The word “rut” has different meanings. A lot of sports fans are hoping their football team gets out of its rut this weekend, but a lot of deer hunters are eagerly awaiting the whitetail deer rut, or mating season.
The rut is underway in Central Texas and it’s expected to peak a month from now. During the mating season, deer have only one thing on their minds – making baby deer. Sort of the same singly-focused behavior you’ll see people exhibiting at a nightclub on a Saturday night.
This love-blindness is a double-edged blade – on one side, deer are on the move and pretty oblivious to hunters, which makes for easier kills. On the other side, their laser-like focus on romance also makes them oblivious to vehicles, and the stretch of time from October through January sees the highest rates of deer and vehicle collisions all year.
Just about everybody who does any traveling outside the city limits can tell you of a collision or near-miss with a deer, or at least they know somebody who has been involved with a deer encounter while driving.
A day after reading the State Farm Insurance report predicting an increase in the likelihood of deer-vehicle collisions last week, I saw my first casualty of the season, a doe lying in the center stripe of an area highway, right around sunrise, that had been hit overnight.
As the housing construction continues to boom around our area, new neighborhoods that were previously wildlife habitat are key places where these dangerous encounters are liable to take place. When we moved to our place outside Lorena nearly 20 years ago, we regularly saw and heard quail, wild turkey, deer, coyotes, and other wild critters, but as developments have popped up and traffic has increased, those sights and sounds have dwindled. But the danger of collisions with feral hogs, deer, and other animals continues to be a reality.
According to the State Farm research, 46 percent of automobile-deer accidents take place from October through December, and according to the data, this year should see a 7 percent increase in these collisions, with Texans facing a 1 in 269 chance of hitting a deer over the next year.
The decreasing trend in daylight hours is the trigger for the rut, but even though deer may have the biological drive to mate, they are a lot like the people who hunt them, and if it’s 95 degrees outside, they’re not as likely to be on the move as on a 65-degree day.
A couple of useful tips to remember are that deer are herd animals, so if you see one, there will probably be more nearby, and driving with bright lights on at night will improve your ability to see further and wider, maybe allowing enough time to slow down or otherwise avoid colliding with a love-struck deer.
Record catch in Brazos
In a follow-up to a story that ran a couple of weeks ago about the record-setting alligator gar caught from the Brazos River by a trio of bowhunters from Longview, biologists announced last week that the fish that Isaac Avery weighed in was aged at 60 years old.
The 197-pound, 7.39 foot long fish was weighed at Brazos Feed & Supply, one of two TPWD Official Weigh Stations in Waco (the other is Cabela’s), set the water body record for the Brazos.
Avery noticed the fish had a tag on its dorsal fin, so he called the local fisheries office and they went to check it out. Area biologist Michael Baird says he tagged the fish near Tawakoni Creek, which feeds into the Brazos, in March of 2012, adding that the gar hadn’t traveled very far since then and had grown just over 2½ inches in the meantime.
Biologists determined the fish’s age by analyzing its otoliths, which are stone-like bony structures located in the inner ear that have growth rings similar to those in trees. Biologist David Buckmeier said the fish likely hatched in 1957 during a flood period, when most 50-plus year old fish typically originate.
Pucker up, largemouth
I think the late Charlie Pack was the first person I ever saw kiss a fish, and not long after watching that episode of his television show “Fishin’ Country”, I was reeling in a bass with the intent of giving it a thankful smooch before returning it to the water.
Over the years, I’ve planted one on the smackers of some fish — both fresh and saltwater species — and never thought much about risk, other than making sure to not get too close to the sharp teeth of a speckled trout or to even get close enough to a catfish’s stink-bait breath to have it rub off on me.
But a recent story out of England has got me re-thinking the risks of fish-kissing. A 28 year-old gent named Sam Quilliam was fishing from the Boscombe Pier in Bournemouth when he caught a sole, which is a flatfish similar to a flounder, and as he was going to celebrate the catch by kissing the fish, before he could pucker up, the 6-inch sole wriggled free and flipped out of his hand like a wet bar of soap, went into his mouth, and lodged in his throat.
The fish caused a complete blockage, and Quilliam collapsed and went into full cardiac arrest. His friends called for paramedics and performed CPR until they arrived and were able to extract the fish.
Quilliam is reportedly still planning to kiss fish that he catches, but probably nothing so small that it can fit into his mouth.