Deer summary for the year

Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)October 17, 2012

I had another rough year for the deer. The overall damage was not horrible like last year, but I ended up spending way too much time messing with sprays, fences, etc and too little time left for my trees. My deer problem is particularly bad because there are many deer, I have a smorgasbord of food for them, and I let them get a foothold and they now know where to come for the best goodies in town. The Plantskydd is the one liquid that really worked, but even one good rain would give the deer an opening. Deer Out was OK, I could get complete coverage with it which was better than the Plantskydd I pained on, but it did not work quite as well.

But, there is some good news for a change. A few months ago I got one of these motion detector sprinklers (Contech Scarecrow) and it completely protected the area I aimed it at, a low-hanging limb on my GoldRush they were chewing to death. These sprinklers are a different level of scare, they randomly fire and keep firing every eight seconds, the randomness spooks them unlike other scares. The only problem was it could not protect my whole yard. I finally decided to fork over the $$ and bought a crew of eight sprinklers total (for 1 acre), hooked up to three hoses. You can daisy chain as many as you want, I also purchased several 50' hoses to chain them (I first tried 25' and that was too little). With eight sprinklers I have all parts of my yard covered. I have found only one damaged tree since getting all eight up and running, and I think that was caused by not having one of the hoses on.

If you are interested in trying these sprinklers for a serious deer problem here are a few tips. They need to be spaced about every 30-50' or the deer will find the unprotected area. If the frontier is protected you can devote less effort to the middle -- all of my eight are within 20' of the property edge. They will fire on you as well, something that can be very annoying. I purchased hose timers to make sure I don't get sprayed, I run them from 10PM to 7AM. The total cost is pretty high, I think I spent about $500 for all the sprinklers, hoses and timers I am using. If you want to use a timer make sure the timer will run all night, the first one I bought would only run for 4 hours max. I am now using Orbit 62001 timers and they work well. You can only set it for 6 hours but you can set four periods so I set two periods one after the other and it works fine.

Issues I have had: one of the sprinkler bottoms broke when I tried to push it in the ground, but the company had a new one to me in a week -- very responsive. They go through batteries pretty fast. Try to make sure there is no regular car traffic or people triggering them, that causes the batteries to really go fast. Obviously they will cease to work once it gets below freezing. I am not looking forward to that, but fortunately the winter activity is a relatively minor problem.


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Even though we are smack in the middle of town we have regular whitetail and muley visitations in our neighborhood, and the other night I spotted a nice doe bedded down right in the middle of our yard. They've gotten pretty acclimated.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:25AM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


I do have a minor deer and turkey problem, but your was a bigger problem. I have been using deer liquid fence and that help alot, but Jerry Lehman showed me another way that also works well but a lot cheaper than liquid fence. He used bounce dryer sheet and taped to the lower branches and the deer hated that smell. The results were amazing. I have no more issue with the deer. Now I need to work on the turkey because they peck a bunch small holes all over my green lawn. The good new is I may not have to pay the lawn guy do my aeration next year. LOL!!


    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:35AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Good to hear it works. What about squirrels? Do they set them off or are tree rats just too small?

A family friend wants to start an orchard on his 11 acres. First thing I asked him was about the deer and his response was that his land butts up next to some Amish and they make sure there aren't many whitetail around! Obviously this guy lives in the country where any problem deer could become a pot roast very quickly :)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:41AM
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I assume you tried an electric fence in the past. Why did it not work?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 10:12AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Before I fenced my yard I also used the scarecrow and it is a good product. Same as you I debated whether to get a few of the scarecrows or fence the yard and went with the fence. I still remember the first night I had the scarecrow set up in the round blueberry bed in the middle of our circular driveway. The doe came in an hour before dark as they are fearless and when that water went off she literally tumbled over backwards. After a week of having the scarecrow in that bed the deer went out around that bed and gave it a wide birth even after it was removed. In the end I would have just needed too many of them for it to be cost effective.

Yes squirrels will set them off and even robin sized birds but they have to get pretty close.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Why do you not have much deer problem in the winter? That is when they are the worst here, and neither electric fence nor sprayers would work then. I have ended up having to use cylinders of wire around each tree, which is a real pain. I could fence the entire area, but I have had fences breached or downed on a couple occasions, so I prefer to do the individual trees. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 1:32PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I expect they would also scare squirrels and I may try that at some point, in particular if they are stripping one tree aim a few sprinklers at that tree. For protecting a large area I don't know how well they would work, squirrels are not as easily spooked as deer. Since the squirrels are active in the day I would have to manually turn off the sprinklers before going into a particular area and then remembering to turn it back on when all done.

