Lets talk deer control

ricksample(6)October 11, 2011

With winter right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to see what everyone is using and what works best. I'm trying to protect 1 acre of plants.

All summer I've used Deer Out - It smells like peppermint to us, but the smell is to strong for deer. It doesn't smell bad like some of the others, but if you do a lot of plants the pepperment smell will be very strong for a few hours & you will probably want to be inside. It needs to be applied directly to the plants & works pretty decent. I've had a few nibbles here and there. The deer have been browsing since I do have a lot of tracks in the beds.

During winter I'm thinking about sprinkling Deer Scram around the beds - Smells like fertalizer to us, but dead deer to them. I hope to use this as my first defense, then deer out will of course be my second.

For those of us that don't have the benefits of an actual fence:

What size lot are you protecting?

What are you using (Summer or Winter)?


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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Had a big whitetail in my property yesterday, was glad he was here. I do nothing. I enjoy them here. Of the minority.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 6:00PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I used rabbit scram and what a damn waste if you get rain or snow. I would assume the same for deer scram.

In the end spray or cage your most beloved plants...possibly skip the ones that have sharper needles.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 9:31PM
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Get a couple of dogs. Works like a charm.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 10:05PM
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kim_dirtdigger(IN 5b)

We are on 3 acres and deer frequently travel through the property. We also have a golden retriever whose greatest thrill in life is chasing deer and all other creatures out of the yard. But, she is inside in colder weather and sleeps inside at night. For reasons I can only attribute to the dog, we had only minor damage until 2009. Then we suddenly experienced major damage during the fall rut (rubbing) and winter (heavy browsing). (Our deer seem to particularly enjoy eating Picea orientalis and rubbing Cedrus.) We see tracks in the beds all summer, hosta leaves are eaten, but the deer seem to browse the conifers only lightly doing little damage. Last year we hung Irish Spring soap in all of our trees in early October and had absolutely no damage. Maybe it was a fluke, but we've hung our soap again this year. And the added bonus is a nice aroma as you walk around the garden, rather than noxious dead animal smells:)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:16AM
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Deer Scram works until the snow comes. I use Milorganite because it is less expensive, but I have to apply more often. It really stinks too!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:17AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Nothing works like an outside dog! My neighbor used to have two. They passed on and now he has a softie inside lab. Nicest dog but it does not keep the deer away over night.

The bar of soap seems to work. Fencing around trees has i teresting results. A deer must have gotten stuck in some and started thrashing about causing unique damage but not ever coming back.

Does anyone think quiet windchimes in the trees would disrupt deer as much as my attractive soap bar? Probably just lead to mode thrashing about stuck to the trees lol

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:43AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

are you rural or suburban ...

are there crop fields around you????

have you had any significant damage this summer [what does nibbling mean]??? in other words.. why all the prevention???


    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 9:22AM
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Ken - I'm just outside of city limits, on a back country road. We have a house every 400-500 feet on each side going up our street.

No crop fields that I know of, my neighbor across from me has a farm and grows something I think, but I'm not sure what. Behind my land is a 10-20 acre field with large overgrown brush (10'-15' high).

No damage this summer, I had a deer that took maybe 2 inches of needles off one of one of my spruces and another took some leafs off my Waterfall Japanese maple. Other than that they have been just walking around the mulch beds.

With winter coming and knowing that there food supply is limited, I would rather take a few extra measures to help protect all my hard work.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 10:10AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

With an acre to protect I would cage the small stuff.

Dogs, motion protectors, (owl) ,would be something for short term protection.

If you are there for the long term I would start a conifer screen by adding a few plants a year. Whatever the pocket book can afford.

