Best Ways to Keep Deer from New Trees

lisaonbainbridgeFebruary 14, 2011


I was wondering what are the best methods for keeping deer away from newly planted fruit trees. They are in an area that is too hard to fence all the way around, so I have to protect each individual tree. I also just planted a raspberry patch that will need protection.

What works best for you?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Most people build a cage around the tree. Something about 5ft wide and the same for height. I've never seen deer do damage above 5ft. So after the tree gets a canopy above that height and the trunk can stand antler rubs, a cage probably won't be necessary.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 2:54PM
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glenn_russell(6b RI)

Hi Lisaonbainbridge-
I think cages around all my trees/plants would look pretty awful, so I go the spray route.
I use PlantSkyDD which is basically a powder made from cow blood that keeps deer away by way of fear... no real smell to me though.
I also use Liquid Fence which is made from peutrified eggs. It smells pretty bad. I'll often mix this in my sprayer when I'm spraying other things.
As long as you spray the stuff every month or so, I've never really had any problems.
And, deer have never bothered any of my raspberries and so I don't bother spraying them.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 4:47PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

I've got tree rings around some that are outside my orchard.

2 inch square fence wire ring, held by 4 pound-in metal posts, so the deer can't push the ring out of position. 8 feet tall, so the deer can't stand on their back legs and get their weight on top of the ring and crush it down.

The deer around here will eat a young fruit tree down to the ground. Anything they can reach, they will remove.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 12:50PM
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Thanks to all for the advice. Someone told me to put chicken wire on the ground around the trees--has anyone tried that?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 2:20PM
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I protect my new trees with 5 foot circles of fence until they get tall enough to stand some browsing. The fence circles are a pain to mow around, so I try to get them down as soon as reasonable. After removing the circles, I always intend to protect the trunks from buck rubs, either with fencing close to the trunk or with some of the black corrugated drain pipe. I neglected to protect some of my apple trees that way last fall and lost at least two to rubs, with three others having lesser (I hope) damage. I remember when I used to think deer were cute.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 2:40PM
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blackrag(6A East PA)

Hi Lisa,
My trees are planted on the white tail super-highway. I lost a few trees until I started spraying repellent. It can be expensive and I do it monthly. I did cages for a while, but didn't like the look of 6'cages. I have had good success with the repellent & plot saver system from Messina Wildlife in NJ. It has been real easy to see it's working for me this season with all the snow cover. Tracks everywhere except around the trees. During rut they plowed down a few young Magnolias that I forgot to spray near the house, but they have left the orchard alone and anything closer to the house that had been sprayed. There is a mint smell to the spray along with the putrified eggs, so it is not unbearable. Good Luck. Chad

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 2:42PM
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Tried it but it is a pain to mow around. I have found the plant 5 to get 3 rule is the most econimical for me. I buy the taller starts and the deer chose the lower laterals. I don't have to duck to mow 3 ac of orchard with a rider. 3 to 5 deer a year fill my freezer. My neighbor with a pick your own (2000 + trees)had 20 deer harvested. put a apple slice on either side of the deer kabob on the skewer. when you do that you might look at a wider eco system.I like my fruit but it is still low in protien .

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 2:54PM
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alan haigh

I use a single pressure treated stake and 10 to 12' of 14 gauge, 5' tall fencing to create rings around each tree. Mowing would not be an issue if you mulch well within the fence. I close the fence with the fencing itself only using 2 or 3 wires so it opens easily. I weave the fencing lightly onto the post with the flush side sticking out a couple inches from the post for easy hooking.

As the trees grow out of the fence the deer are allowed to graze on them to help quickly train them above the browse line.

Deer will ignore repellent when they're starving, which happens from time to time. I do use repellent that I make from eggs and old fashioned Ivory bar soap- bout 2 eggs to a gallon of spray. It even works before the eggs go rancid. When trees are growing they have to be sprayed every 2 weeks.

All the research I've seen shows egg based products are the most affective out there.

Starving deer also sometimes push in fencing, thus requiring 3 stakes. This has only happened for a few trees on a couple of sites in the decades I've been protecting newly installed orchards.

I remember one site in particular- a horse farm where an old woman had previously fed a huge herd of deer unlimited corn. She died and the new owner had me plant a 50 tree orchard. A single stake worked for all but a Mutsu apple, a mulberry and the Asian pears, which had to be protected with more stakes. I doubt anyone has had to deal with hungrier animals than the ones on that site. Lots of bucks in the mix too.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 4:20PM
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I mentioned this in another thread, but a cheap form of deer repellent is urine. Some of the old school farmers in the South used this method successfully. I won't go into detail about the application methods, but just suffice it to say that it will keep the deer out of the immediate area for a few days or so. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 5:00PM
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In areas where you don't get snow I would think a single strand of electric fence would suffice, as that keeps them out of my garden in the summer, but where the snow gets deep, that won't work very well over winter. Also one has limited incentive to trudge through deep drifts to spray on repellent in the winter. The best for me has been the ugly wire cages. Cut a length of woven wire fencing about double the size you think you need and overlap the wire, so you can expand the circle in a year or two without having to cut more wire. A $4 wire cutters sold by Menards works well to cut the wire. The deer around here will chew everything right down to the ground otherwise. Northwoodwis

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 6:13PM
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We do a circular cage of heavy gauge wire fencing, not staked down, just sitting there, till they've got some size to 'em. Cages are reusable. The spray works great, too, and is only necessary on new growth. The one we use doesn't contain anything smelly, and works great on all our deer candy, even hostas. Email me if you want the name, as I don't want anyone thinking I'm selling the stuff, LOL.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 8:51PM
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I've got over a 100 trees planted in pasture near forest which is teeming with deer. I've used Plantskydd over the last 4 years during the winter and found it to be the longest lasting repellent for preventing buck rub. If you paint it on the trunks and a few scaffold branches with a brush or cloth glove you'll still see it (and I've found it still works) over 2 months later. I also combine it with spiral trunk wraps for the larger trees during the late fall and winter and have started using harvestman's fencing method on younger trees so that if I forget to reapply (or if a really hungry deer comes along) I don't complete lose a young tree. The fencing circles might look bad in a backyard but they are nearly invisible from a distance in our pasture. During the growing season, I use Plantskydd alternated with Deer Off (egg, garlic, and capsaicin). Another easy method I've added is to fill cloth bags with milorganite (granular incinerated sludge) and hang one from each tree. These should last a few years and a local orchard (Vintage VA Apples) swears that they drastically reduced their rutting damage using this method. When I tried the bags alone, they did reduce my rutting damage, but I still had some damage. I used Plantskydd with trunk spirals for 2 years (without the milorganite bags) and it completely eliminated the rutting damage if properly reapplied every 2 months. I paint the trunks with splotches of Plantskydd and then apply the spirals in late fall and have found that the spirals protect the trunk applied Plantskydd for 3-4 months. Although I'm sure it reduces the smell of blood from a distance, it probably is enough to repel a buck standing right next to the tree. As noted above, I still paint a few splotches of Plantskydd on scaffolds on non-fence trees at least once in the middle of winter.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 10:43AM
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