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Oh Deer

I was driving a borrowed car when I got the big opportunity. Driving home along a rural road, I saw brake lights in front of me.

“That’s funny,” I thought. “There’s not usually traffic there in the morning.”

Two police officers stood by a crumpled deer. The silver hatchback with a shattered windshield told the rest of the story. My thoughts caught up with reality, and I pulled over. I scampered along the shoulder in time to hear the officers shoot the wounded buck. The deer jerked a few times.

“Do you need to shoot again?” one officer asked the other.

“Take a second shot if you need it!” I called cheerily as I came up. “But I’d love to bring the deer home.”

The officer came up to me waving his hands.

“You can’t take that deer! It’s been involved in an accident!”

Umm, yeah. I wouldn't be looking to take it if it HADN'T been in an accident. This might have been the first time the guy came across this situation.

I said I would just wait a while. My heart was racing from the adrenalin flowing liberally through everyone, so I leaned against the railing and took some deep breaths. I focused on radiating peace through the scene. The uninjured but shaken woman who had been driving the hatchback told me her story while waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

"I was already running late," she said, "and then all of a sudden my windshield fell into my lap."

“This isn’t what you had planned for the day,” I told her, “but we are going to make really good use of this animal.” She nodded, though I doubt the concept of eating the deer really sank in.

I asked the tow truck driver to help me load the deer. He gave me a “yeah right” look. But when the police came back from talking with the tow truck guy, they were all smiles, and willing to help hoist the carcass into my tarped trunk. Maybe they got the memo that picking up roadkill deer is legal in Washington now.

They hesitated though, when confronted with how to get a deer carcass into a Toyota Highlander without getting their pants dirty. Since I was in my farm clothes, I volunteered to take the, emm, dirtier end. They offered to print out the tag right there, but I assured them that this was not my first rodeo and I was very capable of doing it from home in 15 minutes. Salvaging deer and elk roadkill is legal here. All you need to do is register it with Fish and Wildlife within 24 hours and print out a tag to keep with the meat.

And yes, it’s legal even if the deer has been involved in an accident. It’s legal ONLY if the deer has been involved in an accident. To be fair to the officers, shooting a beautiful deer on the side of the road was not what they had planned for the day either. Their shot placement wasn’t the best, but they didn’t need advice from me at this point.

Why was I on the road in the first place? I had milked a local cow, and was coming back with a cooler full of milk.

“I brought home ALL the proteins!” I crowed as I hopped out of the car at home. “I’ve got the makings of some cheeseburgers here!”

“Now I know what I’m doing today,” said Daniel. He sharpened his knives and got to work. That deer fed us for months.

When I was an eighth-grade vegan, I had a “Roadkill cafe” t-shirt. I thought it was hilarious, with its printed menu featuring items like road toad a la mode. My quest for ethical eating has brought me full circle. No need to hunt deer or raise beef when the price is right (spiritually and financially) at the roadside meat counter.

I encourage you to eat according to your ethics, which might mean carrying a tarp and gloves in your car at all times. But if you see fresh roadkill, and you don’t feel like picking it up, give me a call.

A picture of cheese. Because I don't have any pictures of the deer, and it probably wouldn't be in good taste to post them anyway.


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