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Vehicle venison: A roadkill philosophy

Sam Cook

A Duluth, Minn., man I know was returning from the Twin Cities recently when he came upon a car pulled off to the side of Interstate 35. The Duluth man figured he ought to pull over and see if he could offer any assistance.

What he discovered was that the other driver had hit a deer — a big eight-point buck. The crash had occurred during the peak of the whitetail mating season — and the driver's car had been damaged beyond driveability. The driver didn't have a working cell phone, so the Duluth man called law enforcement for him.

No surprises there. That's what most of us would do for a fellow citizen in distress.

Once the driver was squared away, my acquaintance asked the next logical question: "Do you want the deer?"

The unfortunate driver had seen enough of that deer and didn't want the buck, he said. That was good news to the good Samaritan from Duluth, who had called me to tell me this story, and to extol the virtues of roadkill.

Turns out, he's a connoisseur of fresh roadkill.

"I have a tarp in every car," he said.

He believes a lot of us here in the north have trouble passing up the bounty of roadkill.

I agree.

It isn't as if we drive around scanning the ditches for banged-up whitetails. And, honestly, you wouldn't have to hunt hard: Just look for the ravens and eagles.

But many of us would stop to check out a road-killed deer, or even smaller game. I remember driving past a grouse up north one day and deciding about a mile farther along that I ought to go back and retrieve the bird. By the time I turned around and went back, it had already been scooped up by another opportunistic driver. There's a lesson here: Listen to your inner roadkill voice promptly.

My roadkill-seeking acquaintance believes that embracing the gift of roadside roasts and chops says something about us as people.

"I think it says we're practical, and we don't want things to go to waste," he said. "Sure, one of the hind quarters is trashed. So, instead of getting 50 pounds of meat, I'll get 35. I'll feed my family 20 meals."

He always plays by the rules when acquiring his roadkill. He contacts the proper law enforcement authorities to get permits for his venison-to-go.

I have another friend who was driving across South Dakota this fall on a pheasant hunt. Three wild turkeys tried to fly across the road in front of his pickup. Only one made it. My friend stopped to claim the other two. I suspect his family had a nice Thanksgiving.

For the Duluth good Samaritan who claimed the I-35 buck, utilizing roadkill is more than just an opportunistic way to acquire free calories.

"It's honoring the animal," he said. "It honors our relationship with the environment. This is an eight-point buck, and it died. That shouldn't be just a car repair."

Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluthnews.com. Find his Facebook page at facebook.com/SamCookOutdoors or his blog at samcook.areavoices.com.