The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The continuing war against the deer

Deer data

Wireless deer fenceWe take our war against the deer very seriously, with multiple lines of defense, obsessive data-gathering, and a complete willingness to shoot on sight.  And we seem to be winning.  As you can see from my spreadsheet above, there hadn't been a deer in the garden for 12 months before the most recent raid, and before that was an eight month gap.  I'm hopeful our most recent work will keep the deer out for at least another year, maybe longer.

So what have we done to improve the situation this time around?  Mark mentioned clearing tall weeds that shelter deer along the fencelines, putting two of our mechanical deer deterrents back into action, adding height to a troubled fence spot, and gating in a gap we often walk through.  We also put the wireless deer fence beside the most-nibbled spot and baited it with peanut butter.  I'm not sold on this little gadget actually doing anything, but this is the kind of situation where it might come in handy --- when a single deer is targeting one high-value spot.

Deer deterrents

We didn't stop there.  We built a trellis barrier around the dwarf apples, which seem to be one of the deer's favorite foods.  Mark hunted down the trail camera and installed it to start collecting more data, and I put more trellis material over the strawberry and sweet potato beds that are closest to the incursion spot.

Deer mapBut those are really just stop-gap measures.  Our long-term goal is to moat the entire homestead, since moats seem to be close to 100% effective at deterring deer, even if the fences that make them up are only four or five feet tall.

Actually, we've already got most of the homestead moated if you count the precipice at the edge of our plateau as a moat.  (I do.)  I'd been considering leaving a deer path to let wildlife walk between the pastures-to-be around the starplate coop and our blueberry patch so I'd still be able to shoot deer out the living-room window, but now I'm thinking we'll hook those pastures directly into our existing perimeter fence to moat that area too.  I'm not quite sure what we use we could put to a moat above the well since we want to keep manure out of that area to protect our drinking-water quality, but I'm sure we'll think of something.

Our chicken waterer is the perfect gift for the backyard poultry-keeper on your list.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Have you looked into/experimented with Bone Sauce?

I've yet to make a batch myself, I'm waiting on some deer bones from my uncle's hunt this year. (I think you can use any bones... but I figure deer would be an even better deterrent).

Comment by Ryan Thu Jul 11 11:36:19 2013

I'm very curious about your statement: Our long-term goal is to moat the entire homestead, since moats seem to be close to 100% effective at deterring deer, even if the fences that make them up are only four or five feet tall.

Never in my lifetime have I heard of using a moat to deter deer. So I must be missing something here. Firstly you do know that deer can swim right? Secondly are you putting alligators in the moat to deter the deer from swimming across the moat?

The only 100% effective way I know is to put up at 10 foot fence surrounding the orchard/farm/homestead. After you have the fence installed you can focus more time on your homestead and forget about all the wasted time worrying about deer.

Good Luck and hope you have success!

Comment by BSmith Thu Jul 11 14:59:39 2013
Is your dog not enough of deterrent? I have found that our deer problem (never a really big problem but we did have some) went away with the arrival of our dog. Now if only I could say the same thing about our bears in the spring :( I was happy to find your blog - we live in western NC and it's neat to read about a homestead in a similar climate as ours.
Comment by karyn Thu Jul 11 15:42:21 2013

Ryan --- I've read about Bone Sauce in Sepp Holzer's book, but have major doubts it would be any more effective than the scent and taste based deterrents we've tried, all of which have failed under our heavy rain and deer pressure. I'll be curious to hear if yours does better.

Bsmith --- If you follow the link in the post, you'll see that I'm using "moat" in the permaculture sense to mean double fences with the area in between used as a pasture. They're not water moats.

Karyn --- Lucy keeps out all the small critters that plague our neighbors (raccoons, etc.), but deer don't seem to push her buttons in the same way. She'll chase one now and then, but not enough to make a difference. Our neighbors who use dogs as deterrents have found that their dogs, too, get used to deer after a year or so. One neighbor just keeps getting additional dogs every couple of years, but that's quite a menagerie!

Comment by anna Thu Jul 11 16:24:38 2013
I mentioned our dog in a previous post and was wondering about the deer with your dog. In reading your comment about Lucy's deer button (or lack of :-) and the neighbor getting additional dogs I realized that the breed of dog might have something to do with the success in using a dog. We have a herding dog and frankly he'll nip the heels or will butt with his head just about anything to try to make it go where he wants. He herds the grandkids and sometimes me. He also thinks he MUST guard my husband with his live and apparently deer and anything else that comes in the yard must look pretty dangerous to him. We've had heelers for so long now that I don't even think about how other dogs might act around deer. IF you don't have a dog that will deter deer I can see why you wouldn't really want to keep aquiring dogs. I personally get attached and that's a long term realtionship. We have a very large deer population in central NC so I'm glad our dog had that deer button. Good luck with you war.
Comment by Tee Thu Jul 11 18:07:03 2013
let me know if I am off base here, but it seems to me that a more effective deer fence isn't actually a fence at all, but some sort of yellow "cop tape" that you see at crime scenes. maybe they even make a phosphorescent tape. A deer isn't going to see a barrier and wonder "can i smash through that?" it'll see a barrier and say "oh shoot! I can't go that way!"
Comment by dirk Thu Jul 11 23:33:47 2013

I recently read (in passing) a comment from someone who suggested the use of thorny blackberry hedges as a barrier to deer.

It was from Rick Austin, author of "Secret Garden of Survival". (Looks like a book with some rather over-the-top survivalist language, and maybe some genuinely permaculture good suggestions - my next online purchase.)

Comment by Faith T Fri Jul 12 09:12:47 2013

Dirk --- Deer are mostly night critters (and are very visual), so that makes sense. However, their eye sight is so good from those huge eyes of theirs that they don't seem to bash into barriers. With electric fence (where the wires are so small and far apart), people do sometimes add a visual cue, but they don't seem to need it with our chicken wire.

Faith --- A blackberry hedge might work if it was at least four or five feet deep and managed so the plants were mashed all together, the way blackberries grow in the wild. Of course, managed that way, you'd only be able to harvest a very small percentage of the berries yourself.

Comment by anna Fri Jul 12 16:34:07 2013

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