Deer, Oh Deer!

Over the last 15 years, we’ve gone from no deer problems to severe deer problems, with a herd of 50+ that passes through our property. In late spring, there are invariably fawns and we do enjoy watching them grow up. I long for the days when the dairy farmer next door left corn standing in the fields over the winter. I’m sure he shot a few, but I’m also sure his family ate the meat. (Drawing, Courtesy Robert Savannah, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Now the farm is a housing development. The last of the houses was completed about the same time the deer problem began. Hmmmmn. Do you think there could be a connection? So, if we can’t get smarter building practices, we have to get smarter deer control.

When deer pressure was low, we tried Irish Spring soap, hair, netting individual shrubs, led the dog around and showed her where to pee, etc. As the situation progressively worsened, we instituted stronger measures, and have found that a combination of solutions works best for us.

We built a deer exclosure around that part of the house where we want to garden. This is a fancy way of saying we put up a very substantial deer fence, made of plastic with 2-inch mesh grids. In our woods, this is nearly invisible. Garden doors allow us free passage to the rest of our property. The fence extends around both sides of the house, but stops at the front fa├žade. On one side, most of the fencing is hidden by a berm; on the other, it is below eye level (except from my desk) because it is on an area that slopes downhill.

Out front, we use Wireless Deer Fence. These are battery-operated shock-sticks that are baited with a floral scent. It takes the deer a while to learn that good-smelling things “bite.” The shock is a mild one, but it gets their attention. The AA batteries last about a year, but you need to replace the bait once a month.

I’d really like to have a cattle-guard for the driveway, but it seems too difficult and expensive to retrofit ours. I’ve talked to people who do have them and they seem to work like a charm.

Finally, we use a spray called Deer Solution, my preferred deterrent. Deer Solution smells of cinnamon and needs only to be applied once every 90 days. Frankly, I'm surprised it isn't more popular. It is a systemic that is taken in through the leaves, and once on the plants, causes them to permanently taste bad to the deer. At the beginning of the growing season, it needs to be applied to all new growth, so more frequent spraying may be necessary.

This isn’t quite as much work as it may sound, since everything doesn’t have to be done simultaneously. We’re pretty laissez-faire, or fairly lazy, depending upon how you look at it. For now, these methods are working for us. We’re happy, and the deer are happy.

We don’t consider deer vermin, or hoofed devils, as some do. Since it is we who have created the problem, we are the one who must solve it.

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