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Get your deer with other people's front bumper

Posted to MichiganNow.org on Sunday, November 15, 2009

INTRO: Yesterday was opening day for Firearm deer season. But if you can’t go this year and you still want to get a buck or a doe, try calling county dispatch. They’ll find you one.  Chris McCarus reports.

From September through November, male deer are chasing females through woods and even city streets. When they run into cars and trucks, the cops have to decide what to do with the meat. Two days before rifle season, MC Rothhorn got his chance… hunting with someone else’s front bumper.

“The sun is shining. It’s beautiful. It’s warm in the car. On the lookout for the cops, looking for that accident. Fields are glistening with that early morning frost.”

Many southern Michigan counties report up to 20 car deer crashes a day. Sheriff’s keep a list of people to call each time an accident happens. Rothhorn had put his name on Ingham County’s list. Dispatch called at 830am. State Police Trooper David Service was westbound on Holt Road near the Aleidon Township hall.

“Just ran out. Some in front of me, some behind me and one right into the front end of the car. A lot of deer hair but that’s about it.”

Deer hair was the only thing visible. The metal push bar protected the grille. Trooper Service took Rothhorn’s driver’s license.

“Still live on Leitram there?”

“I do. Right downtown next to the capitol.”

Deer permits are free. And the trooper issued one to Rothhorn.  The trooper said this is the third time he’s hit and killed a deer with his own vehicle. He pointed across the road. The deer landed inside the first couple rows of dry, tan colored corn stalks.

“Right there. Got two broken legs. Must have killed it right away cuz it didn’t move. Laying there in the sun.

“Is it my turn?”

“Yes.”

Rothhorn has never killed an animal. And he can go days without eating meat. When he does, it’s usually from a regular grocery store. He wishes he could know exactly where his meat was raised.

“Dealing with death. It’s a little bit of, not just about a kill. It’s a little bit of a mixed feeling. Somber.”

Rothhorn lives in a cohousing community of about 50 people. They bought substandard houses and fixed them up. They tore down garages to make a garden for the whole neighborhood.

“Gosh I just had an environmental stewardship meeting yesterday. We were talking about a fundraiser. Now I’m doing it. Such a thrill.”

Rothhorn has visited several Michigan farms and read books like Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable Miracle. Several of his friends don’t eat any kind of meat.

“The reason I would shun eating meat is because it’s part of an industry that doesn’t care for life. This is a reverence for life. This is very different. That’s like saying Native Americans should be vegetarians. The people who inhabited this land we’re on right now should have been vegetarians and that they were wrong to eat from the land. No. It’s not.”

No. Nothing wrong with road kill, says Yeye. He came in the truck from Lansing. They drag the small buck from the field. They load it up and drive back to the co-housing community. Yeye and his wife moved from China to live with their daughter and American son in law. Now they’re all cohousers.

Within hours, Yeye has gutted and skinned the deer.  The next day he shows a visitor 80 pounds of venison, hanging in one of the garages that wasn’t torn down. The skin is being treated with salt and stretched out by strips of wood.  Son-in-law Michael Hamlin helped out.

“We still haven’t decided what to do with the ribs. We have to go someplace where they have a bandsaw for that. It looks like a lot of meat. It is. We’re gonna be sharing.”

Down Holt Road from the car deer crash, the Osterle family raises cattle on hundreds of acres. They couldn’t be reached for comment on this story. They were out deer hunting, the conventional way.

Audio MP3: Get your deer with other people’s front bumper

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