SIKESTON -- Hunter Kyle Kern didn't even have to fire one shot to bag his deer this year -- it just ran into the side of his pickup truck on his way to the deer stands.
"A buddy of mine was riding with me, and we were going hunting around 5:
30 last Saturday morning," recalled Kern of New Hamburg. "We were on a backroad near Oran, and I saw a deer. I stopped -- I didn't think it would hit the side of my struck."
Kern said the deer, which died on impact, was rutting pretty good at the time of the accident.
But chances are Kern's accident won't be the only one in the area this deer season. From mid-October to Dec. 1, more deer-vehicle collisions like Kern's will occur than any other time of year.
Ken West, protection supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation's Southeast Missouri region, attributed the increase in deer-
vehicle collisions this time of year to a combination of cooler weather, daylight changing and the deer going through rut, which changes the deer's hormones, causing deer to begin breeding.
"During the peak of breeding season, which is around Nov. 15, the bucks are chasing the does and the does are chasing the bucks. They pay less attention to roads and their minds are preoccupied with the chasing," West explained.
West estimated 95 percent of time a deer-vehicle collision occurs is due to the deer chasing one another.
"With the cooler weather, the deer are also looking more actively for food," West said. "More people (half a million statewide) are out in the woods because they're hunting and the deer are pushed out of their normal pattern movement and combine that with all the extra and it attributes to the increase in accidents."
Typically from Benton south, there aren't too many wooded areas, which is why many accidents occur in Cape Girardeau, Perry and St. Francois counties, West noted.
"Collisions can occur at any time of the day, and this time of year, deer are usually pretty active at night," West said.
Generally when deer-vehicle collisions occur, if the deer are injured badly, they are killed and offered to the person who hit them, West said.
"Then they can get the deer processed at the meat locker, and if they're not wanted, we have a list of people who do want them and then contact them," said West, adding those who want to be placed on the list can contact their local sheriff's department.
West said it's also not uncommon for accidents to occur on the big highways.
"Usually the deer are tore up so badly, the highway department will take them to wildlife areas and bury them," West said.
When a deer hits a car, it can cause quite a bit of damage to the vehicle, too, West said.
For example, this time of year the average buck weighs between 150 and 175 pounds, a doe between 125 and 150 pounds, a yearling deer around 100 pounds and fawns are about 35 to 50 or 60 pounds, West said.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost per insurance claim for collision damage is $2,800, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of damage. When auto claims involving bodily injury are factored in, the average rises to $10,000.
Kern said the damage to his vehicle was about $3,000.
"It hit the passenger side of the cab of my truck and most of the damage was to the bed of my truck," Kern said about the five-point deer.
West encouraged motorists to be on the lookout and use extra precautions from now through Dec. 1.
Looking back, Kern said he's not really sure if there was anything he could have done to avoid the situation.
"It's just one of those things -- an act of nature, I guess," Kern paused. "It tasted pretty good last night -- but I don't think it was worth $3,000."