D'oh! A Deer!

By the time you’re reading this, we’ll be approaching one of the most dreaded seasons for motorcyclists: deer season. Those pesky ditch rats become more and more active as Fall swings into high gear, and with that increased activity comes an increased risk of a deer strike. 

Sadly, if you ride in the Midwest, hitting a deer is a worrisome fact that you have to deal with. There are, however, some basic steps you can take while riding to minimize the chances of you creating some roadside venison (and getting seriously hurt in the process). 

By following these five steps, you’ll increase your odds of staying safe on the road and having insects be the only thing you hit. 

  1. Be hyper-vigilant in scouring the ditches and surrounding areas for deer.
  2. Be sure vehicles are always at least three seconds behind the bike. If being tailgated, wave the tailgater back. If they won't back off, let the tailgater past. This may ultimately be the difference between having a chance and not. Panic braking with a tailgater behind is a recipe for disaster.
  3. Realize that if one deer is spotted, chances are strong that there are more, probably following the one that is seen.
  4. Slow down. If there's a deer on the road, pound the brakes, and try to stop before getting to the deer. If that's not possible, at least slow down as much as possible before contact. Swerving is usually a bad choice. The deer may change directions. Stopping or slowing as much as possible provides the best consistent chance of surviving an encounter with a deer on the road.
  5. If it's impossible to stop before hitting the deer, KEEP THE BIKE UP. Do not lay it down. Hit the deer straight on at the slowest speed possible. Laying it down is almost always the wrong answer. As long as the bike is up, the motorcyclist has maximum control. Once the bike is down, the motorcyclist becomes a rag doll flopping down the road with an 800-pound bike (not to mention the deer).

It's crucial to think this through before riding. At some point, every biker has to deal with this situation. The best option is almost always to brake hard, don't swerve, and hold on tight. Any other choice will likely lead to a worse result.