the deer actually hit me. 

After about five minutes of painstaking internet research, I’ve learned that there’s some debate over what constitutes a deer hitting your car, as opposed to you hitting a deer in cases such as my previous deer-smacking. I feel it’s important to point out that only stupid people have this debate. On one side, people will vehemently defend the deer, motivated by what I assume is a love of furry animals and Bambi-themed bed sheets. On the other side, helpless-feeling drivers don’t want to be blamed for the incident.

When deer and vehicle collide, there is often nothing that could have been done to avoid the accident. At any rate, blaming a deer for running into a moving car is like blaming a tree for falling on your house. It’s nature. Deer run around, and no one is to blame for that. Eventually, if you live in northern Wisconsin, all these running deer will affect your life in the form of raised car insurance premiums. And unless the driver is a dumbass who doesn’t pay attention to the road, blaming them for the accident is equally pointless – they didn’t make the tree fall, so to speak.



A few years before the blameless incident where a deer actually ran into the side of my car resulting in its untimely death, I was in yet another deer-related accident ... sort of. It happened almost a full week after my wife hit a deer with her little red Chevy Nova.

Back when my wife was my girlfriend, she had a job at Mondovi’s local newspaper, and she maintained a daily commute down Highway 37. Well, one dark autumn evening whilst en route to Eau Claire (and a hot evening of television) and she hit a deer, slightly crumpling the front of her beloved little car. So she started driving my big, manly pickup truck to Mondovi while I tooled about town in her unmanly “Tomatomobile.” 

The next week, I took in her Nova to have the engine checked out. It was fine, and we decided to not do any body work since it wasn’t worth the deductible. Anyway, after the auto body guy popped the hood and studied the engine while I thoughtfully nodded and said “Hmmm, yep” a lot, neither of us thought to re-latch the hood when closing it. 

And this is why, while driving on the Hastings Way bridge over Clairemont Avenue, the flippin’ hood flew up, smashing into the windshield and scaring the crap out of me. Seriously, I think I peed a little. I stuck my head out the window and pulled over. I tried to latch the hood down, but smacking into the roof of the car had bend it, rendering a re-latch impossible. So I slinked down the nearest off ramp going about 5-10mph. Apparently this is fast enough create some wind current because the hood kept flipping back up, scaring me all over again. I pulled into the nearest auto parts store and got a bungee cord, which became a permanent fixture on the car until we junked it a few neglectful years later.

I just want to put all this nutty (and dangerous) deer-hitting behind me. On the bright side, the auto body place washes and cleans your car when they’re finished. Our car hasn’t been washed in forever, so I guess hitting a deer was good in that it forced us to get a car wash. Yep. We got a $250 carwash that only took three weeks. Awesome.