These suckers are totally unpredictable. You will know soon enough what you are up against and what precautions you are willing to implement to protect your hard work.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 10:45AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i once heard a speech on the 2 species of deer ... [tongue and cheek of course]

the urban deer.. which are ravenous animals.. with little or no choice of browsing in winter ... will attack everything in a garden ... there are no plants that are deer proof in this world ...

and the rural deer.. which have so many options of winter feeding .. that cause little or no damage to any given garden ...

i have the latter ... as i suspect you do ... even though you are close to town ...

they will only go after the worst of foods.. when they have no other options ... and i think most conifers are not high on the 'i gotta eat that' deer lists .. lol .. [though come to think of it.. hidden lakes has horrible problems on either yews or arbs.. i cant remember which they are.. ]

i have production fields to the north/east/and south .. and a small lake to the west ... i have tracks all over my yard ... and my theory is that they eat what they need in the fields.. all winter long .... and then walk thru my yard to get water .... except in winter ...

i have had little or no damage on conifers.. and basically none on the hosta ... in drought.. its another issue ...

last week i planted an ginkgo .... the next day.. there was a hoof mark in the damp soil ... with no damage.. they were curious enough to check what was going on.. but they walked right past it ...

all that said.. there is no harm is being proactive ... i am just wondering about how much of a problem you have ...

on tiny babes.. i use rose cones with no top ... the deer will not stick their heads in .. and it keeps bunnys away ...

recycled boxes can do the same ... top open ...


    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 11:00AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Black plastic mesh deer netting stapled to peeler poles. Must be too high to jump over and close enough to the ground at the bottom to not be wiggled under.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 11:14AM
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bernd ny zone5

I live in the suburbs with acres of wild woods in between suburbs. My next door neighbor saw a deer on his lawn looking at my conifers last year. So this year I am spraying Liquid Fence in my front yard, especially at Skylands and Pendula Bruns, to be on the safe side. No deer contact yet. The problem seems to be that the town is creating paths, parking lots for visitors inside a wilderness area and by that might drive deer out of there into where I live.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 12:48PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

now dont get me wrong .... you gotta do what you gotta do ..

but your baseline information is based on very little informational experience ...

in other words.. you got new baby fear.. and the deer are either a problem or they arent.. but you may not know until the kids are a few more years older ... or your collection gets so big.. you just dont care anymore ... [hmmm.. who could that be]


ps: has anyone mentioned the excessive beer drinking and P'ing all over your yard .. to spread your own hormones around the yard?????

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 2:45PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

That would set an elegant tone.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:55PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Rick to clean this thread up from the P'ers - you certainly can and now is the time to walk around and shave Irish Spring soap around your conifers. Don't buy the generic, but you can get the original at the dollar stores. Stock up.

And in my opinion, one of the best deterrents are two pieces of metal on each opposing side of a tree or shrub. You can purchase electrical conduit and buzz em off so they are 4-5 feet above the ground. When deer bump into these, they leave.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 8:07AM
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A note on soap. I have hung bars of Ivory before and the deer have bitten them in half. Good luck.

When the grass stops growing I will string fishing line 4 ft of the ground. Since the deer can't see it they get spooked and run. However, last year I had to replace or re-string the line 6-8 times as they break through it in a panic. You have to keep monitoring it because as soon as you forget they win.

I used to put PVC pipe on the ground and it works great, but looks bad. Their hooves can't cope with the pipe. However, if you get a lot of snow the pipe becomes useless.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 8:21AM
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We've used Irish Spring for three years and I would have sworn by it until last year when the deer ate one side of an Abies concolor 'Conica' and the top of a Picea abies 'Acrocona' (east border of our one acre) and then the middle of a Picea abies 'Perry's Gold' (smack in the middle of the property). Haven't decided what to do this winter.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 8:43AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

One inexpensive method that seems to work for me is mixing one raw egg per gallon of water & spraying on the foliage. I use two eggs in my 2 gal pump-up sprayer (mix the eggs in water well before dumping in sprayer).

The smell does resist rain somewhat if it dries well beforehand, but it still wears off in 10 days or so. Spraying in sub-freezing weather may not be practical & mechanical protection should be included. Wrapping plastic netting loosely around evergreens when snow is on the ground (& deer are most likely to attack) has worked too. I've even piled up yard debris around trunks to discourage rubbing, which the bucks are getting ready to do right now, here.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 10:22AM
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I guess I'll join in. I live in a rural area surrounded by farmland of corn and soybeans and we have deer. We also have winter,,,long winters, so I've always felt it important to protect my conifers over the winter from deer and rabbits. I place a post beside each conifer just out side the branch area and wrap 36 inch chicken wire around the entire plant. It protects from nibbling and rubbing,my conifer are protected and I sleep better knowing so. If I think a plant is suseptable to sun scald I place a board to the southern side and wrap the rest with cicken wire. Also protects from unconciously stepping on a plant under the snow as every one is marked. I stop wrapping a plant once I feel it is out of danger from varmints

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 6:27PM
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So much great advise, I think I'll start with the more cheaper ideas and and go from there. I know it wouldn't be practical to use all the advise given in this thread at once.

