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?
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.