Deer Control

Deer have long been a pest in the vineyard.  Unfortunately, there is no permanent way to keep these critters out.  All methods are simply deterrents.  Some work better than others.

A fence works pretty well but it must be high enough that they are unable to leap over it, and it should be fastened down so that they’ll be unable to push their way underneath.  Deer would much rather crawl under a fence than jump it, but a fence of at least 10 feet high should be used.  Unfortunately, as with many things, cost is an issue.

An electric fence may work well but needs to have constant attention since it can be easily torn down by a deer running through it.  If you can’t use the wide electric fence conductor, tie some marking tape every few feet.  The deer can easily see the tape… and so can you.  From a distance you’ll be able to tell if it is still up.  Deer are by nature curious and will go up to the tape.  They’ll be shocked when they get too close.  An easy way to teach them to stay clear.

Another way to get deer used to an electric fence is to put peanut butter on some aluminum foil about 4 inches square and fold the foil over the wire.  The deer will smell and see the foil and be curious enough to get close and get a shock.  Use fiber glass posts to prop the foil in place since the foil will move down the wire in the wind and short out the fence to a metal post.

There are other deterrents, of course.

I have cut out the side of a plastic milk jug and put a tablespoon of bloodmeal  with some water in the jug.  I then post them several feet apart in the vineyard.  I have tied dryer sheets by young plants.  The strong smell seems to help keep the pesky deer away.  A dog is a good deterrent, definitely, but it would prove difficult to keep one in the vineyard.  Dogs are social creatures, as we know, and would not take kindly to being banished to the lonely vineyard.  I have tried scarecrows but without success.  The deer only seemed to want to get a closer look.  I have tried planting rye around the vineyard since the deer don’t seem to like to eat it.  I don’t think it was worth the effort.

Try not to plant near a wooded area – although in our area, a high deer population seems to come with any territory.  Sometimes, if you find that one side of the vineyard is getting hit harder than another, a double fence will help.  I have made a cheap fence by hanging hay bale wrap from a wire.  This seems to confuse them.  Deer like to walk on a trail or in a mowed area rather than high grass.  If you are able to block their open routes, this can help.

I used to raise Christmas trees and the deer were a terrible problem.  Finally, I had to leave a field just for the deer to browse and used deterrents to protect the rest of the trees.  I hung smelly soap like a Christmas ornament from the trees but, unfortunately, it attracted mice.  A planting away from the vineyard just for the deer may help.

Remember, everything you will try is only going to be a deterrent.  Even deer season is a temporary solution.  Since deer have a large range, even if you eliminated all of them in one given area, more will take their place in a short amount of time.

Of course, everyone seems to have their own favorite deterrent.  Some will prove more effective than others depending on the deer population in your given area during a particular time of year.  If you have a way to keep deer from being a problem don’t be afraid to share.

I, for one, would be glad to try it out.