Glib, since I am in suburbia I am reluctant to put up an electric fence. I did look into putting up one which would be live overnight only but decided against it. If the orchard was in an area only in the middle of my lot then I would do it in an instant, but I have about 50 trees needing protection that are within 10' of the street.

I did nearly fence in the whole lot with 8' deer fence, but after putting it up on one side noticed how much of a pain it was to get around the yard. In general I don't like completely fenced in yards at all. Keeping the critters out is generally a challenge in the "edible landscaping" approach of my orchard -- I have ten separate plantings in my yard.

Northwoods, the deer just eat back a few low shoots in the winter. The bucks also rub against the young trees, they seem to like peach trees in particular. I don't know why they are not doing more damage but I'm sure not complaining.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 2:09PM
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I took the kids to a corn maze plus pumpkin patch plus orchard place over the weekend. You would not believe the deer fence they had around the orchard. It looked like the fence from Jurassic Park!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:47PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Yeah....if it's this bad one has to go all the way!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:54PM
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What I did for my garden was the 4' rabbit fence, then strung a very visible rope at the 7' height above the fence. With this, the deer know in advance that if they're going to jump the 4' fence they have to also get under the 7' rope.
It works well as long as I remember to shut the gates. :)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 6:41AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Mapler, I tried something like that with fishline, I put lines at 2, 4, and 6 feet. It did provide some deterrent, but if there is a clear path for several feet on both sides they will jump right through it. I even added more lines to make them 6" apart and they still jumped right through. My friend had a small garden he used it on and the fishline worked great for him. I think if its a small enough area with no clear area on both sides of the line for takeoff and landing they will not risk it, so in many settings it is a cheap and easy method.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 8:58AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Scott, When I was looking into fencing my garden I read a number of accounts that double fencing works with deer. That means that two short fences do the job of one really tall fence. The trick is that they need to see that there isn't enough room for them to land and then jump again between the fences. I forget the spacing, just remember that it was said the the two fences didn't need to be horribly sturdy, just visible. What you said about the fishline made me remember that. I only have a couple of trees, so I decorate them with little baggies of Irish Spring. Seems to work, though I think it's because they just idly browse through on my land, it isn't their best or only option for food hereabouts. Sounds like you've found your solution, must be a relief!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 10:41AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Sunnibel, I have also read about the double fence method and have heard of good results. For me I can't do the two fence solution since the second fence would be running between trees and would be pretty much impossible to set up and maintain. I did try running a second piece of fishline from trunk to trunk to give a similar effect as two low fences and it appeared to be somewhat helpful but not completely so. My guess is the two-fence solution would also fail in some cases, especially if the deer are hungry enough. All it takes is one deer to get through and "spread the word" and soon there is a crowd.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 11:01AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Tell me about it! My fence solution turned out to be a baited, single-strand electric with the proper charger and grounding to deliver a good jolt. It's been running for 21 months and nary a deer... Except a month ago when I accidentally left it off and the gate open for a week while on vacation. Then apparently the whole herd came in through the gate and discovered the sweet potato vines while aerating most of the rest of the garden. Shutting the gate and rebaiting did the trick, but they are not shy once they find a weak spot!

I agree, if the deer are hungry and resources are limited (as in suburban settings or in deep winters up north) then good luck! I feel very lucky that my deer have acres and acres of other fodder so that what I have is merely convenient for them, not neccessary. And me and the dog do what we can to make in inconvenient.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 10:09AM
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I have 3.5 acres and fought deer for years - and finally bit the bullet and put up an 8 foot high mesh fence all around with a gate I can close at night.

I wish I'd done that week one.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 2:50PM
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gardening101a(7b / 8a)

Hi, I was hoping to get by with a 6 ft Just whitetail deer here......but have no idea how high they can jump?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 7:44PM
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6 feet is too short. You need 8 feet

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:13AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

The height you need depends on how much of a running start they can get and how clear it is around the fence, they can even jump 8' in rare cases but on the other hand in most cases 6' will works. 8' is a good compromise.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:05PM
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