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Deer Collision: My Fear Comes True (for Someone Else)


(1/16/2014)

I think about the possibility of slamming a deer probably 30 percent of the time I spend riding my snowmobile on trails in the woods. Seriously, I worry about it A LOT!

It's never actually happened to me while snowmobiling. No close calls either. Fortunately nothing while riding motorcycles either, although I did nail a grouse once during a trail ride. That worked out pretty good because I breasted the dead bird, wrapped the meat in a ziplock, carried it in my backpack and then ate it later that evening. Grouse are tasty.

Fortunately for me, thus far in my life the two deer I've hit have been while driving an automobile and no person was hurt in either instance.

I say "thus far in life" because I really do believe it's not a matter of if, but rather WHEN the collision will occur.

Sled/deer collisions must be pretty common, if for no other reasons than the fact that deer move around at night and that snowmobile trails offer a nice surface for them to easily walk through the woods. It's a recipe for impact.

I feel terrible for the animals that get "stuck" on a snowmobile trail and don't want to jump into the woods.

Last spring, while riding with a group of numbskulls in a remote area along the Minnesota - Ontario border north of Grand Marais, we came upon a moose that was on the trail, foraging the evergreen trees that lined it. After startling it, the moose trotted down the trail. And trotted, and trotted and trotted. For probably 3-4 miles.

We'd stop, shut off the sleds and wait for 5-10 minutes while the moose kept moving down the trail, but when we started riding again it would only be a minute or so and we'd come around the corner to see that he was still on the trail. We repeated the cycle three or four times until he finally jumped off the trail and into the woods.

Poor dude was absolutely gassed by the experience, even though we tried to give him plenty of space/time.

The other danger that I ponder even more than hitting a deer, is hitting an oncoming snowmobiler. There too, I'm fortunate to have never had the experience.

The precautions I take for both scenarios are to always ride with a finger on the brake lever, so hug the right side of the trail and to try and scan as much as possible for visual cues. I suppose I also adjust my speed accordingly, however I admit that I could drive 15-20 mph and pretty much avoid any likelihood of impact. But I don't drive that slowly. Instead, I ride at a pace that I feel comfortable with and that's based on my perceived reaction time, trail conditions, terrain and probably a dozen or so other variables.

Then say my little pre-ride prayer and hope for the best. Oh, and like I said at the outset: I also THINK about the possibility while I'm riding, which I believe keeps me tuned up for a quicker, better reaction in the event an animal/sledder are around the next corner or over the hill.

From now on, I'm sure the guy in the video above will ponder the possibility hitting deer at least 90 percent of his ride time.

How about you?

Dead moose on the snowmobile trail

The dead dude I'm holding was a wolf casualty, not a snowmobile collision. I wonder if deer and moose think about (and fear) wolves 100 percent of the time? They should.



Comments (17):

Dan Everson says:
1/16/2014 10:46:00 AM

This happened to me in 1996, only on a motorcycle traveling about 65mph. Same thing where the deer hit me broadside on my left side. The only reason I am here today is it had spots. Since then I watch the ditches more than I do the road when driving. Be safe out there boys and girls!
Tom Rowland says:
1/16/2014 12:53:00 PM

I too am constantly freaked out about the possibility of hitting a deer with my sled. Have had some close calls, but always missed them thus far. It is now stronger in my mind after hitting a deer last month with my full-size 2007 F250 at 55 mph. That cute brown fuzzy creature nearly totaled this big work truck out...I don't want to know what would happen if I would have nailed that same deer while I was on a sled. I think I will continue to try to exercise some caution when choosing what type of trails to run higher speeds on.
Sven says:
1/16/2014 4:19:00 PM

Found out first hand when you hit them with the new sleds the pointy hood panels pretty much gut the deer for ya. That's only if your lucky and they don't jump.
Dulpher says:
1/16/2014 4:58:00 PM

OMG! wouldnt be the first thing Id say. Pretty sure it would be WTF? Looked like a little one. Kinda lucky.
Paul Nadeau says:
1/16/2014 6:07:00 PM

