BAUDETTE, Minn. — I was minutes from my destination at River Bend Resort on the Rainy River north of Baudette early Sunday evening, Oct. 6, when the deer came bolting out of a driveway to my right at warp speed and crossed Lake of the Woods County Road 8 in front of my car.

The driveway was partially obscured by a grove of trees, so there wasn’t much time to react when the deer ran onto the highway; on my left was County Road 34, the entrance road to Zippel Bay State Park.

Adding to the excitement, rain was falling — as it has pretty much every day this forgettable fall — and the highway was wet.

Anyone who’s made the trek to Lake of the Woods on County Road 8 knows it’s a regular “whitetail alley” any time of year, but especially in the fall. I also was driving at dusk, a time of day when deer are most active, so I was on high alert.

The split second I had to react and hit the brakes was just enough time to avoid hitting the deer. Driving slower than the speed limit allowed likely helped, as well; I knew the conditions and reacted accordingly.

Good thing, too, it turns out.

It’s hard to say how close I came to hitting that deer, which was a big doe, because everything happened so fast, but in my mind, at least, it wasn’t more than a couple of feet. The deer kept running north, and I kept driving east, shaken by the incident but otherwise no worse for the wear.

Whew.

Close though it was, the heart-pounding encounter offered an opportunity to take advantage of a news release I had received just days earlier from State Farm insurance.

As stated in the State Farm release, October to December is prime time for “animal-related crashes.” Most of those crashes involve deer, but State Farm says collisions with dogs, cats and even rats also resulted in insurance claims.

Must have been some big rats.

Here are a few other highlights from State Farm’s roadkill report:

  • West Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Iowa are the top five risk states. Minnesota weighed in at No. 10, with 1 in 64 odds of hitting a deer or other animal. Although it didn’t make the top 10, North Dakota also is listed as a high-risk state for animal collisions, with 1 in 80 odds.

  • Animal collisions resulted in more than 1.9 million claims this past year.

  • U.S. drivers have a 1 in 116 chance of hitting an animal while driving. The likelihood more than doubles during October, November and December, when collisions are most prevalent.

  • Of those claims, 58% (1.1 million claims) are with deer, 4.4% (523,000) with dogs, 1% (12,574) cats and 10,868 claims for hitting rats.

State Farm also offered these tips, all of which are common-sense steps that likely helped me avoid hitting the deer that ran in front of me Sunday night on a lonely highway in northern Minnesota:

  • Use extra caution and slow down in known animal-crossing zones.

  • Slow down. Reduce your vehicle's speed and maintain a constant lookout for animals.

  • Travel at a speed that will allow you to stop in time if an animal comes into the beam cast by your headlights

  • Dusk to dawn are high-risk times; use high beams when appropriate.

  • Scan the road and avoid swerving when you see an animal. Brake firmly when you notice an animal in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.

  • Always wear your seatbelt. Safety belts saved an estimated 114,955 lives in 2017.

The full State Farm roadkill report is available at st8.fm/animal. It’s definitely worth a look.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.