Should Roadkill Be Legal to Take?

roadkill deer

It happens every year, especially in the fall, where I’m driving along and I see a freshly killed deer lying on the side of the road and wonder—why can’t I stop and pick it up?

Now, a couple other factors come in to play here that make me wonder even more. First, it’s deer season. Second, I have a license and deer tag, and lastly, I use every bit of the animal including tanning the hide to make things, using the sinew for backing bows and sewing, using the brains to tan the hides, using the bones for tools, and several other things that my ancestors did any time they killed an animal.

So I have a resource that would be utilized in many different ways that I can’t touch without getting a citation and fine. California is very strict on this law. Their argument, which I think is rather thin, is that if people were allowed to pick up roadkill, it might make people purposely aim for deer, etc. That makes a lot of sense since it costs a fortune to get your vehicle fixed and your insurance would certainly go up.

Another argument, which makes a bit more sense, is that it might be a hazard to traffic and the individual stopped alongside the road. Well, I would think that most people would be smart enough to use caution. It seems that the main issue is liability (governmental) and we know all about that here in California because people are happy to sue you for anything these days.

In some areas here in the foothills of the Sierras, deer are rampant and can be seen at any time of the day. Naturally, with those types of populations, deer are going to be killed on roadways often.

Most of the deer I see dead on the road are does. California doesn’t have a doe tag available during hunting season like most other states. So we are inundated with does, we can’t hunt them and there are hundreds lying on the side of the road dead from car strikes. Seems to me like we could have something available so they can be taken for meat at “your own risk” and then there wouldn’t be so many going to waste. Something’s out of whack here.

In some states like Virginia, all you need is an “Ok” from any law enforcement official. There is even a phone number you can call when you want to take a roadkill animal. In Missouri, you can’t cut off the antlers on a roadkill buck and leave it there. However, you can have the animal if you promise to discard the unusable portions properly. In other words, you can’t just cut off what you want and leave the rest by the side of the road. You have to remove the whole thing. I think this is a great idea.

Believe it or not, there are even some state agencies that bait the road with a deer carcass and then when someone comes along and picks it up, they get arrested for “stealing state property.” I can’t imagine where this brainy idea came from but it goes along with some of the crazy tactics they use to find poachers—some of which make me wonder where my tax dollars are going.

The bottom line from the standpoint of someone who sees the usefulness of all game and who practices what his ancestors taught, is that it’s a pity and a waste to simply let all that good meat go to waste. And while I won’t say if I indulge in picking up roadkill, I will say that the people I know that do, enjoy fresh venison all year round. They also have a lot of nice buckskin items too.  I’ve never heard of any of them getting sick from what they find. That makes good sense to me.

Photo credit: Dreamstime