When I was 18 or 19 years old and still thought I had a chance to “be somebody” in the sport of bicycle racing, I was out for a late-night (1 a.m.) ride in Minneapolis’ western suburbs when I sensed something moving in the ditch to my right. I stayed in the tuck position and watched as a whitetail deer bounded through the tall grass beside me.
It was a clear, moonlit night, and this Bambi was keeping perfect time with me – it was an amazing brush with nature as we seemed to be the only two beings out exercising at that time of night. Yep, it was awesome, until the overgrown, hoofed rat decided to make a sharp left turn directly into my bicycle’s front tire, taking the bike out front under me and sending me down to the ground in a hurry. Once there, I scrubbed off the 25-30 mph by removing skin from my knees, hands, elbows and even the tip of my nose and end of my chin.
I’m not here to rundown God’s great animal kingdom, but I’m also aware of the fact that not all brushes with these creatures are indeed great. Here are five “interesting” animal vs. snowmobiler situations that I’ve lived through, including several brushes with the deadliest critter known to man. Have anything to add to the conversation? Feel free to comment in the section below, because we know many of you have been in similar, or worse, situations.
- Deer vs. Sled – I was on a morning ride with a co-worker back in 2001 in Minneapolis’ distant northwest suburbs. Like the bike incident, it was in perfect conditions – in this case, the night before we’d gotten a couple of inches of fresh snow, in which I was laying down the first tracks. Coming out of a corner, I reapplied the gas and apparently woke up my former nemesis’ great, great, great grandson or daughter, because a whitetail suddenly stood up from where it was bedded down for the morning, and stepped right in front of my Arctic Cat. YIKES!! There was no time to react and no place to go, but the impact was surprising light. My heart rate, however, must have broken 200.
- Dogs vs. Sledder – In about 1995, me and a couple of friends were riding near Danbury, Wisconsin, when we stirred up some trouble with some canines. You’d think that Fido, Rover and Cujo might be used to sleds going by, since I’m guessing it was their house we were passing on the trail, but apparently they thought we looked or smelled like pork chops. While they briefly barked and chased after the first rider in our group, the second rider skidded to a stop in front of me and blocked the path ahead. The dogs then came at us. My friend was able to get away, but one hound got ahold of my left leg. His teeth didn’t make it through the boot, but it did tear a big hole in my Sno Rider bibs (remember, this was the ‘90s).
- Buffalo vs. Sledders– Picture the scene: It’s yet another beautiful day in about 2003, and we’re outside of West Yellowstone, Montana, for the Rode Reports testing event. Our longtime photographer Wayne Davis was leading a group of us to a great shooting location on the Madison Arm Loop when we come across some buffalo (or are they bison?!). We were on a narrow upslope. We sat there for a few minutes and took in the beauty of the scene, but when the monstrous, lumbering beasts moved a bit off the trail, Wayne v-e-r-y slowly and respectfully worked his way past the one that was still close to the trail. Wayne’s wife, Nancy, went by second, but the buffalo kind of stepped toward her sled, then swung its head around to glare at me and took two aggressive steps in my direction while snorting some hot air out of its nostrils. DOUBLE YIKES!! It then turned and walked down the hill – no harm, no foul, but I just about soiled myself for a second there!
- Moose vs. Sledders – I’ve heard plenty of these stories. One of the most gruesome I heard was in northern Minnesota one day, when a snowmobiler was running fifth in a line of sledders. The first four sleds blasted down the trail without knowing that a moose was standing in the dense woods right beside the trail. In the middle of the snowdust, the moose stepped out in front of the fifth sledder. The critter was so huge that the dude’s sled went completely under its belly. The rider wasn’t as lucky – his head went straight into the moose’s ribcage, splitting his helmet open like a grape and cracking his skull. My encounters with moose when snowmobiling have been mostly friendly affairs, although one time, when in Colorado on another Rode Reports, the aforementioned photographer extraordinaire Wayne Davis had to stand on his seat, wave his arms and “act large” when a baby and mama moose were headed toward us after being stirred up by some oncoming sledders. They took a detour into the woods.
- The Deadliest Creatures On Earth Vs. Sledders – OK, what’s the deadliest creature on earth? Great White Shark? Nothing. Bears? Nope. Alligators? Nah. Snakes? They put up some impressive numbers, but that’s not it either. The number one most deadly critter on earth, and it’s not even close, is (drum roll please)… the mosquito, as mosquito-carried infections are responsible for 2 million deaths per year worldwide. (Disappointed in that answer? Yeah, so was I when I saw the same stat on Animal Planet.) Many snowmobilers who have tried to extend their season as late as possible by chasing spring snow have had an encounter with these little flying bastards when taking a trailside break. Obviously, the chances of encountering these horrendous beasts is a lot more likely this weekend. So, deet-up, enjoy summer while it lasts, and join us in looking forward to next winter!!
Again, feel free to give us your own animal encounters by using the comment area below.