I like the soap idea... inexpensive so I'll give that a try tomorrow. I walk around my plants daily, so that should add to the human scent idea. I'll also toss my socks out there each day just to add a little kick to it haha.

The plants will still get sprayed every 2-3 months. I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to spray on days with freezing temps or not... does anyone have experience with this?

I kind of want to toy with the idea of surrounding my backyard with fishing line, but I'm really not sure if this would be over doing it or how long would it actually take. All my conifers are in a square 125' x 100' section of my back yard. Just like all other repellents, this method had good and bad reviews. I think I'll give these other methods a try and if I notice any damage, then I'll go with the fishing line and or chicken wire.

After I planted these in the spring and sprayed them all, each time I came home from work the first thing I would do would be to look outside to make sure they are still ok. I did this for a couple months. Now I walk around the garden each day to enjoy my work, but I don't immediately look outside to see if I have any damage. Hopefully this winter will get me over my fears as did spring.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 10:30PM
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Just another thought, has anyone tried a scarecrow? I was walking past the fall decorations today at Walmart and noticed a 5 foot scarecrow with very light arms/legs that would really move in the winter wind for 7 bucks. I wonder what if I moved that around every so often in the yard and change my cloths on it once a week to capture human scent. Sounds like a good idea in theory... wonder if it's practical? You could even get real creative and add a motion activated sound device lol.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 8:11PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)


I know several people that have said this works.


Here is a link that might be useful: Owl

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 11:15AM
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adriantwpmi(Z5b MI)

I use three lines of 80+lb fish string tied to t-posts around the trees. Deer cannot see it and once they touch it they are spooked. I also save discarded election signs and keep the metal frame and place 3- 4 around large trees a few feet back from the trees - they cannot get close enough to rub the tree. I remove them in the spring after the threat of rubbing is over.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 9:41AM
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I own a house which I rent out seasonally that's in an area of two acre zoning with a 10 acre wildlife refuge just down the street. There's a lot of space between houses and deer are everywhere. I see them strolling the street when I drive over there and they are wandering my yard when I arrive. They are not terribly frightened by people. I have to run at them yelling and waving things before they decide to move off. I was at the house doing winter clean up of flower beds recently, after not being there for quite some time, and found the beds were filled with fresh deer droppings right up near the front door, so I know a lot of deer had been in them. Last spring, much to my surprise, one or more deer actually walked up the four steps to get to the flower pots on the deck.

To say I have a deer problem there is an understatement. However, I have some good news. Deer Scram does work if used regularly, and for me that's every three weeks or so. My gardeners told me they sometimes used it more often during the height of the summer. I stopped using it last month, which clearly was a mistake, and they moved back in with a vengance. I won't make that mistake again. I plan to use it regularly this winter. The damage the deer have done to my shrubs in a month is astonishing.

I decided to give it test it after they ate the dresina and vinca vines I'd put into outdoor pots in April. That had never happened before. After two weeks none of the treated pots had been nibbled, so I started putting it all around on everything. Amazingly it worked. I actually had lush flowers at the house all summer - hydrangeas, day lilies, etc., plus my shrubs were not touched and began to grow back where the deer had been eating them.

I have used bars of soap in the past and it can be helpful. It has to be a smelly deodorant soap like Dial or Irish Spring to work. I've tucked them into rose bushes, rubbed soggy bars of them onto tree trunks and hydrangeas and put them on stakes next to young trees in our orchard at home. I will also be doing that at this house as I think I may need all the help I can get. I love deer, but they are very destructive.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 5:23PM
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