Ken Conger thought he would take full advantage of a sunny Monday to mix work and play atop the Dead Indian Plateau.
A painting contractor, Conger decided to ride his motorcycle to the Greensprings, where he would write an estimate on a possible job and stop at the Green Springs Inn for a slice of pie before motoring home to Ashland.
Here are some ways motorists can avoid being one of the 9,968 drivers expected to hit a deer in Oregon over the next year.
— Mark Freeman
"I never did get that pie," he says.
A black-tailed deer took care of that when it stepped into Conger's path, triggering a crash that left the 58-year-old with three broken ribs and a shattered collarbone.
"We're just the best of buddies, me and the deer," Conger says through short, painful breaths. "I feel like I've been beaten up in a prize fight."
One in every 287 Oregonians can expect to hit a deer next year, literally turning roadkill into a bumper crop here — and Oregon is far from the worst state for deer collisions.
Insurance giant State Farm has used its claims data and drivers' license numbers to estimate that 2.3 million motorists collided with deer across the United States during a two-year study period ending June 30.
Oregon ranks 35th among the states on this list, which averages out nationwide to be one in every 182 licensed drivers expected to hit a deer in the next year.
The worst place for deer roadkill remains West Virginia, which has topped the list four consecutive years. One in 42 West Virginia drivers are likely to hit a deer over the next year.
Iowa drivers are second, with a 1-in-67 chance of colliding with a whitetail.
The least likely place to hit a deer is the relatively deer-less state of Hawaii. Drivers there have a 1-in-13,011 chance of hitting a deer, and that's roughly the same odds as finding a pearl in an oyster.
State Farm estimates that about 200 people die from crashes involving deer annually in the United States.
Conger's lucky not to have made that list.
He was traveling about 45 mph on Hyatt Prairie Road near Hyatt Lake when the local fauna struck.
"He stepped out and got me," Conger says. "I never saw it. I heard a bang. I went airborne, but I don't remember that. I just remember the landing."
Conger tumbled several times down the roadway. Protective gear kept the road rash to a minimum, but the impact pummeled his right side.
"It was no fun," Conger says.
It also could have been anywhere.
A 2005 survey showed that state and county road crews picked up 1,036 roadkills in Jackson and Josephine counties, but even that's a conservative number, state wildlife biologists say.
"That doesn't count the ones that got hit, ran off and died without anybody finding them," says Mark Vargas, Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Consider that all hunters killed about 3,400 deer in the those counties that year and you can see how death by chrome compares to that by lead.
"In some spots, the roadkill numbers are almost as high as the harvest," Vargas says.
DeWain Jackson, an ODFW wildlife biologist based in Roseburg, has been studying road-killed mule deer the past five years in Central Oregon. He's tallied 1,626 mule deer killed in that time along a 100-mile stretch of Highway 97 and a 50-mile stretch of Highway 31.
Researchers have taken extensive data on the dead deer and the locations, with preliminary information revealing some roadkill patterns.
"It looks like there may be a significant impact from topographical features leading up to the highway," Jackson says.
Specifically, deer tend to skirt the sides of mountains and ridges, so stretches where roads hug these features are more susceptible to roadkills, Jackson says.
Also, fewer crashes occur where vegetation is pulled back away from the roadway, and curvy sections usually see more roadkills than straight sections, he says.
Steep hillsides also seem to invite more roadkill crashes.
Data from that study has enticed the Oregon Department of Transportation to start building wildlife underpasses at key migration lanes to curb these deer-versus-car scenarios.
Or, in Conger's case, deer-versus-motorcycle.
It was the first deer Conger has killed in 34 years, and it almost cost him his life.
Two-hundred-eighty-six other Southern Oregonians thank him for being the one.
"Boy, that's great," he says. "I'm flattered."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.