Here in our part of the world, Moose are the animal of choice not to hit. I have come across many a moose on the trails in the past years, never have hit one, but a few close calls has stopped me riding at night. As we all know, you can go a lot faster than the headlight! They are big, black, and have a real mind of their own, and as John wrote above are in no hurry to change their minds and run, especially when they find food along the trail. Now, for the 5 moose that I hit while driving the milk truck . . .
flintstone says:
1/16/2014 6:32:00 PM

Growing up, my grandfather who was born in 1912 would always preach safety. He lived to be 92 years old and he rode sleds from the time they were invented right up until the day he passed from natural causes. In the early days he witnessed a lot. Barb wire fences, trees, collisions, you name it. My problem is the dad in me says slow down but the cross country racer in me says let it all hang out. 2 years ago my riding buddy was killed up on the north shore, kissed a tree. Went to his funeral, saw all the pain and grief it caused his family. I thought Forsure that would wake me up. But I'm just hopelessly addicted to the thrill of it all. I ride solo a lot in remote areas, that adds even more danger to it!! But in my defense I drive my car by myself at night in remote areas too!!

I'm just glad that everything went ok for this fella. He was lucky!!
Mike F says:
1/16/2014 7:26:00 PM

Watched my nephew roll through a flock of turkeys at the I-500 a few years ago just outside St. Hilaire, not sure why they decided to take off when they did as they were well away from the ditch. Was very exciting for a moment. He felt the wings as he sailed by as fast as a SP 500 will go. No animals or humans were harmed during this stunt....but is was close!
Voyager says:
1/17/2014 7:20:00 AM

I remember when Loyal Skuza from St Cloud, Mn hit a deer in the I-500 race on his Rupp. Put him out of the race.
Gregs says:
1/17/2014 12:32:00 PM

So does this make anyone think they should be wearing a Tek-Vest or similar? This year I am.

fastf5 says:
1/17/2014 3:32:00 PM

Wow, I have never hit one, but I have had them JUMP, yes jump over me. I was very Lucky!
John Sandberg says:
1/17/2014 8:56:00 PM

I wear a version of the TekVest every time I ride. Either the original, which I modified to remove the arm pads, or a recent Arctic Cat version with full arm protection. Feel naked without one.
Flintstone says:
1/18/2014 1:33:00 AM

I don't wear a vest. My cousin did and it saved his life. He hit a ice heave down by St. Cloud a few years ago on his f8. He was airlifted off the ice and the doctors think it saved him. I don't wear one because They cost too much Money.
Flintstone says:
1/18/2014 1:36:00 AM

Hey tom, we are loving that rmk polaris 550 we bought from ya last fall. Been trapping minnows all winter with it, prolly put 500 miles on her. That hitch you gave us has been working great!!
Sven says:
1/18/2014 9:53:00 AM

I advocate chest protectors, and honestly didn't like them at first. I shared a story with John from this past weekend. I had that crash I never planned to have, and it was worth every penny.

Flinstone - EVS makes a decent looking vest for about $200. If you want the TEK brand and have some Xcountry buddies, see if they will pick you one up at their price.

I know guys wearing vests that are 10 years old. With proper care and cleaning they still look new. So even for $350, your looking at a $35/year cost.If your SO needs a good story to let you go buy one let me know. My wife won't let me out the door without a vest on.

Rode 1 time last year with no vest. I felt about as unsafe as riding a roller coaster with no lap bar.

One great not safety advantage to the vest too, is if your like me and have a few extra lbs, is that those extra lbs don't move around so much on bump trails. lol

Snowguy6868 says:
1/22/2014 1:18:00 PM

been thinking of getting a vest for riding, do they make one for a 300# plus guy that will fit and not be uncomfortable
mike says:
1/22/2014 10:35:00 PM

hit a deer wide open on a at the time brand new 01 doo mxz 700. luckily sitting down. hit him square, crushed the sled, and a hell of a bell ringer. surprisingly I think the fast speed help, as he shot over fast. Without collecting me with it.
KoonzYamaha says:
1/27/2014 4:31:00 PM

I agree with the Tek-Vest.. I would never go trail riding with out mine or my knee shin gaurds. Being 6'5" and 270 lbs I look like a line backer but let me tell you I would spend the $350 or $1,000 if it meant that I had a better chance at living if and only if that time ever came when you need it. Cheap insurance in my book. Do you ride without a helmet? Nope...

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